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.
  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
  • 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

  • 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

1053 Comments

  1. Hi! Your site is my go-to for all things baking! I just went to make this vanilla cake for my daughter’s bday and my cake flour is almost empty! I have about one cup cake flour left. Can I use AP to finish off the flour or do I need to make an emergency run to the store? Thanks so much for the help!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melissa, Usually a homemade cake flour substitute works, but it’s not ideal for this recipe. You can certainly try using your one cup of cake flour and then trying the substitute for the remaining flour needed, but keep in mind the cake won’t be quite as light as intended.

  2. My family loves this cake! How would I adjust the recipe to make slightly thicker 9″ layers? I usually use 8″ pans but for # of guests I have to go with 9″. Thank you.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debbie, you would try 1.5x the recipe for slightly thicker layers, but we don’t recommend filling the pan much more than half way for fear it will overflow and bake unevenly. You could then use any leftover batter for some cupcakes. Hope this helps!

      1. How would I adjust the eggs? Thank you for getting back to me so quickly!

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Debbie, you would need 4 1/2 eggs plus 3 egg whites for 1.5x the recipe. 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. Enjoy!

  3. Hi Sally
    I made your vanilla cake. I read all the directions several times and followed it to the letter. I use milk with vinegar because I didn’t have buttermilk. The batter looked great up to the point before I added the milk, after adding it curdled. It turned out to have a weird texture not cake like at all. I’m not sure what I did wrong?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sherri, The most common reason this happens at this step is that your milk is too cold when you add it. Be sure that all of your ingredients, including your milk, are room temperature. You might find this post helpful: Room Temperature Ingredients Make a Difference.

  4. Hi Sally, I love this website, thank you so much for sharing your recipes . A quick question- would I get the same results if I halved the recipe and used 6 in pans? I know you have 6 in cake recipes (have used them- they are brilliant!) but I want to use this recipe for son’s birthday in a few weeks and would like a practice run…. And there are only 3 of us at home to eat it… many thanks xx

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi San, 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!

  5. This recipe made my husband of 30 years say it was the first time one of my cakes looked and tasted like it came from a professional bakery! He always loves my baking and this one outshone everything I’ve made before. Foolproof recipe if you follow it accurately. I fill it and frost it with your chocolate cream cheese frosting and toasted hazelnuts and it is magnificent. Thank you Sally.

  6. Rebecca McClung says:

    Sally, I printed this recipe back in 2019 and it only calls for 1 tsp of baking powder. Did you adjust your recipe? If so, why?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rebecca! After making this cake a few more times in newer variations, we found that more baking powder helps keep the crumb lighter which is especially important with a layer cake. Honestly, 1 teaspoon is great but we like it with 2 teaspoons better.

  7. Hi

    Can i use All purpose flour instead of cake flour? I cant go to supermarket and really want to try your recipe. Thank you

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rawish, the cake may be a bit be denser and heavier, but you can use this cake flour substitute in a pinch.

  8. Justine Altman says:

    Hi Sally, I adore this recipe and have used it many times. If I wanted to use square cake tins this time what size square tin do you recommend (if using the exact ingredients and quantity in the recipe?) and would it give me three layers like the round version?
    Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Justine, other bakers have reported baking this cake batter in two 9×9 pans with success! You could use three 8×8 pans for thinner layers. Let us know what you try!

  9. Yes, the BEST vanilla cake ever! I made it yesterday for my husband’s birthday (vanilla is his favorite) and despite my lack of baking talent, it was killer! (Oh my! I must have actually followed the directions!) Thank you Very much for the recipe and for your continuous review/improvement of your recipes (I read the comments :-D). This is a WOW of a recipe!

  10. Hi sally, is it possible for me to use whole milk instead of buttermilk in this recipe to make a oreo cake version? If so , do i ommit the baking soda?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Angelica, if you have whole milk, you can use it to create your own buttermilk by adding lemon juice or vinegar (see recipe notes for details). We don’t recommend leaving out the baking soda. If you’re looking for an Oreo cake, you might enjoy our Cookies & Cream Sheet Cake instead.

  11. Hi Sally, thank you for another stellar cake recipe! Is it possible to make this into a 9 inch two layer cake, and how would that affect baking times?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi SumBunny, for a two layer cake, we recommend using our 2 layer white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake.

