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, 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 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. 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

880 Comments

  1. This looks great! Thank you. Can I make a special request? Years ago, my husband and I ate a heavenly white chocolate mousse cake. The bakery has since closed down. Do you think you could post a recipe for one?? I would love to try and make one at home. Thank you again!!

      1. Hey Sally this recipe sounds perfect for what I’m after. Would I be able to use 10″ cake pans instead? Do I need to alter the quantities at all? Cheers

      2. Hi Sonia! You can use 10 inch cake pans instead of 9 inch cake pans. The bake time will be a little shorter since the cakes will be thinner.

  2. This sounds delicious! I have a question that I was hoping you could help me with since I am still new to making cakes from scratch. I am making a cake for my nephew’s graduation next week & your recipe sounds perfect. I was going to make it in 2 extra large pans, which I figured out is double the recipe for a 2 layer cake, or 4 9-inch pans. I was trying to figure out what was the difference between your 3 layer cake & your 2 layer cake so I could just double the recipe, but some of the ingredients are different. Can you help me out? Is there a difference between buttermilk or milk & sour cream? & how many eggs should I use? I would like to use some yolks unless you think it’s a bad idea. I am not concerned about the cake being white, just tasting delicious! Please help lol! Math & conversions confuse the heck out of me!

    1. Hi Stephanie! So my white cake is fluffier (and pristine white!). This vanilla cake has a more traditional buttery crumb– it also yields slightly more batter. You can’t go wrong either way. Both cakes are soft, moist, and flavorful!

  3. Hey Sally, this is by far the best vanilla cake I have made or tasted. I didn’t have cake flour so I did the cornflour thing. It was a bit dense but extremely tasty. I am making another one in the morning and I will be using cake flour this time. Looking forward to another crowd pleaser. Thanks for this. I also made your carrot cake recipe yesterday and it was awesome!

  4. This cake is amazing. I’m an avid baker and have tried dozens of vanilla cake recipes. This one is a winner for sure. It’s not overly sweet and is great paired with an American buttercream. This will be my go-to recipe in the future. The cake is light and fluffy and Delicious.

    1. I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  5. Awesome cake! One of the best. Texture was delicious. I used low fat buttermilk because that’s all I could find and it worked great.

  6. Very good cake, indeed! I usually don’t like plain white cakes; they are either too dry, too sweet, too buttery and boring. Having made your Lemon-Blueberry Layer Cake twice with great succes, I decided to try this recipe for a gathering of young kids.
    I followed the recipe to the T, but I was distracted and I forgot to add the vanilla extract to the batter. When I assembled the cake, I brushed the layers with vanilla+coconut extract diluted with water. It ended up being really tasty with an amazing crumb. Not overly sweet, or buttery or boring 🙂 Definitely a keeper.

  7. Sally!!! Best cake ever 🙂 Thanks again for another winner in “my” repertoire. I’m rocking the kitchen these days thanks to you!!

  8. Hi Sally ! This Vanilla cake is absolutely fabulous ! I often make it and It’s always a big hit ! Thank you !

      1. Hey sally can some of the egg whites be subtituted for egg yolks i know egg whites often dry out the cake and i find this one to be a little drying after a while , or can i use the egg yolks in the batter and fold in the egg whites? Please let me know.

  9. Hi Sally ,this recipe seems perfect for my granddaughters Ilama birthday cake ,will it travel well , I will need to make day before then a 3 hour trip on the day ?

  10. Will the cake be as moist and fluffy with DIY cake flour? In your notes section it notes it will not be if not using cake flour. I made the vanilla cupcakes last weekend for my daughters first communion and did the DIY version they turned out great. Just curious if there is a difference in the texture of the cake. Thanks,

  11. Hello Sally!
    I have to use whole milk instead of buttermilk(because it does not exist here,where I live).Can you please give the quantities how much whole milk for vinegar or lemon juice please ,to fit the recipe .Thank you so much

    1. For DIY buttermilk add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to a measuring cup and then fill the rest up with your whole milk until the total amount of liquid equals one cup 🙂

    2. Sally the recipe was a hit. Thank you. I used 2 10″x3″ pans a yielding 2 layers. However, I would love for my layers to be higher. Next time I do the recipe I’m planning on doing a 10″ double barrel cake. Each cake would be two layer with a cake board in between for support. Based on my estimates, I would need to triple the recipe.
      1. Do I triple the recipe or do three separate batches?
      2. If doing different batches….what would be the best way to bring the batches together? (Did i mentioned I want high layers 1.5″ or higher LOL)
      3. Would I need dowels?
      Thanks a million.

