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

945 Comments

  1. Doreen wong says:

    Can I use gluten free flour for this recipe

    1. Hi Doreen! I don’t have much experience with gluten free baking, so I’m not the best person to ask! Here are some of my naturally GF recipes: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/category/gluten-free/

  2. What measurements do I need for a 2 layer 12” x 18” cake? Should I just double everything? And thank you for sharing your recipes! Every one I’ve tried has turned out so tasty!

    1. Hi Sarah! I would prepare the batter twice– do not double. Doubling often risks over-mixing or under-mixing. That should be plenty for your layer cake, though my vanilla cake recipe yields more batter and may be the better recipe just to be sure you have enough. Again, make that batter twice.

  3. Hi Sally, I wonder if you know if frozen (then thawed) egg whites would work in these cakes?
    Sorry for the very strange question!! – I was SO excited to make this cake and had used the egg yolks the day before in other things (your amazing key lime pie and choc chip cookies to be precise!!) but then something came up and I couldn’t make the white cake 🙁 so I froze the whites since they were all 5 already together.
    I have heard you can use egg whites that have been frozen but have never done it myself so wonder if you have any knowledge on this? Thanks so much! 🙂 I just reeeaaaalllly want to try this cake!

    1. Hi Robyn! Using frozen (and thawed) egg whites shouldn’t be a problem. Let me know how you like the cake!

  4. Hi Sally,
    Can I use pure vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds like you use in your vanilla cupcakes recipe? Would you recommend using half of the amount of extract your cake recipe calls for and then adding the vanilla bean seeds?

    1. Hi Areli! Yes, definitely. I would use 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract plus the seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean.

  5. Hi after making how should I store the leftovers?? Can I store them on the counter or do I need to refrigerate?

    1. Hi Kristin! Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

  6. Hi Sally,

    I’m a big fan of your lemon blueberry cake – I even use the batter to make my son’s birthday cake each year (which I decorate with various piped designs using your buttercream). This year, I want to make a two layer 9 x 13 cake with an oreo buttercream in between the layers. One top of the cake I’ll be piping a soccer goal and grass, on top of which I’m going to place a small frosted half-dome soccer ball (baked with the same batter as the cake, but in a 1 qt glass bowl). No fondant – and I plan to use your recipe for “favorite vanilla buttercream” for decorating. I’m just trying to decide which cake recipe will be better suited for this: This one or your vanilla cake shown here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/vanilla-cake/. What do you think? If the latter, I’m guessing that two batches should do the trick, since 2 x 9 inch pans is equivalent to a 9 x 13 inch and the recipe is for 3 x 9 inch layers?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenn! I would use this white cake recipe, simply because these 2 layers transfer to a 9×13 inch cake pan easily. Or try my vanilla sheet cake recipe.

  7. Hey there. I would like to turn this into a confetti cake. May seem like a silly question, but what is the best step to add the sprinkles? Also, are there sprinkles you would advise not using (i.e. ones that won’t bleed into the batter)

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Alex! You can definitely add sprinkles to this cake batter. I recommend using about 1/2 – 2/3 cup sprinkles. Gently mix them in after the batter is done. Avoid nonpareils (the little balls) as they instantly bleed their color.

  8. Hi Sally, I know this has been answered before, but I love this cake and want to use this for making 6″ cake. I tried your 6″ cake recipe as you have suggested but it didn’t come out as good as this one. Is there any specific reason we cannot use this to divide the batter in 3 6″ pans? Thanks

    1. Hi Swati! You can absolutely use this batter for a 6 inch cake, but you will have enough for about 3 3-layer 6 inch cakes.

      1. Thank you for replying so quickly Sally. Could you please advise the time for baking and the temperature. Thanks

  9. Hi Sally,
    I want to make a vanilla chocolate layered cake. I would like them to have the same consistency and I really like this recipe. Can this cake be converted to a chocolate cake?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ashley! It would take some recipe testing. Instead, I highly recommend my zebra cake (which makes both vanilla and chocolate batters) or this white cake and my chocolate layer cake.

  10. Hi Sally,

    Do you know how I could adapt this to a red velvet cake? I absolutely love the texture . It’s the right balance of fluffy and moist.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Kay! I’m unsure, but here is my red velvet cake recipe if you’re interested. Much more velvet-y texture.

  11. Megan Murray says:

    This is a great recipe! Sally, would it make terribly much difference if I used vanilla yogurt instead of sour cream in this recipe? I’m not a fan of the tangy tartness I feel sour cream gives the cake, and I have substituted yogurt for sour cream before. What do you think?

    1. Hi Megan! You can definitely swap the sour cream for vanilla yogurt in this recipe. Same amount.

  12. Thank you so much for this brilliant recipe. Soft and moist and best of all no smell or taste of eggs. I halved the recipe and it still came out well. Used it as a base for my pralines and cream cake. Everyone just loved it.

  13. Hi Sally, I’d like to make this a 3 layer cake in my 8inch pans, do you think I should double the recipe or would the one you have here work ok?

    1. Hi Emily! The cake batter recipe, as written, can be split between 3 8-inch cake pans. The bake time will be about the same. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  14. Is it necessary to wrap the cake pan in a towel?

  15. Hi Sally! (I apologize if this is posted twice, my internet went out.) I am making your Chocolate Zucchini Cake x2, for my son and daughter’s joint birthday party. I’d like to use this vanilla buttercream (also x2) to frost both cakes. I also have to pipe The Flash’s symbol on one cake and borders around both cakes. Will this recipe (x2) be enough or should I make another 1/4-1/2 the recipe for the decorating? Thx!

