This Classic Vanilla Cake recipe pairs fluffy vanilla cake layers with a silky vanilla buttercream. The perfect cake for birthdays, weddings, and holidays!
This classic Vanilla Cake is one of the most beloved recipes on Liv for Cake.
I always thought that there were so many of these recipes out there that I’d stick to more unique ones. But really, I think the world needs my version of this simple, classic, delicious flavor combination.
Truthfully, most of my cakes use this vanilla cake recipe, but I’ve never paired it with a vanilla buttercream.
I know it’s easy enough for some people to grab a cake recipe from one post and a frosting recipe from another, but for those of us that are a little less comfortable mixing and matching for fear of epic failures, I’m putting it together for you into one recipe!
How to Make this Homemade Vanilla Cake
This vanilla cake recipe is the one I use as the base for all of my white/yellow cake-based recipes.
I’ve changed up the liquid like in this Pink Champagne Cake, the butter in this Brown Butter Cake, and sugars in this Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake, etc. to create different flavors. Some recipes require more experimentation, like this Coconut Cake.
Modifying cake recipes requires expertise and experimentation, so don’t make changes to a recipe unless you’re confident it will work out. It’s always best to ask if you’re not sure!
I use the creaming method to make this vanilla cake which requires:
- Creaming the butter and sugar
- Incorporating the eggs one at a time
- Alternating adding the flour and liquid
I use buttermilk in this vanilla cake recipe because I love the flavor and texture it gives the cake. The buttermilk in the cake helps ensure that it’s not super sweet, and it works well with any kind of frosting.
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can easily make your own at home:
- Simply add 1 Tbsp of either fresh lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup of milk. Stir and let sit for about 10mins. The milk will start to curdle and essentially turn into a perfect buttermilk substitute.
That being said, if you don’t have buttermilk on hand and if you prefer a sweeter cake, you can use regular milk instead. Ideally use whole milk, but I never have that on hand, so I use 1% and it works just fine.
Milk substitutes such as almond milk or coconut milk, etc. will work fine too.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
I used a Swiss meringue buttercream here because it’s my favorite, but you can use an American buttercream instead if you prefer.
If you’re going to make Swiss meringue buttercream for the first time, have a read through my detailed tutorial so you know what to do and what not to do to make it a success. I provide a thorough step-by-step process as well as tips and troubleshooting.
I chose to decorate this classic vanilla cake with simple rosettes and sprinkles. I used a decorating comb to make the lines in the sides of the cake, and I love how it turned out!
Definitely going to be trying the other combs in the set, as it’s such an easy way to give a pretty result.
I typically shy away from decorating combs since they remind me of grocery store cakes (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but this one gives it a particularly modern, clean look.
Keys to Success with this Vanilla Cake recipe
Or any cake recipe, really. When it comes to baking, especially cakes, it’s best not to take shortcuts. You want to follow the recipe exactly as written and pay attention to any notes.
Here are the key things you should keep in mind to help bake cakes successfully:
- Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature. Or whatever temperature is specified in the recipe. This helps make sure everything gets incorporated together properly. Not doing this can result in poor emulsification and a less-than-perfect final product.
- Measure your flour properly. Spoon and level the flour into the measuring cup rather than using the measuring cup as a scoop. The latter packs in the flour and can result in dense and dry cakes.
- Don’t skimp on creaming the butter & sugars. You want to make sure they are pale and fluffy. Beat for at least 2-3 minutes.
- Fully incorporate each egg one at a time. Again, for proper emulsification and to ensure a good texture, add one egg at a time and mix well until adding the next.
- Don’t overmix once you add the flour. Mix on low and only till the flour is just incorporated. Overmixing can cause dense but also fragile and crumbly cakes.
- Grease & flour your pans & line bottoms with parchment. To help ensure cakes come out cleanly.
- Use baking times as a guideline only. Every oven is different. Some run hot, some run cold, some have hot spots. Only you know how your oven bakes and it will require some testing on your part to know what works for you.
- Cool your cakes in the pans for 10mins. Any more and the sugars will start to set and the cakes will stick to the pans, any less and the cakes will be too fragile and might break when you’re turning them out.
- Cool cakes completely before frosting. This is critical or you’ll melt your frosting and have a very hard time of putting the cake together.
Following these steps will really help ensure your cakes are successful. It will also make your life easier and less stressful, trust me!
If you’re looking for a delicious vanilla cake recipe, whether it be for a birthday, anniversary, or any celebration (even if it’s just making it through the week), you will love this cake!
