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!

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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

945 Comments

  1. Made this cake today and it came out beautiful! My husband and I enjoyed a slice after dinner. Easy and so good!

  2. I always check your site first when looking for a new cake recipe as they always come out great!!  I love your lemon blueberry one and have had great results with the funfetti, strawberry and coconut cake recipes in the past.  This year my son has requested a cookies and cream cake for his birthday. He wants a vanilla cake base so your Oreo cake (that I’m dying to try!) won’t work. Would you suggest using this white cake recipe and adding crushed Oreos to the batter?  Or would you recommend adding whole oreos to the cake pan (like the Oreo cake recipe)?  I’m planning on making a white chocolate cream cheese frosting and adding more crushed Oreos between the layers.  Thanks for your advice!

    1. Hi Jenn! I recommend adding crushed Oreos to this cake batter. Should be SO good!!! You’re giving me some recipe inspiration 🙂

      1. I added crushed Oreos to the batter and it came out really great!!  I also ended up using the frosting from the recipe above and added crushed Oreos between the cake layers. This cake got rave reviews from everyone!!  Thanks for always making me look like a pro baker!!

  3. This cake is absolutely wonderful! It is very easy to see why it is your new favorite 🙂 I made it on Monday (with chocolate buttercream frosting) and my family of 5 devoured it within 24 hours! I now have 2 go-to recipes for any occasion: your sheet cake recipe and this one. Thank you for the recipe!

    1. I’m so glad to read this! Thanks for taking the time to write in about it 🙂

  4. I love cakes and have been baking for a while now. Just curious if I can omit the sour cream though, or any substitutes? Great recipe. Thanks!

    1. I don’t suggest subbing it out, but you can use yogurt if you need to.

  5. Christine Rhodes says:

    I am going to try making this cake today. I am wondering about the frosting recipe that you included here. I usually don’t like a frosting with butter (prefer shortening) but want to try one with the heavy cream. Do you think I could sub half butter and half shortening for the frosting? Or do you have an entirely different recipe for frosting that you would recommend instead? Thank you! Love your site by the way. I have made several of your recipes already.

    1. Hi Christine! Thanks for the comment. I don’t typically make frosting with shortening– just not my preference. So I don’t have a recipe for you to try out. But I’m sure half butter half shortening would work here.

  6. This was my first time to bake a cake that didn’t come out of a box, so I cut the recipe in half as a test run. My intent was to make it a coconut cake so I used coconut milk instead of whole milk and I omitted the vanilla. The half recipe made 12 cupcakes. The most noticeable taste at the first bite: the eggs. The coconut milk wasn’t noticeable, so I’ll just have to rely on the icing and coconut flakes for that. The cupcakes were moist and light but I think I’ll stick to the recipe next time. I think the vanilla would’ve covered the egg-y taste. Thanks for sharing the information on your website!

  7. hi Sally, thank you very much for sharing your marvellous treats with us. Other than buttercream, is there any frosting i can use? It’s for a birthday.

    thanks

  8. I don’t usually post my comments but I had to let you know that your site has been my go-to location for recipes. They always turn out great and my husband loves them. Thank you 🙂 !!

  9. I’ve made your simply perfect vanilla cupcakes and I have never really been a vanilla fan as they always seemed so boring compared to chocolate. But those converted me. They were AMAZING! And everyone at the baby shower LOVED them.
    I’m making this cake for someone’s birthday and there is going to be 30 people. Just wondering if I should double the batch and make it 4 layers (as that would seem the simplest way to go about it) or do you think doubling the batch and baking in 2 11inch tins would work out okay?  I’m never good at sizing recipes up. I always mix in seperate batches as I know the levenning agents need to be adjusted and it can mess up mixing times to fully incorporate everything. Not a confident enough baker, or rich enough to waste that much cake mix of it doesn’t work. 
    Though I suppose there is always cake pops but if hate to have to start over again.
    PS I am so jealous of the sprinkles you guys have over there. Here in Australia they are only made by max two companies and the pretty ones that are shipped in from overseas are SUPER expensive. But sometimes do worth it!