  12. Wow! Just wow! I had some buttermilk to use up and a birthday coming up that needed a cake. This is killer, so light and fluffy. I beat the eggs in until it looked like whipped butter a full 2-3 min. I will be filling the layers with cherry jam and Mock buttercream frosting. My new go to vanilla cake recipe

  13. NOT the best, I am sorry. It’s average. I trusted all the 5 star comments, I wish I did not. Very heavy, not moist – actually, looking at the picture to this recipe, you could see that it’s dry…overall just….average. Oh well, I should have went with my usual recipe.

  14. Will this work fine in a silicone mold of the number 6? My daughter turns 6 this week.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Erin, we’ve never made this cake in a silicone number mold, but we can’t see why that wouldn’t work. You may not need the entire batch, depending on the size of the mold. Feel free to use any leftover batter for a few cupcakes.

  15. Hi,
    I want to use this recipe for a friends wedding cake but she wants the cake to have an almond flavor, how much almond extract would you recommend to add in the batter?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mikayla, we recommend using half vanilla and half almond, or even 3/4 vanilla and 1/4 almond depending on how strong you would like the flavor. Enjoy!

  16. Hi Sally, you have been a blessing and a life saver. I’m a disabled Navy Veteran with severe chronic pain issues. I have developed a love for baking that has helped focus my attention away from the everyday physical pain. Your recipes are amazing and have helped me bring the joy of great tasting desserts to my family, friends and neighbors. I have even sold a few cakes with inspiration from your recipes. Thank you for being my virtual mentor for all things baking, have another awesome day.

    1. Thank you so much for your kindness, Aubrey! I’m so glad my website and recipes bring so much joy.

  17. Hi Sally,
    I don’t have three cake pans, and don’t have the time to make them separately in one pan one after the other. Could I bake all the batter together and then slice that into three layers?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Valeria, we find that it is very difficult to bake cakes correctly when they’re thick – they won’t bake evenly or rise properly with too much batter in the pan. For best results, we recommend sticking with the recipe as written.

      1. Valeria Slapak Brown says:

        Thank you Sally, I ended up doing it in three batches with my only pan. I made the layers today (Friday), but I’m planning to assemble, and serve the cake on Sunday. What’s the best way to keep the crumb fresh till then? Thanks again for your quick responses.

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Valeria, we recommend freezing the cakes – 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!

  18. Hello Sally!
    You are my go to for all things baking! I’ll be making this recipe for a “pumpkin shaped” cake. The pan looks like two Bundt halves. Any modifications to be made? I do need the cake to be fairly dense to decorate so I’m using this recipe instead of your white cake I’ve used so many times. Thank you!!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelly, how fun! See recipe notes for tips on baking as a Bundt Cake.

      1. Kelly DeRonne says:

        Ok thank you, I did read those notes and I was just wondering since the pans are the likely more batter than for just one bundt cake, I’ll plan on doubling. Safe to simply double ALL ingredients equally? I know sometimes doubling isn’t as simple as that 🙂 One last question- is this the best recipe for white cake that you have to hold up in this type of mold? Dense enough, etc.?

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Kelly, we recommend making two batches instead of doubling for best texture. You may also love this denser cream cheese pound cake!

  19. i have made this many times for a three layer 9″ cake. i have to make a three layer 10″ cake for a large party. do you think 1.5 of this recipe is enough? or should i just make it twice (don’t like to double recipes) and make four smaller 10″ layers?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  20. Hi Sally. I have to make a 2 layer 12” cake so I wasn’t sure how many times I would have to make the batter. What would you recommend?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Syerra, our cake pan sizes and conversions guide will be helpful for scaling this recipe for your needs. Happy baking!

  21. Kelly DeRonne says:

    Absoluted THE best! It’s the perfect combination of sweet, dense, and just a little hint of the buttermilk. DELICIOUS! Ive made and cooled the cake but need it two days from now and made it today. Should I freeze and defrost or refrigerate it until I’m ready to frost? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelly, You can wrap the cake layers well and then store it in the refrigerator for 2 days. Enjoy!

  22. Jamie Farrell says:

    Do you have a favorite cake flour brand?

    1. Hi Jamie, I really like King Arthur Flour or Swans Down brands of cake flour.

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