Looking for more Classic Cake recipes?
- Classic Chocolate Cake
- Black Forest Cake
- Coconut Cake
- Classic Birthday Cake
- Carrot Cake
- Classic Hummingbird Cake
- Classic White Cake
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I convert this recipe?
- The recipe as-is will also work in three 6″ pans. For three 8″ pans, 1.5x the recipe. Baking time may need to be adjusted. You can use two 9″ as well but the layers will be thinner (reduce baking time accordingly).
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so. The recipe will make 18-24 cupcakes depending on size.
- You can bake it in a 9×13 pan. Baking time will be slightly shorter.
- You can bake it in a Bundt pan as well but you’ll need to increase the baking time.
- For other conversions go here. Bake time may vary depending on pan size.
- Baking time will vary if you change the pan size. Every oven is different so I can’t say for certain what you’ll need to adjust it to. Be sure to check on the cakes while they are baking.
Can I make it in advance?
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
- The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
- The finished cake (whole or sliced, stored airtight) can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Can I get the measurements by weight/grams?
- There is a Metric option in the recipe card. If you click it it will convert everything to grams.
- This conversion is done automatically and I cannot guarantee the accuracy but many readers have had success using the metric option on my recipes.
What if I don’t have buttermilk?
- For best results, use actual buttermilk, but if you don’t have any you can make your own at home by combining 1 cup of milk (whole milk ideally, but I often just use 1%) with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar and letting it sit for 10mins.
Tips for this Vanilla Cake recipe:
- If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can make your own (see post for details) or you can use regular milk or milk substitutes instead.
- If you’d prefer to use an American buttercream, you can use one full recipe of Simple Vanilla Buttercream instead.
- Or if you’re looking for a chocolate buttercream version, check out my Classic Birthday Cake.
- If you want a white cake instead of a yellow cake, use this recipe here.
- I used a decorating comb for the texture on the sides of the cake. I used the left side of the one on the left pictured here.
- I prepare my cake pans using Homemade Cake Release and line with parchment paper.
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cakes post!
The BEST Vanilla Cake Recipe
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup buttermilk or whole milk, room temperature
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla
- confetti sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 8″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (about 3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Bake for 30-35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack.
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.*
- Place bowl over a pot with 1-2″ of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch or reads 160F on a candy thermometer (approx. 3mins)
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
- Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.**
- Add vanilla and whip until smooth.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 1 cup of buttercream. Repeat with remaining layer and crumb coat the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake and smooth with a bench scraper.
- If desired, use a decorating comb to give texture to the sides.***
- Mix confetti and nonpareils in a small bowl. Press sprinkles gently along the bottom of the cake and sprinkle along the top. For the speckled sides, I grabbed a pinch of sprinkles and tossed them randomly at the sides.
- Pipe rosettes using a 1M tip with remainder of frosting.
This recipe was originally published on June 12th, 2017 and was updated with new content on January 30th, 2023.
Angela Tafoya says
Used just the cake recipie, made whipped icing and decorated it for my daughter’s Birthday it was a big hit my grandson never eats all of his cake he ate all of this one. I definitely recommend this cake recipie
Thanks so much Angela. I’m so happy you liked it!
Could I use cake flour instead of all purpose flour?
Hi Ben! Yes, that should work fine.
Hi, any substitute for buttermilk? Can I use 2% milk?
Hi Bahar! You can use 2% milk but it will change the flavour and texture. It won’t be bad, just different. You can also easily make your own buttermilk at home by adding 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk and letting it sit for 10mins.
Trudi Stevenson says
Hi! I would like to make this cake for my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary – do you have a conversion for making it in a large square tin please? I am trying to keep it similar to their wedding cake. Thanks
Hi Trudi! Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
Trudi Stevenson says
Also, if I decided to go for two 10” round pans what would be my size up amount please – x1.5 or x2?
I would 1.5x the recipe for two 10″.
Hey, what could I use as an egg substitute? I have 2 eggs?
Hi Mary! I haven’t baked with egg substitutes so can’t say for sure what would work. For best results use 3 whole eggs.
I used this recipe to bake a family member’s birthday cake, and it was really disappointing. The cake was moist (which is great), but very dense. None of that light and airy sponge…
Also used this buttercream recipe but in the end had to make a new one with a recipe from elsewhere as this one just completely curdled (I thought, as it mentioned to just keep going if it looks it, that it would work out, but it just didn’t). Gutted.
