Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream Icing

Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream, the name says it all! This is what every wedding cake should taste like!

When I was asked recently to make baby shower cupcakes for a sweet friend’s daughter (who’s expecting a girl in October), I was not only honored, but let’s just say I was tickled PINK, can you tell?

I knew, without even having to contemplate, that I’d be using this wonderful cupcake recipe. I’ve shared it once before on the blog with this Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream post. The recipe’s from a delightful bakery in Savanna called “Back in the Days”. It’s an unusual recipe, not prepared like a traditional white or yellow cakec. The unique method was originated by Rose Levy Beranbaum in her classic baking book called “The Cake Bible”.

Instead of creaming the butter with the sugar, then adding the dry and wet ingredients, as in most cupcake/cake recipes, the directions have a unique twist. All the dry ingredients are combined, then cold butter is added in chunks (almost like a pastry dough technique) and mixed until it looks like coarse sand. Then eggs are added, followed by milk and vanilla. After a quick mixing, you’re done!


Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream Icing - the name says it all! This is what every wedding cake should taste like!

It’s quite simple and you won’t even believe the moist, delicious, amazingly tender results! The first time I tasted these cupcakes I said, right out loud, “Now this is what a good wedding cake should taste like!”. I believe, after over 40 years of baking, always searching for the perfect yellow cake recipe, this is definitely the one!

Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream, the name says it all! This is what every wedding cake should taste like!

The buttercream? It’s a recipe I’ve developed over the years that everyone seems to love. It’s got one little surprise ingredient you won’t find in a classic buttercream – just a hint of cream cheese, two ounces to be exact. You almost can’t tell it’s there, but it adds a creaminess and a touch of delicious tang that’s super amazing. If I want to take the icing right over the top, I’ll scrape a vanilla bean, or add a scoop of (my treasured) vanilla bean paste, in lieu of vanilla extract, but it’s not necessary.

Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream Icing - the name says it all! This is what every wedding cake should taste like!

For fun pink icing technique, I used a 2D Wilton tip. It’s pretty simple (just a bunch of “squiggling”) and the same is true about the beautiful ombre effect.

Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream Icing - the name says it all! This is what every wedding cake should taste like!

P.S. Ready for one more tip? This one’s a little dangerous, so proceed with caution:

When mixing up a batch of these cupcakes and you’ve got all the ingredients pulled out, go ahead, measure a second time and load up a zippered bag with the dry ingredients. Store this “cake mix” in the pantry or freezer. Next time someone asks you to make your famously delicious cupcakes, just pull out the bag, add butter, eggs and milk, and in no time flat, your little kitchen will be wafting with delicious aroma reminiscent of that fine little bakery in Savannah. See what I mean; almost too easy; and that little bag in your pantry/freezer could be dangerously tempting, calling out your name when you least expect it.






Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes

Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream, the name says it all! This is what every wedding cake should taste like!

4.7 from 12 reviews

Our favorite; tender, moist, buttery cupcakes. Super easy to put together!


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cup cake flour
  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, not softened but remove from refridg and allow to warm for about 15 minutes
  • 4 large eggs
  • Butter Cream , recipe below


  1. Preheat oven to 350° Line cupcake pans with 32 cupcake liners. Combine milk and vanilla in a measuring cup and set aside. Break eggs into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of stand mixer and stir together for 30 seconds using paddle attachment.
  3. With mixer on low, drop in butter, a few cubes at a time continuing until all butter is in and mixer resembles coarse sand.
  4. Add eggs one at a time on low speed. With mixer still on low slowly pour in milk and vanilla. Turn mixer to medium and beat for 2 minutes until batter is smooth, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
  5. Scoop batter into cupcake liners filling cups with about 1/4 cup each. Cups will be just slightly over half full – don’t be tempted to over-fill. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until centers are set and toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.


Adapted from Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook



Best Ever Vanilla Buttercream Icing

Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream, the name says it all! This is what every wedding cake should taste like!

4.7 from 12 reviews

The creamiest, melt-in-your-mouth buttercream with a surprise ingredient!

  • Author:
  • Yield: Icing for 24-32 cupcakes
  • Category: Dessert, Cupcakes


  • 8 ounces butter (softened)
  • 2 ounces low fat (not fat-free) cream cheese (softened)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ½-3 tablespoons of cream or whole milk


  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whip the butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy, about 1 minutes. I like to use the whisk attachment for my mixer.
  2. Reduce speed to low and slowly add 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Once the powdered sugar is pretty well incorporated, increase speed to medium high and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Stop the mixer, scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the other 3 cups of powdered sugar. Start out on slow speed again until sugar is mixed in the increase to medium high. Beat for another minute. Mixture will be very thick
  4. Add vanilla and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk and beat until nice creamy consistency is reached. You made need to add more milk, add just a teaspoonful at a time until desired consistency is reach. You want a creamy but fairly thick consistency, if you’re planning on piping the icing. If spreading with a knife, the icing can be a bit thinner. Beat for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl several times during mixing.
  5. Ice with a knife or pipe on icing with a decorating bag and tip. For the cupcakes pictured, I used a 2D Wilton tip, also known as a flower tip. For the pink ombre effect, I painted a few lines of food coloring inside my decorating bag before adding the icing.


