White Layer Cake

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Or try my funfetti layer cake.

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

Good morning and happy new year, sweet friends.

After what seems like an entire month of sugar, I figure today is the best day to share a giant white cake filled with creamy vanilla frosting and topped with rainbow– but mostly pink– sprinkles. Seriously though. I really want to start 2017 off the best way we know how: with a bakery classic. This is my new favorite white layer cake!

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Cheers!

Creating a white cake that incorporates a soft and airy crumb, a sweet but not-at-all-muted flavor, moist but not eggy, tender crumbs that stick to your fork, all completely from scratch that is also EASY and approachable is a tall order. In fact, I didn’t even know if all of that together was even possible in a home kitchen. I was given some hope when I bit into my first simply perfect vanilla cupcake back in August, but work was cut out turning those cupcakes into a larger cake. It’s not as simple as doubling all the ingredients. No, a fluffy white cake takes a little more TLC.

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

Here is what I learned:

  1. To get a good rise, you need to properly cream the butter and sugar together. Of course we’ll 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. After that, you’ll need 5 egg whites. This is sort of a pain with all those leftover egg yolks, but the most guaranteed way to achieve a fluffy and soft white cake is by leaving out the 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.
  3. Sour cream is the cake’s security blanket; it keeps everything moist and tender.
  4. Cake flour is almost 30x finer than all-purpose flour. This means a light cake. Using it is a surefire way to achieve a delicate and delicious texture. It’s certainly not as common as all-purpose flour but it’s sold right next to it in the baking aisle.
  5. All room temperature! When ingredients are all the same temperature, they bind together more readily than if you had some cold + 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. Power ingredients!

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The result is a fabulously ultra-light cake with buttery vanilla flavor, just like the kind you find at a bakery or from a box mix. And all made from scratch in your very own kitchen. Now THAT’S the way to start a new year!

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 went with a vanilla frosting, which I’ll include in the recipe below. But I also encourage you to play around with milk chocolate frosting or even a cream cheese frosting. Both remarkable on this beauty. Or rainbow chip frosting! 🙂

The vanilla frosting makes a lot, so expect a thick layer between the cakes. Alternatively, you can bake the cake in a 9×13 pan. This single layer size is much easier for not only preparing and frosting, but for serving as well.

Just as tasty right here. ↓ ↓

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

Simple, yet glamorous. Happy happy baking.

Favorite White Layer Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (250g) sifted cake flour1 (measured correctly)
  • 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 temperature2
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, at room temperature2

Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (2.5 sticks; 287g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups (580g) sifted 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

Directions:

  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.
  7. Slice, serve, enjoy!

Make ahead tip: 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.

Recipe Notes:

  1. If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it. Measure 1 cup. This sifted 1 cup equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 2 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.
  2. 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.

To bake in a 9x13 pan: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9x13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Try my checkerboard cake next. Lots of step-by-step photos walking you through the entire process!

How to make checkerboard cake from scratch! Homemade vanilla layer cake and vanilla buttercream in a checkerboard design! 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
Soft, fluffy, and perfect white layer cake made from scratch!! Get the recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

399 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! I’m looking to bake this cake for my moms birthday, if I could, I wanted to use fresh vanilla bean. How much would I use? Also, I was thinking of putting in a dash a cinnamon to create a depth of flavor. I would use dark chocolate icing. What are you thoughts? Thank you so much!

      1. I would steep the scraped beans with the pod in the milk and then cool to room temp to get the most flavor from the fresh vanilla.

  2. The texture of the cakes look different in the 3 photos, especially in the last picture (cake slice sideways on green plate with a fork). Is there a reason? Which is the actual cake photo that goes with this recipe? I have made several of your recipes and love them. However, I did have some trouble when making this cake, and i did follow the recipe exactly. I am a baker, therefore, I have a scale, oven thermometer and always have fresh rising agents. I will try it again soon. Thank you!

    1. Hi Stephie! The cake in these photos is the cake recipe on this page. It was all from the same exact cake except for the square slice which I baked in the 9×13 inch cake pan. Same recipe. 🙂 What was the trouble you experienced?

  3. Hi Sally, I made your homemade strawberry cake last week for my mums 70th and it was my most successful cake to date! I loved the texture and the crumb very much.
    Was thinking of making a chocolate version using this white layer cake recipe (as it is almost the same recipe as the Strawberry one). Would it work? If so how much cocoa would you recommend and would be any other adjustments?
    Cheers, Sonia

  4. How long did it take for all the room temp items to get to room temp? Trying to plan this out with birthday madness. I know butter can be overnight…the others?

    1. Hi Jessica! The butter may be too soft after sitting out all night. I recommend only about 1-2 hours for all ingredients. Room temperature is still a little cool.

    1. Hi Denise! Fresh egg whites are always best, but feel free to test it out if that’s more convenient for you. Some readers have and shared great results!

  5. Hi Sally, I’ve tried the recipe above and it was nothing short of delight. I am however having to make an eggless vanilla cake for a birthday due to my families allergies to egg. Please kindly advise any substitutes I could use and still get the s great tasting cake

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this white cake recipe! Thank you so much for reporting back. Though I wish I could help, I’m not an expert on egg-free cakes. But please let us know anything you test out!

  6. I live in Colorado and was wondering for the white cake batter is there a difference in the amount I’m supposed to be using for the liquid according to the high altitude?

