Perfect Vanilla Cake

This is the only vanilla cake recipe you’ll ever need! It bakes up soft, buttery, and moist, with a fine, delicate crumb. So easy it’s practically foolproof, and it all comes together in just one bowl. Simple, versatile, and so delicious!

There is no better way to celebrate a birthday, holiday, or big occasion than with a gorgeous layer cake.

I love to bake cakes and my family loves it too. Some of our favorites include Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet Cake, and Carrot Cake.

But lately, our favorite is this simple, perfect vanilla cake.

I shared my full Vanilla, Passion Fruit and Raspberry cake recipes (featured on Duff Till Dawn) with you not too long ago. But I wanted to give the vanilla cake I had worked so long on formulating its own post. It’s kinda special like that. Like your favorite child. Oh, wait. We don’t have those as parents. They are ALL special and equally loved. Accepted. Tolerated… 😉

Finding that every time I wanted to make my vanilla cake I didn’t have the cake flour on hand that it called for, I wanted a GREAT scratch recipe that produced the same results as cake flour recipes – just with all purpose flour.

Using all-purpose flour for the full recipe (rather than half and half) never gave me the results desired. So I tweaked, changed this and that, tried a few things and came up with possibly the best EVER vanilla cake. No cake flour needed (our friends overseas will appreciate this!). Without further adieu, some tempting pics and the recipe. (Just scroll to the bottom if you want to get right at this PERFECT vanilla cake recipe 🙂 )

I am a firm believer that nothing beats scratch-made. There is something so blow-your-mind fantastic about a homemade dessert that is freshly baked from simple, wholesome ingredients.

I grew up mostly on prepackaged desserts and treats made from a mix, but my grandmother used to bake for special occasions. My mom always made a big deal about her from-scratch cakes and would make sure I tasted. She wanted me to see the difference, and I definitely did!

It made a big impression and I’ve wanted to bake from scratch ever since. And best of all, I quickly learned that it’s not any harder than using a boxed mix. If you keep basics like flour, sugar, butter, and eggs on hand, and you know how to properly measure ingredients, then you can totally do this! This recipe comes together in just one bowl, so it’s super easy and you won’t have a ton of dishes to wash. No sweat!

And you will be amazed at the difference scratch makes. This vanilla cake is so incredibly light, soft, moist, and delicate, and the flavor is off the charts. Buttery, rich, and sweetly perfumed with fragrant vanilla. You’ll never go back to the box!

All the dry ingredients head to the mixer bowl at once; let the paddle attachment do the mixing and distributing work for you.

Butter is the next ingredient to join the show. It should be room temperature. What’s room temp? About 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. You should be able with little pressure to make an indentation in it with your finger, but it shouldn’t mush all over your countertop and hand. Ew. This is perfect. And of course, always use unsalted butter.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 2 Layer Cake: I recommend using my 2 layer white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Buttermilk: If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  • 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.
  • Want chocolate frosting instead?: I recommend the recipe/amount of chocolate frosting I use for Piñata Cake.
  • 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.

Tags: