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I use this white cake as the base for many other cake flavors. It’s the PERFECT cake with a soft texture, wonderful vanilla flavor, and tastes incredible with creamy vanilla buttercream on top. Cake flour, egg whites, and sour cream are the secrets to the best texture. This cake recipe is the base for my burnt sugar caramel cake, cookies and cream cake, strawberry cake and pistachio cake, too!

overhead image of white cake with a slice cut topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles

Let’s start the day the only way we know how: with a buttery white cake.


Why This is my Best White Cake Recipe

This white cake recipe is adapted from my perfect vanilla cupcakes, a reader favorite. The cake is my definition of *cake perfection* and has become one of the most popular cake recipes on my website. Here’s why:

  • Soft & airy crumb
  • Moist, but not eggy
  • Pure sweet flavor
  • Stick-to-your-fork tender
  • Completely from scratch
  • Easy & approachable recipe

I love this cake so much that I even reduced the quantity of cake batter down to make the perfect 1 layer pineapple upside down cake.

Slice of white cake on a blue plate

White Cake Success Tips

  1. Cream the Butter: To achieve a good rise, properly cream the butter and sugar together. We have a crutch of baking powder and soda, but the recipe begins with that very first and imperative step: beating the butter and sugar together until creamy.
  2. Egg Whites: Use ONLY egg whites. No yolks. Not only will using only egg whites give us a pristine white cake, it will ensure that the crumb is not weighed down by the fat in egg yolks. Think about it: lighter confections such as marshmallows and angel food cakes only require egg whites. Same story here.
  3. Sour Cream: Sour cream is the cake’s security blanket; it keeps everything moist.
  4. Cake Flour: Cake flour is almost 30x finer than all-purpose flour. Using it is a surefire way to achieve a delicate and delicious texture. It’s sold in the baking aisle and you can use the rest of the box in any of these recipes that use cake flour.
  5. Room Temperature: Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature. When ingredients are the same temperature, they bind together more readily than if you had some cold and some warmer ingredients. Colder ingredients, especially egg whites, will produce a thicker batter and, since it’s cold, will take longer to bake. This changes everything.

To summarize, make sure you’re creaming the butter and sugar together properly, all your ingredients are the same temperature and you use egg whites, sour cream, and cake flour. The result is an ultra-light cake with buttery vanilla flavor, just like the kind you find at a bakery or from a box mix. But it’s all made from scratch in your very own kitchen. ♥

ingredients for my favorite white cake

pouring white cake batter into cake pan

White Cake Decoration

While the ingredients in the cake batter don’t leave any room for substitutions, we can have some fun with a variety of frostings and cake pans. I prefer vanilla frosting, which I include in the recipe below. But I encourage you to play around with chocolate buttercream, rainbow chip frosting, or even a chocolate cream cheese frosting. Each frosting is absolutely remarkable on this lovely cake. The vanilla frosting makes a lot, so expect a thick layer between the cakes.

9×13 inch pan: Want to bake a sheet cake instead? Follow my recipe note. A single layer white cake is easier to prepare, decorate, and serve!

white layer cake with vanilla buttercream

slice of white cake with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles on a blue plate

Simple, yet glamorous. Happy baking!

Print
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slice of white cake with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles on a blue plate

Favorite White Layer Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 24 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: serves 10-12 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This white cake recipe is buttery and moist with the fluffiest crumb and creamiest vanilla buttercream. The tricks are to use cake flour, egg whites, and sour cream.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature*
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, at room temperature*

Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (2.5 sticks; 287g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups (600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or use clear imitation vanilla extract for stark white frosting)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • sprinkles for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites. Beat on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 24-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more cream if frosting is too thick, or a pinch more of salt if frosting is way too sweet.
  6. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate top of cake with sprinkles, if desired. Slice, serve, enjoy!
  7. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake the next day when you are ready to serve. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
  2. Amount of Batter: If it’s helpful for using different size cake pan sizes and conversions, this recipe yields about 7 cups of cake batter.
  3. Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
  4. 9×13 inch Pan: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cupcakes: My vanilla cupcakes recipe is essentially this same recipe, only halved. If you want more cupcakes, you can follow this white cake batter recipe and use the baking instructions for the cupcakes.

