Yellow Cupcakes with Homemade Frosting (better than the box!)

11 Reviews / 4.7 Average
Adapted from Joy of Cooking, this Yellow Cupcake recipe is way better than the box ones from the grocery store. Yes, these do include sugar but I use white whole-wheat flour, and you can guarantee there are no unwanted ingredients. These cupcakes come out so fluffy. Be sure to top them with homemade frosting for your next birthday or special event.
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Both of my daughters typically request yellow birthday cake over chocolate, which consistently leaves me wondering if there was a mix up at birth. Almost every year we have the same conversation where I ask, “What kind of cake do you want for your birthday…chocolate or yellow?” and the answer I get is “yellow.” Then I immediately follow up with, “Are you sure? You don’t want chocolate???” But no matter how hard I try I can’t win them over, although one year I did get my older daughter to agree to a yellow AND chocolate marbled cake, which turned out to be a win-win for everyone. :)

So as promised (on Facebook a couple weeks ago), below is the yellow cupcake/cake recipe we’ve been using. And while this recipe below (originally from Joy of Cooking) contains sugar and some white flour – both against our real food rules – I recognize this is WAY better than the store bought boxed version that many have relied on for years and that unfortunately contains a lot of unwanted additives (like hydrogenated oils)! And for the homemade frosting I even used all natural beet juice for the pretty pink color you see in the photos. For a less girly look feel free to experiment with small amounts of other colored juices as well (I froze the leftover juice in an ice cube tray since it didn’t take much). So for those occasions which are truly special – like birthdays! – we hope you enjoy this homemade treat with your loved ones.

I am admittedly horrible at decorating cakes so here are some links to the supplies that helped me pull these together:

Icing Cupcakes

Click for the frosting recipes.

Cupcakes Lit

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185 thoughts on “Yellow Cupcakes with Homemade Frosting (better than the box!)”

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  1. I am thinking about how to make an “almost” unprocessed party for my daughter who is turning 5 this summer. Can someone tell me if they have made icing with cream cheese sweetened with honey? and then try to dye that icing? I was thinking just doing different flavored muffins/cupcakes in cute muffin holders with icing. And the snacks would consist of popcorn(fresh with olive oil/salt) and pretzels (processed hard to find good tasting non-processed ones)veges with dip already in plastic cup (saw on pintrest) and fruit leathers from traders J. Any other suggestions and icing info are appreciated!

  2. If using this recipe for a pan rather than cupcakes, do you know what size pan it will make? Thank you so much!

    1. I was wondering the same thing. I’ll be using 10″ pans and wonder if I need to double it for 2 cake pans.

  3. Can I use just regular flour if I don’t have white cake flour? Or would the results be just a very dense cupcake.

  4. Whole foods sells some natural colors..there are just 4. They are expensive !

    For frosting I make a butter cream and then I make some reduce of fruit like blueberries, straberries, etc..and at room tempeture added to the frosting and you get a nice color and flavor frosting! also I use the fruit for the cupcakes. Blueberries cupcakes with blueberries frosting.

  5. Have used pomegranate juice too for a pretty blush pink icing- and you get a little fruity tang in the sweetness-

  6. Hi…wondering why you don’t use whole wheat pastry flour? I get much better results than with the white whole wheat. More tender product.

  7. Any tips on how to get other colors naturally, like blue or green? Btw you’re an inspiration – I make your recipes regularly and your example has changed our lives (me + 3 boys and one hubby)

  8. Can you bake these the day before and leave on the countertop? I’m guessing it would be best to frost them the same day…?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Michelle. They will be fine if you let them cool completely and then put them in an airtight container. If you plan on keeping them more than a day or two, I usually freeze in order to keep them fresh. ~Amy

  9. Hi. I made these yesterday for my daughters 3rd birthday party. They turned out fairly fluffy however they were not moist at all. Semi-dry if anything. The flavor was good, what could I possibly do different to get a more moist cupcake? Thanks a bunch!!!

  10. Sorry one more question — I have been making cupcakes with all white whole wheat flour and feel they are a little dense.

    Your recipe calls for:
    1â…” cup white cake flour
    1 cup white whole-wheat flour

    Is White Cake Flour the same as White All Purpose Flour? Does this make it a lighter/fluffier cupcake mixing them?


    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kathryn. Cake flour is more fine with higher starch content than APF and does lighten the texture. ~Amy

  11. Where does one find beet juice?
    Can you use pom juice instead to dye pink?

    Any other suggestions for natural dyes/sprinkles?


