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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, coconut 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 used it as the base for several other cake recipes I have published including espresso chocolate chip cake, pineapple coconut cake, cookies and cream cake, and the others mentioned above. 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.
  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 chocolate cream cheese frosting. For a lighter, less sweet option, I love pairing this cake with whipped cream frosting (pictured below). Each of these frostings are 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

You can also frost this cake with whipped frosting:

cake with whipped frosting and rainbow sprinkles
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 1012 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) 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. 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.
  5. 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Just tried this yesterday and I’m a novice baker but tasted INSANEEEE!

  2. I used this recipe for a 6 layer unicorn cake, the layers I colored rainbow. The cake was light, fluffy and delicious very happy with this recipe, it will be my go to white cake from now on! I filled it with your buttercream frosting. Not too sweet, just amazing! Wish I could upload a photo to show everyone!

  3. Hi Sally, I was wondering if I can use this recipe for a canolli cake? Just bottom and top layers of cake and in the middle plenty of ricotta… (canolli filling)?
    Thank you form Italy

    1. Absolutely! Simply fill with a cannoli filling you love. I have to try making a cannoli cake sometime.

  4. Hi Sally,

    Can i make this cake without sour cream? May I know what I can substitute for it?

    Thanks,

    Meg

  5. Help!!! I want to use this cake with caramel icing that was made in the crock pot. Would it be good to use salted butter instead of the unsalted butter with the caramel icing to give it a salted caramel kind of flavor?? Also should I make this recipe twice and make it 4 layers so that there’ll be a whole lot of caramel going on or should I use one recipe and make the layers thinner??

    1. Hi Brandi, For four layers you can make this cake twice (for the best texture we don’t recommend doubling the recipe). Dividing this between four pans for four thin layers would work also if you don’t need as large of a cake (bake time would be shorter). I’m unsure which caramel frosting recipe you are looking at but for our caramel frosting it’s ok to use salted butter for a saltier taste!

  6. I have made this cake recipe before and LOVE it!! It is such a delicious white cake. However, this time I am planning to make three tiers using 8-inch pans. Does the frosting recipe yield enough to frost the layers and outside of a three tier cake?

    1. Hi Brittany, It should be enough. However, if you wish to make thick layers of frosting or wish to have extra to decorate with you can use the quantities of frosting in this three layer Best Vanilla Cake.

  7. Hi Sally! A few questions… Will leaving these cakes in the cake pans to cool completely dry it out? Should I make a simple syrup to brush over before frosting? About how long should I leave it out to cool (when will I know it’s ready to frost?)? Also, I saw that someone asked this above but will people be able to taste the sour cream that goes in this? I’m making this for my boyfriends birthday and he hates sour cream lol. Sorry for all the questions, I’m excited to use this recipe!

    1. Hi Mariah, I’m glad to help. I always let cakes cool completely in the pans and haven’t noticed a loss of moisture. No need to add a simple syrup unless you want to. (I never do to this cake.) The cakes take a few hours to cool in the pans– about 3 hours. You can’t taste the sour cream– it’s really just used for moisture.

  8. This recipe was amazing. I personally love chocolate flavor. But after making this cake, i’m in love with vanilla cakes. Everyone loved it. It was the perfect recipe. The sponge was velvety, and the buttercream had the right amount of sweetness. Thank you so much for this recipe.
    (I substituted sour cream with yogurt)

  9. Hi Sally, For my husband’s birthday he would like a vanilla cake with a lemon buttercream frosting. I am planning to make this cake and was wondering if you have a lemon frosting (or other suggestion)?
    Thanks for your great recipes!

  10. Made this cake with your strawberry cream cheese frosting and added sprinkles to make it confetti and all I can say is WOWZA!! I have made your yellow and vanilla cakes as well and this one was my favorite! So light and fluffy and I couldn’t stop eating it. I saw a few other people comment saying these were thin layers but I have to disagree. This was the perfect sized two layer cake. Can’t wait to try this with many different types of frosting and variations! Thank you again Sally for always having solid, excellent recipes for me to make and impress myself and others!!

