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.

Helpful Tools

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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
Print Save Recipe Rate
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

  • Kayla

    Can you add food coloring to this cake recipe? How about your Basic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting? I’m wanting to color the cake layers in an ombre effect using blue food coloring, and planning on adding blue to the icing as well.
    Also, how well does this cake hold up to being carved?
    I’m planning on making several layers and turning it into a doll cake by carving the sides to a more cone-like shape.

    • Jen Sobjack

      You can add gel food coloring to any cake or frosting recipe. I’ve actually never carved a cake before but I imagine this one would be okay to do since the crumb is very tight.

  • Kim

    Would this recipe work for a lamb cake? I have a pan that is not stand up 3d. How long would I cook that for? And also what would the cook time be for a 9×13 pan?
    Thank you

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Kim! I’ve never used a lamb mold so I have no idea how long you would need to bake the cake. But, for a 9×13-inch pan, you’d bake it for approximately 45-50 minutes. This is listed in the notes section of the recipe.

  • Angela

    Hi. Great recipe. I made it once with all purpose flour and it turned out too dense for my liking. I tried it a second time with cake flour as you recommended and it turned out perfect. It’s not overly sweet either, which I like.

  • Michale

    Hello!

    I have been looking for a cake to bake for Easter. However, I have not yet found a perfect vanilla cake recipe, and I am thinking about trying this one. For some reason, my vanilla cakes never have a good vanilla flavor, though, like the ones that can be bought from most bakeries do. Instead, they always end up tasting like plain butter and sugar. Do you have any suggestions for me, and would you say this cake has a good vanilla flavor without being too buttery or sugary? Thank you so much!

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Michale! What type of vanilla are you using in your cakes? I’ve found that it’s best to use a high-quality pure vanilla in order to get the best flavor. I’m partial to Nielsen-Massey and Rodelle vanillas. They tend to yield the best results.

      • Michale

        I often vary in the types of vanilla that I use, but I do know that I never use imitation vanilla. Currently, I have a bottle of Great Value’s pure vanilla extract. It works very well in all of my other recipes, but I cannot remember if I have ever used this brand for a vanilla cake before. I know that I did once use a very high-quality extract for a vanilla cake, and it just did not work. If this one does work, then I will most likely stick with it 🙂 Thank you for your help and I cannot wait to try this recipe out!

  • Jessica

    I never comment on blogs, but thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve never baked anything from scratch, but wanted to for my husband’s birthday this year. This, paired with your vanilla buttercream, was wonderful. I can’t wait to make it again!

  • Victoria

    I was wondering how many cups of batter this makes. I am making a 2 layer 9 inch cake and a 3 layer 6 inch cake. I was trying to figure out if I should 2x, 1.5x, or 2.5x the recipe.

    • Jen Sobjack

      I haven’t measured the batter in cups but one recipe will fit 2 9-inch round pans or 3 8-inch round pans. 3 8-inch pans hold 18 cups of batter and the 3 6-inch pans you want to use only hold 12 cups of batter.

  • Kaitlin G.

    I used this recipe for my daughter’s birthday and made 2 half sheet size cakes (doubled the recipe) and then layered them. It worked great and tasted amazing! This will be my go-to from now on!

  • Brittany Wirth

    I’m very excited to use the recipe given all the good comments/reviews! I’m making a 2 tier cake. One will be two 10” cakes and the other will be two 8” cakes. Will doubling this recipe be enough?

  • leslie

    I baked this cake and it’s definitely made its way onto my top 3 recipes!! I used a browned butter glaze instead of the buttercream. Everything about it was perfect, thank you!

  • colleen

    I’m looking forward to making this for my Mom’s 78th birthday tomorrow. A stupid question for you…if I want to double the recipe why do you suggest using the measurements in grams instead of just doubling it in cups?

    Thanks for your help!

  • Saralane

    So I made this recipe for two round 9” and it came out delightful! I have them in the freezer and wanted to see if you had a recommendation for measurements to add one additional 9” and 3 6” because I plan to do a two tier cake. I was going to split half in the 9” but I am not sure the other half will equally fill 3 6” pans? Thank you so much!

  • Amanda

    I am making a 3d egg shaped cake. I’m using the silicone Easter pans, turning them into a Hatchimal. It’ll stand up on its end. Will this cake stand up well or is it too light and fluffy?

  • Joan

    I made this cake for my sons birthday this last weekend. I only added 1 cup of sugar because I find things too sweet, and it turned out pretty good. The texture is a little like sponge cake, but the flavor is really good. My boys really like it. I might have baked it a tad too long. I used 10 inch baking pans and the cake is flatter than the picture. I was also at the end of the baking powder so maybe it was played out. Next time I’ll for sure use 9 inch pans. I loved reading all of the questions and comments. Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Christina

    I’m making this today – using part in a 6” for a smash cake and the remainder to make cupcakes. The cupcakes won’t be made until Sunday. Can I just refrigerate it tonight and tomorrow for use Sunday? Should I freeze it? Will it hold up well?

    • Jen Sobjack

      I don’t recommend storing cake batter for later use. The cakes/cupcakes may not rise or bake the same way. My suggestion is to bake all the cakes/cupcakes today. Wrap the layers tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until Sunday. Then continue with assembling and frosting them before serving. All the make-ahead instructions are included in the recipe.

      • Christina DeVault

        Yes, thank you!

        I will just do half batch tonight and half batch Sunday. Every time I make ahead cupcakes the liners come off, so I’m trying to avoid that!

  • Loretta Meyer

    I’m eager to try this recipe. Love white cake! Soon as my oven is fixed I’m going to make it. Really like your blog.