    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi. Beet juice can be found in almost any grocery store. You’ll find it with tomato juice and such. I don’t see why Pom juice wouldn’t work but beet juice is a lot of concentrated color. :) If you go to the India Tree website, they have lots of options for natural dyes and accessories. ~Amy

  12. Love your info! We used beet juice to frost cookies! Can these stay out of fridge until the teacher serves them at school?? Thanks!!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Margo. The whipped cream frosting can get pretty soft. I would wait to frost them until pretty close to serving unless they are kept cold. ~Amy

  13. Yum! So I tried to use this recipe to make a two layer birthday cake. First layer came out perfect and the second one crumbled into pieces. Maybe something to do with not folding in the egg whites enough? I sifted all of my flour and put my milk and eggs on the counter a bit before. My cake came out perfectly fluffy. Next time I’ll just put it in a square pan and call it a day or make cupcakes. I was able to use the first layer and ended up with a cute yet flat cake:) I used the first recipe for frosting. My husband excitedly told me it tasted like costco frosting!! Which is great because we don’t buy cakes from there anymore because a. They are mega processed and b. We now have a child with a severe nut allergy. I made the frosting without the color and then tried to color a little bit of it with blueberries. But I think it was too much liquid and the texture got weird and the color didn’t take. So I ended up mixing some with some blue colored sugar I found at whole foods and a very small drop of the “junk” purple frosting which colored all the frosting I needed for decorating. So all in all it was a good compromise. My daughter insisted on purple frosting but I feel like I dramatically cut out the processed ingredients and artificial colors that would have been in a bakery cake. Just a word of warning the whole process took quite a long time! Thanks for the great recipe! Have you ever experimented with coconut sugar instead of white sugar?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Franki. Lisa hasn’t used coconut sugar in her recipes. I use it often, especially in my coffee, but I do bake with it, too. It is certainly not as sweet as refined sugar…which I like. ~Amy

  14. I was looking for a strewberry cake mix that is whole food. I’m thinken about adding a homemade strewberry sauce to the yellow cake mix and then cooking but not for sure if it will just be flat. Do you have any suggestions

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there, Jenapher. Lisa hasn’t tried her hand at a strawberry cake. If you experiment, let us know how it goes. :) ~Amy

  15. I made a carrot cake fore my daughters birthday and am looking for a substitute for powdered sugar. Any suggestions? I don’t want to use stevia or agave and am not sure how maple syrup or hone will do consistency wise? Thanks for the suggestions

  16. 5 stars
    Wow, what a great recipe! I have been searching all day for a cupcake recipe and (stupidly) didn’t think to come here. What do you think I could do to make it a chocolate cupcake? Chocolate cupcakes are a favorite treat around my house. Thanks a bunch. Love the blog! Keep up the amazing work. ;)

  17. 5 stars
    This is a great frosting recipe. The amount of butter scared me at first but once you realize you’re only eating one cupcake, it’s not so bad. I also want to mention I follow a lot of blogs and this one has the best lay-out. I love that each recipe has it’s own box around it. I leave a blog immediately if the recipe isn’t condensed into one nice area and easy to find. Who has time to search? Thanks for the great recipes and ideas!

  18. 5 stars
    Just stopping in to say that I made these cupcakes for my daughter’s first birthday party. I made these cupcakes twice. The first time that I made these cupcakes, I substituted all-purpose flour and corn starch for the cake flour. The cupcakes came out tasting kind of like corn bread which I discovered was from using the all-purpose flour. The next time I made them I used cake flour and it was very good! So in my experience using cake flour and sifting the flour a few times will result in less dense and more fluffy cake. Hope that helps anyone making these!

  19. I was wondering if you have ever tried making a whipped cream with pure coconut milk? I’ve heard it works but have yet to try it.

  20. Hi,

    I wanted to make cupcakes for children at my son’s school. I was wondering if I put the icing on the cupcakes in the morning (7:30am), will they melt or they will be fine till 12pm?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Aditi. If the cupcakes are cool when you put on the frosting and are kept relatively cool, they will be fine. ~Amy

  21. Made these yesterday. Cake was maybe a little denser than a box mix but that may have been from using all whole wheat pastry flour rather than part white. Nonetheless, they were delicious and everyone loved them! Kids asked to have cupcakes this morning for breakfast. Used frosting #1 which was very sweet (even a little too sweet for our taste buds at this point?) but we still had no trouble gobbling them up and kids kept saying they needed another taste of the frosting. I substituted 6 oz cream cheese for 1 stick of butter and didn’t need any milk for the frosting. Next time I will just add the sugar more slowly, tasting as I go. Really needed only a little bit of beet juice – maybe like 2 tsp? It turned out bubblegum pink and there was no beet flavor at all. Thank you for another great recipe!

