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 (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

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 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. 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

956 Comments

  1. I made this cake for my grand-daughters birthday. I turned it into a unicorn cake. We have several lactose intolerant people in our family so I made it with plant based butter and almond milk w/vinegar. Turned out wonderfully. Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

  2. This really was the best vanilla cake I’ve tried! I spaced it over 3 x 7 inch tins as that’s what I needed and baked beautifully but shrank the last couple minutes in the oven! Any tips? Cooked too long ?

  3. Hi Sally,
    I made this cake for a Thanksgiving lunch at my office. It was a huge hit! Everyone loved it. No left overs.
    Thank you.

  4. Hi, so i really want to try this cake but i want to make my own cake flour, i don’t know how to go about it because of the 420 grams of flour, should i still use 16 grams of cornstarch or more?

  5. Could I use a peppermint white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream to frost this cake, Sally? I’ve got to make a dessert for Christmas dinner and I was thinking a peppermint white chocolate cake would be delicious; maybe with some homemade peppermint bark on top as decoration 🙂 Thoughts? Or any suggestions?

    1. Sounds delicious! I haven’t tried making a peppermint white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream, so let me know how it turns out!

    1. As the bottom of a tiered cake? Definitely. And you can use cake dowels. As a single 4 layer cake? Yes to that as well– just divide the cake batter into 4 baking pans and reduce the baking time since the cakes will be thinner.

  6. Hi Sally,
    I need to make a vanilla cake to feed 30 people (cut into small rectangles as you would a wedding cake) and have decided to go for a 3 or 4 layer 10 inch round cake. I have made this recipe before and love it, but do you have any suggestions for how I could adapt the quantities for those requirements?
    Thanks for any help, I use your recipes for all my baking!

    1. Hi Lucy, I have not tested this cake in 10 inch round pans. Wilton has a good chart to help figure out how much batter and the bake times for different size pans that you might find helpful: https://www.wilton.com/cake-serving-guide/cms-baking-serving-guide.html

  7. Is this cake recipe for a moist vanilla cake? I was thinking of adding vanilla bean paste to the frosting, but I was really interested in searching for a very moist cake. It’s

    1. Yes, the eggs and buttermilk ensure that this cake is extra moist! For best results follow the recipe without making any substitutions!

  8. Thank you. I figured the buttermilk would do the trick. I’m going to make this cake for a coworker’s birthday. Will let you know how it turns out!

  9. Hi, I saw one of your blogs on tips to avoid dry and dense cakes, and you mentioned using oil. Does this cake not require oil to help with moisture? Would a vanilla simple syrup add more moisture and vanilla flavoring? I’m planning to make this for my daughter’s birthday party and I want to make it a day ahead for the sake of time.
    Thanks:)

    1. Hi Jillian! This cake, as written, is moist. You don’t need to add oil or vanilla simple syrup after baking. Though you can definitely add a brush of simply syrup while the cake is still warm if you want to.

  10. Hello Sally! I was wondering if I can fold raspberries into the batter or if that would ruin the consistency of the cake. My brother requested a vanilla raspberry cake for his birthday so I was thinking of doing that with raspberry jam between the layers.

  11. Hi what is the difference between the vanilla cake and the white cake? I want to make a two tiered birthday cake and the bottom be vanilla for rainbow colors but it says to maybe use the white cake recipe so it’s denser. Would it be denser if I use the vanilla cake recipe with ap flour? Also I’ve always used organic ap flour and everything tastes great. Should I try it both ways? I’m a chocolate lover so wasn’t sure if the white cake recipe is too bland. Thanks.

    1. Hi Christina! My white cake is fluffier (and pristine white!). This vanilla cake has a more traditional buttery crumb– it also yields slightly more batter and is slightly more dense (not much). Both cakes are soft, moist, and flavorful. This vanilla cake would be a little better as a bottom tier. I recommend sticking with cake flour.

  12. Hi sally! I wanted to make this cake Sunday for Tuesday do you feel like it would dry out before then? Or do you think I should make it Monday or Tuesday? Thanks so much for your help!

    1. Fresh cakes always taste better. You could make it Monday evening and leave the cooled cakes tightly covered at room temperature overnight.

  13. Hello 🙂 I’m excited to try out this recipe for my boyfriend’s birthday this weekend. I only have two 9″ cake pans so I think I’ll have to bake each cake off individually instead of all three at once. Should I reduce the baking time or temperature?

  14. I am going to be making a cake for my sister-in-laws baby shower this week and this one sounds perfect. I am wondering if this would be dense enough to make into a tiered cake? Can I make this three layer in 9″ inch pans and then a smaller version to sit on top? Would a three layer 6″ cake work and if so, how would I adjust the batter? And, would I need to put supports into the base cake? Thank you!

    1. Hi Sarah, This recipe as written is for three 9-inch cake pans. For the top 6-inch tier I recommend following this recipe: 6 inch cakes.
      I do recommend using the proper supports (cake round and dowels) between tiers anytime you stack a cake!

      1. Both cakes should have the same texture – although neither should be very dense. Be sure you are using cake flour as the cake will be denser and heavier using all-purpose flour.

  15. I baked for almost 40 minutes at 180C’ but still uncooked. Used 6″ pan and 3/4 batter from this recipe. Using Samsung 3-1 (Microwave, Grill and convection) appliance.

  16. Hi Sally, thanks for clarifying my question in regards to moistness. I also wanted to know if I could make this into a four layer cake using 8 inch cake pans?
    Thank you!

      1. Hi, I am excited to eat this! I have 3, 8 inch pans. It seems cake pans come in every size imaginable! Does the recipe need altering in baking time or duration? Thank you so much!!

  17. I’ve made this cake twice now and it really is a fantastic recipe! I just divided the batter into two nine inch tins and baked for 50 minutes. Also, I found the flavour a little too intense the first time, since the frosting is also very, very intensely flavoured. So I reduced the amount of sugar, salt and vanilla essence that went into the cake the second time around and it was perfect. Thank you for the recipe and all the tips that ensured success!

  18. Hey sally

    I’m looking to make this recipe for my daughters first birthday. I would like to make a #1 cake…the dimensions of the pan are 15.2x10x2. Would this recipe work for something like that? Should I double it?

    Thank you! Love your recipes!!!!!

    1. Hi Sarah, I would love to help but unfortunately without testing that specific pan I’m unsure of how much batter you need. I would assume that this batter would fit (or even have too much – which you can use for some extra cupcakes) but let me know if you try!

  19. Beautiful cake! Made this for my son’s 11th birthday, on the 8th of Jan. He absolutely loves vanilla cake, and adored this. Was so easy to make and delicious. Thank you for a wonderful recipe. Will make it again for my father in laws 80th, on the 17th of Jan. Thank you once again.

  20. Hi, can’t wait to try ,my question is I’m making this cake for a wedding cake 3 tier 12,9, &6 in with a 16in chocolate bottom cake , I was wondering if you think this cake has too soft of a crumb and I should go with the naked cake vanilla recipe or it will hold up just fine? Thank you so much

  21. Made this cake for my one year old birthday party!! Turned out great!! Thank you for this recipe and for all the great recipes you have on your website, used your recipes for all the birthday desserts and everything turned out perfect!!

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