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Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

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These Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes are light, tender, and easy to make. The cupcakes are made with sour cream to keep them moist and are full of vanilla flavor. This is a great basic vanilla cupcake recipe that can be combined with any frosting or filling flavor. This recipe features a Cranberry Cream Cheese Buttercream, that is beautiful for the holidays!

Single small batch vanilla cupcake with a bite

Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

Every baker should have a base (or master) cupcake recipe in their recipe file.  And this recipe for Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes is that recipe.  This recipe makes 4 perfectly moist and tender cupcakes that are full of vanilla flavor.  Especially if you opt to use vanilla bean paste.   Which I think is a must for any vanilla cake recipe!  

Along with being a perfectly portioned cupcake recipe for two, these Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes are incredibly easy to make.  They require ingredients which you may already have on hand, and you can get by with using only one bowl to make the cupcakes.

What Makes These Vanilla Cupcakes Better Than Other Recipes

Great question!  And while I try not to claim any of the recipes on the blog are ‘the best’, I will say these vanilla cupcakes are as close to perfect as you can get.

  • Moist – Milk and sour cream keep these cupcakes moist. And they even stay moist the day after they are baked.
  • Tender – The cupcakes are super light and tender with help from the egg yolk and sour cream.
  • Rich Vanilla Flavor – I like to use vanilla bean paste in my cake and cupcake recipes.  It is a much more pure and warm flavor of vanilla.
  • Easy – One bowl and liquid measuring cup is all you need to make these cupcakes.  Along with a hand held mixer – which simply makes creaming the butter and sugar together easy.
  • Perfect Base Cupcake Recipe – Which means you can pair these vanilla cupcakes with any flavor of frosting or filling you like!
Small batch vanilla cupcakes on a platter

What You Need To Make Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes


For the Cupcakes

  • All-Purpose Flour – If you are looking for a gluten free cupcake recipe, there is one on the blog!  Check out the Small Batch Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcakes.
  • Baking Powder
  • Salt – Salt plays a crucial role in highlighting the flavors in the cupcakes.
  • Unsalted Butter – The butter should be room temperature to make creaming it with the sugar easier.
  • Granulated Sugar – I have used both regular white granulated sugar, and organic cane sugar.  Both work great!
  • Vanilla – For a delicious vanilla flavor, I recommend trying vanilla bean paste.  It is a worthy investment if you like to bake!
  • Egg Yolk – We only need one large egg yolk.  You can use the egg white to make up a batch of Marshmallow Meringue Frosting to frost the cupcakes!
  • Sour Cream – We use sour cream purely to keep the cupcakes moist and tender – they will not taste like sour cream!  I recommend full-fat sour cream for texture and the fat content to add moisture.
  • Milk – Any kind of milk will work.  I have actually made these cupcakes using coconut milk!

For the Frosting

  • Cranberries – Fresh or frozen cranberries will work.  You could certainly try canned cranberries if you prefer.  Just know there will be added sugar and spices in the canned version.
  • Cream Cheese – Full fat cream cheese works great to make thick and fluffy frosting.
  • Unsalted Butter – You could certainly omit the butter, but it make the frosting thick and creamy.
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla and Salt – Both simply amplify the flavor of the frosting.

Baking Equipment

  • Cupcake/Muffin Pan with Cupcake Liners
  • Hand Held Mixer – Because this is a small batch, there isn’t enough batter to have it mix properly in a stand mixer.  Additionally, because it is a small batch, it is easy to whip up with a hand held mixer.
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Liquid Measuring Cup

Tips For Making A Small Batch of Vanilla Cupcakes

Cupcake tips

  • Bring all of the refrigerated ingredients to room temperature – When ingredients are at the same temperature, they mix better and bake more evenly.
  • This is (can be) a one bowl cupcake recipe – Because this is a small batch, it isn’t a lot of batter.  I like to mix the milk and sour cream right in the liquid measuring cup to save on a bowl!
  • Use full-fat sour cream – The sour cream adds texture and moisture to the cupcakes and full-fat works best.
  • Any milk will work – I have made these cupcakes with any milk I have on hand.  Including dairy-free coconut milk!
  • Don’t overmix the batter – Mixing the batter too much will make the cupcakes chewy and dense.  It is ok if the batter has some lumps in it.
  • Use a cookie scoop to evenly portion the batter – This just makes pouring the batter into the cupcake liners easier and less messy!
  • Keep an eye on the baking – Ovens vary, so watch your bake time.  You will know the cupcakes are done when they are springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the  middle comes out mostly clean.

