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

945 Comments

  1. How long did it take for all the room temp items to get to room temp? Trying to plan this out with birthday madness. I know butter can be overnight…the others?

    1. Hi Jessica! The butter may be too soft after sitting out all night. I recommend only about 1-2 hours for all ingredients. Room temperature is still a little cool.

  2. Hi, can i substitute the cake flour to a multipurpose flour?

    1. Hi Jia! Cake flour is ideal for this cake, but see recipe notes for the alternative with all-purpose flour.

  3. Hi! Any thoughts on substituting pasturized whites from a carton? Thanks!

    1. Hi Denise! Fresh egg whites are always best, but feel free to test it out if that’s more convenient for you. Some readers have and shared great results!

  4. I’m so glad you enjoyed this white cake recipe! Thank you so much for reporting back. Though I wish I could help, I’m not an expert on egg-free cakes. But please let us know anything you test out!

  5. I wanna premake this cake, how long will the unfrosted cake last in the fridge?

    1. Hi Maggie! Covered tightly, a couple days.

  6. This was the best white cake!! I did whip the egg whites till stiff peaks, then folded in at the end. Just a habit with previous white cake recipes I’ve used I guess. It’s still moist, fluffy with the perfect crumb 2 days later. Thank you for sharing!

    1. So glad you loved it!

  7. Can I pipe your vanilla frosting with a #21 tip. I am using this recipe to make a unicorn cake for my sons birthday and I need to pipe stars all over for the fur. I wasn’t sure if it was firm enough to pipe. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jill! Yes, the buttercream should be just fine with that size tip.

  8. Hey Sally! Just getting into baking and really excited to try this out. Can you help with cooking times perhaps? I didnt see how much batter your cooking times relates to, do you weigh it or just eyeball it? I’m also only able to use two 8″x2″ pans and I was gonna put the excess in a 6″x2″ and I’m trying to figure out how long to bake those for without having to open the oven a lot :/
    Any advice would be great!
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Chris! I typically just eyeball it. The 8-inch cakes will take around the same bake time as my 9-inch cakes, maybe an extra minute. The 6 inch cake will likely take a minute or 2 less than the 9-inch cakes. Please let me know how you like the cake!

      1. Thanks for the reply! I actually ended up making them yesterday and just kinda kept an eye on them hahah. Your timing was pretty spot on! I was worried cause when I went to check them the toothpick test came back clean yet the tops weren’t done. Ended up putting them back in for a few minutes to finish off the tops. The 6″ baked perfectly and were absolutely delicious. Amazing fluffy texture and yummy ^^

        I’m actually taking the 8″ to work tomorrow so hoping it didn’t turn out too dry since they were in longer to finish baking the tops :/
        I’ve been keeping my cake chilled in the fridge in a plastic cake container, is this okay for storage till tomorrow? I didn’t want to leave the cake out at room temp and ruining my icing and piping ><

  9. hi sally!.. i have tried this cake and unfortunately encountered a few problems. My cake had sticky tops and a little wet on the bottom – they stuck to the bottom of the pan (i did grease and flour the pan and did everything as you mentioned). I would like to bake again but would like to know how to overcome these issues.
    I also wanted to know how tall is each of your cake layers? i used a 3 inch deep pan to bake these however the cakes only came put an inch high, is this due to lack of batter or rising agent. Your response would be greatly appreciated..x

    1. Hi Saira! It sounds like the cake was under-baked. Try baking for a few extra minutes next time. Cake layers are supposed to be a little over 1 inch.

  10. Hi Sally… I was going to make this and add sprinkles… want a lighter cake than your funetti cake.
    will it work?
    Can I use a large 12″ cake pan?
    thank you

    1. Hi Sari! I’m unsure about the large size pan; you may need to 1.5x the batter. Doubling would be too much and the recipe, as is, is too small. You can add sprinkles to this cake batter– I suggest around 2/3 – 3/4 cup. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Thank you so much for your reply… Could double it and make cupcakes and freeze for later . Going to make ice it with blue ombre rosettes and make it a ” frozen” cake for my granddaughter

  11. Natalie Krueger says:

    How about adding food coloring to the layers and maybe making them a bit thinner for more layers kind of rainbow cake? Looking at make it something luke this for my child’s birthday next weekend. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Natalie! That’s a wonderful idea, but I fear there isn’t enough cake batter. Instead, I recommend using the cake batter from my vanilla naked cake. Holds color very well and can be divided between 5 cake pans.

  12. Thank you for this cake. I test baked this a couple times and I ended up reducing the sugar a bit. Made this for my sons first birthday. Was a huge hit!

  13. Hey sally,
    Will it be okay if i adda melted white chocolate to the frosting?

    1. Hi Shazu! That would be fine. You may need a little more confectioners’ sugar and an extra pinch of salt to offset the added sweetness.

  14. Hi Sally! Baking this now, but I was wondering if your flour measurement by weight is off? I usually bake everything by weight, and my cake flour is 32g/.25c, which would make the weight 320g, not 250, yes??

