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.

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. 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 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
  • 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 (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

1217 Comments

  1. Can this recipe be adapted into lemon flavored? I have made this one before and it was delicious but my family loves lemon!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kayte, we haven’t tested a lemon version of this exact recipe, but we recommend trying our lemon cake. (Or you can try replacing some of the vanilla extract for lemon extract and add some lemon zest here.) Let us know what you try!

  2. Hi sally I really liked the taste and moistness of this cake .but it feels a bit oily at the bottom .does it mean it needs more baking

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shaz, If the cake seems baked through, it could simply be that your pans were too heavily greased.

  3. Hi, I’ve made this cake twice now. I love the flavor but it is really heavy. Is there a way to make it lighter & fluffier?

    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, Thank you for trying this recipe! Here’s a helpful post on preventing dense cakes for next time.

      1. Thank you so much! I read the article and I think overcreaming the butter&sugar and then overmixing is most likely the problem. I made myself notes for next time.

  4. Hello! My family lovessss this cake and requested it for Easter. I want to make it a few days ahead. Will the cake be okay if it is refrigerated for 2 days or would I need to freeze it? How long can the cake last in the refrigerator before it needs to be eaten? Thanks for your help!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amal! Cakes can dry out in the fridge, and we don’t recommend freezing whole cakes as the buttercream can crack and separate from the cake. If at all possible we would recommend baking the cake layers ahead of time, keep them covered tightly at room temperature until ready to assemble, and assembling the cake the day of serving (see recipe notes). Otherwise you can tightly cover the assembled cake and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

  5. Hi about how many calories are in the cake without frosting?:) Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Johan! We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  6. What adjustments do you suggest for baking this cake at high altitude (7,500ft)? My cakes have a tendency to fall at this altitude. thanks for the advice, I’m really looking forward to trying this cake.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mhairi, we wish we could help, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. We know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

      1. Hello! Can I please know whether it would be alright to use an 8 inch round cake pan for this cake? If not, what changes would I have to make? Thank you in advance

  7. Hello! I mixed the lemon juice with the milk (2%) but it doesn’t seem to be curdling. Is this okay or should I add more?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Connie, so sorry we’re just seeing your question now. If it sat for 5+ minutes, it should be good to go. We hope you loved this cake!

    2. Can I half this recipe to make a smaller cake? Usually when doubling or halving the ingredients it messes it up

      1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Sana, you can halve this recipe for a smaller cake, or you might follow our vanilla cupcakes recipe instead. It makes the perfect amount for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake.

  8. I made this cake today, tasted great, but I thought it was a little dry. Most scratch cake you alternate the dry and wet ingredients. Perhaps this would be better for this recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary! We didn’t find that necessary for this cake. If your cake is dry, it could have been over-baked. Use proper room temperature butter and other room temperature ingredients and make sure you spoon and level the cake flour next time, too! Here’s an article about preventing dry, dense cake that may be helpful as well.

      1. Thank you for the help.

  9. This is the best vanilla cake I have ever made! We usually make boxed cake with homemade frosting because my homemade cakes have never turned out that good in the past. This is the first time my homemade cake turned out just as fluffy as boxed cake – but it tastes better of course. When adding the buttermilk it was stinky 1 but once mixed in it really works with it.

    The buttercream was good – a bit better than the standard buttercream I usually make. I just used regular 2% milk because that is what we always have.

    I think the best is in the details. I appreciate all the baking lessons in this recipe :).

    Thank you!

  10. This cake is delicious. I followed everything exactly for the cake and the frosting. So good! It’s not to sweet which is great. I was able to use duck eggs when I made it this weekend and it was even better than the first time!(I used the same amount of eggs)I only wish I could share a photo of what I made here(there is a photo on my Instagram @icemoonphotography) Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rachel, thank you so much for your feedback! We’re thrilled this cake was such a hit for you. We always love to see reader photos — feel free to send it to us as [email protected] Thank you again for giving this recipe a go!

  11. Hi Sally,
    Would I be able to halve this recipe so i can make a small 6” cake. If yes how would I halve the eggs in this recipe??!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ameera! You can use half this cake batter for 6 inch cakes, but halving it can be a bit tricky. For the eggs you can do 1.5 whole eggs (Our general rule for halving an egg is to crack it open, beat the yolk and white together with a fork, measure the volume (should be a few Tbsp), then use half) and then 1 egg white. Or, you might like our 6 inch vanilla cake recipe instead. The two are similar, but with this larger cake we like to use buttermilk instead of sour cream and whole milk simply because larger cakes tend to become denser quicker and buttermilk helps prevent that. This cake also needs a few egg yolks for structure. Hope this is helpful!

