The Best Vanilla Cake I’ve Ever Had

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.

Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting

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.

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, 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

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. If needed, you can use this cake flour substitute.
  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. I actually use the same exact batter to make snickerdoodle cake!

Vanilla cake batter

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.

How to level a layer cake

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

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

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.

Print
Vanilla cake

Best Vanilla Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 12-14 servings
  • 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.


Ingredients

  • 3 and 2/3 cups (420g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated 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 (345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 6 cups (720g) 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 3 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. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a homemade cake flour substitute.
  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 needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  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

881 Comments

  1. I made this cake for my sons first birthday and it was amazing. I doubled the recipe and coloured each of the six layers to make a rainbow cake and it looked great and I had so many comments on how delicious it was too. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. I made this for my daughter’s birthday. It was so good! I used chocolate cream cheese inside and vanilla buttercream on the outside.

      1. I used whole wheat pastry flour and made a cream cheese frosting! Wow… Absolutely delicious. The recipe is gold and will be made again!

  3. I’m going to make my daughters princess Poppy cake with this recipe. I’m needing to make a 9” cake for the head and about 20 or so cupcakes for her hair. Will this recipe make them? Also do you think homemade marshmallow fondant would taste good on it? I’m planning to cover her face with it then use your frosting on her hair.

  4. Sally, this recipe sounds great. Because I don’t particularly care too much for the vanilla flavor, would it be possible to cut down on the vanilla extract in the cake? If so, how much can I cut it down to without ruining the end result? Thanks in advance!

  5. I totally forgot to put the buttermilk in the cake batter and went ahead and baked the cakes without it!!! Do I need to start over or do I just use the cakes I have? How different are they going to taste? I should’ve read the recipe much closer 🙁

  6. Hi Sally. Thanks for the great recipes. I tried this vanilla cake and it was delicious. But while the cupcake I made from the batter was light and fluffy, my assembled cake, that I cooled and doubled wrapped in plastic wrap for about two days before assembling, was dense. Can you tell me what I did that changed the cake’s texture.

    1. Hi Tonya, If the cupcakes turned out well then the culprit likely lies in the pan, or baking time or temperature of your cake. Make sure you are using the correct size pan for your cakes (filled no more than 2/3 full). You can also check out this post for more troubleshooting tips: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cake-baking-tips/

  7. Hi,

    I love this recipe! If I was to halve the recipe would you recommend putting it in two 9-Inch pans and baking for around 25 minutes?

  8. Hi Sally, I came across your site and am excited to try your recipes for the first time this weekend! I am making a first birthday cake for my niece and am thinking of doing two (2) 10-inch cakes to feed a crowd (I’m worried I won’t be able to slice a 9-inch cake thin enough to get 16 servings). Do you think this recipe as written will yield enough batter for the 10 inch cakes? Or should I 1.5 x the recipe? I’m thinking of pairing with your strawberry cream cheese icing (which I’ll double). Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Hi Stephanie, yes, this recipe as written will be enough for 2 10 inch cakes. You may even have leftover cake batter, so stretching to 3 10 inch cake pans would be fine. Fill the cake pans halfway.

  9. Hi Sally…. I have recently started trying your recipes and I am totall obsessed with each recipe I try.
    I would like to bake your vanilla cake into 2x9inch pans and 2x6inch pans. Will this batter be sufficient?

    1. I’m so glad you have been enjoying the recipes, Taaz! This recipe makes three 9-inch layers. If you want to mix up pan sizes the amount of batter would completely depend on how many layers of each you would like to make. Here are some tips on making 6 inch cakes that you might find helpful: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/6-inch-cake-recipes/

  10. Hi! I’ve been trying to get buttermilk at the story but they only offer low-fat buttermilk. Is that okay to use, or am I better off using regular milk with vinegar? Thanks!

