This homemade vanilla cake is an impressive yet simple one-bowl recipe that makes even a beginner baker feel like a professional! A soft tender cake infused with the heavenly flavor of vanilla that pairs well with any frosting!
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Vanilla Cake From Scratch
I’ve shared with you the best chocolate cake recipe and as fond of chocolate, as I am, I’m not ashamed to admit I love this vanilla cake! The beautiful vanilla flavor is infused in every morsel and it’s only matched by a firm but tender crumb.
This classic vanilla cake recipe is the ideal base for a variety of frosting flavors which makes it the perfect choice for literally any occasion! It’s perfect for frosting because it is a more sturdy cake. Use it for all your birthday cakes, holidays, showers, and graduations.
My favorite reason to make it, however? Just because I want to eat cake. It was a good day when I realized you don’t need a special reason to make a cake or my vanilla cupcakes from scratch!
More often than not I’ll stick with using a classic buttercream frosting or a chocolate buttercream frosting for certain occasions, but if you’re looking for something a little different I’m including a ton of options for you.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Vanilla Cake Recipe
- Delicious. When you use a good quality vanilla extract or vanilla bean you notice the difference in flavor and it takes it up a notch.
- Easy. Making a layered cake from scratch is so much easier than you might think!
- Simple ingredients. There’s nothing complicated in this recipe. You probably already have what you need in your kitchen!
- Versatile. Vanilla cake can be used for anything but is also great with any type of frosting!
Here’s everything you need to make this homemade vanilla cake. Find the FULL printable recipe below.
- Flour: I use cake flour in this recipe as I find it lends a softer texture, however you can use all-purpose flour too. You’ll end up using less all-purpose, and may find the cake is slightly denser, but either choice is great.
- Granulated sugar: A dessert needs sweetness!
- Baking powder: A leavening agent that will react so nicely with the acid in the buttermilk. It will help to keep it light and fluffy.
- Fine sea salt: We’re using unsalted butter which allows us to control the amount of salt we use. It helps to bring out flavors.
- Unsalted butter, at room temperature: It needs to be soft enough to cream, so if you’ve forgotten to take it out of the fridge, here are some tips on how to soften butter.
- Buttermilk at room temperature: A sour tangy milk that adds richness and moisture to all kinds of baked goods. Here’s how to make buttermilk using any milk you have on hand.
- Pure vanilla extract: Since the vanilla flavor shines through it’s important to use a good quality pure vanilla extract, that doesn’t have an overpowering alcohol flavor. You can also use vanilla beans. The flecks of vanilla throughout the cake are just a bonus!
- Eggs & egg whites: Using both whole eggs for binding and moisture along with egg whites for a light, fluffy, airy consistency to the cake batter results in the perfect balance of softness and structure.
DIY Ready Made Cake Mix
The best part about this recipe is that you can pre-measure all of the dry ingredients and keep the vanilla cake mix stored in a jar to have on hand whenever you need a quick cake or homemade vanilla cupcakes. Simply bring the wet ingredients to room temperature and mix away!
How to Make Vanilla Cake
The “paste” or “reverse creaming” method makes a well-structured cake without having to cream the butter and sugar first. It’s a simple technique that I will walk you through.
- Combine dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. If using a hand mixer, whisk that together on low speed.
- Add wet ingredients. We are using a reverse creaming method for this cake (more information on this here). Turn the mixer up to medium and beat in the butter for 1 minute until it’s combined and coarse. Mix in the buttermilk and vanilla on low speed until combined. Then you’ll add in 1 egg at a time followed by the egg whites until the batter is smooth.
- Pour batter evenly into both prepared cake pans and smooth out the tops to ensure a level cake.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Insert a toothpick into the middle of them. If it comes out clean, they’re done. Let them sit and cool for 5 minutes in the pans before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
How to Separate Egg Whites
Since this recipe uses whole eggs plus egg whites for an extra fluffy texture, it’s important to separate the yolks from the whites ensuring as little yolk as possible is left in the whites. Here’s how to do this using 1 egg at a time and two small bowls:
- Gently tap the egg on the side of one of the bowls until there’s a crack.
- Carefully pull it apart into two halves making sure that one of the halves of the shells still contains the yolk. You’ll want to hold that eggshell upright so that the yolk sits inside it.
- Some of the egg white will naturally fall into the bowl underneath. From there, using the two egg shell halves, pass the yolk back and forth between the two shells allowing the rest of the egg white to fall into the bowl. Again, be careful not to allow any yolk to fall in with it.
