Basic Vanilla Cake

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This made from scratch Basic Vanilla Cake recipe is one that must be added to your repertoire. It’s light, tender, and full of vanilla flavor. The buttery, moist texture makes it a great cake for all occasions.

A slice of two layer basic vanilla cake on a pewter plate.

Vanilla Cake Recipe

I’ve been on the hunt for a great vanilla cake recipe that I can use over and over again. I tried many and never found one that was wonderful enough to claim a spot on my blog until now.

If you like this version, you may also want to try my moist white cake that uses only egg whites instead of whole eggs. Or my mug cake version for a single serving! Or my chocolate cake if you’d love a chocolate version.

This is the same recipe I used in my “how to make the perfect cake” post. Make sure you follow all the tips I give you in that post to ensure great results every time.

This easy vanilla cake recipe uses the 1-2-3-4 method which is from the 19th century. It’s an easy method to remember the ratio of ingredients – 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs.

I’ve adjusted these quantities slightly to achieve the texture I was looking for. I used half a cup less sugar and a fourth cup less flour. This gave me a lighter cake that isn’t overly sweet.

The recipe starts by creaming the butter and sugar together and then adding the eggs. Once that is mixed together well, the flour is added followed by the milk.

The process is easy to remember which makes this simple vanilla cake easy to make.

Pair this vanilla cake with a basic vanilla buttercream frosting for a simply perfect dessert. I’m certain you are going to agree that this is the best vanilla cake recipe!

Homemade homemade vanilla cake on a white cake stand.

Make ahead tips for homemade vanilla cake

This easy vanilla cake recipe can be made ahead! Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.

Once the cake has been assembled, cover it and keep it stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Bring it to room temperature just before serving.

The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature just before serving.

Create your own perfect cake

  • Use this recipe as a base for your own favorite cake recipes from scratch.
  • Turn it into a birthday cake.
  • Sandwich the layers with pineapple curd in between or slather the entire cake with cookie butter frosting.
  • Swap the vanilla extract for almond or any other fun flavor.
  • Fold fresh berries into the batter before baking for a delicious fruity cake.
  • The possibilities are endless!!

Overhead view of a slice of vanilla cake on a pewter plate.

The great thing about this vanilla cake is it can be made in two 9-inch pans, three 8-inch pans, or two 12-cup muffin pans.

It’s versatile and pairs wonderfully with a wide range of fillings and frostings. The batter can even be enhanced with other extract flavors, like almond!

Now you should have a good understanding of how to make a vanilla cake from scratch. Whip up this cake the next time you have a craving and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

How to make vanilla cake FAQ’s

Can I bake this cake in 3 8-inch round pans instead of 2 9-inch pans?

Yes, you certainly can. The recipe yields enough batter to fill 2 9-inch pans, 3 8-inch pans, or 24 muffin cups. The bake time will vary slightly so start checking the cakes about 5-7 minutes sooner than the time listed in the recipe.

Can I double or triple the cake recipe?

That should work just fine as long as you are using weight measurements. Click on the “Metric” tab directly under the ingredients label in the recipe. This will show you the weight measurements.

How do I adjust the recipe for it to work at high elevation?

I have zero experience baking at high altitudes so I don’t feel comfortable giving advice for this. However, a reader who lives 5,000 feet above sea level made the following changes:

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • All the other ingredients listed in the recipe stayed at the same amounts.
  • Baked in 2 8-inch round cake pans at 375°F for 25 minutes.

She said the cake was delicious and has already been requested to be made again.

My cake came out a bit on the dry side, any suggestions?

First, make sure you’ve followed all my tips for how to make the perfect cake. Second, keep a close eye on it during baking. Check it with a wooden toothpick.

  • If the toothpick comes out with wet batter on it, it needs more baking time.
  • If the toothpick comes out with a few dry crumbs, it is perfectly baked and needs to be removed from the oven.
  • If the toothpick comes out with no dry crumbs at all (a completely clean toothpick), it has baked too long and will result in a dry cake.

Start checking the cake about 5-7 minutes before the suggested bake time.

Three pewter plates with a slice of basic vanilla cake on each one.

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This made from scratch Basic Vanilla Cake Recipe is light, tender, and full of vanilla flavor.

Basic Vanilla Cake

This made from scratch Basic Vanilla Cake Recipe is one that must be added to your repertoire. It’s light, tender, and full of vanilla flavor. The buttery, moist texture makes it a great cake for all occasions.
4.93 from 91 votes
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yields: 12 servings
Calories: 360
Author: Jen Sobjack

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 and 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk, buttermilk can also be used

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour 2 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk and add it to the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. 
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Take care to not over-bake. Check the cake at 15 minutes to see how it is doing and judge the timing from there.
  • Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack. Fill and frost the cake with your favorite frosting.

Make ahead tip

  • Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.
  • Or layers can be triple wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Leave wrapped and set on the counter to thaw slightly before use.
  • Once the cake has been assembled, cover it and keep it stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Bring it to room temperature just before serving.
  • The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature just before serving.

Notes

1. Make sure to use room temperature ingredients. Cold eggs will be difficult to thoroughly mix in and will cause the cake to be dense.
2. Measure the flour by lightly spooning it into the measuring cup then level the cup with the back of a knife. Or use the weight measurement listed in the ingredients under the "metric" tab.
3. If you don't have cake flour, you can make Homemade Cake Flour.
4. Start checking the cake 5-7 minutes sooner than the bake time listed.
  • If the toothpick comes out with wet batter on it, it needs more baking time.
  • If the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs on it, it’s perfectly baked and needs to be removed from the oven.
  • If the toothpick comes out completely clean, I’m sorry to say, you’ve over baked the cake and it will be dry.
Baking Variations:
Adapted from Bigger Bolder Baking.