    1. Hi Amanda! Must it be a layer cake? Because the easiest way to feed that many people for dessert is to make 2 9×13 inch cakes. So simple that way! See the recipe notes for bake time!

      1. Thanks for getting back to me, sorry I forgot to reply. I ended up needing triple the recipe just to make sure there was enough to feed the 30-40 now going, but I can confirm that the cake stacks well, I just made sure the buttercream had a bit less cream to make sure it held up the cake. It was a tall cake my friend was after for the drama of it. 
        10 inches tall, 6 layers of cake and 6 layers of buttercream and everyone loved it!

  10. Olivia Trevino says:

    Hi Sally 🙂 I am a lover of all recipes by you!! I made this cake for a birthday party and it was a hit!! I was wanting to make it into a 3 tiered 6″ cake.. any idea how long those pans would need to bake? And at 350 I am guessing? Thank you for awesome recipes!! 

  11. Hi, Sally, 
    I made this cake this past weekend as a practice cake for my daughter’s upcoming birthday. I baked it for exactly 40 minutes and the cake came out a bit dry. This is my fault. My oven usually bakes hotter and I should have tested it at the 35 minute mark. I know this for next time. Anyway, I decorated it, and taste tested. It is delicious, but as I said, dry. However, today, the cake is super moist with a delicate crumb!?? I can’t for the life of me figure out how this happened overnight, haha. Do you have any ideas? I am just curious. I baked it Saturday, decorated Sunday, and now today, Monday, it is just plain yummy. Even the flavor is better, as well as the texture. Baffled, for sure! Thanks for the recipe!! 🙂 

    1. Oh,  forgot to mention, I made it in a 9 x 13 pan. 

  12. Is there anything to be gained from whipping up the egg whites separately into stiff peaks and folding them into the just-combined other wet and dry ingredients? Or would that be redundant?

    1. It’s not needed– the cake is so soft, light, and fluffy as is.

  13. Hi Sally,

    I am a huge fan and have been meaning to try your new fav white layer cake! I also have some vanilla bean seeds that I have been meaning to use! Can I just add them in or should I use your vanilla bean cake recipe instead? You have too many good ones to choose from!  

    1. I would definitely add some seeds into this batter. SO yummy! Maybe use the seeds scraped from half of a bean. Or a whole bean for extra flavor.

  14. Your recipes have yet to fail me. I cannot wait to try this the next time I make a white cake. I have lost count how many white cake recipes I have tried that have been awful. Chocolate no problem. But white?! Can never get that nice fluffy moistness. I hope this is a winner! 😀

    1. I totally understand! It definitely took a while to get right. I hope you love it!

  15. I made this cake for a dinner party last night. I was concerned that just plain vanilla would be too one dimensional without something like lemon curd or a flavorful mix-in. I was wrong. So very good with a lovely texture. I had bookmarked this cake when you posted it in January but just now got around to making it. I highly recommend.

  16. Finally made this last weekend, it was amazing! Not that I expected anything else given that I adore the cupcake version. Now my husband wants a coffee flavored version, guess it is time to play around…

  17. Hi Sally! I want to try baking this on two 7″ pans for my son’s birthday on the 18th but dont know how to adjust the ingredients.. Also, I have a small oven so only one pan can fit. Can the other batter wait for a while?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Jackie! Yes, you can bake 1 cake at a time– loosely cover the batter as you wait for the first cake to finish. My advice is to fill the pans only halfway and use any extra batter for cupcakes. About 20-21 minutes bake time for cupcakes.

  18. Hi Sally,
    I wrote you a while ago about how much I love your vanilla cupcake recipe.
    I really would like to make this cake and am wondering if I can use the measurements you listed in just one 13/9
    pan. You did mention the recipe is for two pans, so I just would like to clarify. Also is the sour cream measurement 1/2 cup as listed?  I noticed that you doubled the milk amount from the cupcake recipe, but not the sour cream amount. I just want to make sure before I make it. 
    Thank you! 
    Kind regards,

    1. This recipe can yield a 9×13 inch cake– see my last recipe note 🙂
      1/2 cup of sour cream is enough for this cake, yes.

