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

1108 Comments

  1. Sally you are my go to for birthday cakes (3 yrs running) . Question for you: to make a rainbow layered cake from this would you recommend distributing half the amount of batter into round tins? Also if so, how long would you bake for? Any other changes you can think of? Thanks again, your cakes (and recently cinnamon rolls) are always a hit!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sara, 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!

    2. This was by far the best vanilla layer cake I have ever made! I followed the directions to a T and it was absolutely perfect! Thus will be my go to cake from now on!

  2. Tina Rutkowski says:

    Super terrific recipe! It is truly perfect!
    Thank you for adding the approximate cups of batter to your recipes…. I made 3 separate batters to do an 11×15 cake!

  3. Hi – I have self-rising Presto cake flour. Do I need to make any modifications to recipe if I use this type since it already has baking powder? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jill, The use of self rising flour would require additional recipe testing so we can’t confidently recommend how to use it. Because it has leaveners already added into it, it’s best to use a recipe that is written specifically for self rising flour and stick to all purpose for this cake.

    2. I just used this recipe to bake a cake yesterday for a small gathering and I used the self rising cake flour that had baking powder and salt already in it. I just left out those 2 items from the recipe and it came out soooooo good. It was a big hit and the entire cake was gone in 10 minutes flat! 2 people were actually arguing over the last piece lol!

      1. Do I have to use white cake batter (included in the note for using a 9X13 inch pan) or can I use this recipe for the 9X13 inch pan?
        Thank you

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Nora, this batter is too much for a 9X13 inch cake. You can use the White Cake recipe listed in the recipe notes or you can also take a look at my Vanilla Sheet Cake which is written for a 9×13 inch pan.

  4. Can I add gel food color to the recipe for the sponge so I can have the sponges be different colors (like if I want it to be a rainbow cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Definitely!

  5. Can you add mini chocolate chips to the cake batter? If so, how much should you use?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Linda, Sure can! We recommend about 1 – 1.5 cups of mini chocolate chips.

  6. Dayira Garcia says:

    Hello!
    Sorry if I’m asking a question that was already answered. Tried looking through the comments to check, but couldn’t continue passed page six haha

    Im wondering if other frosting flavors would work okay with this cake instead of the vanilla buttercream. I was wanting to make a cake with cream cheese frosting. Would cream cheese frosting work well with this recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dayira, absolutely! Cream cheese frosting would be delicious on this vanilla cake recipe.

  7. Hi Sally! I love this recipe and wanted to make it in cupcake form for my boyfriend’s birthday! I wanted to do half vanilla frosting and half chocolate frosting… I know you recommended the piñata cake frosting but could I use your chocolate buttercream frosting instead since it makes less frosting? Or would you recommend another type?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dia, chocolate buttercream would be delicious here!

  8. Debbie Myers says:

    Hi Sally!
    Just wondering if this cake could be iced with the buttercream recipe above, and then covered with rolled fondant.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debbie, absolutely. This cake holds up well under fondant.

  9. Hi, Sally! I’ve made this cake last year for my son’s birthday and I was planning to repeat it but he wants it with strawberry can I just add some to the batter?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ana, for a strawberry flavor, we’d recommend following our strawberry cake recipe instead. They can be a tricky ingredient since they add so much moisture to a recipe, so it’s better to follow that recipe specifically formulated for using strawberries. Or, you could make this vanilla cake and use strawberry topping between the layers and / or top with strawberry frosting. Hope this helps!

  10. Hi Sally, if I double this recipe or make it twice, would it be enough batter for a 12”x18”x3” sheet pan? By the way, I absolutely love all your recipes!
    Thanks,
    Judy.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Judy, This batter, as written, is enough for a thin 12×18 inch sheet cake. We’re unsure of the best bake time. Or how about our 9×13 inch vanilla sheet cake or our 12×17 inch funfetti sheet cake. (You can leave out the sprinkles.)

  11. Followed to a t and it did not rise

  12. I’m just wondering if the amount of butter in the cake recipe is correct…three sticks seem like quite a bit (and I cross checked with other similar recipes and this is far more than others use). I don’t want it to be greasy tasting.
    Thanks!

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna, Yes, this is right. It’s a very large cake! Let us know if you try the recipe.

  13. Thanks For Sharing this amazing recipe. My family loved it. I will be sharing this recipe with my friends. Hope the will like it.

  14. I have made this cake before and it’s definitely the best vanilla cake! Could I adjust it to three 8″ layers? I’m thinking make the batter as usual, fill up the pans half way and use the extra batter for cupcakes? Would the 8″ layers bake for more or less time?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mare, You can use your 8 inch round pans for slightly thicker layers with no changes to the recipe and no leftover batter. You may need an extra minute or two of bake time since they layers will be thicker – use a toothpick to test for doneness. Hope it’s a hit!

  15. I should give 5 stars. Cake was perfect! It didn’t last a day in my house but it’s very sugary for me. How do I reduce the sugar to get same results?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adwoa! Sugar is used for moisture and texture in baked goods as well as taste. You can certainly try reducing the sugar, but the resulting texture will be different than intended.

  16. Loved the cake. Nice to have a recipe that results in a large and delicious cake. The only problem I had was the edges of two of the layers that I baked using cake strips were very crumbly but the third one without strips was normal and didn’t dome. So I guess I won’t use cake strips with this recipe. Thanks for the recipe.

