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, cookies and cream 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.
  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) 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

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

578 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. 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!

  3. 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. 

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

    1. You can, yes.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!

  10. This cake is amazing. So fluffy, and the frosting is the perfect amount of sweetness. I’ll be making this again. 

  11. This cake was amazing!! I made some as a trial run before my kids birthday and it was gone by the end of the day un-frosted! It was super moist. I did use 1/2 cup less of sugar and it was still delicious. I was a bit worried cos my batter wasnt thick but it turned out fine. I didnt even use cake flour but i plan too for the birthday cake. I’ll repost an update then…

    But thank you so much for this recipe…

  12. This was incredible! I have been trying so many white cake recipes and they’ve all come out very dry… Magnolia Bakery has the BEST white cake in my opinion and I’ve finally found a recipe that tastes just like that does. Thank you <3 

  13. I made this cake for my husbands birthday yesterday. It was the best cake I have ever made. I always have bad luck and end up with a dense cake, but not this one. This cake was soft and fluffy. Perfection. I don’t think I ever want to bake a cake without cake flour again.  Oh and went to Facebook to watch your Facebook live from yesterday. I don’t do Facebook but wanted to watch it. Loved it. Thanks!

  14. This cake was absolutely delicious! I homeschool my kids, and made it to celebrate the *almost* end of the school year ;). After the first bite I told my husband that I think I can make it until June now. 😉

  15. If I wanted to make this into a three layer cake would I just divide the batter up into three pans or make 1.5 batches? And if I divide it into three pans would the bake time change?

    1. My suggestion is to simply make this 3 layer cake instead. You can leave out the sprinkles in the batter. Easier than playing around with this recipe and risking it!

  16. Hi. Can I use whole eggs instead of jus the egg whites? Sometimes don’t know what to do with the egg yolks.

    1. Use egg whites, not the whole eggs. Here are some recipes using only yolks: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/tag/egg-yolks/

  17. Lisa Spencer says:

    I made this cake for my daughter’s 26th birthday today. It was EXCELLENT! Great job on this recipe. Everyone loved it.

  18. I make your very vanilla cupcakes probably once a week, have used it for a cake many times in the last six months (with excellent results, or so delicious and my local baristas/bartender/co-workers love it!). I’ve made this cake five times in the last two weeks though and each time it rises beautifully makes a beautiful dome, then proceeds to fall as soon as I pulled out of the oven. It usually has glutinous streaks in it (but still tastes delicious). I can promise you I’m following the directions to a T, and always let the ingredients come to room temperature. Any thoughts on what might be going wrong with my process?

    1. Hi Michael! And you’re making no ingredient subs, right? If the cake is falling, I suggest 3 things: check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer, try baking an extra minute or two (under-baking will cause collapsing), and check your leaveners for freshness. I find baking powder and soda lose their potency after only 3 months.

  19. Could I add sprinkles to this particular cake without messing up the recipe?

    Thanks!

    1. Absolutely! At least 1/2 cup I’d say.

  20. I made this tonight but I browned the butter and added 3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice (I also added an extra tablespoon of butter to make sure it stayed moist with the addition of the dry ingredients) and it’s SO GOOD!!!!! Thanks sally! 

  21. Ok so I made this cake for the first time today, and I just have to say, it is SO GOOD!  It is moist, and fluffy, and all around delicious!  I’ve been trying to find a good recipe for my niece’s first birthday, and this is hands down the winner.  Thanks Sally! 

  22. Can I use a bundt pan to bake this cake?

    1. Definitely!

  23. Hi Sally- this cake was fantastic! So light, fluffy, and tasted amazing. One question though- I had a TON of deep holes pop up! I’ve never had this issue before and I’m wondering what I did wrong? Thought maybe I overmixed it, but I followed the recipe. Any suggestions?

  24. Hi Sally! I’m thinking about making this cake for my brother’s birthday and he loves caramel. Do you think I could use caramel sauce as a filling for this cake or would it soak into the cake layers and be too soggy? 

    1. Hi Molly! I suggest using a thicker caramel like this salted caramel. You can reduce down the salt to 1/2 teaspoon so it’s regular caramel, not salted. Once it cools completely, it’s a wonderful thickness for filling cakes and cupcakes.

  25. Caroline Morrissey says:

    I want to make a 3 tier 9” cake. Can you tell me what adaptions i need to make please? Hi!

    1. Hi Caroline! My suggestion is to make this 3 layer cake instead. Easier than playing around with this recipe and risking it!

  26. I made this amazing cake yesterday following the recipe precisely. It is delicious ❤️❤️ At first I thought the layers were too thin, but after frosting it, perfect. Thanks for this recipe- it tastes like the perfect wedding cake.

  27. Holly Martin says:

    This cake was incredibly delicious. I made it following your instructions for my sons 2nd birthday with sprinkles inside. Not a cake person at all – and I ate multiple pieces over night post party. Thank you for creating such an easy to follow recipe. I’ll be coming back to reference this beautiful cake again! Much gratitude, Holly.

  28. Stephanie Convery says:

    Hi Sally! It’s my sister’s 30th Birthday tomorrow and I’m wondering if I can make this cake into a sheet cake and use a 12 x 17 pan. Blog is phenomenal by the way, always my go to for baked goods! Our line at home is ‘Sally knows best’!
    Stephanie

    1. For a single layer cake I use a 9×13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  29. This was perfect! I made this last night for my mom’s birthday and followed the recipe almost to the letter except for subbing in salted butter and decreasing the salt called for, since I almost never have unsalted butter on hand. The layers baked up beautifully fluffy and perfectly moist. I split and filled them with lemon curd, cream cheese whipped cream, and raspberries, which was as delicious for breakfast as is was for dessert.
    Thanks for this; it’s my new go-to white cake!

  30. Can I double the recipe for a two tiered cake?

    1. Hi Layla! I recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling. More batter leads to over or under-mixing which can ruin the entire cake.

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