  11. Never have I ever made a cake that turned out so well, I always manage to have over-moist or dry cakes but this one turned our perfect! The texture was unlike any cake I’ve ever had before.. spongy but fluffy at the same time. And nothing has satisfied my sweet tooth like this cake recipe along with the frosting in a long time. So happy I chose to use this recipe and I feel like I can’t ever go wrong with picking my cake recipes from Sally’s baking addiction.

  12. This recipe looks delish! Would this recipe work in 3 or 4 6-inch pans, or would I have to increase the recipe a bit?

    1. Hi Shana, This recipe yields about 7 cups of batter. You only need between 3-4 cups of cake batter for a three layer 6 inch cake. See recipe note #2 for a link to calculating different size pans.

  13. Hi I just made this for my son’s birthday. It was delicious. I live in the UK and not always easy to get the same ingredients, but I was able to special order cake flour (unbleached). My cake turned out extremely moist, like the centre of cake pop’s moist. We loved it but from UK guest who might expect maybe a bit drier cake, can you think of what we might do differently? Make sure fresh baking powder? and level measures? Higher heat in the oven? [my oven is not always right}. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

    1. Hi Susan, I’m glad you tried this cake. I wonder if the cake layers were underbaked? Or perhaps a little extra cake flour next time will help (such as an extra 50g). I don’t think oven temperature would be the issue here.

  14. THIS. IS. THE. CAKE!
    I’ve been hunting for the perfect vanilla cake, and after making at least 20 recipes, this is the most flavorful, lightest and perfectly textured I’ve come across. The 5 egg whites + sour cream make all the difference.
    @Sally – if I wanted to make this an almond, would you recommend swapping out a 1 tsp or 1.5 tsp of the vanilla for almond extract? Thanks!

    1. Hi Leigh! So glad you enjoy this cake recipe. Thank you! For an almond cake, I would use 1.5 teaspoons almond extract and 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract.

  15. Hi Sally ,

    If I am using 9 inch pans what should the height of the pans be ? Can I use the one below ?

    Calphalon Nonstick Bakeware, Round Cake Pan, 9-inch

    1. Yes, this pan works. We bake this in a 2 inch high round pan.

  16. I have made at least 8 white cakes since April trying to find something that resembles my wedding cake. This is a perfect match! It’s soft, moist and fluffy. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Ashley, This batter will fit into a Bundt pan. We haven’t tested it so I’m unsure of the bake time needed.

  17. I want to try this recipe with a lemon curd filling and an italian merengue buttercream frosting I already made. Do you think I should lower the amount of vanilla extract in the cake recipe? These would be for 2 – 8 inch pans.

    Thanks!

  18. I love your recipes and they almost always turn out near-perfect the first time. I definitely did something something with this one though. I filled the liners 2/3 way and they barely made it to the top. The texture was of course weird due to the lack of rise. I suspect over-beating. I only have a hand-mixer and I sometimes wonder if it’s more “severe” than a typical stand mixer. (I only have the wire whisk-like attachments so I can’t get the typically paddle action.) I actually timed the mixing times since it seemed important in this recipe, and now I wonder if it was too much. The batter looked normal until I added the milk (which had been sitting out for almost two hours) but after that it looked slightly grainy. The only other thing I can think of is that I’d let the butter get too soft. Do you have any ideas?

    1. HI Karen, it’s likely the butter was too soft. Room temperature butter needed for proper creaming is actually much cooler than most think. (See my Room Temperature Butter post.) Additionally, make sure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh. I find they both lose strength after just 3 months. Finally, see my How to Prevent Dense Cakes. It applies for cake recipes you turn into cupcakes, too.

  19. After reading all the comments, I can’t wait to make this cake for sister’s birthday in a few weeks. I have a question about the frosting you listed with the recipe: can I use this frosting to write on the cake, will it be thick enough?

    1. Yes, we pipe with this frosting all the time! I hope your sister has a great birthday 🙂

  20. I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday and it was absolutely delicious! This recipe will definitely be a regular in our house! Thank you.

