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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, coconut 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 used it as the base for several other cake recipes I have published including espresso chocolate chip cake, pineapple coconut cake, cookies and cream cake, and the others mentioned above. 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 chocolate cream cheese frosting. For a lighter, less sweet option, I love pairing this cake with whipped cream frosting (pictured below). Each of these frostings are 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

You can also frost this cake with whipped frosting:

cake with whipped frosting and rainbow sprinkles
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 1012 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Suzie, absolutely! We recommend gel food coloring for best results.

  1. I’m excited to make this! I have a couple of ideas, and was wondering, can I add sprinkles to make it a confetti cake? Or can I make this into a 2-layer 6-inch cake and use the leftover to make cupcakes?

    1. Hi Cate, You can fold in 1/2 -2/3 cup of sprinkles (jimmies, not nonpareils) to this batter for a funfetti cake. And yes, you could make 2, 6 inch layers (filling your pans about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full) and use the leftover batter for some cupcakes!

      1. Hi Lexi! Why couldn’t I use nonpareils to fold in the batter? Those are the only ones I have

      2. Hi Jenny! Nonpareils tend to bleed their colors and can leave the cake looking brown. You can use them if you’d like, we just caution that your cake layers may not look as nice aesthetically.

      3. Also, I’ve now seen the video on room temperature butter, but for the egg whites and sour cream it’s the same? Take them out 1-2 hours before? And do I already need to separate the whites 1-2 hours earlier, too?

      4. Hi Jenny, yes, you can take the eggs out at the same time. It’s easier to separate eggs when they’re cold, so we’d recommend separating them first!

  2. Can I make this in 8 inch pans? If so, would it be best to use 2 or 3 8 inch pans?

    1. Hi Rachel, you can use two 8 inch pans instead of 9 inch pans. Bake time may be a minute or two longer as the layers will be thicker — use a toothpick to test for doneness.

      1. Thank you so very much!! I’m so excited to try this!! Been an avid fan for so long but never made this.

  3. I am somewhat new to baking and I am enjoying your website. This cake turned out too dense and the bake time was a lot longer than 24 mins. I used 8 inch pans and the cake pulled away (shrunk) considerably. Any idea what went wrong?

    1. Hi Jennifer, we’re so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying our site! Because your 8 inch pans are a bit smaller than the 9 inch pans used for this recipe, it’s normal for them to take a bit longer to fully bake the thicker layers. Overly dense cakes are often the result of over mixing the batter — you might find this post on how to prevent dry and dense cakes helpful for next time. Thank you for giving this cake a try!

      1. Thank You!

        I also discovered that my baking powder was beyond the expire date. I will try the recipe again with new powder and less mixing.

  4. Hi, Sally. I’d like to make a rainbow swirl cake from scratch rather than using box mixes. Does this batter do well with gel food coloring? Also, if I want to use almond extract instead of vanilla, which you recommend changing the amount?

    1. Hi Janet, gel food coloring will work great. We recommend using 1.5 teaspoons almond extract and 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract.

  5. Hiya. My friend has requested a vanilla or cream cake with a white chocolate flavour. I am thinking of adding chopped white chocolate into the batter before it goes into the tins. Do you think this batter would support this and if so what quantity would you suggest and bake timings? Thank you xx

    1. Hi Francesca, we can’t confidently offer advice on adding white chocolate because we haven’t tested it ourselves. Perhaps you could add white chocolate chips to the batter or fill your cake with a white chocolate ganache like we do in our tuxedo cake. Let us know what you try!

      1. Thank you 🙂 Another Q, sorry! I want to try and use up ingredients I already have in, do you think a mix of the sour cream and natural yogurt will work the same as 100% sour cream? Thanks

      2. Hi Francesca, that should work in a pinch!

  6. I know the cake is meant to be light and fluffy but for me the heavier and denser a cake is, the better. To get that would I add five whole eggs instead of just the whites?

    1. Hi Andrea, This yellow cake is a little denser than this white cake with strong buttery flavors. This vanilla cake is lighter than the yellow cake, but a little denser than this. It has strong vanilla flavor. This is the lightest of them all.

  7. Hello! I grabbed ingredients for your vanilla cake but saw that if it was being layered to use this recipe. Can I use the buttermilk for this one? Or does it have to be whole milk? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Sam, 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!

  8. Easy-to-follow recipe – followed it as written with very good results. Frosted it with Sally’s Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. While looking over the desserts at today’s family gathering, my 13-year old granddaughter proclaimed, “so, this is just a basic cake.” Then she and her four siblings and cousin each proceeded to cut themselves slices – and so did their mothers. My wife likes it, too, which is always a win. So, this is no longer Sally’s Favorite White Cake; it’s become “Basic Cake” and a family tradition is born. Obviously, I’ll be making this again.

  9. Perfectly delicious. I followed this recipe very closely. The cake was moist yet substantial and just filled with buttery vanilla flavor. I discovered that I had likely been undermixing my buttercream for years and so glad I followed the directions. The frosting was tasty, light and so silky. This combo is a keeper!

  10. Hi Sally – I am planning to make a strawberry shortcake cake with some sort of whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries soaked with a bit of sugar. Do you think this cake would work well for that?

