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!

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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

908 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! This looks amazing! I’m on my baking journey so I’m experimenting. I would like to know if whole fat Greek yorgurt would work instead of sour cream?

    1. Yes, full fat plain Greek yogurt is a great substitute for the sour cream. Have fun baking!

  2. Hi Sally, can I use this recipe under fondant. I love your red velvet recipe…its a hit everytime I’ve made it. Thank you for sharing such amazing recipes.

    1. Yes, you can cover this cake with fondant! Enjoy!

  3. Hi Sally,

    Do you think baking this in a bundt pan (9 3/4 × 3 3/8) would work? I’m trying to make your strawberry cake which uses this cake as a base.
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Stefanie! I’m not 100% positive. How many cups of batter does the pan hold? The recipe is about 6-7 cups of batter.

      1. Stefanie Crivellaro-Crisman says:

        Thank you for getting back to me! It holds about 10 cups when filled almost to the top. I’m just gonna try it and hope for the best :D.

      2. I can confirm that baking this in a bundt cake pan does not work. But I’ll try it again soon the way it was intended to be made.

  4. Can I use half and half in place of heavy cream? Thanks!

    1. Half-and-half is great in the frosting, yes!

  5. Your recipe for frosting says:
    1 and 1/4 cups (2.5 sticks; 287g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature.

    Which is it, 1 and 1/4 cups or 2.5 sticks.
    2.5 sticks is 1 1/2 cups butter not 1 1/4.

    Thank you

    1. It’s the same.
      1 stick = 1/2 cup, so 1/2 stick = 1/4 cup
      2.5 sticks = 1/2 cup x 2.5 = 0.5 x 2.5 = 1.25 = 1/4 cups
      Or, 2.5 sticks = 1/2 cup +1/2 cup + 1/4 cup = 1 1/4 cups

  6. Tina Rutkowski says:

    Best cake ever! Moist, flavorful and baked like a dream!
    Use fat daddies 8×2 pans . 3.5 cups batter in each pan. Full 2 inch cakes.

    Also did a dozen cupcakes!
    Perfect white cake!

  7. Hi Sally! I absolutely love this recipe and have made it twice as a 9 inch layer cake. Tonight I made it as a 9×13 and I’m concerned I over baked it. It’s a bit darker than the rounds. I followed the time recommendation of 40 as the rounds usually bake in my oven for about 26 minutes. The cake center bounces back despite the darker shade. Should I be concerned that it over baked?

    1. The longer bake time can definitely cause the top to brown more. You can cover it with aluminum foil half way through if you notice it beginning to brown before the center is done. How did it taste?

      1. Thank you for your quick reply, Sally! The short answer is that the cake still tasted incredible! I made two cakes for a co-worker’s baby shower (the 9×13, which I asked the question about, and then a 9″round) I added sprinkles to both to make them funfetti, as suggested in your funfetti layer cake post. The 9×13 was frosted with rainbow chip and the 9″ had vanilla buttercream so I could decorate it. I did noticed the 9×13 crumb was slightly dryer than the round but no one else really detected this. So, I’ll take the foil suggestion in the future and watch the bake time more carefully. However, I got so many rave reviews for these two cakes!!! They especially loved the rainbow chip frosting!! This will definitely be a go to recipe for white and funfetti cakes in the future. The crumb of this cake is absolutely perfect!

  8. Lisa Browning says:

    Hi Sally,
    I would love to make this cake using an egg substitute if possible. There are egg allergies in the family. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lisa, I haven’t tested this recipe with an egg substitute, but let me know if you try it!

  9. Elyse Purbaugh says:

    Hi Sally! Can you use a carton of egg whites for this recipe, or should they be fresh egg whites? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Elyse! You can use either, but fresh is best.

  10. YES!! I have to make a Gluten Free vanilla cake for a friends kids birthday. So I made this one with a generic Coles brand gluten free plain flour mix……..and it tastes and looks like a NORMAL cake! I was so happy. I had a few other recipes lined up in case but now I don’t have to bother with them. This one browned beautifully, rose beautifully and is all round beautiful. The crumb is great and it’s nice and spongy and moist.
    To commenters who say this to people who ask about gluten free changes: “Why don’t you just Google a gluten free recipe to begin with?”
    Just shush please. People want to use a recipe they trust and they’ve probably used Sally’s recipes before. So they trust her. There are so many recipes out there that don’t work well at all so why wouldn’t you want to use a trusted person’s recipe.
    Thank you for this cake Sally! =)

  11. Hi Sally,
    I’m planning to make this cake for my son’s birthday. If I want to make the cake a few days in advance, should I freeze the cake (before frosting) and thaw in the fridge overnight?

    1. If you are making the cake more than a day or two ahead of time, then yes cover tightly and freeze!

  12. Hi Sally! I love all of your recipes that I’ve tried so far! I just wanted to know about how many mini cupcakes this recipe would make. Thank you

    1. Hi Robin! At least 5-6 dozen. This is a lot of batter!

      1. Perfect! Thank you!!

  13. Hi Sally – how would you recommend modifying the recipe and baking times/temperature for 6″ round pans? Does this buttercream hold up well for piped decorations? Thanks!

    1. Hi Taylor! I use my cupcake version of this recipe (and adding sprinkles) right here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/decorated-6-inch-cake/
      The cupcake version is basically half of this recipe!

  14. Jordan Ellison says:

    I’m trying to make a 3 layer 6-inch cake and have tried a couple recipes that I didn’t love. I’ve had pretty good luck with your other baking recipes in the past, so I would love to give this one a shot! What adjustments do you recommend on baking times?

    1. Hi Jordan! I have an easy fix for that. Use my 6 inch cake recipe, which is about half of this batter. Same great taste and texture. You can leave out the sprinkles.

