How to Make a 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.
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 vanilla cupcakes and moist white cake recipe. It uses only egg whites instead of whole eggs. Or my mug cake version and cake pops for single and bite-sized servings! 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.
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. And I’m certain you are going to agree that this is the best vanilla cake recipe!
Why this basic vanilla cake recipe works
- 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 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.
- Cake flour is used for a fine crumb and delicate cake texture.
Vanilla cake ingredients
As mentioned above, this cake uses standard pantry ingredients. But choosing quality ingredients is key to a great tasting cake with the best texture. Let’s go over those ingredients in detail.
- Butter: Unsalted butter that is softened to room temperature will cream perfectly with the sugar.
- Sugar: Granulated white sugar is what works best.
- Eggs: I use 4 whole eggs in my cake recipes.
- Vanilla: Look for high-quality vanilla to use. I prefer Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla or you can make your own vanilla.
- Flour: Bob’s Red Mill Super Fine Cake Flour is the best and will ensure the cake has the best texture.
- Leavening: Baking powder is used to give the cake rise.
- Salt: Salt helps to balance the sweetness.
- Milk: Whole milk works best but you can also use buttermilk.
How do you make a cake from scratch?
Making a cake at home is incredibly easy! This recipe uses the creaming method to emulsify the ingredients. This also incorporates air to give the cake a light and fluffy texture.
The Batter – It’s important to set the cold ingredients out for about 1 hour before you begin. The butter, eggs, and milk must be at room temperature in order for them to blend together properly.
The Frosting – The frosting is my very favorite basic vanilla buttercream. I have a dedicated post for the frosting. Be sure to pop over and read all my tips for silky smooth frosting that isn’t overly sweet tasting.
Step 1: Gather the ingredients and preheat the oven
It is essential to use butter, eggs, and milk that are at room temperature. Room temperature ingredients will combine more easily, giving you a properly emulsified batter.
Set the butter, eggs, and milk out on the counter 1 hour before you plan to make the cake. Measure out all the other ingredients and have them ready to use.
Prepare your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or handheld mixer with beaters. Lightly grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Preheat the oven about 30 minutes before you begin making the batter.
Step 2: Cream the butter and sugar together
The butter must be room temperature in order for it to cream properly with the sugars. This is why it is so important to set it out 1 hour ahead of time.
Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to beat the butter and sugar together. You’re looking for a light and fluffy texture.
It should appear lighter in color and double the sized in volume once it has been creamed properly. This can take 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 3: Add the eggs and vanilla
Make sure the eggs are at room temperature or they’ll cause the batter to curdle.
Add one egg at a time and beat the batter well after each addition. Then beat in the vanilla extract.
Step 4: Add the dry ingredients
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Use a whisk to stir everything together well.
Sift the flour mixture into the butter mixer. This will remove any lumps from the cake flour so it incorporates into the batter.
With the mixer on low speed gradually pour in the milk. Continue to beat the batter just until all the flour is incorporated. Take extra care to not overmix.
Step 5: Bake the cake
Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans. Bake the cake for 20-30 minutes. Just until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
I suggest starting to check for doneness at around 15 minutes since ovens can vary in temperature.
Cool the cake layers in the pan for 10 minutes then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, make the frosting and frost the cake.
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. Start checking the cakes about 5-7 minutes sooner than the time listed in the recipe.
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
- 1-¼ 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.
How do I make a cake more moist?
First, make sure you’ve followed all my tips on 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 completely clean, 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.
If you like this basic vanilla cake recipe, try these others:
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Adapted from Bigger Bolder Baking.
Hello again Jen,
Do you have a recipe for a German Chocolate cake.
Hello, Thank you for this wonderful class on baking cakes. I feel like I need to send you a donation. It has been that Awesome…
The flour you recommend
The super fine flour by Bob has been discontinued. What substitute can I use.
You can use any brand of cake flour.
Thank you for responding to my comments. Let me ask or I can make my own cake floor by replacing 1/8th of the flour with corn starch (for every cup). So I would take out 1/8 of all purpose flour and replace with 1/8th of cornstarch. Let me know if I am on the right track.
Also, do you have a cake book or something I can purchase.
You can use homemade cake flour. See the link for my recipe. I will say, using real cake flour will yield the very best results so I encourage that over the homemade version. I don’t have a cake book or any other book for purchase.
Hi Jane! I just tried this and love it sooo much! But I use coffee powder instead of vanilla because I love coffee so much😁
Thank you for this recipe!
I liked the cake. I baked it, followed every instruction and it turned out perfect but I have a question. Can I use Nutella instead of frosting?
Straight Nutella may be a little difficult to spread on the cake. But you’re welcome to frost the cake how you wish.
Can I use all purpose flour instead of cake flour for this recipe?
You could but keep in mind that this will change the final texture of the cake.
Tried this recipe. Turned out great. Used Evaporated milk instead of regular whole milk, ran a little low on good vanilla essence but that didn’t make a difference to taste. I baked in a Bundt pan and it took 45 minutes to bake fully at 350. So the 20-30 min time seems way off. Otherwise it’s a fool proof (yes, I’m not a baking expert!) recipe. Try it and thanks. ?
I liked the cake.
But the one thing is I put the cake in the pan liked the recipe said same amount and everything and it only raised like 2 centimeters.
Once again I really liked the cake and frosting!
I’m sorry to hear your cake didn’t rise. It’s important to make sure your baking powder is good. It can become less active the older it is. Also, Double check your ingredient measurements and don’t overmix the batter. The pan you choose can also affect rising. I find cakes don’t rise much in nonstick pans so I recommend using aluminum.
I’ve been using this recipe to make vanilla cakes. I’d like to make chocolate one this time. I saw you have chocolate cake but I prefer not to use oil. Can I just substitute some flour for cocoa powder?
I don’t recommend changing a recipe because I can’t guarantee how it will turn out. However, you may like the chocolate cake recipe from my chocolate easter cake.
Why don’t you put the quantity of ingredients
The ingredient quantities and full instructions are right above where you left this comment.
I made it with half ingredients , divide everything by 2 , for 9×13 inch pan , baked for almost 15 minutes at 150C and it turned out amazing , designed with buttercream and berries, email me for the pictures!