Keywords: white cake

Here are my Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes. Today’s white cake is just as soft & fluffy.

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles on a purple plate

Soft, fluffy, and perfect white layer cake made from scratch!! Get the recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Soft, fluffy, and perfect white layer cake made from scratch!! Get the recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Soft, fluffy, and perfect white layer cake made from scratch!! Get the recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally, I’m going to be using this recipe to make a rainbow layer cake for my daughter’s birthday in a couple weeks. gel food coloring shouldn’t change the texture too much should it?

    Thanks,

    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle, gel food coloring is perfect! For a rainbow cake we recommend using this light and fluffy white cake or our vanilla cake. The vanilla cake makes a little more batter, which could be helpful for a rainbow cake. You can divide either batter into 5 or 6 layers to color and bake-– keeping in mind the layers will be thinner and require a shorter bake time. Or, for regular sized (thickness) layers, you can make several batches — keeping in mind that it’s best to make the batches separately rather than multiplying. Hope this helps!

  2. I am wanting to add a bit of Aperol to this cake, as well as I am soaking it in an Aperol syrup. How much Aperol do you think I could add to the batter itself without sacrificing the crumb of the cake?

    1. Hi Christina! We haven’t tested it, but you could try replacing some of the milk with Aperol in this recipe. Let us know what you try!

      1. Did 3/4 cup milk and a 1/4 cup Aperol, added fresh orange zest, and brushed the cake with an Aperol simple syrup. Topped it with your champagne buttercream recipe (used Prosecco instead of champagne) and it was a DELICIOUS Aperol Spritz cake!

        Thanks!

    1. Hi Natalie, a raspberry filling would be delicious between layers of this cake. We recommend lightly frosting the cake rounds and then creating a ring of frosting around the edges to keep the raspberry jam in place. Hope it’s a hit!

  3. Hi, I made this white cake the other day for the first time. I followed the directions carefully. Everything was at room temperature, measured all dry ingredients with care. I don’t think that I over mixed it. It resembled a pound cake….nice flavor, but it was not light and fluffy at all. I baked it in 2 8 inch round pans and so I baked it longer, checking it frequently after 25 min. Tooth pick was finally clean at 31 minutes. Do you think I baked it too long and that would create a dense cake? Your recipes are wonderful and I will try this white cake one again. Thank you.

    1. Hi Patricia, we’re happy to help troubleshoot. It’s possible that the cake was over baked a bit. It will take a few minutes longer than the stated bake time if using 8 inch pans, but it’s possible the 31 minutes was a bit too much. Even just an extra minute or two can contribute to a dry or dense cake. As you mention, over mixing can also be the culprit. This post on how to prevent dry and dense cakes may also be helpful for next time. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try!

  4. Hiya, what would the ingredient measurements and baking time be for this recipe when using the wilton dome cake tin to make a doll cake? It is just one cake tin. Thank you.

  5. I was looking for a base cake recipe without complicated steps and so glad I found this! Just made it with whipped cream frosting and mango cubes between layers. So good. Thanks for the amazing recipes! Your chocolate cake with sour cream version is also my go-to chocolate cake recipe after trying a few others without success.

  6. I have five kids aged 24-10 and have baked many birthday cakes. My kids ask for all kinds of cakes, but this is the best, most consistent recipe and has become our favorite. I think I will adapt this recipe for as many of their requests as possible because it is so reliably wonderful. This cake is a real winner. I made it for the third time yesterday and came back to say thanks.

  7. HI, I’d like to make a vanilla cake for my daughters birthday. I am hosting a cake decorating party for lots of kids. My hope is to make several large sheet cakes that I can cut into smaller rounds for them to stack and decorate their own small cake. Would this recipe work well for that? And if so, do you have suggestions for baking this batter in a 9x13x1 sheet pan?