  15. Hi!! I want to make this cake this week for my friend’s birthday. How should I adjust the recipe for two 10″ pans? Thank you!

    1. Hi Allyson, this cake batter will fit into 2 10-inch cake pans. The bake time will be a little shorter since the cakes will be thinner. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  16. Hi Sally i was wondering if I could use white chocolate icing instead of buttercream, and can i add food colouring to the cake? Thank you

    1. Hi Angela! White chocolate icing would be great– I have a white chocolate frosting recipe here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/chocolate-white-chocolate-cupcakes/
      This cake holds up nicely with food coloring in the layers, too. I always prefer using gel food coloring with cakes.

  17. Hi again Sally. I forgot to ask, instead of cake flour( because i can’t find it in NZ) or is there another name for it? And how much all purpose flour should I use instead? Thank you

    1. See recipe note for how to make your own cake flour!

  18. I made this cake for my hubby’s Birthday….and he loved it…my son also loved it..It came out perfect and even……best cake ever…REALLY!

  19. Callie Conklin says:

    This cake recipe is a keeper! I added a box of orange flavored gelatin to it and it still worked perfectly! Then I decorated it using the frosting and other decor so it became an Easter cake for my Friday night Bible Study. I’m going to make it again for my family this week using chocolate pudding mix to turn it chocolate. This recipe is decently versatile.

  20. Do you think I could add blueberries to this batter or is it too thin? Would they sink?

    1. You can, yes. I recommend 1 cup of fresh blueberries. Frozen blueberries can be pretty heavy. Toss them in a little flour before stirring into the batter.

  21. Can I use whipped cream frosting for this cake instead of butter cream frosting?

    1. Absolutely!

  22. I am using 2 8×3 cake pans how long would I bake for
    Thanks

    1. Just a few minutes longer since the cakes will be thicker. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  23. I made this recipe, with several changes, and it was fabulous! I wanted an Almond Amaretto cake, so these are the changes I made:

    – SINGLE recipe.

    – Replaced 25% of the Cake Flour with Almond Flour.

    – Replaced 1 cup of Whole Milk with 3/4 cup Whole Milk + 1/4 cup Amaretto.

    – Used 2 teaspoons Vanilla Bean Paste + 1 teaspoon Almond Extract.

    – Divided batter between TWO 6-inch tin and baked at 325F for 64 minutes.

    – Torted into 4 layers that were 1-inch tall each. For taller layers, I would make 1.5x the recipe next time!

    I was a little nervous when I took the layers out of the oven, as they domed a bit in middle, the tops were slightly sticky, and the sides did not pull away from the cake tin edges. But the smell was so mouth-watering! When I trimmed off the cake tops and sampled it the next morning, the taste was fabulous and it melted in your mouth! Incredibly moist, tender, and just the right balance of Almond and Amaretto! This is definitely a keeper!

    1. As an update, I decided to re-make this recipe without any changes to the ingredients (prior, I had subbed 25% of the Cake Flour for Almond Flour, reduced the Whole Milk to 3/4 cup, and added 1/4 cup Amaretto).

      I divided a SINGLE recipe’s worth into TWO 6-inch x 3-inch Fat Daddio’s tins and baked at 325F for 52 minutes. I torted the two tins into FOUR layers. They can out perfect! So moist, delicious, and just close-your-eyes-and-melt delicious! Thanks, Sally!

  24. Hi,
    Frosting:
    I have a large amount of frosting left over. How long can it remain in the refrigerator and be good to use on another cake I’m going to make?

    Thanks!
    Melanie

    1. Hi Melanie– cover frosting tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting for a few seconds so it’s creamy again.

  25. Can I use 1/2 cup shortning instead of sour cream?

    1. Hi Laya, I don’t suggest that substitution. You can use plain yogurt in place of sour cream if needed.

  26. Hi Sally,

    For the 9×13 version, could I also add shaved chocolate or mini chocolate chips?

    Thank you!

    1. Absolutely! I recommend mini chocolate chips. 3/4 – 1 cup would be plenty.

  27. Hi Sally! I’ve made this before with almond and vanilla extract to make a white almond cake–it is AMAZING! I’d like to double this recipe but am one pan short without time to buy a new one–do you recommend mixing a double batch and leaving the excess out while the rest bake, or making two separate batches and baking accordingly? Thanks, Abbie

    1. Hi Abbie, I always recommend making it twice instead of doubling any cake recipe. When you double a cake recipe there is too much batter to work with at once and you run the risk of over or under mixing.

  28. Hi! What’s the texture difference between using whole milk and buttermilk (like your vanilla cake)? I’m making a birthday cake for my nephew but my sister in law wants the cake by Thursday when the party is Saturday (she lives an hour away and that’s the only time she can get it). I want to make sure the cake is extra moist so it stays well until Saturday? And suggestions for making the icing last long enough? It will be in a cake box until Saturday.

    1. Hi Victoria! Buttermilk lends a *slightly* more flavorful cake. This white cake is a little lighter and fluffier than my vanilla cake recipe. You can use either. To ensure it stays extra moist, brush the layers with a simple syrup after you level them off and cool them. I do that in this lavender cake recipe. You can skip the lavender addition, of course. Just use the sugar and water.

      1. Thank you for your quick reply! I love your site by the way. It’s my go to for any recipes! I made your lemon blueberry trifle with the homemade lemon pound cake and lemon curd for Easter and it was sooo good!

  29. Hi.
    I would love to try this recipe very soon. I was wondering if I could use a greek yogurt to substitute for the sour cream?

    1. Hi June! Plain greek yogurt is a great sub for the sour cream.

  30. Can I make cupcakes out of this recipe??

    1. Absolutely! This recipe is about double my vanilla cupcakes recipe. Same ingredients and final texture.

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