    1. Hi Nicia, It really depends on how thick you pile on the frosting when you make the cakes! I usually error on the side making too much frosting – and if you have leftover do you know you can freeze unused buttercream?

      1. Ooh! I can freeze it? Good to know! I’d rather have too much leftover than too little for my little project. Thanks Sally!

  16. Hi Sally so I finally got to make this for a colleagues birthday and it was fantastic!! Was gobbled up super fast! I loved the ‘bakery-style’ moist texture! I asked earlier about using frozen/thawed egg whites and it worked perfectly I think, so thanks for the reply and for another fantastic recipe!! 🙂

  17. I love this recipe, I made it for my mom’s birthday, it was amazing! What would I need to do to able to make two 12″ rounds of this cake?

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I have not ever tested this recipe in a 12 inch pan but I do refer to this chart often when comparing pan sizes: https://www.joyofbaking.com/PanSizes.html

  18. Sarah Richards says:

    Made this today and holy Dinah, was it good! Tons of vanilla flavour and moist beyond belief. Made it into a rainbow swirl cake for a kids’ party and the color came through very vibrantly.

    My one suggestion is that the bake time for the 9 x 13 modification was way too long. Recipe says 40 minutes and cake was perfectly done in 32.

  19. I LOVE all of your recipes! 😀
    Would this be the recipe you’d recommend for a 2 layer sheet cake?

    1. Hi Amy! It depends how large your sheet cake is. You can use this batter twice for a 2 layer sheet cake or if you need more batter, this vanilla cake batter.

  20. Hi Sally! I might have a silly question with an easy answer. I tried making a half batch of this recipe and put it in a 6 inch round pan. I ended up using 3 egg whites, and I put in for about 40ish minutes to compensate for the smaller but deeper pan. The edges, and bottom were a lovely color at that point and the top was getting dark. When I inserted the toothpick in the center it seemed to come clean, but when I cut the top off to even it and ice it the middle seemed wet. It was chewy and stickier in the center down to the bottom. I’m trying to figure out if I didn’t bake it long enough or if it was too much egg. I’m wondering if you have any advice on what may have caused that issue and how to fix it. Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Devon, It was probably a combination of both! Eggs make cutting recipes in half tricky – next time you can try using two egg whites and only half of the third white. Also with deeper pans it’s more difficult to get your layers to bake evenly. Try tenting a piece of aluminum foil over the top about half way through the bake time so that the top doesn’t get so brown as the center bakes.

  21. Hi Aileen, The weight measurements are correct. Cake flour is much lighter than regular flour!

    1. Hi Sally, I plan to use this recipe on 3pcs of 5 inch pan. Do i bake for a shorter period im the oven since the pan is smaller?

      1. Hi Roselyn, Yes the bake time will be shorter in such small pans. Probably around 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  22. Would you please create a six inch two layer cake?

    1. Victory Iferi says:

      Yesss. Please sally! I’m dying searching for a recipe for 6 inch 2 layers

  23. Looks wonderful. Question… Is the flour measured before or after sifting? Measure then sift or sift then measure?

    1. Hi Milly! Before measuring. If the word “sifted” comes before the ingredient (flour, in this case) you sift before measuring. 🙂

    2. That is a really good question! I always assumed you always measure then sift and in this case is the other way around.

  24. Hi Sally, if I am using the plain yogurt in this cake how much should I use?

    1. Hi Anna! Same amount as sour cream– 1/2 cup.

  25. Hi Sally,

    If I wanted to use buttermilk instead of sour cream, would that work? If so, how much should I use?

    1. Hi Becky! The best way to use buttermilk is to have it replace both the sour cream AND milk in this recipe. Use 1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk, then leave out the sour cream and whole milk.

      1. Isabel Monterrey says:

        I recently made this cake, and I used buttermilk to replace the whole milk and I still used the sour cream. The cake was still delicious, however, the cake was falling apart was the use of both ingredients the reason for it. And I also used four jumbo whites instead of the five large egg whites.

  26. I’d like to turn this recipe into a 3 layer cake….should I 1 1/2 the recipe instead of doubling it? Thanks!

    1. Hi Denae! For best texture and taste results, I recommend my vanilla cake recipe which is 3 layers. Same soft, buttery, and fluffy crumb.

  27. Hi Sally!

    I am baking this cake for my daughter’s first birthday on Saturday (it will be her personal smash cake), but I also want to bake an additional sheet cake for the rest of my family to enjoy. A 9×13 cake won’t be big enough…can I bake this cake in 12×7 jelly roll pan?

    Thanks so much! (made your blueberry muffin loaf last night with fresh apples from apple picking and its divine!!!).

    1. Hi Hallie, a 12×7 jelly roll pan would actually be smaller than a 9×13 inch cake. If you have a large crowd I would suggest making this recipe twice and making 2 9×13 cakes. Enjoy!

      1. I’m so sorry–I meant a 12×17 half sheet pan! Would that work?

  28. Sally can i use all whole milk in this recipe and leave out the sourcream & baking soda?

    1. No, I recommend following the recipe.

  29. Hi Sally. Why do you recommend cooling the cakes in pan? Thanks

    1. Hi Basia! It’s simply how I prefer to cool my round cakes. If you prefer cooling the cakes outside of the pan, you can remove them from the pans after about 15-20 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

  30. Jamie Downer says:

    I need two 2 tier cakes, would you recommend doubling this recipe or should I just mix one at a time?

    1. Hi Jamie, for best taste and texture, I always recommend making two separate batches of batter.

      1. Thank you so much! Gonna make this into cupscakes tonight. Need 135 cupcakes and figured I’d use this recipe since this is more than the vanilla cupcake recipe.

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