The Best Yellow Cupcakes

Oh no, not another vanilla cupcake recipe! Yes, indeed. But this recipe is for “the best” yellow cupcakes.

Best Yellow Cupcakes

Okay, “best” is subjective, but these seemed like the best at the time so I’m calling the recipe best yellow cupcakes and have posted it for everyone who is frustrated by the fact that it’s so easy to make a good scratch chocolate cupcake, but not so easy to make a soft, tender, vanilla cupcake. This recipe changes the game. Not that I don’t also love these sour cream cupcakes, the vanilla bean cupcakes and this doctored cake mix/flour hybrid recipe, but I think this recipe is a notch above the others.

5.0 from 7 reviews
The Best Yellow Cupcakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The best scratch yellow cupcakes.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 30
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk or regular milk mixed with lemon juice**
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) cake flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line about 30 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Whisk the eggs, yolks, vanilla and ¼ cup of the milk together in a small bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and mix on low for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of milk to the flour mixture and with the mixer on low, blend together. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. With the mixer still on medium, add the egg mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the side of the bowl and mixing only until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the batter among the cups filling them about 2/3 of the way full. Make sure not to use too much or you’ll get big rims.
  5. Bake for 18-25 minutes or until cupcakes are brown around the edges and spring back when touched.
If using milk and lemon juice, use 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Also, the yield is approximate. Some people get over 30 and some people get fewer. It really depends on what size cupcake cup you use and how much batter you actually put in each cup.

Adapted from a three layer cake recipe in Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, these cupcakes are my new favorite.  Just make sure to weigh the cake flour and have all the ingredients and room temperature.

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  1. Ela says

    Anna, thanks for this recipe. I’ve been searching high and low for the best yellow cake recipe and I’m so excited to try this one. Your cupcake looks delicious!

  2. says

    Well if you’re calling them the best then this is being moved near the top of the list. I’ve been having a bit of a hankering for cupcakes lately. Though I do need to use up a bunch of chocolate first. I suppose I could just eat it :).

  3. says

    Wish I had a reason to make them right now. (Sometimes, I don’t even care about my family’s aversion to cake/frosting.) 😉

  4. says

    If you don’t have an occasion for baking the cupcakes, try a quarter batch. I’ve done it and it works. Here are the measurements. You should be able to make 6, 7 or 8 cupcakes. I think 7 is the best size.

    Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

    1 large egg
    1/2 large egg yolk (crack egg and slice off half a yolk)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    5 tablespoons buttermilk or regular milk mixed with lemon juice
    3/4 cups (3 ounces) cake flour
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/2 sticks (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line 7 muffin cups with paper liners.
    Whisk the egg, yolk, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk together in a small bowl.
    In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix with a spoon. Add the butter and mash it into the flour with the back of a scraper or a spoon. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of milk to the flour mixture and with a handheld mixer on low, blend together. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth.
    With the mixer still on medium, add the egg mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the side of the bowl and mixing only until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the batter among the cups and bake on center rack for 22-25 minutes.

  5. says

    Amy, really? Do you usually bake them for 18 minutes? My first batch took a full 25 minutes and my second batch took closer to 22 minutes.

    For a minute, I was worried I put “bake for 200 minutes” or something like that.

  6. Ghislaine says

    Anna, I agree, these are delicious. Must have to do with the strange mixing method. I’m actually making these tonight to go along a yard sale tomorrow. 🙂

  7. says

    Ghislaine, I think you are right. It’s called the Two Stage method and I learned about it through Cook’s Illustrated and Shirley Corriher. A lot of pastry chefs use it. I think the cake flour and extra yolks help, too.

  8. says

    Thanks for the small batch recipe–I don’t bake for a crowd, usually, and I also think cupcakes taste better very fresh. I love the elegant ‘plating’–it looks like it would be perfect for a tea party!

  9. says

    Thanks for doing all the work of finding the best one :)!

  10. Darlene says

    These cupcakes look delicious, and they make me wonder what happened to your list of “Bests” that you used to compile a few times a year. Also, I’m a lover of frosting, did you also use a favorite recipe for this frosting?

  11. says

    I need to put a list together! Thanks for the reminder.

    For the frosting, I was in a hurry so I used the recipe on the back of the powdered sugar box.

  12. says

    I haven’t made many vanilla cupcakes but I remember making the vanilla cupcakes from the Small Batch baking book and I liked them a lot but I can’t wait to try these.

  13. Ela says

    I tried this tonight and it’s a keeper! It’s moist, tender and with tight crumbs. I only tried the quarter batch, I got 7 cupcakes out of the recipe and they were ready in 18 minutes in my oven. This will be my go to recipe from now on. I frosted mine with strawberry frosting. Delicious! Thank you very much, Anna.

  14. Carole Resnick says

    Up to now my favorite yellow cupcake was from The Cupcake Diaries. It just got replaced.

    Since there are only two of us the small batch is the way to go,

  15. Louise says

    Anna, we all know that you will not finally stop testing yellow cake recipes as the next one might be better yet. You won’t know unless you bake it. 😉

  16. says

    So glad I found this blog….especially the cupcake recipes as I’m always on the lookout for some good ones (and kitchen-tested ones!).

