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With its outstanding vanilla flavor, pillowy soft crumb, and creamy vanilla buttercream, this is truly the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had. And after 1 bite, I guarantee you’ll agree.

slice of vanilla cake being served from a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting on white cake stand

Out of all the cake recipes on my website, there’s a glaring absence. There’s white cake with a pristine soft crumb, vanilla naked cake with a flavorful tight crumb, and checkerboard cake with a whimsical design.

What about a classic 9 inch vanilla cake draped in vanilla buttercream? I already have homemade vanilla cupcakes and a 6 inch vanilla cake covered. Now in all its crowning glory (and after plenty recipe testing catastrophes), I present you with cake perfection:

This is the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had.

slice of vanilla cake with 3 layers

What Makes it the Best Vanilla Cake?

Let’s count the ways!

  1. Soft, light crumb from cake flour
  2. Fluffy from extra egg whites
  3. Buttery and cakey from creamed butter
  4. Stick-to-your-fork moist from eggs & buttermilk
  5. Extra flavor from pure vanilla extract

Not to mention its versatility: This vanilla cake batter is strong enough for shaped cakes, tiered cakes (see the slight variation in my homemade wedding cake recipe), and holds up beautifully under fondant. Use this batter for vanilla cupcakes, Bundt cake, or even piñata cake. It’s classy enough for a wedding celebration, but unassuming enough for a big family dinner.

Vanilla cake slice on white plate

Behind the Vanilla Cake Recipe

After years of cake successes and flops, I’m confident in this homemade vanilla cake. During my recipe testing, I combined my white cake recipe and naked cake recipe. These are two reader favorites and I knew they’d be the best starting point. At first there were too many eggs and I quickly learned sifting cake flour was NOT doing any favors.

You need the following power ingredients:

  1. Cake Flour: If you want a fluffy and soft bakery-style vanilla cake, cake flour is the secret. The cake will be denser and heavier using all-purpose flour.
  2. Eggs & 2 additional egg whites: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs; stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination.
  3. Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Use both. Remember why? Using enough baking powder to give these layers height gave the cake a bitter aftertaste. Baking soda allows us to use less baking powder.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient and baking soda requires an acid to work. Plus buttermilk yields an EXTRA moist cake crumb. See recipe note about the alternative.

For more prominent vanilla flavor, use homemade vanilla extract. (What a fun DIY gift!) This vanilla cake batter is moderately thick and fits perfectly in 3 9-inch cake pans. We actually use the same exact batter to make snickerdoodle cake.

Vanilla cake batter in a glass bowl

Do you know how to level a cake? Let me help. It’s really easy. You can use a fancy cake leveler, but I use a serrated knife. Carefully slice off the tippy top of the cooled cake layers, creating a flat surface. Leveling cakes doesn’t require a ruler, talent, or any mathematical equations. Instead, just use your eyes, hands, and a knife.

Leveling the cake layers promises a straight and sturdy layer cake.

2 images of how to level a layer cake and stacked level cake layers on a white plate

2 images of vanilla frosting in a glass bowl and spreading vanilla frosting on vanilla cake

How Much Frosting Between Cake Layers?

I always eyeball the amount of frosting between cake layers, but I measured when I decorated the pictured cake. The vanilla buttercream recipe below yields about 6 cups of frosting. I recommend you use about 1.5 heaping cups of buttercream between each cake layer and reserve the last 3 cups for outside the cake.

Cake Decoration Inspiration: For a simple look, stick with vanilla buttercream, fresh berries, and mint sprigs. You can also decorate with chocolate buttercream (I recommend this amount), rainbow sprinkles, or even beautiful buttercream flowers.

Top of a vanilla cake with raspberries

Homemade Vanilla Cake Success Tips

Learn from my mistakes and bake the best cake on the 1st try!

  1. Follow the recipe closely. Use each power ingredient listed.
  2. Use room temperature ingredients. The batter mixes together evenly when all the cake ingredients are roughly the same temperature. This also reduces the risk of over-mixing and over-baking. Set out your ingredients 1 hour before beginning. Read here for more information.
  3. Line your cake pans with parchment. Place your cake pans on a large sheet of parchment paper. Trace the bottom of the cake pan with a pencil. Cut parchment paper into rounds. Grease the pan and the parchment paper. Parchment paper rounds guarantee seamless removal from the pan because the cake slides right out.
  4. Cool cake layers completely. I’ve tried taking shortcuts by assembling a layer cake with semi-warm cake layers. Well, the frosting completely melts and causes the entire cake to collapse. Make sure each layer is cool– refrigerate or freeze the layers if you need to!
  5. Refrigerate decorated cake. After frosting the cake, place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This is optional, but it sets the frosting and cake layers. You’ll get beautifully clean slices because the crumbs are cool and tight.