      1. Hi Sally,

        I love your cake recipes and have tried few of them, they turned super hit. I am planning to make this vanilla cake for my daughter’s birthday but want to make as doll cake for 25 people, can I just double the quantity and use different inch mold??

  12. Any downside to adding mini chocolate chips to the batter?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharon! You can definitely add mini chocolate chips. We recommend 1 – 1.5 cups.

  13. I’m looking to make a 10” cake. Would you suggest doing this recipe 1 1/2 or double and yielding an extra layer?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer! Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes.

  14. I am trying to make a 3 layer cake using 8 inch pans. I know that i will need 3 1/2 cups of cake batter in each pan. But I would like to know how any cups does this recipe make? Just so that I make the right amount of batter. Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carla, This recipe yields *about* 8 cups of batter. We use about 2 and 2/3 cups of batter per layer.

  15. Mike Sutter says:

    Hi Sally. What distinguishes this cake from your favorite white cake recipe? How will this differ in taste/texture from the white cake or yellow cake recipes? My dad wants vanilla cake for his birthday and I want to make sure I get it just right. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mike, The white cake is a little lighter in texture than this vanilla cake. It’s also a bit smaller, too.

  16. Found this recipe and never looked back. It really is the best vanilla cake recipe!

  17. This cake came out perfectly- thank you so much! Best vanilla cake I have ever had for sure! Thanks for making our birthday celebration special and delicious! Can’t recommend this recipe enough!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So happy to hear that this cake was a hit, Lauren!

  18. I’ve seen recipes that use a combination of butter and oil for the cakes to make them moist and light – would you recommend this for this cake or stick with full butter?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi James! No, do not use oil. Stick with butter for this cake.

  19. Alex watson says:

    love it so fun

  20. I found this cake too buttery and oily, several other people tasted this cake and felt the same. It was not their favorite and not my favorite. I will use it again but I will make some alterations to balance it out. I will take out some butter and add more vanilla to make it less butter flavor and more vanilla. But this cake is very moist which I do appreciate. I just wouldn’t recommend if you don’t like super buttery, oily cakes. Also I liked the buttercream, it was just a little sweet for my taste but everyone else that had the cake really liked it.

  21. It was fine

  22. Hi Sally! I’ve made your recipe multiple times now and have had success every time. It’s so delicious! I’ve been asked to make a small wedding cake later this month and would like to use your recipe. I would like to achieve an almost perfectly white cake and have heard that I can use just egg whites (no yolk) to help achieve this. Do you know if I can substitute (2 egg whites = 1 whole egg) for this recipe? If not, do you have a go to recipe? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica, we do! We’d recommend following our White Cake recipe instead — we use egg whites only there to give us a pristine white, fluffy cake. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  23. Omega MacKenzie says:

    I love the taste of this cake! but mine always ends up dry 🙁 I have made it a couple times now, what can I do to prevent this from happening??

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Omega, over baking is usually the culprit for overly dry cakes. For next time, try taking it out a minute or two before you typically do and use a toothpick to ensure it has baked through. We also share some more tips and tricks for preventing dry and dense cakes here. Hope these are helpful for next time!

  24. At the beginning of this recipe, it talks about cutting to level the cakes. Are you not a big fan of cake straps so you don’t have to cut them?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jeff, Some readers swear by the cake strips! Even when using them you may still have to slightly level your cake layers, but if you don’t then that’s great!

  25. Brittany M Whaley says:

    Hi,
    How can i adjust this recipe for a 3 layer 8″ cake vs the 9″?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brittany, You can use 8 inch round pans for slightly thicker layers with no changes to the recipe. You may need an extra minute or two of bake time since they layers will be thicker – use a toothpick to test for doneness. For alternate pan sizes you can visit our post on Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions to help calculate how much batter you would need.

  26. Wow. Followed this recipe to the letter, and it’s flawless. So very good, the best vanilla cake indeed! Thank you for such clear and direct instructions in your printed recipe and in your videos. Your confidence gives me confidence.

  27. Hi Sally!
    I am going to be making your Lemon Blueberry cake next week for Mothers day and I wanted to use this vanilla recipe instead of the cream cheese. I wanted to know if the frosting ingredients all needed to be room temperature or just the butter?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Natalia! It’s best to have the whole milk or heavy cream at room temperature, too. A good rule of thumb: if the recipe calls for room temperature butter, the rest of the ingredients should be room temperature as well unless otherwise specified. Hope the cake and buttercream are a hit for Mother’s Day!

  28. Hi, my family wants me to make this cake for a birthday so there is going to be writing on top, is the frosting a good frosting to pipe or should I make a different one?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, this buttercream is great for piping. Or, for an even crustier buttercream, you can follow the buttercream recipe from our gingerbread house recipe instead. Hope your family enjoys the cake!

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