      1. Hi Sally,
        I could not resist the temptation, so before I received your reply, I went ahead and made your white cake using two 9″ round pans.  This is an amazing recipe, and a huge hit among family and friends…By far  the best white cake EVER!  No need to ever look for a white cake recipe again. You nailed it!  Is is possible to double the recipe for a four layer cake, or do you recommend making two separate batches?
        Kind regards, and thank you!

      2. So glad you tried and loved it! I recommend making 2 separate batches instead of doubling.

  19. Hi – I use cake molds for Easter cakes (Lamb, Bunny). They were my mother’s and are probably 40 years old. Do you think this cake would work in a molded pan? Curious! She always used Pound cake… but I prefer white cake.

  20. I used two 6 inch pans and I found myself constantly adding time…. I think i went up to 45 mins (maybe more) but i feel like the outside cooked a lot more than the middle… The oven temp was for sure 350 as I have an oven thermometre because my oven doesn’t run as hot as it should.
    That said, the flavour is AMAZING. I guess I will have to try it again!

  21. Hi Sally, I have been a huge fan of your recipes since I discovered your website a couple of years ago but have never left a comment. Just thought I would let you know, my partner requested a “white cake with vanilla” for his birthday. I knew just where to look! I made this cake and I have to say it is the BEST cake I have ever made! I can’t get over how soft and moist it is! My partner and his family were so impressed. Thank you so much ! Gin from New Zealand

    1. Thanks for the comment, Gin! So happy to hear that you like this cake as much as I do! And I hope it was a great birthday celebration 🙂

  22. Thank you so much Sally for this amazing scratch vanilla cake recipe! I have been in search for something so delicious for years! The search is now over! Cake came out so delicious …moist, sweet and fluffy! 

  23. This cake is perfection!  Made it for my daughters birthday. I iced it with chocolate Ganache. 

  24. All your recipes are amazing!  Congrats on the baby!!  I want to use a bundt pan, any recommendations on temp and time?

    1. Thanks for the congratulations, Tracy! I am unsure of the bake time but the temp will be 350F.

  25. Hi Sally! Just wondered if I could get away with using carton egg whites in this recipe?

    1. You can, yes.

  26. Carla Slaughter says:

    Hi Sally!  Friday is my 55th Birthday and like you, I always make my own cake.  I can’t wait to make this cake! I really want to use this recipe but had my heart set on 3 layers, 8 in. pans. I wanted 2 inside layers of cherry preserves and the middle  layer with the vanilla frosting flavored with almond.  Would this batter work for 3 thin layers?  I would have to keep a close eye on it I’m sure.   Thank you for sharing your recipes and beautiful creations!

  27. This cake is SO delicious! But I’m having a problem every time I make it (and I follow ALL the instructions meticulously!). The cake layers seems to become compacted after cooling so instead of an airy crumb there’s a layer that looks almost gummy especially since stacked and frosted. Any tips or suggestions?

    1. Hi Lindsay– it sounds like the cake layers are underbaked.

      1. Hi! Thank you for the feedback! So I tried a few more times to correct this problem and I finally figured it out! I was way over-beating the batter once I added the flour…causing the gluten to be overworked and becoming a gummy mess at the bottom of the cake. Made my son’s 1st birthday smash cake and only mixed until it was incorporated (like you said…oops!!) and it was perfect!

  28. Should the leftover cake be stored in the refrigerator after it’s frosted? Thanks? 

    1. I usually store my cakes at room temp. unless they have a filling/frosting that requires refrigeration.

  29. Would it work to substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract to make an almond cake? Thanks.

    1. Absolutely! I’d slightly reduce the amount as almond extract is extremely potent.

  30. I will never use another recipe for white cake. This is THE best!!! I made it for my birthday and it hit the spot! Thank you!!

    1. What a compliment, thank you!

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