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

1197 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. Can I use thicker strawberry filling in between layers vs icing?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rebecca, absolutely. We do still like to use a light layer of frosting when using fruit fillings to keep the layers from sliding around. You might also want to pipe a border around the layer to keep the filling from coming out the sides. Hope you enjoy this cake!

  8. Can this recipe be halved?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can certainly halve all of these ingredients (each one) for a smaller cake. Or you can try our smaller 6 inch vanilla cake recipe. You can leave out the sprinkles and apply a simple layer of vanilla frosting. (Skip the fancy buttercream flowers!)

      1. Actually I am trying to avoid sour cream, I find the cakes made with sour cream to be very dense. Will try to make a smaller cake by halving this recipe.
        I have tried many vanilla cake recipes but not happy with any so far!

  9. What if you can’t make homemade buttermilk and you don’t have buttermilk is it ok with out

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kaelyn, buttermilk (or the DIY version) is really best here. It’s necessary to help activate the baking soda and it helps create an extra moist cake crumb. We’d highly recommend making your own DIY version with lemon juice or vinegar using the recipe notes as a guide, or getting an actual carton of buttermilk. Hope this helps!

      1. My buttermilk is in powder form, though I usually do the DIY, but since I was able to source out buttermilk, what will be the equivalent if liquefied?

  10. Hi Sally! Love this cake recipe, have made it several times. Wondering if this cake could hold the weight of a 6- inch layered cake on top?? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jeanne, sure can! We use this recipe as the bottom layer for our simple homemade wedding cake.

  11. Absolute rubbish. The buttermilk has made the cake too soggy.# and hence never setting properly.

  12. Wonderful recipe! I made it into cupcakes it was great! I may add a tiny bit more vanilla next time.
    You rock!

  13. did you update this recipe? i have a printed copy from 6/2020 and it has 1t baking powder but this one has 2t. i have made the other one several time but wasn’t sure if i need to make the change for a lighter crumb???

    1. We added more baking powder to help achieve a slightly lighter crumb. No change in taste or flavor! Let us know if you try it.

  14. Hello! Can you substitute canned coconut milk for the buttermilk?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mark, we don’t recommend it. You need the acidity in the buttermilk (or DIY sour milk in the recipe notes) to activate the baking soda. Plus, it helps produce an extra moist crumb. Let us know if you give this cake a try!

  15. Can I decrease the recipe to half?? Or will that mess up the moist delicious feeling of the cake? It’s just toooo much for my family. Thank youu 🙂

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nick, you can certainly try halving this recipe, or our 6 inch vanilla cake is also a delicious choice. Let us know what you try!

  16. How do I half the recipe? Because there are 3 eggs. Please help.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Supriti, 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. Or, for a smaller recipe yield, you can follow our 6 inch vanilla cake recipe.

    2. Thanks for sharing I will try to use the recipe any time I want to bake.

  17. How long would I bake a 4” round smash cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jade, we’re unsure of the exact bake time, but it would be much shorter. You can use our 6 inch cakes post as a guideline, but know that the bake time will be even quicker than that.

  18. can i use salted butter ?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie, if using salted butter in the cake, reduce the added salt down to 1/2 teaspoon. You can use it in the frosting too, then just salt it to taste.

  19. Loren Russell says:

    Hi. Would this recipe work for one 12in by 3in cake pan?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Loren! You can use our handy cake pan sizes and conversions guide to scale this recipe for your needs. Hope you enjoy this cake!

  20. Hi Sally, Can I make this cake and use a blue berry or strawberry filling in between the layers?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Roshelle, absolutely. We do still like to use a light layer of frosting when using fruit fillings to keep the layers from sliding around. You might also want to pipe a border around the layer to keep the filling from coming out the sides. Hope you enjoy this cake!

  21. Hi Sally, could I add a Tbs. of lemon juice to the cake, for more flavor?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Margaret, we haven’t tested a lemon version of this exact recipe, but we recommend trying our lemon cake if you’re looking for a lemon flavored 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!

  22. I love baking:) says:

    Hi! Can I use salted butter for the frosting?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You bet! Add salt to taste.

  23. I like your cake tips. I need some cake for my kid’s birthday. I’ll have to get him vanilla cake.

  24. Can i use yogurt or sour cream instead of buttermilk. No buttermilk in this part of the world.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Buttermilk (or the DIY version) is really best here. It’s necessary to help activate the baking soda and it helps create an extra moist cake crumb. If you don’t have buttermilk available, you can make your own DIY version with lemon juice or vinegar using the recipe notes as a guide. Let us know if you give this cake a try!

      1. Ruby Quarles says:

        Hi Sally I’m trying really hard to make a giant cupcake and every thing I’ve tried made my cake come out deliciously flavorful but DENSED. Would this recipe work for a giant cupcake? Please help me make a fluffier cupcake.

      2. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Ruby, We have never tested this batter in a giant cupcake pan before. However, you may wish to try our white cake recipe as it’s a little bit lighter. Usually when you pour a lot of batter into one pan, vs baking several thinner layers, the cake won’t rise as much as the batter is heavier leading to a more dense texture.

  25. Hi.. I am looking to create a 4 layer alternate vanilla and chocolate cake. Do you have recommendations for recipes or how to go about it?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pree! You could use the cake recipes from our triple chocolate cake (2 layers) and favorite white cake (2 layers and great vanilla flavor) for a 4 layer cake. Would love to hear how it goes!

      1. I can try that .. would it hold it up structurally once stacked ? Could I repurpose these recipes for 8 inch tins ?

  26. aaliyah mcfarlane says:

    I’ve made this cake 3 or four times now
    Each time I’ve made it, it is extremely dense and tough.
    I don’t know what I could be doing wrong as I followed this recipe to a t.

  27. KATHLEEN SIMMONDS says:

    Made exactly as directed. It WAS fabulous! I agree…best vanilla cake I personally have ever had or made! Big hit for my brother’s birthday get together. Some family members were having seconds! LOTS of compliments…thank you for sharing! xoxo

  28. Heidi Marie Reppert says:

    I have tried the triple chocolate cake recipe and like my cake a little more dense to layer. I was wondering if I added 1/4 cup cocoa, 1tsp baking soda and 3 tsp water/milk to this recipe if I would still have the same type of cake texture the vanilla cake provides?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heidi, For a denser texture in the chocolate cake, see the recipe notes and follow the “sour cream version.” You can certainly try your adjustments to this recipe, but without testing it we can’t be confident of the results. Let us know what you try!

      1. So I did what you suggested…added the sour cream/used the sour cream version. I also increased the cocoa to 75 grams. This recipe was the BOMB! My customer loved it and the cake pops that are created from the leveling scraps were also a hit! Thank you for getting back to me. This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe now!

  29. Stella Arterbury says:

    How would you suggest modifying the buttercream to use honey for both sweetness and flavor. I have a great local honey with rich, dark flavor. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stella, We’ve never made honey frosting before but if you do a search for it there are many different methods online. It sounds delicious so let us know if you try a good one!

  30. Hi, Sally..
    I absolutely love, love your recipe. I made it today and my family are falling over each other to have a slice…
    Your new found fan… All the way from Zambia.

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