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

983 Comments

  1. This cake turned out beautifully! I’ve tested multiple white cake recipes, seeing as my son hates chocolate (so odd, I know!), and they’re typically bland, dry, and flaky. The cake and frosting were delicious! Question – I’m considering using this recipe for my son’s Avengers birthday cake. I’m planning to use 3 6″ cake pans (2″ deep). Do you think this recipe will make enough batter, or should I go with the 3-layer white cake recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi, Allison – yes! This should be enough for 6 inch cake pans. Let me know how they turn out!

  2. Hi if I use egg powder in stead of egg whites. How much is 1 egg white in weight
    Not a professional baker. Always been a bit nervous to use egg powder
    Thank you

  3. Diane Spehar says:

    Hi, I only have 1% milk and butter milk….will either of these work out as a sub for the whole milk?

    1. Hi Diane, Whole milk is strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A lower fat milk would work instead, though the cake may not be as light.

  4. Hi Sally! I want to attempt to decorate this cake with rosettes similar to your 6 inch cake. I don’t have 6 in pans or I would definitely downsize. How much more frosting do you think I would need? Double the recipe? Thank you so much. Love your recipes.

    1. Hi, Lorrie! This recipe will make plenty to cover the cake plus some (it makes a lot!), but if you need a bit more to make the rosettes, I would recommend 1.5x rather than 2x the recipe. Let me know how it turns out and thank you for making my recipes!

  5. Crystal Hamilton says:

    Hi, could I use buttermilk instead of the heavy cream or whole milk?

    1. Hi Crystal, 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. I don’t recommend buttermilk in the frosting. Stick with heavy cream or even half-and-half.

  6. Just wondering can i substitute the sour cream for greek yogurt and whole milk with 2%milk

    1. Hi Nicki, both would be fine for this recipe.

  7. Hi Sally,
    If I make the 9×13” cake do I need to cut cake in half or just ice and decorate the top and sides?
    Thanks
    Simona

    1. Hi Simona! Just frost the top (and sides too, if desired). This frosting is plenty.

  8. Shauna Strickland says:

    I’d like to use this cake along with a chocolate cake to make a checkerboard pattern. Do you have a chocolate cake recipe that has the same texture as this white cake? My typical chocolate cake recipe is kind of fudgy so I’m looking for a recipe with the same texture/crumb structure as the white cake. Thank you.

    1. Sure do! This triple chocolate cake would be ideal.

  9. Theola Thornton says:

    Would like to make 2 9×13 cakes stack them for a birthday party will one cake rise high enough

    1. Hi Theola, This cake batter will fit into one 9×13 pan. See recipe note #4 for baking instructions. For two 9×13 layers I suggest making this cake twice.

  10. When you say 9” cake pans does it usually work best in a 2” h or 3” high pan?

    thanks!

    1. Either are fine. I usually use my 9×2 inch cake pans.

  11. Your recipes look amazing. I will make the confetti sprinkle cupcakes tomorrow for my son’s birthday and then a confetti cake for his party. I would like to do 3 layers for a surprise pinata confetti cake. Do you think it would it be best to add another 3rd to this recipe or to your vanilla cake recipe?
    And will it keep for 3 days in the fridge before icing and decorating?
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Emma, You can follow the recipe for my Funfetti Layer Cake which is already 3 layers. You can wrap each layer tightly and store them in the refrigerator before frosting and serving.

      1. Thank you for the advice Sally 🙂

  12. Hi Sally,

    I was going to make your 3 layer funfetti cake for my birthday, but I only have two cake pans, so I’m looking for a 2 layer recipe. Could I use this recipe and just toss sprinkles in the batter (not non pareils of course!) to make it funfetti?

    Thank you~!

    1. Yes, you can! I hope you have a great birthday, Jenna!

  13. Teri Zahurones says:

    Hi Sally I’m making mini 4 inch naked cakes for my daughters baby shower I would like to use your white cake recipe I am going three high would you know about how long to bake them and also I am making 21 cakes of three layers high do you think two batches would be enough or do think I will need three thanks so much for your time

    1. Hi Teri! It’s hard for me to tell exactly how much batter you’ll need for 21 4-inch 3 layer cakes. I would at least make 2 batches of this batter. Always best to have more than you think you’ll need.

  14. Hello! I don’t have a cake flour. I am going to make the vanilla cake. I read your Substitute cake flour recipe. My question Is do I substitute just one cup and keep the rest of the flour the same?

    1. Hi Sarah, You do want to use a total of 2.5 cups of all DIY cake flour!

  15. Thank you. Can I use a 8×2 pan? I only have 10×2 and 8×2.

    1. Hi Sarah! I just wrote a very in-depth post yesterday about converting cake pan sizes! I hope you find it helpful!

  16. Hi Sally!
    I want to make this in a 9X13″ sheet pan and cut 3″ rounds from the cake to make mini-naked-cakes. Would this cake have the structure to do that?
    Thanks!
    Sophie

    1. That should work with this recipe.

  17. Hi Sally,

    Would I be able to use 2 x 8″ pans instead of 9″? If so, does the temperature and baking time stay the same? Also, would it be posible to add sprinkles to the batter and if so, how much should I add? Thanks so much, I am looking forward in trying this recipe!