  17. Hi Sally! Unfortunately in our country we dont have cake flour… You mentioned the homemade substitute (that I normally use) is not ideal, but should it work or do you have another option? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

      1. Thanks a lot! Ill try it! I want to Bale 3x 6 inch cakes (but a bit higher cakelayers for a taller cake, my cakepans are 3 inch high). Is this recipe suitable and can I use the same amounts?

  18. What would happen if I made this with ‘cup for cup’ gluten-free flour?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested it, but let us know if you do!

  19. Everyone loved this cake! I was wondering your thoughts on adding more extract( say double) or even adding a vanilla bean with the extract to make it even more flavorful. I’m not one for vanilla cakes because I never believe they have enough flavor.

  20. Thanks For Sharing this amazing recipe. My family loved it. I will be sharing this recipe with my friends. Hope the will like it.

  21. When you say 3 whole large eggs plus 2 eggs white do I just pour the eggs white into the batter or do I blend the eggs whites first and fold into the batter with a spatula?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lashawn, you can simply pour the 3 whole eggs + 2 egg whites into the batter as written in step 3. No need to blend them first. Hope you enjoy the cake!

  22. I am baking this cake today for a wedding next weekend. Did a test run a couple of weeks ago and it was by far the best vanilla cake I have ever tasted! So at least I know the flavour will be a success. The assembly remains to be seen

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pam, Let us know how the wedding cake turns out! Happy baking!

  23. Made this cake for the first time today. It was absolutely delicious. Followed the recipe exactly and the cake was so moist and flavourful. Need to make a bit more icing next time!

  24. I have made the recipe three times now and the flavour is awesome. The only issue I have is that when they are in the oven, they rise beautifully only to sink when I take them out of the oven. Any ideas?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chris, sinking cakes are often due to an under-baked center. An extra minute or two in the oven should help, and use a toothpick to test for doneness. We’re so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying this recipe!

  25. Hi Sally- Love all your recipes and I have learned so much from you. I made this once before for a baby shower for about 12 people and it was a huge hit. I have now been asked to make this for a shower for about 30 people. I will have two batches of cookies to go with it but I am still concerned that this recipe will not be enough. Do you think this will be enough or should I make two batches and make a 10″ cake instead of 9″? We will not be cutting huge pieces but I want to be sure it is enough with a little left over. Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pat, it really depends on how big the slices are, but this recipe yields approximately 8 cups of batter which is helpful if you need this batter for different cake pans and conversions. Hope it’s a hit!

      1. Thank you so much! I have two more questions. I really want this to come out perfectly since this is such a delicious recipe! I need to make two batches to have enough batter to convert to 3 10″ round pans. 1. Do I have to adjust leavening amounts or adjust any other ingredients? I read somewhere that leavening amounts need to be adjusted. 2. If so, how much and I will ask a 3rd! Do you think 3 10″ layers will be too tall of a cake to cut properly? Again, thank you for your guidance with this!

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Pat, if making two batches, you’ll want to make them separately rather than doubling. This ensures that you don’t accidentally over mix the batter, so simply make each batch as written, including the same amounts of leavening agents for both batches. Three layers should be just fine! If you’d like, you can use cake dowels (like we do for our homemade wedding cake) for extra support.

  26. Hi! I was wondering how would I go about incorporating a jam swirl, it’s a blackberry reduction? Would I need to take out some liquid, or because it’s just being swirled in, not mixed, would it be fine?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Monica, we haven’t tried adding jam to the actual cake layers — it would require a bit of recipe testing to ensure that the cakes are too too liquid heavy. Alternatively, you could add it between the cake layers with the frosting.

  27. Hi, Sally. i have tried your vanilla cake and vanilla cupcake for one birthday party… and its amazing. all the guests and especially the host love it.

    Thank you for sharing the recipes.

  28. Hi sally!! Love this recipe, the sponge is amazing. But when I bake it, the cake seems to rise a lot in the oven and looks perfect! But when I take it out, it sinks all the way and the sponge ends up quite thin with a rim around the edge. The flavour and texture is still amazing but what could be the reason for this?? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Yasmin, sinking cakes are often due to an under-baked center. An extra minute or two in the oven should help, and use a toothpick to test for doneness. If you find the edges are baking too quickly, you can tent the edges of the pan with foil so they’re covered and the middle can continue baking. We’re so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying this recipe!

  29. Hello there. I would like to use this recipe, but I wanted to use a heart shaped cake pan I recently inherited from my grandmother. It looks to be a 9in. pan, would this be okay or would I have to adjust the recipe, bake time, etc.? Thank you in advance! I tried your marble cake recipe and LOVED IT 😀

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dahjia, depending on how many layers you want to make, you can reduce the recipe if only making one. Or if making a few, use the recipe as written and fill the pan half way. Use any leftover batter for a few cupcakes. Hope this helps!

  30. Rachel Grzybowski says:

    I was expecting the cake to be better with all of the reviews. In all honesty it tasted similar to cornbread and was dense. Not as light as I expected. I followed the recipe to a tee and my husband has been a chef of 20 years.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Rachel. I often run into this problem when I’m testing cake recipes. Cakes can take on the texture (and even the flavor) of cornbread if the ratio of ingredients are off. Additionally, pay close attention to your mixing methods as well as the types of ingredients you’re using. Never reduce the sugar, either. If you’re ever curious to read more, here are all of my tips to prevent your cakes from tasting like cornbread. Thank you again.

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