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The perfect vanilla cake is a moist cake with a fluffy texture, packed with just the right amount of vanilla flavor, balanced with a delicious vanilla buttercream frosting. That is what I set out to make when I made this easy vanilla cake recipe, and I always test until it’s share-worthy!

a slice of 3 layer vanilla cake being lifted away from the cake on a cake stand with a pink cloth beneath it
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The Best Vanilla Cake Recipe

So, you’re encountering some hiccups with your vanilla cake? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Common issues like dense texture, dryness, lack of flavor depth, uneven rising, or a too-crumbly structure can frustrate any baker. But fear not, I’m here to guide you through these challenges and help you craft the ultimate vanilla cake masterpiece!

With years of experience under my apron strings, I’ve tackled these problems head-on and honed my skills to perfection. I know the ins and outs of ingredient ratios, mixing techniques, and baking temperatures that ensure a light, moist, and flavorful vanilla cake every time. 

over head view of ingredients for vanilla cake including vegetable oil, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, salt, eggs, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sour cream, baking soda, milk, granulated sugar, and butter

Homemade Vanilla Cake Ingredients

The perfect vanilla cake is made with simple ingredients that you likely already have in your kitchen. Keep reading for all my best tips and the full recipe in the recipe card below. Here’s what you’ll need:

Cake

  • All-purpose flour 
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter: room temperature
  • Granulated sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Eggs: room temperature
  • Sour cream
  • Milk: I used whole milk
  • Vanilla extract 

Vanilla Frosting

  • Unsalted butter: room temperature
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk or heavy cream: if frosting becomes too thick 
a slice of vanilla cake missing a bite on a white speckled plate with a pink cloth beside it, a fork on the other side and another slice on a plate in the background

How to make a Vanilla Cake from Scratch

This homemade vanilla cake recipe comes together in just 15 minutes of active prep time. When you follow these easy steps, you’ll make the perfect cake for any special occasion that will seriously impress your family and friends! Keep reading for my best vanilla cake tips and the full recipe in the recipe card below. Here are the steps:

  1. Prep oven and cake pans. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease two or three 8 inch springform pans with butter (butter the sides and bottom) and line each pan with a parchment paper circle for easy cake removal. Set aside. 
  1. Mix dry ingredients. In a small mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  1. Start mixing wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl combine the butter, sugar, and vegetable oil, beat using an electric mixer, 1-2 minutes until fluffy.
  1. Mix in remaining wet ingredients. Add in the eggs, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat with the electric mixer.
  1. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing just until the flour is incorporated.
  1. Add batter to cake pans. Evenly divide the batter among the pans. If using 2 pans, that’s 3 cups of batter per pan, if using 3 pans, that’s 2 cups of batter per pan. If you have bake even cake strips, soak them, then secure them around the outside of the pans. 
  2. Bake. Bake 2 pans for 40-50 minutes or 3 pans for 32-37 minutes in the preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  3. Cool. Allow the cakes to cool for 20-30 minutes in the pans, then use a small spatula to loosen the cake from the edge of the pan. Remove the cake from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.  

Frosting

  1. Start combining ingredients. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, vanilla extract and salt, beat using an electric mixer until fluffy, 1-2 minutes.
  1. Mix in remaining ingredients. Gradually add the powdered sugar and 3 tbsp of heavy cream, mixing on low until combined. 
  2. Adjust as needed. Taste as needed to determine if you want more powdered sugar. If the frosting becomes too thick, add 2-4 tablespoons of milk or heavy cream.

Assemble the Cake

  1. Level cakes. If needed, level the cooled cakes using a cake levered or serrated knife.
  2. Layer cakes and frosting. Spread a small amount of frosting on the bottom of your cake plate / stand, this acts as “glue” to prevent the cake from moving. Place one cake layer over the frosting. Measure 3/4 to 1 cup of frosting and evenly spread that on top of the first layer. Top with the second cake layer and spread another ¾ to 1 cup of frosting on top of that layer. Use the remaining frosting around the sides and top of the cake. 
a slice of 3-layer vanilla cake on a white speckled plate with a fork leaning on the plate and a bite missing out of the cake slice and a cake stand with more cake in the background

How to Properly Measure Flour

The most accurate way to measure flour is to use a kitchen scale, weighing it in grams. 

If you don’t have a kitchen scale, follow this method. 

