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

  • Meatsauce

    Great info. Im going to use a 14″ round pan, I didn’t see it on the pan chart. How do I go about accounting the amount of ingredients to be used for that size?

  • Debi

    My cake seemed “moist” lol. Not sure how a made drom scratch cake should look. Could you put a picture maybe of top of yours close up?
    Also mine seems like it did not rise well. I followed everything exactly. I do also wish you could give more direction on how lon to beat at end. You say “very well’. Is that on high? How long?

    Tha ks!!!!

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Debi! There’s a video in the post that shows what the top of the cakes should look like after baking. As far as making sure the cake is moist, there are tips in the post and recipe notes on how to check for doneness using a toothpick. If your cake didn’t rise, I’d check to make sure the baking powder is still good as it can lose its effectiveness over time. And when you are mixing the ingredients together, mix just until no streaks of dry flour remain visible.

  • Christine

    Tried this recipe and was delicious!! I tested it to use for my son’s up coming birthday party. It is soooo much better than box cake mix. I will be using this recipe from now on. Also, I’m using an 11×15 cake pan, any ideas if I should double or triple this recipe? Thank you!!

  • Raniya

    Hi! I have a borthday party to do last minute and I only have time to chill the cake for 1 hour, before decorating. Is this okay or will the cake still crumble?

  • Kathy

    Made this cake for my grandaughter’s 15 Th Birthday(large family) , cooked in large spring tin,will certainly make again!!
    Perfect for large number ,perfect texture,
    I used self raising flour/ not plain flour or baking powder. 👍

  • Joetta Duarte

    This is truly the best vanilla cake recipe I’ve tried. I live at a very high altitude (over 7,000 ft) and have tried several high altitude recipes with mediocre results. This cake not only has incredible flavor, but it also holds up firm enough for torting and cake decorating. Thank you for sharing the high altitude adjustments. Cheers!

  • Taylor W.

    Hello, I’m looking for a vanilla cake to marble with my chocolate cake recipe. Can this recipe be made with sour cream instead of milk or buttermilk?

  • Eliza

    Hey Jen! I was wondering, is this recipe suitable for 6 7 inch cakes? I’m planning to make a rainbow cake for my little sister (She’s turning 10).

  • Theresa

    I love how simple the recipe is I love to cook. One question you said use metric measuring system. I can’t use my regular measuring cups. Please advise. Thank you

  • Jorge

    Thank you….I made this recipe last night and the outcome was great delicious spongy and perfect …I felt like a pro…

  • Happy caker

    This recipe is quite delicious and turned out perfectly! I only made one change, which was using heavy whipping cream instead of whole milk due to needing to use it up. Can you say moist, fluffy and buttery? Yes, that’s exactly what I said when I bit into this (cake) cupcake. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Terry

    I made this cake with the vanilla buttercream icing for my regular customers’ Birthday. It was my first attempt at making a B’day cake and I have to thank you, It turned out awesome!!!! They loved it! Not only that it was someone’s B’day at the table next to theirs so they sent him over a piece. He came up and personally thanked me…not only that he told me I was in the wrong business that I should be a baker (lol.) This will be my go to vanilla B’day cake recipe from here on out. Big hug. Thank you again.

  • Amy M

    This is a great recipe! The best vanilla cake I’ve made to date. I’ve been searching for an outstanding vanilla cake for so damn long and I’m happy to say that my search is over! I did substitute canola oil in place of half the butter and it turned out amazing! My family loves the texture of box cakes and using half oil/half butter definitely delivered, but I think I’ll try this recipe as written next time so that I can truly compare each version. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this amazing recipe, it is now my go to!