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
Cook23 minutes
Total35 minutes


  • 1 – Muffin/Cupcake Pan



  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon full fat sour cream, room temperature (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup milk (room temperature)

Cranberry Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt



  • Preheat the oven to 325F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.  Line a cupcake pan with 4 cupcake liners.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the milk and add the sour cream. Stir to combine.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the sugar and butter. Using a hand held mixer on medium-low speed, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and the sugar is moistened by the butter. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Continue to beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is creamy.
  • Sprinkle, or sift, the flour, baking powder, and salt over the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed until just combined. Pour in the milk mixture and continue mixing just until all of the milk has been incorporated. Do not overmix the batter. It is ok if there are a few lumps.
  • Pour equal amounts of batter into the prepared cupcake liners. Tip – Use a small cookie scoop to help with portioning and less mess!
  • Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean – a few crumbs are ok.  Cool in the muffin pan set on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack to cool completely.

Cranberry Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • In a small saucepan, add the cranberries and water. Cook the cranberries over medium-low heat until they start to burst and the mixture starts to resemble jam. This may take about 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Strain the cranberries through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Be sure to scrape the underside of the strainer to get all of the cranberry jam. You should get about 1 to 2 tablespoons of cranberry jam. Note – If you prefer a chunky frosting, you can skip straining the cranberry jam and add about 1 to 2 tablespoons to the frosting. Set the cranberry jam aside to cool.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and salt. Using a hand held mixer on medium speed, beat the mix until it is light and creamy. Begin adding the powdered sugar in a few increments (to avoid spraying powdered sugar everywhere), beating after each addition. With the last addition of powdered sugar, add 1 tablespoon of cranberry jam, and continue beating until incorporated. Taste the frosting and if you prefer a stronger cranberry flavor, add more jam. Additionally, if you prefer a thicker frosting, add more powdered sugar in 1 tablespoon increments.
  • Frost the cooled cupcakes, garnish with any decoration you like, and Enjoy!
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  • Vanilla – For a rich and pure vanilla flavor, vanilla bean paste is delicious in these cupcakes.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich
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!

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