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 (285g) 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

908 Comments

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  1. Hi Sally,

    this looks like a delicious recipe, however, I am looking for a single layer cake. Have you tried to divide this recipe in half before?

    I do see your One Layer Strawberry Cake, but this one is really the one I want to make.

    Thank you.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joni, You can cut this recipe in half for one layer. Or try this one layer Easy Homemade Sprinkle Cake and you can leave out the sprinkles for a white cake.

  2. Hi Sally, I am planning to make this cake for my daughter’s birthday. She has requested a hazelnut cream filling. Do you have a favorite recipe for that flavor filling?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Beth, What about using Nutella Frosting?

  3. I made this into a pandan vanilla cake by adding two tsp pandan extract and one tsp vanilla with 4:1 green and blue gel food coloring. Mixed it looks like a lovely pastel green. I knew the white cake base would be perfect for the color and the texture is just as fluffy but sturdy as I needed it to be to layer with fruit and stabilized whipped cream. It is moist without being gummy or dense. Thank you so much for the recipe!!! The only thing that threw me off is that I needed to bake it for about 30 minutes because the middle was still pretty raw at 24 minutes.

  4. I have been looking for a white cake recipe for quite some time! It’s been two years and this one was the best cake I’ve ever baked! It’s not dense, came out of the pan with ease, even the batter was amazing! Thank you so much for this recipe, this is my go to from now on

  5. I don’t know what I did wrong but I tried this recipe and I live streamed it and after I ended my stream I put the cake in my oven and I found it odd that the middle of my cake was like jello and once cooled it sank in and then it was like under cooked dough . I really wanted to give this a go.

  6. Hello, Sally! This recipe looks fantastic and I would like to make it for my dad’s birthday, but his favorite cake is white cake with poppyseeds. If I soak the poppy seeds ahead of time (I’m thinking 1/3 cup of seeds) , do you think I could I add them to this cake? I have never been disappointed with your recipes and am hesitant to try elsewhere. Thanks in advance for any insight you may have!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kate, You could add up to 1/4 cup of poppy seeds – no need to soak them first!

      1. Thank you so much for the quick reply and info! Making it this morning!

  7. Hello! I’m trying to make a 3-layer cake for my daughter’s birthday and add blue coloring for an interior ombre like look. I assume I could just use this recipe at 1.5x for 3 9in pans? Any other recommendations?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Megan! You can use this for 3 layers keeping in mind they will be slightly thinner and the bake time will be shorter. I recommend our vanilla cake for a 3 layer cake. Just as soft and fluffy. It will work wonderfully with blue ombre.

  8. Hi Sally,

    In the recipe you do not say sift the flour before measuring but in reading through the reviews you told someone to sift the flour prior to measuring. Also, my batter also curdled once I added the milk. Everything was sitting out at the same time and at room temperature. I followed your recipe exactly all they way to the mixing times.

    This cake is a bit challenging. I hope it comes out okay.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maria, The ingredients are listed as sifted cake flour. If the word “sifted” comes before the ingredient (flour, in this case) you sift before measuring.

  9. I am a complete beginner. I have tried making simple vanilla Cake several times but they all turn out to be a big flop because they turned out too dense and dry. After reading up, I learned that it is because of the temperature of the ingredients. So today I made sure that I set out all the ingredients on the kitchen table one hour before I started making my cake. Still, my cake turned out to be dense and dry, though it was not as bad as last time. Is the reason solely because I use plain flour instead of cake flour?

    One thing I noticed about my cakes after several failed attempts was it always turn out to be dark Brown; it never turns out to be a beautiful yellow color. It is so frustrating to see this after I put in much effort. I wonder why. I did not bake it for too long. Is it because I use fan mode while baking?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie, I’m happy to help! 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.
      All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. While convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting, if you have the choice, we don’t recommend convection settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

      1. Thank you so much for your speedy reply. I just checked my oven settings. I have grill, bottom element heating, defrosting, bottom element with grill and fan with grill. There is no symbol with 2 lines that indicate conventional heating. Which is the best mode to use for making cakes? Please help. Thank you.

  10. Do you think I could use Greek vanilla yogurt in place of the sour cream and vanilla?

  11. I’d like to use this white cake recipe as a foundation for making other flavors. I’d like to try making cakes using flavored syrups (Torani or Monin – such as you’d find at a coffee bar). Sally, any advice on how much syrup to use? Would I reduce the milk by the syrup amount?

    1. Hi Mark, I think that sounds like a great idea, but it would require additional testing. I know those syrups are usually sweetened. You would likely have to reduce the sugar as well as reduce the milk. Let me know if you test anything!

  12. Hi Sally! I’ve made this cake many times with success!! I’m wondering if I could add apples to it to make an apple cake? Planning to use your snickerdoodle frosting. But I don’t know if small apple bits will ruin the texture of the cake or add too much moisture! Let me know what you think. As always, thank you!!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debra, Diced apples would be excellent in this cake batter, especially with that frosting! I recommend gently folding 1 cup of the apples into the batter before spreading it into your pans. Let us know if you try it!

  13. Rachel Dwoskin says:

    I would love to know if this cake holds up to refrigeration after being stacked filled and frosted.
    Thank you!

  14. Hello! I have a question. The cake tasted great but mine did not come out white..more yellowish. No yolks at all in batter plus creamed butter until it was stark white. I did add some vinegar to milk to create buttermilk. Any suggestions?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jen, After it’s baked the outside edges of the cake will be darker in color but when you cut it the inside of the cake should be a lighter white. If your butter is very yellow or even if your vanilla is extra dark it could slightly change the color. If it tasted great then it sounds like you didn’t do anything wrong!