  11. I’ve made this cake a few times now. I try to reserve it for the most special occasions, as I feel it’s not fair to the other cakes. I’ve made it with full fat buttermilk, low fat buttermilk, make-your-own buttermilk with whole milk and vinegar. I’ve made it with cake flour, and I’ve made it with the do-it-yourself cake flour where you use cornstarch. I’ve used super expensive gourmet Mexican vanilla or the grocery store generic. It DOES NOT MATTER, this recipe is fail proof. Everyone, EVERYONE says it’s the best cake they ever put in their mouths. They take the first bite like it’s any old cake, look surprised, close their eyes, and take their time and enjoy the rest. The crumb is perfect, the texture is heaven, it’s somehow dense and light and moist and like eating cake at a fairy wedding while riding a unicorn. Love love LOVE this recipe!

  12. Hi,
    I love this recipe! If I was to halve the recipe would you recommend putting it in two 9-Inch pans and baking for around 25 minutes?

    1. Hi Sarah, If you cut this in half you would have two very thin layers. For a 2 layer cake see recipe note #3 for my recommendation!

  13. Hi,i just made this cake and it’s extremely flavourful and amazing. I’ve tried so many recipes in the past and they all were a fail. Also,i felt like my cake needed some sugar syrup to lock in the moisture. Anyways,it was really really amazing. Thanks for this recipe♥️

  14. This is the very best vanilla cake ever. I have made several times with the best results. Today’s cake however I failed to add the entire amount of flour. I only added 3 cups and am short 2/3 cup. So I wanted to share this suggestion. Always before pouring batter make sure you go back over the ingredients so you won’t short or leave out something. I don’t have scale. What should I expect my cake to be like with less flour? Thank you for a wonder site.

  15. Thank you sally very much for the recipe, I made it and it was so delicious and light, but next time I want to reduce the quantity of sugar what do you recommande please?

  16. Truly one of the best buttery and vanilla-licious cakes I’ve made! So light and moist! I haven’t even frosted it yet, and it will be an act of disciple not to devour it straight up!

  17. Hi Sally,
    I will be making a 2 tier cake. A 12″ and a 9″. I’m not a professional so I dont have so many cake tins. Can I bake the cake in the required tins without having to distribute in 3 cake tins. I can cut the layers. I understand the baking time will be longer
    Do I double the quantity for the 12″ cake or add another half of the required quantity.
    Will appreciate if you could guide me.
    The cake will be covered with pettinice. How much icing do you think I will need.

    1. Hi Sophia, it’s hard for me to say since I’ve never tried this recipe that way. The only ways I’ve modified it are listed in the notes. This cake should tier nicely, especially if you’re using cake dowels for support. It’s probably best to have extra batter on hand to make sure you have enough. I recommend making 2 separate batters instead of doubling, which often risks over or under-mixing.

      1. Thank you Sally I think I will follow your suggestions to bake it in layers.It may be easier and not have to worry about the result.
        Thank you for your advice. Will let you know how it went.

    1. If your cake turned out too dense there could be a few culprits. I think you will find this post very helpful in troubleshooting: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cake-baking-tips/

  18. My husbands birthday is coming up, and this is a recipe I am sure to try. I have 2 9 inch baking pans. I plan on making it a 3 tier cake. Would to have to double the recipe?

    1. This cake is written for three 9-inch layers so if that is what you are wishing for then no need to make any changes. If you are wishing for a larger cake I recommend making this one recipe at a time and not doubling it for the best taste and texture.

  19. I’ve been searching for a recipe for my daughter’s birthday cake. I think this is the one! Only I have a question—I want to confirm that the baking powder is only 1 teaspoon? I’ve seen it higher in other recipes with similar ingredients, including your white cake. I’m a novice baker, so just want to make sure. Thanks!!!

  20. Hi Sally!
    Made this for a birthday, did not have buttermilk so I used 1/2 cup Greek yogurt and 1 cup of milk instead. I baked it in two 9 inch spring form tins for 30-35 minutes. Turned out GORGEOUS! Filled it with rapsberry jam and buttercream on top. Will definitely make again.

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