Favorite White Cake

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, 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. In a pinch, use this homemade cake flour substitute.
  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
  • 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

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (263g) sifted 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. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 2 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

1065 Comments

  1. Hi Sally. I made your vanilla cupcakes recently and they were lovely and fluffy. Tonight I made the white cake in a 9×13 inch pan and it was soft and moist but it came out very flat – only 2cm tall! Any idea why? Thanks.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Georgia, Did the cake not rise and was dense? It’s not a very tall cake. If it was dense then the post How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake should help you troubleshoot. I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for your reply.
        It wasn’t dense. It was Still soft and tasty but short.

    2. Hi Sally , I really love yor recipes and they always turnout really good. I really want to bake this cake for my parents but I’m facing a dilemma as sour cream is not available where I live so I wanted to is any possible substitute to using the sour cream.

      1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Abeera! A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Hope you enjoy this one!

  2. Hi, I plan on making this cake for my daughter’s 13th birthday this weekend. Is it possible to make this as a 2 layer 8” cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathy! Yes, you can use two 8 inch pans instead of 9 inch pans. Bake time may be a minute or two longer. Enjoy!

      1. Hi again! Thank you for your help! One more question, I was looking at the cake pan conversions and see the 9×2 recipes yield 8 cups of batter. Can this recipe yield a 2 layer 6×2 inch cake (4 cups of batter( plus 12 cupcakes? Trying to be COVID safe for the birthday cake! 🙂

  3. I’ve made this cake a dozen times, and it turns out great every time! I was wanting to add a little bit of almond flavor, with almond extract to this. How much should I add, and should I keep vanilla extract the same?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ariel, we’re so happy you enjoy this cake! For an almond cake, we recommend using 1.5 teaspoons almond extract and 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract. Happy baking!

    2. Ariel, did you make this cake with almond? How was it? I love my sugar cookies with almond, so I’m thinking this would be lovely. If so, did you add it to the frosting as well?

      1. Hey Cindy,
        I made this cake for a friend, so I can’t speak on the taste! They did say it was great though! I used Cookie Dough Frosting for this cake, so I’m not sure how almond extract would be in the vanilla buttercream.

  4. Really nice texture and taste, but why did the top of my cake feel wet and sticky?
    Please help as the cake was lovely.

  5. I’m making this for Easter dinner this weekend. I’m wondering however why this cake is more yellow than other white cake recipes? Most white cakes are white instead of yellow, is it just the pictures? I love your recipes so I definitely want to use your recipe

    1. Hi Nicole, it’s the photos. The only yellow ingredient we have is, really, the butter. Butter can be more yellow (as opposed to a cream/ivory shade) depending on region.

    2. This is my go to white cake recipe, and this is so delicious thank you very much.

  6. The ratios seem off with this recipe. I don’t know why. I love the strawberry cake and that works great. But this one did not bake up right. When I compared the weights to your easy homemade sprinkle cake the cake flour weight didn’t match. (1 1/2 cups is 180g which means 2 1/2 cups should be 300g not 263g.) I ended up trying again by doubling the sprinkle cake and that worked much better. I love your recipes and the amount of time you take for each one! Thanks for always working to improve!

  7. I have made this cake several times and it is moist and flavorful! Everyone loves it. Do you think it would hold up if I doubled the recipe and did 4, 9 inch cake rounds with buttercream frosting or would the cake collapse?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Teresa! For the best texture we suggest making it twice for 4 layers instead of doubling. It should be sturdy enough.

      1. Thank you! 🙂

  8. Just tried this as a trial run for my daughter’s birthday, I added sprinkles for funfetti… I think my baking pans are too dark and I ended up overbaking but the flavor was great and the crumb was tender. The cake was not super white, but I think that may have been due to overbaking. Great structure to cake, you can tell it is fluffy but also structured enough to decorate.
    I was wondering, I have buttermilk to use up, would it be possible to use in this recipe instead of the whole milk? I’m planning on giving this recipe another go to freeze and save for decorating for the birthday… do you think this would hold up to being a 3 layer 8- or 9-inch cake if I got ambitious?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda! 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. This cake should hold up just fine as a three layer cake. Hope you love it!

  9. I’m looking to do a 4 layer 9 inch vanilla cake. Would doing your 2 layer white cake (x 2)work ok?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz! Yes, for the best texture we suggest making it twice for 4 layers instead of doubling.

      1. Thankyou!

  10. I absolutely love this recipe. It is my go to for all my “basic” cakes. I am trying to make a 3D baseball using a wilton mold. I tried this today but after baking for 45 minute the cakes were still not cooked and sinking in the middle. The cake mold says to use a “denser” cake recipe. Is this recipe considered “dense” and if not do you have one that might work for this?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maria! This white cake is definitely light and fluffy. We don’t have much experience baking with molds so can’t say for sure, but this Cream Cheese Pound Cake might be a better fit. It has a denser crumb. Let us know if you give it a try!

      1. Maria Stevens says:

        Thank you so much for your reply. I will try it and let you know!

  11. I used this recipe to make lamingtons (which is basically squares of vanilla cake coated in a chocolate-y icing and then covered in shredded coconut), and it turned out so well! It tastes delicious, and the cake itself is so soft and yummy. Definitely a keeper! Thanks, Sally!

  12. I’ve made this recipe before and it’s excellent. I’d like to use it to bake a 6 layer 7″ cake for my friend’s daughter, and im going to cut holes in the lower layers but leave the top layer intact. Fill with those special sprinkles and top the cake. So when it’s cut the sprinkles will pour out. Do you think this will be sturdy enough? I really don’t want to do a trial 6 layer cake, because then I’ll have to eat it! lol

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharon! We recommend using the cake batter from this Piñata Cake recipe instead. It’s sturdier and made for the exact type of cake you want to create. We’re unsure exactly how much batter you’ll need for six 7″ layers, but you can reference our cake pan sizes and conversions guide to find out. Would love to hear how it goes!

      1. Perfect, I will check it out thank you!

  13. I am looking to make this as a funfetti cake for my daughter’s first birthday, but we live at a high altitude. Do I need to adjust this recipe for high altitude? Or will it work as written?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica, I wish we could help, but have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  14. This looks amazing! We are trying to modify a Strawberry Margarita cupcake mix, but that author recommends using a box of white cake mix (which we don’t really want to use). I wonder if we could just use your base recipe and add in her recommended extras? Or, bonus – if you have a Strawberry Margarita cupcake recipe, that would be awesome too

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jamie, we don’t recommend adding ingredients to this cake batter as it could change the consistency too much. You may love these Margarita Cupcakes, Strawberry Cupcakes or Strawberry Buttercream!

  15. hi! i’m kind of a ditz and accidentally didn’t add in the milk 🙁 i added everything else though, including the sour cream. will it still be okay to eat?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ania! It will be ok to eat, it just may be dense.

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