  21. Hi Sally – I made this cake for my son’s 5th birthday and added 2/3 cup sprinkles to it. It overall turned out well and everyone enjoyed it. However, it took quite a bit longer (about 10 more minutes) than the 25 minutes stated in the recipe. At the 25 minute mark it was still really jiggly in the middle so I waited until the toothpick came out clean, checking every 1-2 minutes. I found the cake to be on the verge of being too dry. I spooned/leveled the cake flour, had all new ingredients, and followed the recipe as close as possible (aside from the added sprinkles). Any advice for future attempts?

    1. Hi Haley, Thank you for trying this recipe! The sprinkles shouldn’t have made much of a difference. Did you divide the batter between two 9-inch round cake pans? Any different size pans would change the bake time. But all ovens are slightly different so if you notice that the edges or tops of your cakes are browning before the cake is finished, you can loosely cover it with foil while it finishes baking. If you are interested here are 10 Baking Tips for Perfect Cakes.

  22. Hi Sally, I am planning to make this cake for my daughter’s birthday. She has requested a hazelnut cream filling. Do you have a favorite recipe for that flavor filling?

  23. I have been looking for a white cake recipe for quite some time! It’s been two years and this one was the best cake I’ve ever baked! It’s not dense, came out of the pan with ease, even the batter was amazing! Thank you so much for this recipe, this is my go to from now on

  24. Hello, Sally! This recipe looks fantastic and I would like to make it for my dad’s birthday, but his favorite cake is white cake with poppyseeds. If I soak the poppy seeds ahead of time (I’m thinking 1/3 cup of seeds) , do you think I could I add them to this cake? I have never been disappointed with your recipes and am hesitant to try elsewhere. Thanks in advance for any insight you may have!

    1. Hi Kate, You could add up to 1/4 cup of poppy seeds – no need to soak them first!

  25. I am a complete beginner. I have tried making simple vanilla Cake several times but they all turn out to be a big flop because they turned out too dense and dry. After reading up, I learned that it is because of the temperature of the ingredients. So today I made sure that I set out all the ingredients on the kitchen table one hour before I started making my cake. Still, my cake turned out to be dense and dry, though it was not as bad as last time. Is the reason solely because I use plain flour instead of cake flour?

    One thing I noticed about my cakes after several failed attempts was it always turn out to be dark Brown; it never turns out to be a beautiful yellow color. It is so frustrating to see this after I put in much effort. I wonder why. I did not bake it for too long. Is it because I use fan mode while baking?

    1. Hi Julie, I’m happy to help! You really do need cake flour and not plain or all purpose flour in this (and any cake calling for it). Cake flour is much lighter. You can read more about it and also how to make your own if you don’t have any in this post on Homemade Cake Flour Substitute.
      All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. While convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting, if you have the choice, we don’t recommend convection settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

  26. I’d like to use this white cake recipe as a foundation for making other flavors. I’d like to try making cakes using flavored syrups (Torani or Monin – such as you’d find at a coffee bar). Sally, any advice on how much syrup to use? Would I reduce the milk by the syrup amount?

    1. Hi Mark, I think that sounds like a great idea, but it would require additional testing. I know those syrups are usually sweetened. You would likely have to reduce the sugar as well as reduce the milk. Let me know if you test anything!

  27. Hi Sally! I’ve made this cake many times with success!! I’m wondering if I could add apples to it to make an apple cake? Planning to use your snickerdoodle frosting. But I don’t know if small apple bits will ruin the texture of the cake or add too much moisture! Let me know what you think. As always, thank you!!!

    1. Hi Debra, Diced apples would be excellent in this cake batter, especially with that frosting! I recommend gently folding 1 cup of the apples into the batter before spreading it into your pans. Let us know if you try it!

  28. Hi,
    I made this cake with the directions you provided but the cake came out dense and flat. What do you think happened? I followed the directions exactly you had written. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jennifer! There could be a handful of reasons from over-mixing the batter to accidentally over-measuring the flour. Make sure you follow the recipe closely, mix as little as possible, and spoon and level your flour. What may help even more, though, is giving my post about how to prevent dense cakes a quick read. Lots of helpful information that will definitely help for next time.

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