When it comes to choosing a cupcake, are you team chocolate or vanilla? Honestly, it’s hard to decide, because they’re both so good in different ways. I recently shared my high altitude tested recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes, and these High Altitude Vanilla Cupcakes were next on my list. And as much as I love chocolate, these vanilla cupcakes are pretty hard to resist. They’re impossibly soft, tender and moist, topped with fluffy vanilla buttercream. It’s pretty much the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe for all special occasions!
This site contains affiliate links. This means that we may make a small commission if you purchase a product using those links. This in no way affects our opinion of those products and services. All opinions expressed on this site are our own.
Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients
Simple, but good-quality ingredients make a good vanilla cupcake. Without any other flavors to take center stage, you really taste the butter, sour cream and vanilla. Just as you should only cook with wine that you would like to drink, you should choose ingredients that taste great on their own, and you’ll have a great-tasting cupcake.
Unsalted Butter. I always use unsalted butter in cooking and baking, so that I can control the amount of salt in my recipe. You don’t have to splurge on an expensive European butter, but use one that you like to eat on your morning toast.
Sugar. Plain granulated sugar adds moisture, and of course, sweetness, to your cupcakes.
Eggs. I always buy large eggs, which are about 1/4 cup in volume. If my eggs are on the small side, then I might add an extra.
Vanilla. Our star ingredient! I use a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract in these, so make sure it’s a good extract. If you want your cupcakes to be really special, replace the vanilla extract with Vanilla Bean Paste or real Vanilla Bean.
Cake Flour + Baking Powder + Salt. Cake flour makes the best, lightest fluffiest white cakes and vanilla cakes. You can use all-purpose flour, if it’s all you have, but you really should try cake flour. I usually use either Swans Down Cake Flour or Softasilk Cake Flour. The baking powder leavens the batter and makes the cupcakes rise, and the salt balances the sweetness.
Sour Cream + Buttermilk. These high altitude vanilla cupcakes are incredibly moist and tender, thanks to the butter, sour cream, and buttermilk. No non-fat substitutions, please. Use the full-fat versions for the best flavor and texture in your cupcakes.
How to Make High Altitude Vanilla Cupcakes
I make these cupcakes using the traditional creaming method. First, I beat the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy, followed by the eggs and vanilla. Then, the dry ingredients are added, alternating with the sour cream and buttermilk, for a smooth, velvety batter.
When filling the pan, I like to use an ice cream / cupcake scoop to evenly portion the batter. One perfectly level scoop (not heaping) is exactly the right amount of batter to fill the cups so that the cupcakes rise with nice little domed tops. If you fill them too full, your cupcakes will spill over the edges and develop browned muffin tops. And no one wants a cupcake with crunchy edges and a muffin top, am I right?
After baking, let them cool completely before frosting them. Which is the most fun part of making cupcakes!
Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream
My homemade vanilla buttercream recipe is simply the best. It’s not too sweet, has a little hint of salt, and so much vanilla flavor. It’s fluffy and pipes like a dream.
If you struggle with your buttercream, I’d encourage you to read my post on Perfect American Buttercream. It’s a comprehensive guide to making buttercream, troubleshooting common problems, and many recipe and flavor variations.
I hope you try my high altitude vanilla cupcakes and love them as much as I do! I’d love for you to bake along with me, and tag me on Instagram so I can see your creations!
You Might Also Like
High Altitude Vanilla Cupcakes
- Muffin Pan
- Stand Mixer
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt
- ½ cup full-fat sour cream
- ½ cup whole buttermilk
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp meringue powder (optional)
- ¼ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 tbsp milk or cream, if needed
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two standard-sized muffin pans with 24 paper liners.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping the bowl down several times.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each for 15 seconds before adding the next. Scrape the bowl down, add the vanilla, and beat again. If the mixture looks lumpy, don't worry, it will smooth out in the end.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
- With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then add the sour cream. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then add the buttermilk. Add the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds, until the batter is smooth and thick.
- Use a cupcake scoop / ice cream scoop to evenly measure the batter into the paper liners. One level scoop is enough batter for each; if you overfill the cups, the batter will spill over the edges and you'll get muffin tops with browned edges instead of gently domed cupcakes.
- Bake the cupcakes on the center oven rack for about 20 minutes, until the centers of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched.
- Cool the cupcakes in the pans for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder and salt. With the mixer running on low, add the powdered sugar mixture by spoonfuls to the butter, mixing just until combined. The buttercream will be clumpy at this point.
- Add the vanilla, and increase the speed to medium. Whip the buttercream for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl several times, until very light and fluffy, adding the milk as needed for desired consistency.
- Spread or pipe the buttercream onto the cooled cupcakes.