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!

Soft, fluffy, and perfect white layer cake made from scratch!! Get the recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

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. ♥

white-layer-cake-5

white-layer-cake-7

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 cake

White cake with vanilla buttercream

Simple, yet glamorous. Happy baking!

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White cake with vanilla buttercream

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 (250g) 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 cupcakes with vanilla frosting

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

869 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Hi Sally, I want to use your recipe but unfortunately live at 8600′. Any chance you could give me tips for how to make your white cake (I want to use it for a burnt sugar caramel cake requested by a good friend for his birthday) turn out at this altitude? Thanks so much for any help you can provide!

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

  2. Ok, thanks for the reference. I will try adjusting your recipes with that!

  3. I just made this with my son and the cake base is delicious, we will be frosting it tomorrow! I just added the egg whites slowly so it would not curl. BTW I used a black and a grey pan, grey pan needed 5 more minutes of baking 🙂

  4. This cake is utterly delicious! Just made it for my daughters birthday and it came out perfect. The frosting was too thick so I ended up adding 1/2 cup of whole milk and it came out just right. Used 2 sticks of unsalted and a half stick of salted so there was no need for extra salt. 5 stars!!

  5. Hey Sally, can I use a tall 9 inch pan instead of two? My nine inch pan is 3 1/2 inches tall. If so, how long should I bake it for?
    Thanks,
    Hana

    1. Hi Hana, I suggest baking this as two separate layers. Putting too much batter in one pan means the cake will be too heavy and not rise properly.

  6. I made this cake for my ‘gender reveal’ party. I followed the recipe pretty much exactly and the cake turned out great! The only difference was adding some blue food coloring to the icing. 🙂

    Will definitely be saving this recipe!

  7. Hi Caycee, there is too much batter for one 10-inch cake pan. My Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions post may be helpful if you’re looking to switch pan sizes.

  8. Hey Sally- we have baked this cake before and love it. we are a bit low on supplies right now- are there substitutions for heavy cream and sour cream?

    1. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead of the sour cream, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.

    2. Hi, sally!
      Love this cake always turns out great! If I wanted to make a smaller version in a 8×8 square pan would i half the recipe and change the baking time?
      Thank you!

  9. This might be a long shot, but I am tempted to pour a little rum or coffee before icing. Terrible idea??

  10. This is a very moist, delicious cake. I modified the recipe slightly to make a Milk Chocolate Chip cake by adding a cup of chopped milk chocolate chips to the batter right before baking, and I frosted it with a milk chocolate frosting recipe from a very old chocolate cookbook. Delicious!!!

  11. Will this recipe work if I do not include the sour cream? This will be my first time trying out this recipe!

    1. Hi Holly, plain yogurt is the best substitute for the sour cream.

      1. Greek yogurt will do?

  12. I made this for a birthday and it was delicious! You can’t go wrong with this cake and it sure beats box mixes! Thank you!

  13. Joanie Mellows says:

    A great cake, and a great way to use egg whites! Thanks!

  14. Sean Mason says:

    Do you have a recommendation on the brand of cake flour? I have King Richards, which is unbleached and unenriched? Will that affect the taste?

    1. Hi Sean, that cake flour should be just fine in this recipe though I’ve never personally used it before. I usually use enriched Swans Down or Softasilk.

  15. Is it ok if I use strawberry extract instead of Vanilla? Thank you

    1. You can replace half of the vanilla with strawberry extract if desired.

      1. Hannah Kaplan says:

        Would you advise the same ratio if I want to sub almond extract? Want that almond wedding cake flavor!

  16. I made your lemon curd recipe with the left over yolks and made it a later filling!

  17. Michele Stabile says:

    I made this cake and it was delicious but a little dense. Is it supposed to be? I can’t find cake flour so I made my own using the instructions and sifted twice. It was still REALLT good but I expected it to be a little lighter. Any tips?

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the cake, Michele! You can see my post on How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake for more tips.

  18. I just finished frosting this cake. I love your cake recipes. This is #6, in about as many weeks. I follow recipe to the letter. I’m a lazy froster though. I only frost the tops – not the sides. A bit more rustic looking, and every bit as delicious.

