A classic vanilla cupcake is always a hit at any occasion, and these moist vanilla cupcakes with oil stay soft and fluffy for days because they're made with oil instead of butter. They're delicious with any kind of frosting and are super easy to make, coming together in minutes with pantry staple ingredients.
There's nothing better than a soft, fluffy cupcake. While flavors like coffee cupcakes, almond cupcakes, and lemon lavender cupcakes are more fun and satisfying to make, I believe every baker needs a vanilla cupcake recipe in their back pocket!
Vanilla is a great base flavor for cupcakes, and you can customize them by using any type of frosting you want. I've included a basic vanilla American buttercream in the recipe card, but you can go with something warm and cozy like chai buttercream, decadent whipped chocolate ganache, or a classic fluffy cream cheese frosting.
These vanilla cupcakes are very similar to my small batch vanilla cupcakes, except they're made with a special twist. They're made with oil instead of butter! Using oil in cupcake batter instead of butter creates softer, fluffier cupcakes that stay moist for up to a week.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Made with oil- These vanilla cupcakes are made with oil instead of butter! Because of this they stay soft and moist for days. I made this banana bread with oil for the same reason.
- No mixer required- The cupcakes come together in a flash with simple, pantry staple ingredients and no mixer required! All you need is a whisk and a rubber spatula.
- Light, fluffy cupcakes- A light, fluffy vanilla cupcake recipe is a must to have on hand! The oil also slows down gluten development, which makes for a light and fluffy texture.
- Perfect for any occasion- Birthday parties, picnics, anniversaries, baby showers, bake sales, Valentine's Day, Easter... these cupcakes are sure to be a hit!
Here are notes about some of the ingredients used. For quantities and full instructions, see the recipe card below.
- Cake flour- This finely milled flour gives the cupcakes their structure and light, airy texture.
- Granulated sugar- Sugar helps sweeten the cupcake batter and retain moisture. Caster sugar works as well.
- Baking powder- This leavener helps the cupcakes get light and fluffy while baking. Check the expiration date before using.
- Salt- Finely ground salt activates the baking powder and offsets some of the sweetness.
- Oil- This keeps the cupcakes moist for days! Use a neutral, flavorless oil like vegetable, grapeseed, sunflower, avocado, or canola oil.
- Sour cream- Sour cream makes the batter rich and creamy and adds a slightly tangy flavor. Make sure it's room temperature so it's easy to mix. Take out of the refrigerator an hour or so before baking.
- Eggs- 2 eggs add richness and help bind all of the ingredients together. Make sure they're room temperature so they mix easily. Take out of the refrigerator with the sour cream.
- Vanilla extract- Use a high quality vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste to add that classic, delicious vanilla flavor.
Substitutions & Variations
- Plain Greek yogurt can be substituted for the sour cream. Buttermilk is also an option!
- Use a different extract to change the flavor. Some options are maple, banana, coconut, or lemon extract.
- You can cut out the middle of these cupcakes after they're baked and add a filling! I recommend strawberry filling, cherry filling, Nutella, fudge, or salted caramel sauce.
Step by Step Instructions
STEP 1: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together until evenly distributed.
STEP 2: Next, add oil, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla to a separate bowl. Whisk them together until smooth. Then whisk in the water.
STEP 3: Pour the combined wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix with a rubber spatula or whisk until combined. The batter will be thin.
STEP 4: Pour the cupcake batter into the cupcake liners, making sure the batter is evenly distributed and the liners are ⅔ full. You can use a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to fill them easily.
STEP 5: Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake or your cupcakes will be dry! Remove from the oven and cool in the hot pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
STEP 6: Once the vanilla cupcakes are completely cool, pipe with the frosting of your choice and add your desired toppings. Enjoy!
How to Decorate
My favorite way to decorate cupcakes is by using a piping bag fitted with a piping tip. I love the Wilton 1M for making pretty ruffles and the Ateco 849 for making rosettes. You can add sprinkles or edible glitter to make them super pretty and fun.
If you don't have any piping bags, you can dollop the frosting on top of your cupcakes and smooth it out with a butter knife for the back of a spoon
You can also add the frosting to a Ziplock bag and snip off one of the corners with scissors to make a homemade piping bag!
Expert Baking Tips
- Use room temperature ingredients. Cold ingredients don't combine evenly and can mess up this texture, so it's important to make sure they're room temperature for a smooth batter.
- Measure the flour correctly. Flour is notoriously easy to over-measure, so I recommend measuring it in grams with a kitchen scale for the best results. If you don't have a scale, fluff the flour up in the bag and gently scoop it into your measuring cup without packing it in. Once overflowing, swipe off the excess. This is called the spoon and level method.
- Don't overmix. If you mix the batter too much, the cupcakes will get gummy and chewy.
- Let the cupcakes cool before frosting. If your cupcakes are still warm, the frosting will melt and slide off.
Because these vanilla cupcakes are so simple, they're perfect with any kind of frosting! Some different flavors for you to try out are:
- Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting
- Almond Buttercream Frosting
- Faux Swiss Meringue Frosting
- Lavender Buttercream
- Banana Buttercream
- Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Storage & Freezing
Unfrosted vanilla cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container on the counter for up to 2 days. I recommend moving them to the refrigerator for an additional 3 days after that to extend their shelf life.
If your cupcakes are frosted, I recommend storing them covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freeze the cupcakes without frosting because they'll get soggy when thawed otherwise. Place them on a baking tray and freeze for 2 hours or until frozen solid. After that, transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Before eating, let the cupcakes thaw at room temperature for a couple hours or in the refrigerator overnight. Frost and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You can use non-dairy Greek yogurt or sour cream to make them dairy free.
If your cupcakes are sinking, they may not be done yet. Make sure to use the toothpick test to check for doneness. They also might sink because you used too much baking powder.
You may have over-baked them! Make sure to check them a couple minutes before the bake time. Over-measuring the flour can also make them dry.
More Cupcake Recipes to Try
Moist Vanilla Cupcakes with Oil
- 170 grams unsalted butter room temperature
- 360 grams powdered sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, line a 12-well cupcake pan with cupcake liners, and set it aside.
- Whisk the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl until evenly combined.180 grams cake flour, 200 grams granulated sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Add oil, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla to a separate bowl. Whisk together until smooth and then whisk in water.60 grams oil, 60 grams sour cream, 2 large eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 158 ml water
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
- Evenly distribute the cupcake batter between 12 cupcake liners, filling each ⅔ full. Do not overfill.
- Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before adding frosting.
- Beat softened butter in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium high speed until smooth and creamy.170 grams unsalted butter
- Gradually add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing on low until fully combined. Then mix in the vanilla and salt, beating until light and fluffy.360 grams powdered sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Fit a piping bag with a large tip and fill it with buttercream. Pipe a swirl on each cupcake, decorate with sprinkles if desired, and enjoy!