  • Aerate the flour with a whisk or spoon. Flour becomes heavy and compact as it sits. Aerating is the same as fluffing the flour, but not the same as sifting it. Do not sift the flour unless the recipe specifically calls for it.
  • Use a spoon to sprinkle the flour into the measuring cup. Do not tap the cup against the counter, as this will compact the flour.
  • Use the back of a butter knife to level off the excess.
three layers of vanilla cake with vanilla frosting between them

Decorating this Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe

Another great thing about this fluffy vanilla cake is that it can be made for all special occasions and then decorated to fit the theme. This makes the perfect birthday cake! Here are some decorating ideas:

a 3-layer vanilla cake on a cake stand with a large slice missing exposing the inside of the cake, with two plates with cake slices beneath it, a silver serving spatula and a pink cloth

Simple Vanilla Cake Recipe Storage

Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze frosted or unfrosted cake for 2-3 months.

over head view of a slice of vanilla cake being pulled away from the rest of the cake

Vanilla Cake Tips

Here are a few of my best tips for making a perfect vanilla cake every single time:

  • Room temperature ingredients: At room temperature, the ingredients blend together seamlessly, forming an emulsion that captures air. During baking, this trapped air expands, leading to a baked good that is lighter and fluffier in texture.
  • Make 2 or 3 layers: Bake 2 pans for 40-50 minutes or 3 pans for 32-37 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remember, baking time varies per oven, so be careful not to over-bake.
  • Parchment paper: Line your cake pans with parchment paper for easy removal so you don’t risk damaging the cakes.
  • Bake even strips: Use bake even strips to ensure your cakes bake flat and evenly.
  • Use the right amount of frosting between layers: Use ¾ to 1 cup of frosting between cake layers.
slices of vanilla cake on white plates on top of a pink cloth with forks and a white cup

Vanilla Cake Recipe from Scratch FAQs

Yellow cake vs Vanilla cake

As a baker, I would consider vanilla cake and yellow cake the same thing. Traditional yellow cake is typically flavored with a bit of vanilla. However, a white cake recipe is different because it uses just the egg whites to keep the cake lighter (white) in color.

What makes a cake fluffy vs dense?

The fluffiness or density of a cake is primarily influenced by its ingredients and how they interact during the baking process. To make a cake fluffy, be sure to use the right amount of leavening agents and the correct ratio of other ingredients (follow the recipe for amounts), be sure not to over-mix the batter, and bake the cake at the right temperature per the recipe.

Why is my vanilla cake dry?

A vanilla cake may come out dry if there is too much flour and not enough fat used in the recipe. Be sure to follow the recipe amounts exactly, don’t over-mix, and follow the recipe for bake time and temperature for best results.

More Vanilla Recipes

a slice of three layer vanilla cake on a white plate on top of a pink cloth with more cake slices on plates in the background
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Vanilla Cake Recipe from Scratch

By: Beth
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 16 slices
The perfect vanilla cake is a moist cake with a fluffy texture, packed with just the right amount of vanilla flavor, balanced with a delicious vanilla buttercream frosting. That is what I set out to make when I made this easy vanilla cake recipe, and I always test until it's share-worthy!

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 300 grams
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 198 grams
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar, 346 grams
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, 59 ml
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, 227 grams
  • ½ cup milk, I used whole milk, 118 ml
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Vanilla Frosting

  • 2 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature, 565 grams
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • tsp salt
  • 6-10 cups powdered sugar, 681-1135 grams
  • 3-6 tbsp milk or heavy cream if frosting becomes too thick

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease two or three 8 inch springform pans with butter (butter the sides and bottom) and line each pan with a parchment paper circle for easy cake removal. Set aside.
  • In a small mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the butter, sugar, and vegetable oil, beat using an electric mixer, 1-2 minutes until fluffy.
  • Add in the eggs, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat with the electric mixer.
  • Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing just until the flour is incorporated.
  • Evenly divide the batter among the pans. If using 2 pans, that’s 3 cups of batter per pan, if using 3 pans, that’s 2 cups of batter per pan. If you have bake even cake strips, soak them, then secure them around the outside of the pans.
  • Bake 2 pans for 40-50 minutes or 3 pans for 32-37 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Allow the cakes to cool for 20-30 minutes in the pans, then use a small spatula to loosen the cake from the edge of the pan. Remove the cake from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Frosting

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, vanilla extract and salt, beat using an electric mixer until fluffy, 1-2 minutes.
  • Gradually add the powdered sugar and 3 tbsp of heavy cream, mixing on low until combined.
  • Taste as needed to determine if you want more powdered sugar. If the frosting becomes too thick, add 2-4 tablespoons of milk or heavy cream.

Assemble the Cake

  • If needed, level the cooled cakes using a cake levered or serrated knife.
  • Spread a small amount of frosting on the bottom of your cake plate / stand, this acts as “glue” to prevent the cake from moving. Place one cake layer over the frosting. Measure 3/4 to 1 cup of frosting and evenly spread that on top of the first layer. Top with the second cake layer and spread another ¾ to 1 cup of frosting on top of that layer. Use the remaining frosting around the sides and top of the cake.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 751kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 26g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 155mg | Sodium: 284mg | Potassium: 88mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 67g | Vitamin A: 1326IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 1mg
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About Beth

I believe that everyone should have a go-to dessert to bring to parties! With hundreds of recipes, I'll help you find yours!

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4 Comments

    1. Hi Angel! The recipe as is would probably yield too much batter for a 9×13 inch pan. However, you could bake the extra batter in a muffin pan. I’m not sure on the bake time, maybe 35-55 minutes.

  1. Hi Beth,
    Have you tried this recipe with almond flour? I have celiac and I’m attempting to sub almond flour for regular. Thanks. Jan