      1. Sounds great, Liza– I would make 3 separate batches. If you have a mixing bowl large enough, mix the batter all together after they’re individually prepared. Dowels are always a smart choice for extra support on a tall tiered cake!

      2. Thanks! More clarifying questions…
        1. Once I pour the 3 different batches into the large mixing bowl… what is the best way to unify them… folding, using the mixer or other?
        2. I only have 2 cake pans and need to do 4 layers. What is the best way to store the remaining batter while the 1st 2 cakes bake?
        Thanks 🙂

      3. Hi Liza!
        1. Gently fold the batters together- no need to use a mixer!
        2. Keep the batter on the counter until the first two cakes are baked.
        Happy baking!

  12. I cut the sugar in half the second time I made it and it was delicious!! Way too sweet the first time. Love how fluffy and moist the cake is.

  13. Can I make this cake two days ahead and store it tightly wrapped in the refrigerator, or will that mess with the texture? Thanks!

  14. Just used this recipe to make my daughter a funfetti birthday cake for her 17th birthday party and 8 teenagers ate the whole thing.
    Best tasting cake I have personally made yet!

  15. I am VERY picky and I love to bake. I love homemade. This is my FAVORITE vanilla cake recipe.

  16. This cake was amazing! I made it for a friend’s birthday, tasted like it came from a bakery! I feel like the buttercream frosting was a little too sweet for my taste. I used a light Italian meringue buttercream icing instead and lemon curd filling. The cake was perfectly moist and fluffy, definitely will use this again. Question for you, could you substitute almond extract instead of the vanilla for an almond cake? Is it a one to one substitution or should I still use some vanilla?

    1. Hi Katie! So glad the cake was a hit. If using almond extract, I still recommend a touch of vanilla as well. Those amounts would be 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons almond extract.

  17. I have been trying various vanilla cake recipes for my cake orders and this by far is the most moist, decadent vanilla cake!!! I’ve tried all the recipes frm food network right down. Thank you so much, this recipe has met and exceeded my and my patrons expectations!!

  18. Hi sally! I’ve been looking for THE vanilla cake recipe, but there are lots on your website- this one, there’s also “Favorite White Layer Cake” and “Simply perfect vanilla cupcakes”, those 2 contain sour cream whereas this one doesnt. Everything is described as best, perfect, and favorite! Which one is your go-to for vanilla cake? Thanks!

    1. Hi Aileen! This vanilla cake is my favorite. My favorite white layer cake and perfect vanilla cupcakes essentially share the same recipe with each other– the cake is basically double the cupcakes. Those recipes do not include egg yolks, which provide moisture but also weigh down a cake’s crumb. I use sour cream to replace it, which strictly provides moisture (doesn’t weigh anything down). This vanilla cake uses buttermilk to replace the whole milk AND sour cream. It also has whole eggs to make a sturdy (yet moist) cake. There’s a method to my madness! You’ll be happy with any of the recipes, but this is a DELICIOUS and classic vanilla cake!

  19. This is a great tasting cake recipe. I ran into one issue and hoping you can help. I tried to make a batch of cupcakes with the batter and the liners were completely soaked in butter/grease after baking. I followed the recipe exactly and did not grease my liners or cupcake pan. Is there something different I should do to this recipe when making cupcakes as opposed to a layered cake. In cupcake form, they turn out too buttery/oily. Thanks!

  20. Hi Sally. Always love your recipes so looking forward to making this 🙂 Im going to make 6 layers of cake in 8 inch cake tins (each layer approx 1inch high). How much quantity of the recipe do you recommend using? It’s to feed 60 people so needs to be big. Wasn’t sure if doubling would be enough or not? Look forward to hearibg from you. Thanks, Bec

    1. Hi Bec! I really wish I could help, but I can’t estimate that and provide a confident answer. You’d likely need twice the amount of batter. If you decide to double the recipe, I recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling all in one bowl. Working with extra batter risks over or under mixing.

  21. HI Sally, once you have had your cake in the fridge for one hour, how long before can you take it out before serving. I personally don’t like eating cold cake. Thanks.

  22. Hi Sally,
    Love your recipes and blog! I love to bake as well. I have trouble with cupcakes keeping a nice rise. Do you ever bake them like your muffins at a high temperature for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature?
    Kathy

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