Hi Emma! My cakes tend to be more on the dense side rather than light and fluffy, but it shouldn’t be too dense and should rise almost to the top of an 8×2 cake pan. Overly dense cakes can be from overmixing the cake batter once the flour is added (it develops too much gluten) or not using room temperature ingredients so the cake batter doesn’t emulsify properly. But if you’re looking for a light and fluffy cake, this is not it.
As for the frosting, it would have eventually come together. It sounds like your butter was too cold. I have a detailed tutorial on it here with tips and troubleshooting which is also linked in the post: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/
I don’t have two pans with the same size. Can I bake all in one pan and cut the cake horizontally or you suggest that I bake twice? What the difference will the result make?
Another question: Can I reduce the amount of sugar? If yes, to what extent?
Hi Tahere! I don’t recommend baking in one pan as you’d need it to be at least 4″ tall for an 8″ pan. If you have a larger pan it could work. Baking time will vary depending on size. You can reduce the sugar in the cake recipe by 1/2 cup or so.
I have made several of your cakes and they have turned out great! But I was just reading comments and it said something about a Canadian cup vs US. are all of your recipes Canadian cups?
Hi Gaby! Yes. The recipes assume 1 cup = 250ml.
I love your cakes, they’re
I need some help please!
I just baked this vanilla cake and the layers just crumbled when I tried to transfer them onto the wire rack😭 where did I go wrong!? I was hoping to later this cake and make it into a tall cake (4 layers) , but now I am not sure if the cake is even sturdy enough for that? This is for my son’s 2nd birthday tomorrow and I am panicking, please help.
Hi Ana! That definitely should not happen. Did you change any of the ingredients? Or use more butter than called for? The cakes should be quite solid and fairly dense!
Hello, Do you have to use unsalted butter?
Hi Crystal! For the cake you can use salted butter and leave out the additional salt in the recipe. For the frosting I do not recommend using salted butter. It will overpower the flavour I find. Some people don’t mind that though so it’s a matter of preference.
Hi, what would you recommend for time if I made the cake in a nine by thirteen? I am also looking to mix in sprinkles and make it funfetti do you think that would work?
Hi Haley! Folding in sprinkles at the end will be no problem. Make sure they are not the nonpareils as they tend to bleed into the batter. Baking time is hard to say as every oven bakes differently. Keep an eye on the cake and use these tips:
Here are my tips for testing if a cake is done:
1. Peek through the oven window. To see if the cakes are a nice golden brown (doesn’t really work for chocolate cakes).
2. Nudge the oven. Gently nudge your oven (assuming it’s free-standing and not built-in). If there is any jiggle in the center of the cakes, leave the oven door closed and bake for a few minutes longer.
3. Nudge the pans. Open the oven and gently nudge the pans. If there is any jiggle in the center of the cakes, close the oven door and bake for a few minutes longer.
4. Poke the cake. Gently poke the top of the cake with your finger. If the cake is firm and springs back, it’s ready for the next step.
5. Toothpick test. Insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake. When there are a few crumbs on the toothpick, the cake is ready. You want crumbs on there because the cake keeps cooking when you take it out of the oven.
Is there a substitute for butter that I can use in the cake recipe? I’ve used your recipe a few times and I love it, but I wanted to make it for my family and some of them are lactose intolerant. I was thinking shortening might work but I’m not sure. Please let me know what you think!!
Hi Hannah! For the cake specifically, can you find a vegan butter? That might be the best option. I’ve never used shortening but vegetable oil should work too. Either option will change the texture of the cake though, and possibly the flavour, so just keep that in mind. It should still be fine.
Hi! Do you recommend this recipe for cupcakes? If so, how much should the time be adjusted for?
Hi Kayla! Yes, I cover this in the FAQ section of the post: To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so. The recipe will make 18-24 cupcakes depending on size.
Would it be acceptable to use 9″ rounds instead of 8″?
Hi Jessica! If you don’t mind thinner layers (and a shorter baking time) then it will be fine. Otherwise I’d increase the recipe. Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
Have you ever made this cake with artificial sugar?
Hi JH! I have not done so myself but know others have. For best results use regular sugar but if that’s not an option I would recommend something like Swerve.
Can you use a chocolate icing on this cake. If so what do you recommend? Thanks
Hi Barb! For sure. You can make a chocolate version of the Swiss meringue (https://livforcake.com/chocolate-cake-recipe/) I used here or use a simple American buttercream: https://livforcake.com/chocolate-buttercream-frosting/