Favorite White Layer Cake

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

After what seems like an entire month of sugar, I figure today is the best day to share a giant white cake filled with creamy vanilla frosting and topped with rainbow– but mostly pink– sprinkles. I want to start a new year the best way we know how: a buttery white cake.

Cheers!

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

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 cake flour recipes.
  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. ♥

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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 milk chocolate frosting, rainbow chip frosting, or even a cream cheese frosting. All remarkable on this beauty. 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 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 (275g) 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 (580g) sifted 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!

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. If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it. Measure 1 cup. This sifted 1 cup equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 2 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.
  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.

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

439 Comments

  1. My, My, My (smh). I can’t tell you how many vanilla cupcakes and cakes I have tested for “The One”. They all were edible, because , hey we love dessert. However, some were dry, some too dense, some were bland, etc. I made this one this past weekend, and I can finally say, I have found the perfect vanilla recipe for me. I will not deviate from this recipe. So simple but so moist , so fluffy and full of flavor. This will definitely be my birthday cake recipe for ever. I used your cream cheese frosting recipe and it was great. Making it again this weekend with your vanilla butter cream frosting. Can’t wait. I want to use it as my cupcake recipe also. Do you think it will work?

  2. Hi Sally- I’m an over thinker. Looking for my “go to” white and vanilla cake recipes. I love the White Wedding Cake/Cupcake recipe from Recipe Girl, but it starts with a boxed mix white cake. I have made it many times and it is very good, but I am looking for my scratch white and vanilla cakes. Your Triple Chocolate Layer cake is my go to for chocolate. It is just the best. So, when someone asks me for white, are they looking for a cake made without egg yolks, without too much vanilla taste? (I use clear vanilla when going for a lighter color cake). When they ask for vanilla, are they looking for a cake made with brown vanilla, egg yolks included, and vanilla extract (no almond)? Again, over thinker here. What do you think?? 🙂

    1. Hi Paula! Are you asking me which cake recipe is my favorite vanilla cake? Because it’s this one! This is just my personal point of view, but I think white cakes and vanilla cakes are pretty similar 🙂

      1. Hi Sally! Thank you so much for your reply. When I need a recipe, I always turn to you first. :-). I guess I am just trying to put myself into someone’s shoes when they ask me for a “white” cake. Does “white” come with the expectation that it will taste like vanilla, or cherry (from almond). Would vanilla be acceptable as a “white” choice….I made this recipe yesterday. It is really good. I love the rise (I like tall cakes and I made it in 3 6″ rounds). Each layer was around 1 1/4+” tall. Loved the light color and flavor. I bet it would pair nicely with lemon curd and raspberry puree, which I make from scratch. Also would be great with vanilla/chocolate buttercreams. Another great recipe from you!!!! Final thought: if you asked me for a white cake and I made this recipe for you, would your hopes for a white cake be met? Thanks again for your reply Sally. 🙂

  3. I was checking out your Funfetti Layer Cake recipe, which pointed me to this recipe if I wanted a lighter, fluffier cake and suggested I add jimmies. How much should I add? 3/4C, like the other recipe?

    And I’m looking to use 8 inch pans and do 3 or 4 layers. Is this cake too fluffy or will it stand up to that weight? If so, how long should I bake for?

    1. Hi Aimee! I would start with 1/2 cup of sprinkles, then stir in more if you feel the batter could use more. This cake will be fine with 8-inch pans in 3 layers. The bake time will be a little shorter and though I don’t know the exact time for 3 layers/8-inch pans, you can use a toothpick to test.

  4. Hi Sally,

    I love the texture of this cake my question is could I use this recipe to make a chocolate cake or does using cocoa powder require the fat of egg yolks?

    Thanks

  5. Hie Sally!

    What’s an alternative to heavy cream? I’m from. Africa and more often than not fail to find certain things

  6. Hi Sally –

    I love your recipes, just made your Lemon Buttercream for my son’s birthday cupcakes and it was awesome! Re. this cake, is there any substitution possible to make it a bit less fattening? For example using applesauce for sugar or yogurt for sour cream, or any other ideas? I want to make a classic birthday cake but would prefer to not serve a 600-calorie slice.

      1. Hi Sally,
        I made this cake (with no substitutions), following the recipe to the letter, but I had problems. The cake took longer to bake than expected – after 35 minutes a toothpick still not 100% clean, but the edges were overcooked so I removed from the oven. The cake turned out not airy or light, instead it was kind of dense and parts of it almost mushy. I did definitely use cake flour. Any idea what could have caused the problem? The taste was very good though.

  7. 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.

  8. Can you use carton egg whites? and if so how much? (150g ish?) I hate wasted yolks if I don’t have something to use them for.

    Though I guess if forced I could make lemon curd 🙂 I bet that’d be a yummy filling for this cake…

    1. Hi Cait! You can use carton egg whites. The carton should give measurements for substituting for real egg whites. They all vary. Lemon curd would definitely be a lovely addition or a delicious homemade gift!

