These gluten-free vanilla cupcakes are moist and tender, light and fluffy, and everything you expect from a good cupcake recipe. Swirls of vanilla or chocolate frosting are the perfect finishing touch!

Gluten-free cupcake on cake stand

I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance in 2006 so I’ve had a lot of experience over the years with gluten free baking. If your expectations for gluten-free desserts are normally pretty low, these gluten-free cupcakes will be a game-changer.

They taste just like a traditional cupcake made with wheat flour, and even the texture is the same—light, fluffy, with a perfectly tender crumb. In fact, as long as you use a high-quality gluten-free flour, no one will realize these vanilla cupcakes are gluten-free!

Consider this recipe for vanilla gluten-free cupcakes your starting point for a delicious treat. You can top them with the vanilla or chocolate frosting recipes I share below, or try my Lemon Frosting, Spiced Buttercream Frosting, or Cream Cheese Frosting. If you want to take them to the next level, you can fill them with lemon curd or jam. Add sprinkles for a pop of color, mini chocolate chips, edible flowers for a sophisticated touch, or anything else that strikes your fancy or fits the theme of your party!

Gluten-free cupcakes on cake stand, with one cut to show light, fluffy cake texture

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

For the Cupcakes:

  • Unsalted butter – Let this come to room temperature before you start the recipe.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Egg whites
  • Sour cream – This is how you get that moist, tender crumb!
  • Milk – Use skim, 1%, or 2% milk.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt

For the Vanilla Frosting:

  • Unsalted butter – The butter for the frosting also needs to be room temperature so it can be whipped into a smooth, creamy topping for your cupcakes.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk or heavy cream – You only need to use this if the frosting is too thick.

For the Chocolate Frosting:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Vanilla extract
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – Natural cocoa powder or Dutch process is fine, but don’t use hot cocoa mix! It’s not the same; cocoa mix is sweetened.
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk or heavy cream

Which Gluten-Free Flour Is Best for Cupcakes?

There are dozens and dozens of gluten-free flours on the market these days, but not all of them are well-suited for baking.

I recommend using King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour. It’s non-gritty and specifically developed to work the same way wheat flour works in a recipe. If you don’t use King Arthur flour, use another brand that specifies that it’s a cup-for-cup (or measure-for-measure) substitute for all-purpose flour.

If you’re wondering, “What about almond flour? Or coconut flour?”, the answer is that those flours are awesome too, but they need to be used in baking recipes that were developed with and for them because they bake up so differently than traditional wheat flour. Using almond flour in this recipe would result in dry, crumbly cupcakes, and no one wants that!

Vanilla gluten-free cupcakes topped with pink frosting and sprinkles

How to Make Gluten-Free Cupcakes

Other than the ingredients, making gluten-free cupcakes isn’t all that different from making traditional cupcakes! Here’s what you’ll need to do.

For the Cupcakes:

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350º F and line a muffin pan with muffin liners.

Step-by-step photos showing process of making gluten-free cupcake batter

Mix the wet ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl for a minute or two, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg whites, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract. 

Mix the dry ingredients. In a second mixing bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, baking powder, and salt, then sift them. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients a few spoonfuls at a time, mixing after each addition. 

Portioning cupcake batter into liners

Bake. Divide the batter into the muffin liners, filling them no more than halfway full. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes at 350ºF, or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the center. Let the cupcakes cool completely before you frost them.

Gluten-free cupcakes in pan after baking

For the Frosting:

Each of these frosting recipes will frost about 12 cupcakes, so choose one or the other, or make both recipes in half.

Beat the butter and extract. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until the butter is light and fluffy. 

Add the dry ingredients. Slowly add the powdered sugar to the bowl, mixing on low until combined. If you’re making chocolate frosting, you’ll add the cocoa powder here. If you want to add food coloring, do so now. I used a pale pink food coloring from AmeriColor.

Finish. Taste the frosting and add more sugar if needed; if the frosting is too thick, beat in a dash of milk or heavy cream. For extra fluffy frosting, beat in 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream when you’re adding the last portion of powdered sugar and whip for 3 to 4 minutes.

Frost the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a piping tip; I used an Ateco 809 and 844. Fill the bag about three-quarters of the way full with frosting and pipe it onto the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. 

