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, checkerboard cake with a whimsical design, and this layer cake filled with sprinkles.

What about classic vanilla cake draped in vanilla buttercream? I already have homemade vanilla cupcakes covered. But 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, 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: No way around this! 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.

This vanilla cake batter is moderately thick and fits perfectly in 3 9-inch cake pans.

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 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 3 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.
  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 cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch as instructed in these recipe notes. The cake will not be as light and fluffy.
  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

516 Comments

  1. Absolutely wonderful! Made this over the weekend for my daughter’s 4th birthday party and it was perfect. I used your raspberry buttercream for the top and nearly-naked sides, and made stabilized raspberry whipped cream for the filling. I was so pleased with how thick the layers are, as I feel like all the cakes I make lately have super thin layers and they end up looking like glorified pancakes. This one looked like a REAL BIRTHDAY CAKE — and everyone loved. Snacking on a leftover piece as we speak… yum!!

  2. Hi Sally I want to know if I can used this on a 1/2 sheet pan? I tried on a 9 it’s so good my fiance love it

  3. This recipe makes a lovely and fluffy cake, would just say that for three 9 inches diameter layers, each layer ends up pretty thin in my mind. I would have preferred a recipe that resulted in thicker layers.

  4. Hi there Sally,

    I need to make a cake (4 – layers) and 12 cupcakes. if I double the recipe – it should be more than enough right?

    What I am linking is the slightly denser crumb that you mention – the cake will be delivered on Friday morning – so I think it will be perfect.

    1. Hi Karen! That should be plenty, yes. But instead of doubling, I recommend making the batter twice. You risk over or under-mixing with added volume, which would ruin the texture of the cake.

  5. Thank you SO much for this! I have tried over a dozen different types of vanilla cake recipes and this one is PERFECT! I did it in three 8″ pans because I wanted thicker layers. It is so good that I made an extra cake for my boyfriend and I to eat tonight. I’ve been making cakes for 9 years and I never want to actually EAT cake! A++++

  6. Hi Sally. Thank you for sharing your recipes. I have a small oven and will not fit 3 pans in one go . Is it ok to leave the batter in one pan until the first batch gets done ?

  7. Hi, does the cooking / preparation time of 4 hours include the time it takes the cakes to cool and the extra hour we shouldn’t place the cake in the fridge after the fact?

  8. Hi Sally, I am baking this cake in a few days.. I’m thinking if I can use oil instead of butter? If yes, how do I do it? Would the taste and texture remain the same? Thank you!

  9. I just finished baking this and I agree, it’s the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had! I baked a 2 layer 8” cake and had extra batter for 6 cupcakes. The recipe may have just a little more sugar than I’d like, but by no means is it too sweet. I just had a cupcake and tasted the piece of the cake that i trimmed off and it was so good even without frosting. Follow the recipe to a T and you’re golden. Thanks for a great recipe! It will certainly be my go-to.

  10. Hi Sally
    I am making my twins their first birthday cake. Which is two seperate number 1 tins.

    Will this recipe be ok for a ‘ number 1 tin’.
    I would make them separately, not looking to double the recipe and split.

    The party is just 2 weeks away! Trying to do as much in advance as possible! Thank you xx

    1. Hi Ayshea, I wish I could help but without knowing the capacity of the cake pan you are using I can’t say for sure the amount of batter you will need! If you have enough batter to fill them about 2/3 full it should work. I hope it’s a great celebration!

  11. Made this for my daughter’s birthday party. Defiantly, the best vanilla cake ever. Huge hit.

  12. Hey Sally! I’ve baked this cake for the forth time today. I’ve made layer cakes twice. One time with vanilla Swiss buttercream and for Easter I made it with brown sugar Swiss buttercream. Both were amazing. I’ve baked it twice as a Bundt cake, no frosting, no glaze just the cake. My family and I love this recipe. The one issue I’ve had is that when baking in a bundt pan, the cake falls apart as I’m removing it even after copious amounts of flour. It’s so delicious that I will continue to bake it in a bundt pan and my family and I will happily eat it even it it falls apart

    1. I’m so glad you and your family enjoy this recipe so much! I haven’t tried this as a bundt but I’m glad to hear it works! This is the bundt pan I use and have never had any issues with a cake sticking: https://amzn.to/2X1rFTS

  13. Amazing recipe! Thank you so much, this is my new favourite. I love all the tips you give.
    I followed it and made the best cake, people were having 3rd and 4th serves!

  14. Normally, I don’t leave reviews, but this recipe warrants one. I was a little bit skeptical about using an online recipe, but after following the recipe exactly, this cake was the best one I’ve ever made (as an amateur baker). I made it for a small group of 8 students, so we naturally cut the cake into 8 equal pieces. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) loved the cake. Many people felt as though the cake was quite rich for a vanilla cake, so I’m sure that you can cut the cake into much smaller pieces and still get the deliciousness of the cake in every bite.

    Would highly recommend to anyone and everyone.

  15. Hi! I was trying to use this recipe for making a rainbow layer cake, will I need to double the recipe or can I split batter between 6 pans and lower the bake time?

    1. Yep! You can use this recipe and split between 6 pans for thinner layers. Bake for less time and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  16. I’m wanting to make this for a half chocolate, half vanilla sheet cake. The cake pan is 11×15. Would one batch of this vanilla be enough? It sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try!

    1. Hi Claudia! Buttermilk will thin out the batter, making a fluffier cake. Sour cream, a solid, yields a denser crumb.

  17. I have tried MANY Vanilla cake recipes and this one takes the trophy home!!! I have tried sour cream, oil etc to make my cakes moist and fluffy and this recipe using buttermilk and eggs makes a perfect combo!!! I ended up making two batch’s because I made a two tier cake with two 9 inch pans and two 6 inch pans and 2 dozen cupcakes Thank you for the recipe ❤️

  18. Hi, I am hoping to make a three tier cake and I was wondering if you think making this recipe twice or three times would yield enough batter for 10,8 and 6 inch cakes (two layers per tier…) Thanks!

    1. With 3 layers per tier, I would definitely use a double batch of this batter. For absolutely best results in taste and texture, make the two batches of batter separately– don’t double all at once.

      1. Thanks Sally for the quick response! I will be making a sweet sixteen 3 tier birthday cake(for the first time, yikes!) and plan to use your recipe for 2 of the tiers. Birthday girl wants chocolate for the other.

  19. Happy Mother’s Day!
    Sally, I am preparing to make this recipe and needed some clarification. The buttermilk..most of what I found I was LOW-FAT cultured buttermilk. Then I found something called a buttermilk blend. ‍♀️ I’m very confused. If these are my two options, which should I choose for this recipe? Thank you in advance.

  20. I made this cake for a party and it was a big hit. Could I add an extra egg white of more buttermilk for extra moistness?

  21. Sally, I made this cake because my two grandkids wanted to make a cake and I didn’t have a cake mix. It is so good! I don’t think I will get a cake mix again! Thank you.

  22. Thank you! This is the best cake I’ve ever made. I did have to substitute the buttermilk with lemon in milk, and I made my own cake flour using corn starch and regular flour. It all worked great. Topped it with raspberry preserves. So good! Thank you so much!

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