Great read: Check out Tessa’s Top 10 Best Layer Cake Tips.

Vanilla cake slice on white plate

Finding the perfect vanilla cake recipe requires a celebration. Luckily we have cake!!!

More Classic Cake Recipes

And here is my perfected vanilla cupcakes recipe.

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Vanilla cake slice on white plate

Best Vanilla Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 12-14 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

With its outstanding vanilla flavor, pillowy soft crumb, and creamy vanilla buttercream, this is truly the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had. Make sure you read through the recipe and recipe notes before beginning. This recipe yields approximately 8 cups of batter which is helpful if you need this batter for different cake pans and conversions.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 and 2/3 cups (433g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400ggranulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs + 2 additional egg whites, at room temperature*
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 and 1/2 cups (650g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the 3 eggs, 2 egg whites, and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. (Mixture will look curdled as a result of the egg liquid and solid butter combining.) Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, pour in the buttermilk and mix just until combined. 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. Weigh them to ensure accuracy, if desired. Bake for around 23-26 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’s 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, milk, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more milk if frosting is too thick, or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  6. Assemble and decorate: 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, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. I use and recommend an icing spatula to apply the frosting.
  7. Refrigerate cake for at least 1 hour before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  8. 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. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving. See how to freeze cakes for detailed instructions.
  2. 9×13 Inch Cake: I recommend using my white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake. See recipe notes for the 9×13 inch version.
  3. 2 Layer Cake: I recommend using my 2 layer white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake.
  4. Bundt Cake: This vanilla cake batter will fit into a 10-cup or larger Bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time (likely around an hour), but use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temperature.
  5. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 19-21 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen. Or try my vanilla cupcakes recipe.
  6. Cake Flour: To prevent a dry-tasting cake, make sure you are spooning and leveling the flour or weighing it. For the best results, I strongly recommend cake flour. You can find it in the baking aisle and I have many more recipes using it. Usually a homemade cake flour substitute works, but this recipe uses far too much cake flour and the homemade substitute is not ideal.
  7. Eggs: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs; stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination. Here are recipes using leftover egg yolks.
  8. Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 1/2 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  9. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  10. Want chocolate frosting instead?: I recommend the recipe/amount of chocolate frosting I use for Piñata Cake.
  11. Sprinkle Cake: To make a sprinkle cake, fold about 3/4 cup (120g) of sprinkles into the cake batter. Avoid nonpareils (the little balls), which tend to bleed their color.

Keywords: cake, vanilla cake, vanilla frosting, baking, birthday cake

Vanilla cake slice on white plate

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I’ve made this 2 years in a row for my daughters birthday. I got so many compliments. I still cannot believe how delicious this cake is. I even like it more than my professionally made wedding cake!!!

    I am a fan for LIFE!!! Thanks.

    1. I made this cake for my daughter Kim’s 31st birthday!
      Delicious! I’m a fan of almond extract, so I added alittle to the frosting. Thanks ,Sally’s addiction. 😉

    2. I made this for my grandsons girlfriends 18th. Birthday dinner. It is amazing. My favorite new go to recipe.

  2. Without a doubt, this truly is the Best Vanilla Cake! I’ve made it numerous times with great success! Most recently I baked it in 2- 8”x 3” pans, let it cool completely and then froze the layers. With the layers still partially frozen, I stood them on their sides and using a serrated knife evenly cut them in half. This is the easiest way to cut the layers evenly and perfectly in half.

  3. This cake was DELICIOUS!!! We did not have cake flour (or a sifter) so we just used all purpose flour and it still came out really well. I was very impressed. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!!

  4. I always love your cake recipes! All of them. The only problem I always have is way too much frosting? On your pictures your layers don’t seem execively thick, but if I would use all the frosting up I would have more frosting than cake and cm’s high frosting layers. Not sure why that is?

  5. I made this cake yesterday for my Christmas Birthday and served it at a fancy party for 12, layered with strawberries, amarena cherries and whip cream – it was delicious!! Everyone loved it. I live on a small chic French island – but cake making is just not their thing. I have chickens and so I used fresh eggs literally, from that morning – the cake was a rich yellow. Even the batter is gorgeous – velvety and smooth. I will look no further…this is my new cake recipe! Thank you for sharing it!!!!