Makes 32 average size cupcakes


65 thoughts on “Best Ever Vanilla Cupcakes and Buttercream Icing”

  • Hi, question i only have one cupcake pan which holds 12 cupcakes, can i have the batter on the counter waiting while the others cupcakes are in the oven? I am afraid the batter may spoil. Thanks!

    • Hi Juli,
      I haven’t tried that with this batter. Some batters are more forgiving than others. I know that won’t work with angel food cake but I would think you should be okay with this batter, though I can’t say for sure.

  • Just made these. I have tried at least a dozen vanilla recipes. This is the one I will use from now on. Fine delicate crumb, great flavor, and moist. Thanks.

  • Hi!

    I’ve been looking EVERYWHERE for a cupcake recipe that fits to my serving option! LOVE LOVE LOVE this!

  • Loved the buttercream recipe. I was wondering how far ahead can I make the buttercream frosting and how should it be stored?

    • You could make the buttercream a few days in advance and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Let it come to room temp and then beat or whisk again before using.

  • How unfortunate…

    These past few weeks I have been on a hunt to find “the best vanilla cupcakes” as well as satisfy my sugar cravings. I was particularly trying to find a vanilla cupcake that was “soft” and “fluffy”. In a way, I was looking for a light, angel food-like cupcake. So I searched and searched tirelessly, and I finally this recipe. It was one of the top links shown on Google and the comments from other people seemed decent; it was golden.

    With such confidence, I tried the recipe.

    I did exactly as it was directed, step by step, double-checking, tripe-checking everything. The batter looked superb. Smooth and heavenly. Just like I wanted. Then I popped it in the oven.

    Note: This cupcake is a bit slow cooking within the 18 minutes, but right when it passes the 18 minutes, it gets cooked really fast So, I recommend taking it out 19-20 minutes ASAP or it’ll get TOO brown. And my oven’s heat was a bit less than 350 degrees.

    You can tell when you’re cooking a great dish in the oven when the smell seeps out of it into your house. Sadly, the smell was strange, meaning not normal-smelling for vanilla cupcakes.

    When I took a bite into it, my anticipation dropped, exponentially. It tasted like corn and grainy, if that makes sense. The texture was all there. The fluffiness, the bounciness., and the softness. But the taste was peculiar. I was desiring for that homemade vanilla cupcake taste that you can’t find anywhere else. I wanted to believe badly and commend Chris’ recipe, but it just wasn’t superb.

    Great on texture, but iffy on taste.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave your experience with these cupcakes. So sorry you did not enjoy them. I do hate wasting good ingredients, especially cake flour and butter, which are expensive.
      I guess everyone does have different taste in cupcakes – we thought these were amazing and the culmination of a long search – I too had searched high and wide for a wonderful vanilla cupcake recipe. To me, these are like a really good wedding cake (which to be honest, I haven’t had many of). I’ve gotten comments and lots of email from others who have gone crazy over these cupcakes also. I do hope you find your perfect cupcake!
      One thought – I’m wondering if any of your ingredients could have been “off” as I can’t imagine a strange aroma coming from the oven when the cake is comprised of simply butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs and whole milk, I’m not sure what to think about that??

    • Hi Johanny, If I was going to store them for the next day, I would actually freeze them on a sheet pan. Once they’re frozen, cover them with plastic wrap. Thaw for a few hours before serving.

  • I tested three other vanilla cupcake recipes and this was by far the BEST!! So light fluffy and moist. Also loved the frosting.

    Im making a cake and these cupcakes for a party this weekend. I have to priortize my baking as I work long hours. Can I make the cupcakes on Wednesday if the party is Saturday , and still taste fresh? How far ahead can I make the frosting, and store it til ready for use?

  • Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I made it for my daughter’s birthday. It came out so good. The kids loved it so much. Thanks again.

  • Also…do you think I can substitute half of the butter in the buttercream recipe for shortening? It’s too hot down here for an all butter buttercream. Thanks!

  • OMG!! All the way down here in Curaçao (Caribbean), we are quite impressed 🙂 These are indeed the best ever tasting vanilla cupcakes.

  • Hello! I just thought I would update you on making this into a birthday cake. I cut the recipe in half and gave it a test try this afternoon, and the results were amazing! I had to bake it quite a bit longer than you would for the cupcakes, but then I think if I were to make the full recipe and split it into 3 layers it wouldn’t take as long as it did today. I’m so thrilled to have found a white cake recipe to use for any cakes that need to be colored!! My kids usually want color in their cakes so chocolate won’t work. we are going to try putting a vanilla bean in the actual birthday cake we do for her so that it will give it that extra punch of vanilla flavor! This recipe is a total winner, velvety, moist, delicate, not overly sweet…….my husband said ” we found the one”!!