  19. Hi I want to try this recipe can I use this for a 3 layers 8” pans? Or I need to add half the batter to the full mixture?

    1. Hi Ariana, you can divide this batter between 3 8 inch cake pans. I’m unsure of the best bake time. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  20. I made this for my son’s 18th birthday. He and I both love traditional birthday cakes. This is among the best cakes I’ve ever had. The cake was moist (for some reason it took longer to bake than indicated and didn’t rise that much, remained a bit wet, but it was great). The frosting was heaven (I balked at the amount of butter, and made only half the recipe but it was enough). It reminded me of my own wedding cake — now I know how it’s done!

  21. I love this cake. Made it the 1st time about 2 yrs ago then made it yesterday. I don’t know if this has happened to anyone else but my cakes stuck to the bottom of my pans. That did not happen the 1st time. I followed the pan instructions but I kept saying to myself… “use some parchment paper too”. I didn’t. As I said they got stuck. Thankfully I was able to get them out without breaking them. I plan to make them again today. This go around I will be using parchment paper. This cake is super white and yummy. Instead of a full tablespoon of vanilla I used 1 tsp and 2 tsps of almond extract. Omgee. It was amazing. Sally any ideas as to why they got stuck?

  22. Made this in 2 8” round pans and they turned out perfect!! took 38min in my oven cakes will level to 1.5” after the mound is cut off. Can’t wait to taste them! They smell amazing but I have to wait for them to cool before I can taste the leveling off-cuts

  23. Hi!
    I was wondering for awhile but I loved your “Fluffy White Cake” recipe and used it a lot but remember at one point I couldn’t find it anymore. Wondering why it was removed and is this your new and better white cake recipe?

    Also, would this recipe be okay for cupcakes too? Or do you recommend using one of your cupcake recipes?

    1. Hi Jina, this recipe didn’t replace any previous recipes on my website. This is the only white cake recipe I’ve ever published. See my recipe note for cupcakes.

  24. Stephanie McIntosh says:

    Can I add lemon zest and lemon extract instead of vanilla?

  25. Hey Sally, I only have one cake tin (silly I know) – would it be ok to mix the whole batch and have half the batter sit for ~2 hours while I bake the first tin or should I make 1/2 batch for each bake? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nanxi, You can mix all of the batter and bake the first layer while keeping the rest of the batter covered at room temperature. The cake takes about 25 minutes to bake and then you can let it cool in the pan about 10 minutes before flipping it out on a cooling rack to finish cooling. The rest of the batter should be ok for 35 minutes. If you plan to let it sit for 2 hours then I would recommend making the batter half at a time.

  26. Maggie Boyle says:

    I made this for a friends birthday. My cake turned out a little dense but tasted wonderful. The frosting was perfect, sweet but not sickeningly sweet as most buttercreams are. Everyone complimented me on it and it disappeared quickly as most went back for seconds.

  27. Maria Kris says:

    Amazing recipe! Made it n loved it!! Cake flour and sour cream took the recipe to another level. Just wondering if I could add lemon rind to the batter. Anything else? I love lemon flavour in cakes.

  28. HI Sally, thank you for this recipe, and all your other countless delicious recipes. You are my absolute go to for baking, and, your recipes never fail me!!! Question, I will be making this for my daughters birthday next week, but, am adding sprinkles for a funfetti version. I read on your funfetti cake, you suggested making this and adding sprinkles for a 2 layer version. Should I omit any of the sugar to the batter if I’ll be adding 1/2 cup of sprinkles? If yes, how much? Thank you again!

    1. Hi Adriana, No need to adjust the sugar if adding sprinkles. Enjoy!

  29. Awesome recipe, can’t wait to try, if I want to color the layers ( with food coloring) which stage would I add the coloring?

    1. Hi Kayla, If you are coloring the whole cake the same color then you can add the food coloring to the wet ingredients and then mix in the dry ingredients. This will help you not over mix the batter.

  30. Can I replace the sour cream with mayonnaise? My daughter can’t eat sour cream or yogurt.

    1. I haven’t personally tried that replacement, so I can’t say for sure. Let me know if you do.

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