    Trish

    1. Hi Trish! I recommend sticking with 9-inch cake pans for this recipe. You could squeeze the batter into 8-inch if absolutely needed, but the bake time will be longer and the cakes may not bake evenly. You can fold 1/2 – 2/3 cup sprinkles into this batter.

  18. I want to make a Aluminum (10.5″ x 12″ x 2″) Unicorn cake for my grand daughter’s birthday. Will this recipe work for that?

    1. Hi Barb, this batter should fit nicely, but you may have some leftover batter. I encourage you to review my Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions page. Lots of helpful information if you’re ever looking to switch cake pan sizes.

  19. Jennifer ONeil says:

    Wonderful white cake. I filled it with a homemade strawberry coulis and fresh strawberries. I topped and filled it with homemade whipped cream frosting.

  20. So good! My eight year old was asking for a vanilla cake and happy I found this one! Husband and both sons loved it, husband who is not a huge cake eater, said a few time it is so good, and my one son said it is the best cake ever. Everyone went back for seconds. Followed the recipe, made with the cake flour substitute, flour and cornstarch. Made in a 9 x13 for 40 min. Very easy recipe. Delicious!

    1. I’m thrilled this was such a hit with your family, Alison!

    2. I only have 1 round 9-inch pan. Can I bake the first layer and then leave it to room temperature and then bake the second one with the same pan? If yes, how long should I leave it in room temperature before baking a new layer?

      1. I would buy a second pan (if it were me). Cake batter should be used immediately after mixing. Or, halve the batter recipe and and wait for your pan to cool.

  21. Can this cake be baked and refrigerated on a Thursday night, frosted Friday, and served Saturday morning? I don’t have time to do it all at once! Thank you

    1. Absolutely. I recommend cooling, covering, and leaving the unfrosted cakes at room temperature overnight until frosting on Friday. Then you may refrigerate it until Saturday. For best taste and texture, bring to room temperature before serving.

      1. Great, thank you!

      2. If leaving at room temperature overnight do the cakes need to be wrapped in clingfilm and places in an airtight container? Thanks

  22. I want to use this recipe for a half sheet cake (12×18). Should i double the recipe or just 1.5x? Thanks!

    1. Hi Alex, The exact amount needed is actually between the two. You can see my post on Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions to find out exactly how to calculate the square inches for a pan and then adjust the recipe. Although the easiest thing to do would be to make the recipe twice (for best texture don’t double it) and then fill your pan 2/3 full and use the leftover batter to make some extra cupcakes 🙂

  23. Can I use liquid egg whites?

    1. Yes, you can use carton egg whites. The carton should give measurements for substituting for real egg whites.

  24. Added a tsp of salt like stated in the ingredients…cake turned out super salty! but overall texture was great and no where near dry! Thanks

  25. I followed directions for the cake exactly, and it took 35 minutes to cook. I had my oven temp checked previously and it was perfect? Not sure why . I will not do the frosting till tomorrow and just cover cakes tonight when they have cooled completely

    1. Debbie I made this recipe also and it took 35 minutes to bake too but for me the batter was very thin. I don’t know if yours was but that is what I attributed the extended time to.

  26. How would I alter this recipe to make it for a 12×18 in cake pan please?

    1. Hi Christina, As written this recipe also fits into a 9×13 inch pan. For other sizes please see my post on Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions on how to scale a recipe.

      1. Hi. I looked at the link attached, but there is nothing listed for a 12×18 inch rectangular pan (baking for quite a few people). So what would I use? Or what is closest volume wise? Please help. I am attempting to make my daughter’s birthday cake and use this recipe.

      2. You will have to do some math! Scroll down to the section “Adapting Recipes to Fit Certain Cake Pans” to calculate how much batter you will need (for example a 12×18 inch pan is 216 square inches….etc).
        Or to avoid math the easiest thing to do would be to make the batter twice (I don’t recommend doubling cake recipes for the best texture) then fill your pan 2/3 full and if you have any leftover batter make a few cupcakes 🙂

  27. Can I use fondant on this cake?

  28. My family said this was the best white cake they have ever had. Making this recipe again today.

  29. I am making this for my daughter’s birthday. I used two 8 inch round pans. The cake is still runny after 25 minutes at 350. I am letting it bake until done but it appears it will be closer to 40-45 minutes. The batter was delish and I can’t wait to try it baked. I am using peanut butter frosting.

  30. Hello! I am making my nieces birthday cake and she asked for rainbow cake. Could you add food coloring to this cake to change the color or would that ruin the consistency? Thank you!

    1. Yes, you can add food coloring. Enjoy!

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