- Once you feel like it’s mostly separated, place that remaining egg yolk into a separate bowl or container and use it to make scrambled eggs tomorrow morning!
Vanilla Cake Frosting Flavors
Good luck choosing just one!
Cream cheese frostings
- Strawberry cream cheese frosting
- Cinnamon cream cheese frosting
- Caramel cream cheese frosting
- Lemon cream cheese frosting
- Only spray the parchment paper on the bottom of the pans with spray, not the sides. Otherwise, they’ll become too dark too quickly.
- Wait until the cake has completely cooled before frosting it. Then, once it’s frosted, put it in the fridge to set.
- Level the cakes before frosting. If you have a cake leveler it may make your life a bit easier, but if not, I’ve got you. Use a serrated knife to carefully slice off that rounded top of the cake to ensure a flat level surface. This makes it much easier to stack the cakes once you’ve added frosting.
- Frost the cake using an offset spatula which will help with an even smooth layer of frosting without taking any crumbs off with it.
This is enough batter for one 9 x 13 baking dish baked for 45-50 minutes or two 9-inch round pans which would be baked for 25-30 minutes.
It’s also enough to make 24 cupcakes baked for 25-30 minutes.
Similar, but no! A white cake doesn’t use any egg yolks, which is why there is no golden hue. It also contains a clear vanilla extract for the same reason. This is why they are as white as they are.
A vanilla cake uses a combination of whole eggs plus egg whites, so you’re getting a subtle golden hue, a bit of added moisture, and a slightly deeper flavor.
They use more egg yolks than a vanilla cake for a deeper yellow color.
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Homemade Vanilla Cake
- 2 9" cake pans
- 3 ¾ cups (390 grams) cake flour , or 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups (340 grams) buttermilk , at room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs , at room temperature
- 2 large egg whites , at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray only the parchment with nonstick cooking spray. Do not spray the sides of the pans.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Turn the mixer to medium and beat in the butter for 1 minute, or until the butter is combined and the mixture is coarse in texture.
- Reduce the speed to low, and mix in the buttermilk and vanilla for 1 minute, or until combined. Turn the mixer to medium and beat 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Turn the mixer to low, and add 1 egg at a time until each is combined. Pour in the egg whites and mix on medium-high for 30 seconds, or until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter evenly into the pans and smooth out the tops.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes in the pans before transferring the cakes to a rack to cool completely.
- 1 9×13-inch baking dish (bake 45 to 50 minutes)
- 24 cupcakes (bake 30 to 35 minutes)
- 3 8-inch round cake pans (25 to 30 minutes)
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!
Do u have a recipe for the frosting that looks so yummy on this cake?
We love to use this buttercream frosting: https://www.iheartnaptime.net/buttercream-frosting-recipe/
I tried this method today for cupcakes thee best this is my new found recipe. Thank you
So glad to hear you enjoyed the vanilla cake!
Delicious and it’s very simple thanks for sharing 👍
So I’m gonna make this cake for Valentines Day. I have 2 questions, if using a whole vanilla bean, how much should I put in? 1 bean? And should I also add the extract?
2- your instructions call for 2 standard round pans equaling 25-30 min bake time or is it 45/50 min bake time for 2?
What a wonderful Valentine’s Day treat! To answer your questions, typically half a vanilla bean equals 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, so you would want the scrapings of 1 1/2 vanilla beans to equal the 1 Tablespoon extract in the recipe. If you don’t have that, I would suggest using 1 vanilla bean and maybe adding 1 teaspoon extract, to get a similar flavor.
For your second question, great catch! The bake time should in fact be 25 to 30 minutes when baking both 9-inch cakes at the same time (I adjusted the recipe to reflect this, thank you). Hope this helps and have a wonderful holiday!
Just checking. Is that three whole eggs plus two egg whites or 3 yolks plus 2 whites?
3 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites :)
The buttermilk made it extra yummy! We’re chocolate fans, so I frosted mine with homemade chocolate frosting. Delish!
Can you use egg beaters instead of whole eggs?
I haven’t tested that, I’m not sure. Let us know if you test it out.
I laugh at myself every time I try to bake a cake it turns out to be one big mess, no matter what I do. But with your recipe, I actually made a good-looking cake. My kids even though I bought it and was faking that I made it. It also was delicious.
This turned out absolutely delicious! It was super easy to make too, with the instructions. I made it for my husband’s birthday and now it’s his favorite. Thank you!
So glad to hear Jessica! Thanks for your review!