Frosting tips

  • Fresh or frozen cranberries work – During the holidays, finding bags of fresh cranberries is easy!  I have not tried canned cranberries, but I suppose they could work in a pinch.  Keep in mind there will be added spices and sugar, so you will want to taste test your frosting and adjust the powdered sugar as necessary.
  • Bring the refrigerated ingredients to room temperature – Beating room temperature cream cheese and butter together is so much easier when they are both room temp!
  • Season to taste – Add more cranberry jam to suit your taste.  The same goes for the powdered sugar.  Adding more powdered sugar will make the frosting even thicker, but also sweeter.
  • Make ahead of time – The frosting can be made ahead of time.  And when you are ready to frost the cupcakes, just bring it to room temperature.
Two vanilla cupcakes with cranberry frosting

Common Questions For Making Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

Can this cupcake recipe be doubled?

I have not tested a larger batch, but you can try it and let me know how it turns out.

I’m gluten free. Can I swap in a 1:1 gluten free flour?

You can certainly try it! Although, I do have a Gluten Free and Small Batch Vanilla Cupcake recipe on the blog.

Do the cupcakes taste like sour cream?

No, they do not taste like sour cream. The acidity in sour cream helps to tenderize the gluten in the flour, and it makes the cupcakes moist.

What is the best kind of milk to use?

I would say any milk you have in your refrigerator. I have successfully made the cupcakes with 2 percent milk, whole milk, and even coconut milk!

Can I use my stand mixer to make the cupcakes?

I would stick with a hand held mixer. Because this is a small batch of cupcakes, there isn’t enough batter to have your stand mixer mix it properly.

Are there other frosting recipes I can use?

I do have more frosting recipes on the blog – including dairy-free! Check out my other Frosting recipes.

How should I store leftover cupcakes?

If you have any! The cupcakes can be store covered at room temperature and will stay moist for about 2 to 3 days.

Row of small batch vanilla cupcakes with cranberry frosting

More Small Batch Cupcake Recipes

Single vanilla cupcake with festive frosting
Single small batch vanilla cupcake with a bite
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5 from 1 review

Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 4 Cupcakes
These Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes are light, tender, and easy to make. The cupcakes are made with sour cream to keep them moist and are full of vanilla flavor. This is a great basic vanilla cupcake recipe that can be combined with any frosting or filling flavor. This recipe features a Cranberry Cream Cheese Buttercream, that is beautiful for the holidays!
Prep10 minutes
Cook20 minutes
Total35 minutes


  • 1 – Muffin/Cupcake Pan



  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 3 tablespoons milk, room temperature (any kind)
  • 1 tablespoon full fat sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 large egg white, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract



  • Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.  Line a cupcake pan with 4 cupcake liners.
  • In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to just combine. Note – If using a stand mixer, I recommend the 3-quart mixing bowl (link above) for the small batch batter. Otherwise, you can use a hand held mixer and medium mixing bowl.
    ½ cup all-purpose flour, ⅓ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Add the butter cubes to the dry ingredients. Mix on medium-high speed until the butter is broken up into small pebbles, and the mix resembles coarse sand.
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
  • In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the milk. Then add the sour cream, egg white, and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
    3 tablespoons milk, room temperature, 1 tablespoon full fat sour cream, room temperature, 1 large egg white, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Turn the mixer on low speed. Slowly drizzle the wet ingredients into the dry until incorporated and smooth. It is ok if the batter is a little lumpy.
  • Pour equal amounts of batter into the prepared cupcake liners. TipUse a small cookie scoop to help with portioning and less mess!
  • Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan set on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack to cool completely.

Cranberry Frosting

  • While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting per the recipe instructions link at the top of the recipe!
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  • Serving Size – This is a small batch recipe and only tested as such.  If you choose to double the recipe, use 1 whole egg vs. 2 egg whites.
  • Stand Mixer – You can use your stand mixer with standard bowl.  However, because this is a small batch batter, it will mix more evenly when you use a 3-quart mixing bowl.  Note, the bowl works with standard attachments and only works on a tilt head mixer.
  • Egg – I have also tested this recipe with a single egg yolk.  I find the egg white (this recipe) yields a softer and tighter cupcake crumb.  While the egg yolk version yields a more airy and spongy cupcake crumb.  Both delicious.  It’s a matter of cake crumb preference.  
  • Reverse Creaming Method – You will notice we mix the butter and sugar with the other dry ingredients first.  This method of mixing limits gluten development and yields fluffy and airy cupcakes.
  • Storing – The cupcakes can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Beyond that, and they may start to dry out.  Note, if using a cream cheese or whipped cream frosting, I recommend storing covered in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temp to serve.
  • Freezing – The baked, unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Wrap individually in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag.  Thaw in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature to serve.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich


Calories: 381kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 228mg | Potassium: 83mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 652IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition information is calculated by a third-party and should only be considered an estimate and not a guarantee.
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about the author ...

I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!

I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch gluten free and traditional desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you! Click here to learn more about me!

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