  9. So, I made this cake twice for both my boys’s birthdays and it was amaaaazing! Love love love it!! You always post the best recipes! I was wondering about experimenting with biscoff cookie butter amd this recipe…. what do you thing the substitutions would be? Decrease the butter by the amount of cookie butter and swap some white sugar for brown?

    1. Thanks Salma! I think a cookie butter flavored cake would be delicious, but I’m not confident with my advice as it would require a little testing. Nut butters and other spreads with the same thick texture quickly dry out cakes. Let me know if you try anything though!

  10. Love your recipes, they always turn out so fantastic! I’m trying to do a white birthday cake but with just a slight citrus flavor. Do you think it would be fine to add in lemon or orange zest (by rubbing in the sugar before creaming)? Or do you think that might affect the recipe as a whole?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Hi Sally, I made this cake over the weekend for my daughter’s birthday and it was delicious. I couldn’t find the cake flour (Australia) instead used Plain Flour with low protein content. It turned out great. The initial slabs seemed very thin, but after frosting and layering, the height was appropriate. I got about 14 medium slices out of it, and every one of them gone to the last crumb!

    1. I’m glad it worked for you, Leena! Can you get cornstarch there? If so you can make a DIY cake flour that should rise a bit more next time 🙂

  14. 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!

  15. Sally,
    Any hints for a gal at 8000ft elevation? Love your blog for all things cookie/bar/etc but can’t get the cakes to turn out! Thanks Madeline

  16. Hi Sally, hope you’re well! I’m a huge fan and have been experimenting with many of your recipes. I love and appreciate how thorough your recipes are written, my baking skills have developed so much since finding you. I’ve truly found my passion thanks to you
    I’m wondering if I could add some lemon and blueberries to this cake? I have experimented adding blueberries and lemon into your vanilla cupcakes which worked well and wondered if I should expect the same results with this.
    Thanks Tasha ☺️

      1. Thank you for your reply, and you’re so welcome. I experimented with the add in if blueberries and lemon to this cake and it was an absolute hit. I’ll be sure to try out the lemon blueberry layer cake next time.

    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.

  17. Hi there,

    would you recommend using this recipe for an ice cream cake? Not sure how well it freezes, or if you have tried it?

    Thanks,
    Dee

      1. My pan is slightly larger than 9 x 13. Made 1 1/2 times the recipe. Rose perfectly with a wonderfully fine, heavy texture. Exactly the same size as my chocolate cake recipe that I made for the birthday party as well. It was a big hit! Served with fresh thickened tangy raspberries! Awesome summertime dessert with any fruit I’m sure. Made with cream cheese icing….will try vanilla next time. Thanks for a great recipe!

  18. Wow…this mom felt like a pro baker!!! Made this for my daughter’s birthday as her wish was vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. She loved it! This was my first time using one of your recipes and my family can’t wait for me to try something else from your site!

  19. Hi Sally!

    Do you advise skipping the stand mixer for the cake because of the risk for over mixing? Just curious. I have a 9 month old and anything I can do to make it easier is better, but I don’t wanna mess up this cake for my dad’s birthday!

    Thanx

    Ashley

  20. Hi Sally! Love,love,love your recipes! My daughter fell in-love with an almond buttercream I made this weekend. I assume this cake would be just fine subbing almond for vanilla. Or do you have a favorite almond flavored cake recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Trista! 1 Tablespoon of almond extract will be a little too much. I would add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons at the most and the other 1 and 1/2 teaspoons can be vanilla extract.

  21. Hi!
    I would like to make a monster cake for my sons birthday using this vanilla cake recipe but I would like the cake to be taller (possibly 4 tiers). If I were to bake this in 6 inch cake pans do you have an idea of how many layers I should expect?
    Thank You

  22. Hi, I’m going to be making my daughters birthday cake and she’s requested a 4 tier rainbow cake (eeekk!!) as in she wants rainbow,ombré icing! Would your vanilla frosting recipe be ok for this? Obviously I’d need to make a larger quantity….wish me luck lol!!

  23. My new go to white cake. Great job! So delicious. Have you tried using 5 whole eggs to make it the color expected of a Vanilla cake instead of just the whites? Would like to use this as my go to Vanilla cake but want the more yellow color.

    1. Yes, you can! If you are using this vanilla buttercream it doesn’t even have to be refrigerated if it’s out for one night but whatever you are comfortable with!

  24. Sally! Help!
    I was attempting to make this recipe, everything was going great until I added the milk.
    As soon as we started pouring the milk (with the stand mixer on and in low speed) the mixture curdled =(.

    Any tip for preventing this?

      1. The milk was at room temperature (straight out of the pantry since it was new). Could it have been because it wasn’t whole milk or the speed when mixing?
        I can’t figure what I did wrong, they felt crunchy/caramelized on top and very buttery in the middle. =(
        I’ll give it another try and let you know.

        Thanks for the reply!

  25. Wish I knew what i did wrong. The cake was dense and didn’t have the rise I expected. All ingredients at room temp, didn’t overbeat, used cake flour, etc. Any suggestions?

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