  7. This was the best white cake!! I did whip the egg whites till stiff peaks, then folded in at the end. Just a habit with previous white cake recipes I’ve used I guess. It’s still moist, fluffy with the perfect crumb 2 days later. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Can I pipe your vanilla frosting with a #21 tip. I am using this recipe to make a unicorn cake for my sons birthday and I need to pipe stars all over for the fur. I wasn’t sure if it was firm enough to pipe. Thank you!

  9. Hey Sally! Just getting into baking and really excited to try this out. Can you help with cooking times perhaps? I didnt see how much batter your cooking times relates to, do you weigh it or just eyeball it? I’m also only able to use two 8″x2″ pans and I was gonna put the excess in a 6″x2″ and I’m trying to figure out how long to bake those for without having to open the oven a lot :/
    Any advice would be great!
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Chris! I typically just eyeball it. The 8-inch cakes will take around the same bake time as my 9-inch cakes, maybe an extra minute. The 6 inch cake will likely take a minute or 2 less than the 9-inch cakes. Please let me know how you like the cake!

      1. Thanks for the reply! I actually ended up making them yesterday and just kinda kept an eye on them hahah. Your timing was pretty spot on! I was worried cause when I went to check them the toothpick test came back clean yet the tops weren’t done. Ended up putting them back in for a few minutes to finish off the tops. The 6″ baked perfectly and were absolutely delicious. Amazing fluffy texture and yummy ^^

        I’m actually taking the 8″ to work tomorrow so hoping it didn’t turn out too dry since they were in longer to finish baking the tops :/
        I’ve been keeping my cake chilled in the fridge in a plastic cake container, is this okay for storage till tomorrow? I didn’t want to leave the cake out at room temp and ruining my icing and piping ><

  10. hi sally!.. i have tried this cake and unfortunately encountered a few problems. My cake had sticky tops and a little wet on the bottom – they stuck to the bottom of the pan (i did grease and flour the pan and did everything as you mentioned). I would like to bake again but would like to know how to overcome these issues.
    I also wanted to know how tall is each of your cake layers? i used a 3 inch deep pan to bake these however the cakes only came put an inch high, is this due to lack of batter or rising agent. Your response would be greatly appreciated..x

    1. Hi Saira! It sounds like the cake was under-baked. Try baking for a few extra minutes next time. Cake layers are supposed to be a little over 1 inch.

  11. Hi Sally… I was going to make this and add sprinkles… want a lighter cake than your funetti cake.
    will it work?
    Can I use a large 12″ cake pan?
    thank you

    1. Hi Sari! I’m unsure about the large size pan; you may need to 1.5x the batter. Doubling would be too much and the recipe, as is, is too small. You can add sprinkles to this cake batter– I suggest around 2/3 – 3/4 cup. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Thank you so much for your reply… Could double it and make cupcakes and freeze for later . Going to make ice it with blue ombre rosettes and make it a ” frozen” cake for my granddaughter

  12. How about adding food coloring to the layers and maybe making them a bit thinner for more layers kind of rainbow cake? Looking at make it something luke this for my child’s birthday next weekend. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Natalie! That’s a wonderful idea, but I fear there isn’t enough cake batter. Instead, I recommend using the cake batter from my vanilla naked cake. Holds color very well and can be divided between 5 cake pans.

  13. Thank you for this cake. I test baked this a couple times and I ended up reducing the sugar a bit. Made this for my sons first birthday. Was a huge hit!

    1. Hi Shazu! That would be fine. You may need a little more confectioners’ sugar and an extra pinch of salt to offset the added sweetness.

  14. Hi Sally! Baking this now, but I was wondering if your flour measurement by weight is off? I usually bake everything by weight, and my cake flour is 32g/.25c, which would make the weight 320g, not 250, yes??

    The kitchen is starting to smell wonderful. Fingers crossed that my gut was right upping the flour by weight!

  15. I would like to make this cake, but I don’t have vanilla extract and where I live it is not readily available in supermarkets for purchase. I can buy vanilla bean paste and have a vanilla bean. Can I substitute the extract for either of the above? If so how much?

    I’m a big fan of your recipes!!! Thank you

    1. Hi Kathy! I recommend vanilla bean paste. When substituting for vanilla extract, the amount varies by brand. Check the label to see how much you should use.

  16. This is cooling on the rack as I write. Beautiful. I cannot believe how evenly this rose in the pan (I used a 9×13), so impressed by the recipe. I was bad and snuck a taste of the batter…yum!
    I added a half of a cup of Christmas jimmies to the batter and made your Milk Chocolate Frosting. Again, so delicious.
    I had wanted to do pies and cookies…but got sick and so…cake.
    I will be proud to serve your wonderful recipe for Christmas Sally 🙂
    Thank you!!

  17. I think I’ll give this a go with your peanut butter frosting? That combo seems to be a winner for my mother in law! Here goes!

  18. Hi Sally. I made this cake yesterday. It was SO good!! The cake was so light and fluffy just as you said it would be. I used your marshmallow/cream cheese frostings and the freeze dried strawberries to flavor them (had to cover 3/4 of the cake with the marshmallow, 1/4 with the cream cheese cause hubby doesn’t like cream cheese. Yeah, I got cheated, lol). After frosting I had to put the cake in the frig so the frosting could harden up some. Once I took a bite out of the cold cake I couldn’t believe just how tender it was. Thanks for yet another great recipe!! Oh, also a big thanks for the suggestion of using the butter from Walmart. SO much cheaper than the brand I was going through. I haven’t used it in a cake yet but it was a hit with the frosting….

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