  22. This was my first not-from-a-box homemade yellow cake and it was a big hit. I made it as a round cake with the tie-die frosting posted on this site with a chocolate cake recipe. The cake is very dense as others mentioned so I served it with strawberries, the extra whip cream icing and extra berry sauce for people to scoop/ pour on top. I agree that it was a lot like shortcake. So delicious! By the end of the evening the cake was pretty droopy so I would recommend not icing it too far in advance. Thanks for the recipe Lisa- and for all your help leaving those chemical laden cake mixes behind!

  23. Any suggestions for chocolate frosting or maybe blue frosting (maybe using blue berries)? My sons bday is coming up and pink frosting just won’t fly with him. Thanks!!!

  24. If I use frosting recipe 1can the cupcakes be left out on the counter after they are frosted or do they need to be put in the fridge? If they can be left out will it be ok to leave them out for a few days? Just trying to figure out what to do with any leftovers. Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Sarah. I personally don’t leave frosted cupcakes out. I typically freeze left overs without frosting them and pull them out and frost as needed. They stay very fresh tasting that way. ~Amy

  25. 5 stars
    I made this recipe into a cake for my daughter’s birthday. It was absolutely delicious!! I had several compliments. The cake was fairly dense, but I cut the cake in half and put a home made strawberry sauce between the layers and then topped it with the #2 frosting recipe (sweetened whipped cream). It was very similar to strawberry shortcake. Thank you for the recipe! I will absolutely make this again.

  26. 4 stars
    So I am not a baker by any means, but I tried this recipe yesterday and my cupcakes came out REALLY dense. Could I have done something wrong or is it supposed to be that way? Any tips on what to do differently to make them lighter? Also, I made the 1st frosting recipe and definitely added too much beet juice because the frosting tastesd terrible :( I think I will try berries to dye the frosting next time just in case I put too much in :)

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Madison. It is really difficult to tell what may or may not have happened. Including whole grain flour does make the result a bit more dense than what you might be used to. Also, the addition of beet juice really should not have influenced the icing flavor much at all. Best of luck on your next try! ~Amy

    2. The most likely problem (other than the whole wheat flour) is overmixing once you add the beaten egg whites.
      Mix very very gently, and only until it’s just mixed.
      Third most likely is old baking powder, because it’s a leavening agent too.

  27. How does the second pink frosting recipe (the one pictured) do on cupcakes that are stored at room temp? I need to make cupcakes this weekend for my daughter’s birthday that is not going to be held at our home. So, they will be at room temp for a bit.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Melissa. They will be okay at room temperature for a little while as long as the room temperature isn’t too warm. Enjoy your party. ~Amy

  28. Do you have the baking time for this as a sheet cake? My 4 year old has requested a soccer cake, which is easy peasy: spinach in the icing, figurines on top. Easier than last year’s lavender elephant request….

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Melanie. That would completely depend on the size and thickness of the cake. If you are sticking to this recipe, then I would guess somewhere between 30 and 38 minutes…but that’s a guess and I would keep a close eye on it. ~Amy

  29. Lisa, what a brilliant idea you have with the foil packets.

    This might just be the perfect way to prepare food. It is quick and easy. There is virtually no clean up. It also locks in flavor and nutrients.

    I can’t find a single flaw here!

    I agree with you about children stressing over food. We all want them to make healthier decisions but we also want them to be there decisions.

    There is no easy answer here.

    I think if we introduce them to a wide variety of delicious and nutritional food, along with the occasional junk food then they will find a good balance.

  30. What is it about these ingredients that makes them unprocessed? I’m at a loss…

    whole-wheat flour
    baking powder
    vanilla extract

    1. I believe she mentioned in the intro that these don’t fit the exact guidelines of “unprocessed”–only that they were better than a box cake.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Michele. No, we have not tried that. Please share your experience if you do. : ) ~Amy

  31. This recipe is very similar to my own that I made for my daughter’s preschool graduation. Unfortunately I overheard someone behind me tell their 2 year old son not to try one as they were an “acquired” taste just for grownups! She said that the other cupcakes made from the funfetti box mix were for the kids. That bummed me out. When did vanilla cupcakes become an acquired taste?