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcal

Nutritional values here on my recipes should be used as a general guide only. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

Tried this recipe? Share it on Instagram!Mention @introvertbaker or tag #bakedbyanintrovert!

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266 Comments

  • Maria

    Hello!!! I tried out this recipe and it came out A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! I think I put a little less sugar, luckily I first tested it out in a mug, and it seemed less sweet. So, I just added it in the actual mix.
    Thank you SOO much for the recipe!!!

      • Jen Sobjack

        You didn’t do anything wrong. That’s the nature of buttercream. It’s butter based so it will be slightly tinted. Keep in mind different brands of butter range in color. For example, butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows tends to be darker in color. If you want the frosting to be pure white, you can try using clear vanilla and/or white icing color. Also, the more you beat the frosting the lighter it will become so don’t be afraid to turn the mixer up and let it whip.

      • Christa

        You can also add the tiniest bit of purple gel food colouring to the butter cream and it will make it more white. Add too much though and it starts to go grey.

  • Kerry

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, i made it for my daughters first birthday and it was light and fluffy and delicious! Everyone loved it!

  • Nicole

    This is delicious I halved the recipe to make 1 dozen cup cakes and only cooked for 18 minutes. I would prefer them to be a little more moist though the texture is wonderfully fluffy. What do you suggest as best option? (Adding oil to substitute a portion of butter?)

    • Jen Sobjack

      You can certainly use a little oil in place of some of the butter. I would keep it to about 1/4 cup so you don’t lose that wonderful buttery flavor. But, for best results with just butter, make sure you are measuring the flour correctly and not using too much flour in the recipe. I wrote an entire post about this. I also recommend reviewing my “how to make the perfect cake” post for tips on ensuring the cake turns perfect every time.

      • Ilona

        Hey,,the cakeflouris it sifted or b4 difting 2 3/4 cups? And substitute of cake flourst home by removing two table spoonof white flour and adding 2 table spoonof cornstarchright?

      • Jen Sobjack

        I don’t sift the flour before measuring. You can refer to my “How to measure flour” post to see the correct way to measure flour for all my recipes. To make homemade cake flour, remove 2 tablespoons per every 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for every 1 cup of flour and sift 4 times.

  • Jacqueline

    Just made this cake for my family, it’s the first cake I’ve ever made from scratch and it came out amazing!!!! Everyone said it was the best cake they’ve ever had, and everyone wants it as our traditional birthday cake! It’s so good it didn’t even need icing lol. We put a super thin vanilla homemade frosting n boy error & strawberries! Thanks for sharing! I’m so excited to make it again!

  • Sarah

    Amazing! Made this on a whim tonight as Going-Away cake for a coworker. I even subbed a mix of half and half and skim milk for the whole milk which I didn’t have on hand. Delicious!

  • Debbie

    My 10 year old daughter has recently taken an interest in baking. She’s been using a kids cookbook she purchased at Barnes & Nobles. Tired of the recipes in her cookbook she asked me if we could purchase another book, I directed her to the internet as there are millions of recipes. I’m not sure how but she stumbled across your blog and found this recipe. The cake came out AMAZING, soft, moist and melt in your mouth. She measured, prepared and baked this all on her own with absolutely no assistance from any adult or sibling. She added a glaze of icing between the layers, delicious. We all loved it and her older brothers think she’s a superstar. I felt compelled to write and to thank you so much for taking the time to share this recipe. You have several new followers.

    NOTE – She asked me what is an introvert!

  • Christiana uloko

    Hi, just saw your vanilla recipe and am in love with it. Please can l use the same measurements of ingredients for a 10inches size pan? If no, what are the measurements to use? Thank you

    • Halle McGrail

      I never have unsalted butter on hand when I bake and I use regular salted butter instead all the time and just leave out the salt in the recipe and it comes out perfect.

  • Rebecca

    Would this cake be suitable for a two-tiered cake? My plan is the first tier being 8″ and the second tier 6″, and I intend to use dowels to hold up the second tier. I also plan on using fondant. I need a cake that is firm and moist, but not so soft it might compress under the weight of the fondant.

      • Jasmine

        I made it with fondant and it holds the fondant perfectly i wish i could share the picture of the cake here. It came out lovely. Great Recipe! I’ll be using it for years to come.
        Thanks Jen

      • Rebecca Shorten

        I did end up making this cake with the fondant. I used a simple vanilla buttercream as a crumb-coat, then covered the whole thing in fondant. It worked BEAUTIFULLY! I also made a smaller tier for the cake. the crumb of the cake is firm enough to support the fondant, but it is still a moist cake with a great flavour. I’m linking to my Facebook post about the cake. Lol! Not exactly a professional job, but it came out well. Too bad I got too tired to finish it. She loved it anyway. 🙂

  • Jacqueline

    Can you substitute oil for the butter, or smart balance instead of butter? I tried using smart balance with another cake I made and it came out dense. So, I was wondering if that would happen if I used oil or smart balance with your recipe.

  • Maurisa

    I would like to make this cake for my husband’s birthday. I just don’t understand the part where you have to refrigerate the cake after baking it? Is this a recipe that requires to be made several days before being served? Thanks in Advance