    The kitchen is starting to smell wonderful. Fingers crossed that my gut was right upping the flour by weight!

    1. Did it work out? Was also wondering the same thing…

  15. I would like to make this cake, but I don’t have vanilla extract and where I live it is not readily available in supermarkets for purchase. I can buy vanilla bean paste and have a vanilla bean. Can I substitute the extract for either of the above? If so how much?

    I’m a big fan of your recipes!!! Thank you

    1. Hi Kathy! I recommend vanilla bean paste. When substituting for vanilla extract, the amount varies by brand. Check the label to see how much you should use.

  16. This is cooling on the rack as I write. Beautiful. I cannot believe how evenly this rose in the pan (I used a 9×13), so impressed by the recipe. I was bad and snuck a taste of the batter…yum!
    I added a half of a cup of Christmas jimmies to the batter and made your Milk Chocolate Frosting. Again, so delicious.
    I had wanted to do pies and cookies…but got sick and so…cake.
    I will be proud to serve your wonderful recipe for Christmas Sally 🙂
    Thank you!!

  17. Great recipe but my cake stuck :/ parchment paper is a must.

  18. I think I’ll give this a go with your peanut butter frosting? That combo seems to be a winner for my mother in law! Here goes!

  19. Looks delicious! Can I bake this in an 8 in pan?

    1. Sure can! The layers will need an extra couple minutes in the oven to bake through.

  20. Tammie Martinez says:

    Hi Sally. I made this cake yesterday. It was SO good!! The cake was so light and fluffy just as you said it would be. I used your marshmallow/cream cheese frostings and the freeze dried strawberries to flavor them (had to cover 3/4 of the cake with the marshmallow, 1/4 with the cream cheese cause hubby doesn’t like cream cheese. Yeah, I got cheated, lol). After frosting I had to put the cake in the frig so the frosting could harden up some. Once I took a bite out of the cold cake I couldn’t believe just how tender it was. Thanks for yet another great recipe!! Oh, also a big thanks for the suggestion of using the butter from Walmart. SO much cheaper than the brand I was going through. I haven’t used it in a cake yet but it was a hit with the frosting….

  21. Hi Sally – the weight measurement for the flour is incorrect. It should be 320g. Made it the first time incorrectly and ended up with a flat cake. Second time worked beautifully.

  22. Yes, two teaspoons of baking powder to help achieve a good rise!

  23. Hi Sally,

    I am wondering if you could make this in to a 3 tier cake? — Just 1.5 x the recipe? I like your funfetti cake, but liked this recipe a little better. Thank you!

    1. Hi Shannon! You can divide between 3 cake pans. The layers will be thinner. Or try my vanilla cake recipe— uses the same ingredients, just slightly increased.

  24. I love this cake! I baked perfectly for me. This time I am using a tiara (crown) as a topper. I afraid it will be too heavy. Any suggestions??

    1. I”m not sure how heavy it is but you can try to support it with dowels inside the cake much as you would making a tiered cake.

  25. Sally,
    I would like to know how much batter to put in a 6 inch pan? I will be using 3 pans. How long should I bake the cakes?
    Thank you Sally

    1. Hi Dawn! For a 6-inch 3 layer cake, use the corresponding cupcake recipe. These vanilla cupcakes taste identical to the white cake. The recipe fits perfectly in 3 6-inch pans, divide it up evenly. Bake time at 350F is 18-21 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  26. I just made this cake for my son’s birthday. It turned out AMAZING. It will definitely be my go to vanilla cake from now on. We did a “trial run” with a few other recipes and each were fails. I am so glad i found this. The texture of the cake is exactly what i was looking for. I did completely forget to buy cake flour so i followed your diy on how to make it. Thanks again! I look forward to trying other recipes. I definitely recommend this cake to anyone looking for that perfect vanilla cake.

  27. I love this recipe and I use it often since it’s become a fan favorite among my family and friends. I find that it falls extremely easily at sea level though, so to combat this problem, I add an extra 25-50 grams of cake flour to mixture which doesn’t noticeably change the texture. I also found that beating in the eggs and sour cream for as long as the directions indicate can cause the batter to split, despite the ingredients all being at room temperature.
    Thanks again Sally, this cake is awesome.

  28. Marie-Christine says:

    Hi, I would like to bake this cake in a 9X13 pan for my son’s birthday but I am wondering how thick it will be?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi! It’s about 2-3 inches thick.

      1. Marie-Christine says:

        Great, it will be perfect then. Thank you very much!

  29. Any tips for making this into a half sheet cake? I calculated that about 2.5x the recipe would make about a 2″ high cake in my 13*16 pan… but I am not sure if that is correct and I have no idea how long to bake the cake. Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated!

    1. You can bake it in a 9 X 13 pan! See the recipe notes!

  30. Caroline Cummings says:

    Can this be divided into a 3 layer cake, and will it works for ombre?

    1. Hi Caroline! I recommend my vanilla cake for a 3 layer cake. Just as soft and fluffy. It will work wonderfully with colored ombre.

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