  15. Hi Sally,
    Would this cake fit to be covered with fondant or is it too fluffy for this?
    Thanks,
    C

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can cover this cake with fondant. Enjoy!

  16. This was the first layered cake I have ever made and it was terrific. I found that measuring the ingredients with a kitchen scale and using an oven thermometer really helped as a beginner baker. Thanks for helping make my daughter’s birthday a success.

  17. Hi,
    I made this cake with the directions you provided but the cake came out dense and flat. What do you think happened? I followed the directions exactly you had written. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jennifer! There could be a handful of reasons from over-mixing the batter to accidentally over-measuring the flour. Make sure you follow the recipe closely, mix as little as possible, and spoon and level your flour. What may help even more, though, is giving my post about how to prevent dense cakes a quick read. Lots of helpful information that will definitely help for next time.

  18. The BEST white cake recipe

  19. Hi Sally, thank you for the great recipes, which one would be best for a rainbow cake.

    1. Hi Priscilla, for a rainbow cake I recommend using this light and fluffy white cake or my 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.

      1. Thank you Sally

  20. Hi Sally. I really enjoyed this cake and so did my family, work and neighbours! Is there any advice on adapting this recepi (or if you have another one) into a white chocolate and orange cake? I was going to add orange juice and zest and melted chocolate but not sure what to substitute out?

    I want to make it for Xmas dessert with Swiss meringue icing.

    1. Hi Louise! A white chocolate orange cake sounds lovely. Adding melted white chocolate to the cake batter successfully would require additional recipe testing. My recommendation is to use the white chocolate ganache filling from this Tuxedo Cake. For the orange flavor, replace 1/4 cup of milk with orange juice and add the zest of 1 orange. I haven’t tested the recipe this way, but that’s where I would begin!

  21. 5 cups (600g) confectioners’ sugar!
    600g of confectioners’ sugar!!!

    I only spotted how much of the sugar will be needed while making the cake. While the base is great, the vanilla frosting is just too sweet. I added 350g instead of 600g, added 1,5 tablespoon of lime juice and it’s still too sweet to the point where it’s hard to eat.

    You should call it sugar cream cake, as Vanilla Frosting is basically it.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you for trying this recipe and we are glad you enjoyed the cake. Yes, buttercream frosting is very sweet! You can absolutely use a different frosting for this cake (or just a thinner layer of this frosting). For something less sweet but just as fluffy many people enjoy Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Or even a simple whipped cream topping would work well. We hope you find one you enjoy 🙂

  22. Hi Sally!
    I would like to make this white cake this weekend for my daughter’s birthday. I am allergic to soy so I can’t use Pam or cooking sprays to grease the pan. Would you recommend that I use butter and flour or just use parchment paper by itself? I am going to make the 9×13. Thanks so much! I love your recipes.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, You can very lightly butter and flour your pan and also use parchment paper. Just don’t go too heavy on the butter or the bottom of the cake will taste/feel greasy. Enjoy!

      1. Thank you!!

  23. Roxanne Campbell says:

    Hello Sally,
    This recipe sounds GREAT! I am not an avid baker but I am attempting to make a birthday cake for my sister and (after a lot of internet searching) I decide to use this cake recipe. It sounds like just what I am looking for minus the fact that the recipe is only for a two layer 9″ cake. Would you please aid me in adjusting the recipe to suit a 7″ 4 layer cake. I am hoping (fingers crossed) that with the smaller pan size and the addition two layers I can just double the recipe and be done. Any suggestions would be of GREAT help because I am all around nervous about this endeavour. I planned to do a practice bake beforehand but life happened and now my deadline (Tuesday November 17th) is around the corner.
    Thank you so much for your help. I love your site. It is very engaging and easy to follow. Congratulations.
    -Rox

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Roxanne, We have not tested this cake in that size pan but you can use this post on Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions to calculate exactly how much batter you would need. We hope you enjoy the recipe!

  24. Hi! I made this cake for my family and they LOVED it!I added strawberries and a whipped cream frosting. It was all delicious. Thanks for the recipe. My son really wants a blue cake for his birthday (it is his favorite color). Would this recipe work with blue coloring gel or something else like that? I know that egg yolks would/could turn it green but this only calls for egg whites. Let me know your thoughts. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tawny, We are so happy your family enjoyed this cake! Yes, you can color this batter with gel food coloring.

    2. Hi Sally your site is my go to for recipes and my mother in law has requested a white cake with almond flavoring. Would you substitute equal amounts of almond flavoring for the vanilla?

  25. Sean Wilkison says:

    Hi Sally and friends!
    I made this cake last weekend and it was fabulous! Thank you for this recipe. It is my new favorite. Curious to know if I could make this batter today, put it in the refrigerator and bake it tomorrow? Assuming I let the batter come to room temperature before baking.
    Thank you,
    Sean

  26. Hi,
    I need your help ASAP, Sally! I’ve alwayS trusted your recipes especially for special occasions. My parents’ anniversary is coming up in a couple of days. I want to make them an alphabet cake! Is this cake sturdy enough to be cut into an ‘O’. I plan to cut the centres out to make an O. Will it work? Or will it not be able to hold the weight of the toppings? I want the bottom layer of cream to be able to hold the weight of the top layer of cake as well as the toppings without looking squishy. I plan to use stabilised whipped cream as the frosting (with maybe some cream cheese for added sturdiness).
    Please help!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Harshal, It should work! Happy anniversary to your parents!

  27. I want to make this for my daughter’s birthday this week. Any ideas on if I can sub the milk for buttermilk or should I stick to regular milk? I wasn’t sure if it would work with there being sour cream in the batter.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brandy, 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.

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