  17. says

    I can’t decide between these, or the vanilla bean cupcakes for a friend’s birthday. I’m also torn because I know she LOVES chocolate and feel like I should make something chocolate instead of what I want to make.
    Do you think these or the vanilla bean cupcakes would be overwhelmed by a chocolate frosting? That way I could satisfy my desire to bake vanilla cupcakes and her taste for chocolate.

  18. says

    Sue, go with these! These won’t be overwhelmed by the chocolate frosting, but the vanilla beans might. Plus I want to hear your opinion on this recipe.

  19. Danielle says

    Hi Anna, Have you tried this cupcake recipe for a cake yet? I’m looking for a fantastic yellow/vanilla/butter cake recipe for wedding cakes. Is the yellow sour cream cake still your favorite for a cake recipe?

  20. says

    Danielle, it’s a tie between the sour cream cake and this one. Both are good. This one has less sour cream flavor (obviously). I haven’t made this as a cake, but I adapted the cupcake recipe from a cake so I know it will be great. Give it a try!

  21. Katherine says

    I made these for my daughters birthday and they were delicious! Everyone raved. I made half with vanilla frosting and half with chocolate frosting. I agree they are the best!
    Looking forward to making them again.

  22. Sarah Donley says

    Great recipe. These are the moistest vanilla cupcakes I’ve made. 🙂

  23. Amy says

    Hi Anna! These look perfect for my son’s first birthday party!
    I’m excited to make them. I was wondering if they will fare ok if I freeze them a week in advance so I can prep accordingly? I would prefer to make them the day of the party but that is not feasible. Thanks for your help in advance.

  24. says

    Hi Amy,
    I hope you think they live up to their name :).
    But yes, you can definitely freeze them. I usually line cupcakes up on their sides, wrap them in plastic wrap (Press & Seal works well), then put the cupcakes in an airtight freezer bag.

  25. Vicky says

    I’m done! This is it for me. I’ve tried soooo many yellow/golden/butter cake-from-scratch recipes & this is the best…taste, texture, everything! Best. Ever.
    A million thanks!

  26. Stephanie says

    Oh. My. Goodness. These cupcakes are SO good! I made them today for my daughter’s fourth birthday party tomorrow. They are by far the best yellow cupcake recipe I have tried. Thank you!

  27. says

    Vicky and Stephanie, I am SO happy to hear that you both liked the recipe. Since I put “The Best” in the title, they had a lot to live up to. Yellow cake seems to simple, but it’s one of those recipes that can be made so many different ways and in so many textures. Glad this one made you happy :).

  28. Theresa says

    Hi! I am fifteen and i love to bake! Bless your heart for making a recipe for a lot of people. I have to make 100-200 cupcakes for a friend’s scout ceremony, and my family and friends rave about these cupcakes. Thanks!
    I am making a batch on Thursday for un Celebración en la clase de Español Tres(:

  29. Joan says

    Made these for my granddaughters 2nd birthday party- so far the lightest and fluffiest cupcakes I have made to date-
    thank you!

  30. Stephanie says

    For the second time, I am impressed with this recipe! I just made the recipe a layer cake using this recipe. Thank you, thank you, thank you once again! 🙂

  31. Pam says

    OMG!!!! You don’t know how long I’ve been searching for the perfect vanilla cupcake….for sure 6 months now and within the last 2 weeks, every day I’ve tried at least 4 different recipes, all of them saying they are “the best.” None of them even came close. They all shrunk when I took them out of the oven and none of them had domed tops. Some that looked good (hot milk sponge cake) were not that fluffy and moist and you could see the tunnels from the baking powder when you broke them open. Lots went wrong. I love how all of the website bloggers take pictures of their cupcakes when they are in the oven and have perfect domed tops. Then the after picture is a flat cupcake with a ton of frosting to make it look like it has a domed top still.
    This cupcake recipe is PERFECT!!!! It’s light and fluffy (something I was starting to think wasn’t possible in a yellow cake), tastes great, the crumb couldn’t be finer, it couldn’t be moister, and the top is domed and completely smooth, like it was a chiffon cake with zero cracks!!!!!!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! Thank you soooooo much!!!!…..also I read that if you set your oven at 425 degrees, pop in your cupcakes, bake them for exactly 4 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 degrees the rest of the way, they dome even better:) I did it and they turned out great! Thank you again, my search for the best vanilla cupcake is over!!!! XOXO

  32. says

    Pam, thanks for the review! That’s a good tip about helping cake dome by putting it in a hot oven. I do that sometimes with muffins.

  33. dainty39gm says

    Beautiful cupcakes! I wanna try baking these for my grandchildren, but I’m a little confused about the homemade buttermilk. Do you mean I cup of milk plus 3 tbsps. more milk and 1 tbsp. lemon juice? Thanx.

  34. says

    Yup! Sorry, I should have been more clear. You can use milk mixed with a little lemon juice or vinegar.

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