  11. I want to make this cake in a novelty cake pan (wilton pirate ship pan). The pan instruction say any 2 layer cake recipe will work. Should I bake it for 40mins like the 9×13 note or for the normal time? I will be adding sprinkles to the batter if that makes a difference.

    1. Hi Beth! It’s hard to say without testing it ourselves — it will really depend on the exact dimensions of your pan and how thick the layer will be. You can use that as a rough time frame, but keep a close eye on it and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  12. Hi Sally’s baking crew! I use this white cake recipe often and as a base for other flavors. I am wondering, do you have any suggestions for adding almond extract?

    1. Hi Megan! We recommend using 1.5 teaspoons almond extract and 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract.

  13. Are there any alterations needed for high-altitude baking, using this white cake recipe? Thanks for any suggestions you may have.

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

  14. Hi! I want to make a three layer cake with the naked decorating style applied, like in the Vanilla Naked Cake recipe. Will this white cake recipe hold up to the decorating style? Thank you!

  15. Hello! I love this cake it’s always my go to. I always separate fresh eggs, but I’m wondering if the egg whites in the carton will give the exact same results?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Em! Yes, you can use carton egg whites. The carton should give measurements for substituting for fresh egg whites.

  16. Hi Sally. Will this frosting pipe well? I’m making a unicorn-themed cake for my cousin’s birthday and wanted to use this as the base recipe. Will need to pipe the unicorn mane with whatever frosting I use, so wanted to check. Thank you!

    1. Hi Paige, Yes we pipe with this frosting all the time!

  17. Right, long time user of your site, literally never look anywhere else but I’ve had a (potentially) crazy thought. I’m wanting to up the ante on a cake I’ll be cooking tomorrow and wondered about “zebraing” or marbling this batter with the strawberry cake recipe. What do you reckon, will it work or will the sour cream consistency fight with the strawberry puree.
    What do you reckon?

    1. Hi Izzy, what a fun idea! We haven’t tested it so can’t say for sure, but it should work OK to marble the two batters. Let us know if you give it a try!

    1. Hi Betty! We haven’t tested this recipe with powdered milk – it may require some adjusting of the dry to wet ingredient ratio – let us know what you try!

  18. Amazing. Can I save the batter in the fridge without running it?

    1. Hi Vk, we don’t recommend it. As soon as the batter is mixed together the leaveners (baking powder and baking soda) are activated so if it’s not baked right away it will not rise properly.

  19. hi, Can I try these recipe for 10 x 15 (jelly roll pan)?

    I was planning to do 2 to make a 2 layers sheet cake. Will this recipe work?

    Thanks,

    Yakelin

    1. Hi Yakelin! This recipe would do well as a sheet cake. We’re unsure exactly how much batter you would need for a cake that size, here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes. This recipe yields about 7 cups of batter.

  20. Hi there,

    I loved the texture of the red velvet cake. Could I achieve a similar result by whisking the egg whites to form soft peaks in this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nav, this recipe is written for liquid egg whites (not whipped). We recommend sticking with the recipe as written – it’s very fluffy and soft.

  21. Hello, I don’t have cake flour. Is regular flour okay? What’s the substitution?

    1. Hi Katrina, you really do need cake flour and not plain or all purpose flour in this (and any cake recipe 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.

  22. I was wondering if the frosting will hold with the summer heat! I am planning on leaving it on the fridge until I have to take it to LA but I am worried it will melt at the ride to there. If this isn’t good for the heat, what kind of frosting do you recommend? Any tips on how to prevent your buttercream from melting?

    1. Hi Alexandra! If the cake is in a cooler car, the frosting should be fine (of course, it will depend on how long it is in the car, too). If serving it outside, we recommend keeping it chilled as long as possible and keeping it out of direct sunlight.

  23. This cake is incredibly delicious!! It’s also super easy to make. I will admit to making a rookie mistake the first time I made it and skipped parchment paper in the pans, opting instead just to grease and flour well. I never do that but it was late and I was taking shortcuts. Despite a really good grease and flour job, my cakes stuck really badly – this was actually the worst instance of sticking I’ve experienced in my entire life, and I’ve made a lot of cakes! I guess I must’ve let them sit in the pans longer than I thought? I don’t know what happened, to be honest! The cake still tasted amazing – the crumb was perfection. I served it with whipped cream strawberries and hid the ugly parts where it stuck. It was a huge hit. I made it again with parchment paper and didn’t have any sticking issues. The cake was just perfect. I made it into a butterscotch filled and frosted cake, per my friend’s birthday request, and it was really delicious. This is going to be my new go-to for a light white cake. Thanks for the great recipe.

  24. Used this cake recipe (9 x 13 pan) and frosting to make my daughter’s 13th birthday cake. It was easy and delicious! After the frosting was made, I split it into 2 bowls and added food coloring for 2 different colors. Everyone enjoyed the cake and frosting. This is my new go-to cake and frosting recipe. Thank you!!

  25. Hi Sally. Can I make the sponges ahead and freeze them (unfrosted?). I am making it for a bachelorette this weekend! I made this cake a few weeks ago and it was so professional! Thanks, Georgie

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