  6. Great cake-Moist and tender… very easy to make. I used two 9inch pans because I could not find my 3rd pan… filled my pans 3/4 full- had a about 1/2 cup of batter left over… cooked for about 40 minutes.. I sliced each cake and made a delicious moist 4 layer cake… this will be my new yellow cake recipe. I love that you don’t have to dirty a separate bowl for the egg whites.

      1. Hi Linda! Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes – this recipe should yield approximately 8 cups of batter. And here’s our post on baking (3 layer) 6 inch cakes if you’re interested. Happy baking!

  7. I made this cake for Christmas and several family members commented that it was too dense and dry; not moist enough. What did I do wrong?

  8. love love love this!! i thought it would be too sweet when I tasted the raw batter but tasting it after it cooked it was perfect! i added about 20 grams less. i poured all my batter into one tin and made the leftover batter into cupcakes, they took about 25 minutes to cook. so good!! thank you

  9. please help, i want to double the batter quantity in my baking pans. how long do i need to bake them for in the oven and what gas mark do i need to use.

    1. Hi Maz, are you making a larger cake? We’re unsure of the exact baking time, so keep an eye on the cakes in the oven and use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temperature.

  10. Hi! I am planning to bake this recipe for my daughter’s class party. How many cupcakes would the recipe yield?

    1. Hi Mansi! We don’t recommend it. Too much batter in one 9 inch round pan won’t cook through evenly (burnt edges and raw middle). You could bake all the batter in a 9×13 inch pan – see recipe notes for those details. And if you only have one round pan, you could bake the layers one at a time, leaving the rest of the cake batter at room temperature as you work. Let us know what you try!

  11. Hey there, I am making a wedding cake for my brother. super simple cake so nothing fancy will be added. I was hoping to make it look a bit more like a wedding cake by making a 2 tier cake. what would you recommend for the cake pans to make this happen?

  12. I made this with my mom for my six-year-old sister’s birthday.
    We made the vanilla cake and added strawberries and whipped cream between layers, and it was SO good!
    I definitely recommend this cake!

  13. I am from Zambia, in Southern Africa. I made this cake and it is absolutely beautiful! This has become my go to recipe for white cake! Thank you Sally

  14. I have made many recipes from this site. I made this cake yesterday with the cream cheese frosting. I weighed the cake flour but for some odd reason the cake didn’t come out as fluffy as I would have hoped. Not sure where I could’ve gone wrong. The cream cheese frosting was a big hit.

  15. Hi there. Can I replace some of the buttermilk with Amaretto for an almond flavoured cake without using almond extract? If so, how much ?

    1. Hi Nicole, We haven’t tested it so we can’t say for sure, but it should work! It depends on how strong you want the flavor, but we would start with replacing a half cup of the buttermilk. Let us know if you give it a try!

    1. Hi Christine! Buttermilk is best for this recipe. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute – see recipe notes for details.

  16. Soooo, this is the best cake I’ve ever made, I know that’s subjective but it’s amazing. The only issue I have is is didn’t seem to have enough frosting…which seems hard to screw up. I weigh everything so it should be bang on, but after measuring out 1.5 cups per layer I didn’t have enough to cover the whole outside of the cake, any ideas? Or just cut back a bit in between layers?

    It seems like an odd problem to have LOL

    1. Hi Scott, so glad you loved this vanilla cake! Just use a bit less between layers next time or you can always make a larger batch if you prefer more frosting.

    1. Hi Nadine, I haven’t tested a nondairy version of this cake. Some readers have substituting nondairy butter (such as Earth Balance brand) and nondairy milk in my cake recipes and have reported back with success. However, I haven’t tested it. Results may not be as intended, so it might be best to find a vanilla cake recipe that’s developed with those dietary restrictions. (Just so you don’t waste your time!)

  17. My sister in law made this for my wedding and it was super good! I want to make some again, but now I live up in the mountains (about 5000 feet). Should I make any adjustments to bake this at high altitude?

    1. Hi Stacey! You can absolutely make a rainbow cake — we have many times! We typically split the batter among 5 pans for thinner layers. If you wanted, you could make the recipe twice for 6, regular sized layers (the cake would be quite large). We’re unsure of the exact bake time, but it will be less since the layers are thinner. Let us know what you try!

  18. Hi we looking into a new recipe ,but to use as stacking and craving will this recipe work for those kind of cakes

    1. Hi Sammy, You can make a DIY buttermilk as described in the recipe notes with a non dairy milk. Enjoy!

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