  • Im so excited to try this recipe, I’ve been looking for the perfect home-made vanilla cake recipe for my little girl’s birthday cake. Do you think it would work well as a cake? The only thing I can think of would be that it may take a little longer to cook all the way through than the cupcakes do. Any thoughts?

  • I Chris, I tried the recipe and the taste, the texture were amazing. But I think I had a bit of a problem with the conversions. They were big and beautifull but as soon as i got them out of the oven … puuufffff!!! They went down like a ballon. I think it was the cake flour, some sites convert 1 cup to 90gr others 110gr and I got a bit lost. But even so, my kids said it was the tastier cupcake I ever made, we even ate some of them without frosting. Thank U 🙂

      • TY so much for your answer Chris, I’m gonna try it again this weekend, to take to the office, Hope I get it this time. How many grams of cake flour do u use ? 90 or 110 ? I’ll be waiting for your answer before I start. Have a wonderful day 😉

        • Hi Vania, I’m actually away from home right now and don’t have my scale or any cake flour but I did a little research and it looks like it should be 175g of cake flour. 1 cup of cake flour is 100g and the recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups. Hope that helps!

          • Hi Chris I finally found out what was the problem. I tried everything,I even bought american baking powder. Finally it was a translation problem. I thought the equivalent to cake flour was “Maizena”. Turns out “Maizena” is corn strach, not cake flour. The equivalent in France is T45 flour. 😉 Thank u for sharing this fabulous recipe, my cupcakes are a big hit at work, they migth even get me a promotion hahaha. Hugs

          • Hi Vania,

            Wow, that is so interesting!! I’m so happy you figured it out and that’s so good to know if someone asks me in the future. That’s so fun that your co-workers enjoyed them. I used to work as a nurse and my co-workers were thrilled when I brought in a treat. Hope you do get that promotion! It may be more due to your Sherlock Holmes super sleuth abilities than my cupcake recipe. After all, you solved the cake flour mystery! 🙂

  • These are gorgeous Chris! I love how you mix butter with the dry ingredients, this could be the reason why they taste so good. Now I want to make some really badly, I’m so curious to know how they taste, yum yum !! 🙂

    Looking forward for the video.

  • i hv this book too and remember reading about the method of mixing the dry ingredients first but i hv not tried yet and the addition of cream cheese to your buttercream sounds super delicious , oh yum!

  • Chris, I am in LOVE with these cupcakes! I cannot wait to give that technique a try.

    I bet these pink gems were a smash…and that ombre technique is brilliant! Thanks for sharing.


    will be pinning these 🙂

  • These are delightful! I bought the Cake Bible many, many years ago and have to admit I rarely use it. The technique you mentioned is intriguing and I will try it. I’ll also have to check my tips drawer and see if there’s a #2D hiding in there.

  • Hi
    I never heard of cake flour. How is it different from all purpose flour? Is it necessary to use it or it can be substituted with anything else

    • Hi,you can purchase cake flour at almost any grocery store here in the U.S. It’s a little different than regular flour, it’s softer, finer and has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour. I think it really does make a difference in these cupcakes. If you live in the States, you’ll find it near all the other flours in the grocery store. The most common brand is called Swans Down and it comes in a red and white box. There is a way to make your own cake flour if you can’t find it – Hope this helps. Chris

  • Chris, you make the most beautiful cupcakes! If I lived closer, I’d invite myself over for a lesson! I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!

  • Chris, these are just gorgeous and I love the idea of a mix since I can no longer use a box mix. Actually I don’t want to anymore, but love the convenience. Can’t wait for the video. That should be fun.


  • these are too pretty to eat Chris! I can’t wait to try that icing tip, what a great effect~and I am forever on the quest for the perfect cupcake, so I was pretty much running to the pantry when I read that you said they tasted like a wedding cake should! A definite must for my granddaughter’s next birthday…ok, that’s much too far away, maybe next week! thank you!!

  • Hi Chris, thanks for sharing. My family loves anything vanilla. Especially cupcakes. If you get a chance I know you love to bake try maids heatter’s cookbooks. She is wonderful. If you have not already.the cake bible is one of my favorites.

  • Hi Chris, I have been looking for a really good cupcake recipe. My almost 3 yr old Granddaughter LOVES cupcakes. I can’t wait to try this recipe and the buttercream to go with them.> Thanks for sharing..

  • I really need to try these. I tried some cream cheese icing the other day that was a disaster. Too runny to do what I wanted to do. My first time making cream cheese icing but I will not do that one again. These are so cute.

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