Overhead view of gluten-free cupcakes on tabletop with sprinkles

Decoration Ideas

I mentioned a few simple ideas for decorating these cupcakes earlier in the post, but here are some more ideas that can be easily adapted to this gluten-free cupcake recipe.

Tips for Success

Here are some tips for perfect gluten-free cupcakes!

  • Measure the flour properly. Use the spoon-and-sweep method to ensure that you’re getting an accurate measurement for the flour. When you scoop your measuring cups into the flour, you compact it, which means you end up using more in your recipe.
  • Don’t skip the sifting! By sifting the dry ingredients together, you’ll get extra-fluffy cupcakes.
  • Don’t over-fill the cupcake liners. If you fill them more than halfway full when you’re portioning out the batter, your cupcakes are likely to spill over the sides.
Gluten-free cupcake topped with pink vanilla buttercream and sprinkles

How to Store

Gluten-free cupcakes are best stored at room temperature. Place them in an airtight container or loosely cover them on a plate; they’ll last up to 2 to 3 days.

Can I Freeze Gluten-Free Cupcakes?

Yes, you can freeze these cupcakes. Place them on a sheet pan and freeze them uncovered until the frosting is solid. Then, wrap the cupcakes in plastic wrap and store them in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. Let them thaw at room temperature before serving.

Gluten-free cupcake with bite taken out to show fluffy texture
Closeup of gluten-free cupcake topped with pink frosting and sprinkles

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes

These gluten-free vanilla cupcakes are moist and tender, light and fluffy, and everything you expect from a good cupcake recipe.
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Course: Dessert
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 19 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 44 minutes
Servings: 12 cupcakes
Author: Beth

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 1 stick unsalted butter room temperature (1/2 cup)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup milk skim, 1% or 2%
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cup gluten free all purpose flour I recommend King Arthur’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

Vanilla Frosting (makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes)

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter room temperature (1 & 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • Dash milk or heavy cream if frosting becomes too thick

Chocolate Frosting (makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes)

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter room temperature (1 & 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Dash milk or heavy cream if frosting becomes too thick

Instructions

Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the butter and sugar, beat using an electric mixer, 1-2 minutes until fluffy. Add in the egg whites, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat lightly with the electric mixer. In a separate mixing bowl combine the gluten free flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients together, this will help produce extra fluffy cupcakes. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients a few spoonfuls at a time. Mix until just incorporated. Fill the muffin liners 1/2-3/4 full.
  • Bake for 17-19 minutes at 350º F or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the center. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before adding the frosting. Each frosting recipe below will frost about 12 cupcakes. Choose if you want vanilla or chocolate frosting.

Vanilla Frosting

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and vanilla extract, beat using an electric mixer until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing on low until combined. If you want to add food coloring, do so now. Taste as needed to determine if you want more powdered sugar. If the frosting becomes too thick, add a dash of milk or heavy cream. If you want an extra fluffy frosting, add in 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream when adding the last bit of powdered sugar. Whip for 3-4 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, vanilla extract, beat using an electric mixer until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar, mixing on low until combined. Taste as needed to determine if you want more powdered sugar. If the frosting becomes too thick, add a dash of milk or heavy cream. If you want an extra fluffy frosting, add in 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream when adding the last bit of powdered sugar. Whip for 3-4 minutes.

Assemble the cupcakes

  • Fit a piping bag with a piping tip, I used an Ateco 809 and 844. Fill the bag about 3/4 full with frosting. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles if desired.

Notes

  • Nutritional information is calculated for the gluten-free cupcakes with vanilla frosting.
  • Each frosting recipe makes enough frosting to frost 12 cupcakes. If you want 6 white and 6 chocolate frosted cupcakes, be sure to cut each frosting recipe in half.
  • I used a pale pink food coloring from AmeriColor.
  • To store: Place cupcakes in an airtight container or loosely cover them on a plate; they’ll last up to 2 to 3 days at room temperature.
  • To freeze: Place cupcakes on a sheet pan and freeze them uncovered until the frosting is solid. Then, wrap in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 466kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 102mg | Potassium: 39mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 1013IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 1mg
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