    1. Hi Becca, you can certainly make this cake in a 9×13 pan — see recipe notes for directions. It should work well to then cut it into smaller rounds for decorating. Hope everyone enjoys the cake!

  8. Hi! Love all your recipes!!
    If I were to make this on a Friday afternoon, what’s the best way to store it until the birthday party Sunday??

    1. Hi Rebecca, if frosting the cake on Friday as well, it would be best to cover it tightly and store in the refrigerator until just a bit before you plan to serve. If you’re just storing the layers, you have the option of freezing them. Feel free to choose whichever works best for your timeline!

      1. Hi Sally! I’ve been using your recipes for years and have never been disappointed 😀
        I have a question about the extract. Could I use maple or almond instead? And if so is it the same amount as the vanilla? Thanks!

      2. Hi Stacey! We recommend using 1.5 teaspoons almond extract and 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract for an almond cake. We haven’t tested maple extract, but would guess the proportions would be similar to the almond version. Happy baking!

    1. Hi Andrea, Yes, you can use carton egg whites. The carton should give measurements for substituting for real egg whites.

  9. Baked this as a round layer cake for my 4-year-old’s birthday and it was absolutely outstanding. It was so good and was gone so fast I found an excuse to make it again the next week! I’m going to bake it for my 8-year-old’s birthday but she wants it in a 13x18x2” Wilton pan (we’re creating Candyland on top). Can I just double the recipe and bake as in a 9×13 or are there other considerations I haven’t thought of? Thank you so much! We love your recipes and cookbooks we have!

      1. Thanks! I do make two batches instead of mixing the doubled recipe together, but I did word that terribly.

  10. Love this recipe!! I’ve been using this recipe for years now and it always turns out perfect! Everyone comments on how moist and fluffy it is. This recipe is a keeper!

  11. What if all I have on hand is all purpose flour? Do I need to change anything? Looking forward to making this!!

  12. Hi, I loved how this cake turned out for the Cookies and Cream cake. I wanted to try it plain, but also try a chocolate chip variation. Do you think it would turn out ok just adding in chocolate chips? Any amount or edits you’d recommend to do that?

  13. I just made this for our Christmas get together & it was a hit! Thank you Sally for your detailed directions, since I am more of a cook than a baker. Because I chose the 13×9 baking dish, halving the icing ingredients was enough for the cake. It truly is a beautiful cake & I had to share it with family. Thank you again & have a Merry Christmas!

  14. Have you ever put almond extract into this recipe? Should I substitute some of the almond extract for some of the vanilla extract? Or just add it in?

    1. Hi Rhagen, Yes! We recommend using 1.5 teaspoons almond extract and 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract. Happy baking!

  15. I wrote this recipe down in my baking notebook probably a little over a year ago and have 2.5 cups of *sifted* cake flour. Did I write it down wrong or has the recipe maybe changed? I feel like I’m in the twilight zone haha

    1. I have a printed copy from June 2020. It says “2 and 1/2 cups (250g) sifted cake flour”. My friend was wondering why I was complaining about sifting. #notcrazy

    1. Hi Kayla, You really do need cake flour and not plain or all purpose flour in this (and any cake calling for it). Cake flour is much lighter. You can read more about it and also how to make your own if you don’t have any in this post on Homemade Cake Flour Substitute.

  16. Hi Sally, This cake is phenomenal! Each time I make it for guests I receive rave reviews. Since its only the two of us I tried making this as an everyday cake and put it into two loaf pans, baked for 40 minutes at your suggested temperature and topped with sprinkled powdered sugar. Still so delicious.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Nav, The best way to use buttermilk is to have it replace both the sour cream AND milk in this recipe. Use 1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk, then leave out the sour cream and whole milk. Enjoy!

  17. Sally can I add lemon juice and rind to your white layer cake without having to alter any of the other ingredients?

    1. Hi Sharon, You can certainly experiment with adding lemon to this cake. You can add zest with no other changes. You can also try replacing a bit of the milk with lemon juice (but we have not tested this) or add lemon extract with no other changes. Otherwise this Lemon Cake is always a hit: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/lemon-cake/

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