Smelling sweetly of butter, sugar, and vanilla, these classic little cakes bring you right back to when you were a kid and Mom baked your birthday cupcakes. Cream cheese buttercream frosting adds a little bit of an adult upgrade.–Food Network Magazine.


If you know anything about piping frosting, you’ll need a decorating bag with a 1M or 2D tip. If not, just cut a biggish hole in the corner of a plastic bag. It won’t be as accurate but it’ll still be okay.

Hold the bag straight up above the middle of the cupcake. Start squeezing in the middle of the cupcake and start moving outwards. Once you’ve covered the top of the cupcake, start moving back inwards, building up a swirl. Continue swirling inwards until you’ve reached the desired height.

End the spiral at the center of the cupcake. Stop squeezing before pulling the tip away. Ta-da! You’ve just iced a cupcake like a pro!

A classic vanilla cupcake with cream cheese frosting with rainbow sprinkles, in a pink cupcake paper.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

4.50 / 2 votes
Classic vanilla cupcakes are what everybody craves. A tender cake, topped with a sweet and tangy cream-cheese frosting makes the quintessential cupcake. Sprinkles make them extra special.
David Leite
Servings12 cupcakes
Calories299 kcal
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time1 hour


For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed
  • Rainbow nonpareils, for topping


Make the cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and beat until creamy, about 4 minutes more. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.
  • With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk in two batches. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary.
  • Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until tops of cupcakes spring back when pressed gently, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Remove pan from oven. Let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Make the frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt and beat on medium speed until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar on medium-low speed until smooth, then beat on medium-high until thick and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes more, scraping sides of bowl if necessary. If your frosting is too soft, add more confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  • Spoon frosting into a piping bag or resealable plastic bag, snip a corner, and pipe frosting on cupcakes (or spread frosting on top). Sprinkle with nonpareils.
The Big Fun Kids Baking Book

Adapted From

The Big Fun Kids Baking Book

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 299 kcalCarbohydrates: 49 gProtein: 4 gFat: 10 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 58 mgSodium: 164 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 37 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Food Network Magazine. Photo © 2021 Food Network Magazine. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

We liked these classic vanilla cupcakes a lot. Vanilla is my favourite flavour for cupcakes, cakes, and ice cream. The vanilla flavour in the cupcake came across really nicely. I only managed 9 cupcakes but my tulip liners are quite large.

Vanilla Cupcakes-Terri L.

The frosting flavour is perfect as it isn’t too sweet. I did find it a bit soft but I was still able to pipe it. There was just enough frosting to accommodate the 9 cupcakes. We like quite a bit of frosting so next time I’ll increase the cream cheese to 8 oz and add additional confectioner’s sugar to achieve the right consistency and increase the amount while maintaining the sweetness level. Remember to sift the confectioner’s sugar before adding it to the cream cheese mixture.

I have quite a few cupcake recipes in my recipe arsenal and since everyone doesn’t like chocolate (I can’t understand why!) I decided to see if I wanted to add this to my recipe collection. I do. Since I don’t have a large family, I liked the fact the recipe was for only 12 cupcakes. The cupcakes were moist and flavorful with a nice crumb, creating a firmer cupcake and who doesn’t like a good cream cheese frosting to top them off? 

Both the cake and frosting were easy recipes to follow. In order to make the cupcakes easy to remove from the liners, I place the liners in the tin and then sprayed them with oil. I was making these on a warm and humid summer day, so I added another 1/2 cup powdered sugar to the frosting in order to make the frosting hold the swirl.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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