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

  • Kacie

    I just made this into one 5″ cake and 24 cupcakes for my son’s first birthday. I haven’t even frosted them yet and they taste divine! So tender and light. I followed the recipe exactly and it was so quick and easy. The only issue I had was that my cake stuck a bit to the bottom even after greasing and flouring but that could be my pan (its over 60 years old). Next time I will just line the bottom with parchment paper. This is my new go-to white cake. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Rachel Marshall

    I just baked this cake. I used cake flour, my eggs and butter sat out all night so they were room temperature. And followed everything else to the tee. I know my baking powder was still good because I recently used it for biscuits (which rose beautifully) but this cake had very thin layers in my 9 inch rounds. They really didn’t raise much higher than the height of the batter before baking. Also, I found it took a long time to bake at 350. I think it was almost 25 minutes and usually I have to reduce baking time with recipes! The bit that stuck to my pan tasted delicious, a bit sweeter than I expected, but it will counter the tartness of my raspberry jam and cream cheese icing. Depending on the end result, I may go back to my other recipe, though this one is super easy.

    • Jen Sobjack

      The type of pan you used can affect how the cake rises as well. I find that cakes rise best in aluminum pans because the cake “clings” to the sides as it rises and this helps it to rise taller than it would in a nonstick pan. I bake all my cakes in aluminum pans and the layers turn out exactly as pictured. And the instructions say to bake for 20-30 minutes so it sounds like your oven is right on par with mine. I hope you ended up happy with the end result!

  • Stapleninja91

    I used your recipe for a friend’s wedding cake and it was a hit! I like this recipe but I have a few questions:
    1) I’m wondering if you have tried this recipe with cocoa powder for a chocolate cake?
    2) would 2% milk work?
    3) have you tried dry spices in this? I’m thinking of making a spice cake but don’t know if the formula would get screwed up or be extra dry.
    Thanks!!!

  • Alaina

    Halved this recipe, used 2% milk instead of whole milk, and made 10 jumbo cupcakes instead of a cake. Turned out great, will definitely make again.

  • Lisa

    This cake is so good! It isn’t too sweet which I love (since I cover it in buttercream of course) and is a bit dense but that may be because I over baked it a little bit, I’m making this again for a birthday next week so I’ll get it out of the oven a bit quicker! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sophie

    This recipe is AMAZING!! It is my now go to recipe to make with vanilla cakes, so light and flavorsome! Easy recipe and have had no problems at all with it 😊

  • Sam

    Hi there!

    I’ve made this twice now- the first time was awesome, but this time around it looks really flat. I don’t remember how high it rose last time- trying to figure out whether to remake it or not!

    How tall does your cake typically end up?

    P.S. I added a little bit of almond extract to add a little dimension. Less than 1/8 tsp. You know its there, but can’t quite pinpoint it.

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Sam! This cake should bake up beautifully tall just like the pictures and video shows. First off, double check that your baking powder is still active. It does lose it’s effectiveness over time and may need to be replaced. Place 1 teaspoon baking powder in a cup and add 1/3 cup hot tap water. If it bubbles, it’s good to use. If it doesn’t bubble, it’s time to replace it.

      Also, the type of pan you are using can have an effect on how tall it rises. I like to use aluminum pans because they allow the cake to “cling” to the sides and rise taller than it would in a nonstick pan.

      Finally, make sure you are using room temperature ingredients and cream the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes. You want to incorporate a ton of air into the butter and sugar.

      • Sam

        Thank you so much for the response!!

        I think you are on to something with regard to the pan! The middle of the cake is domed, so that is consistent with your theory.

        I will double check my baking powder too, although I think it is relatively new.

        I really appreciate you getting back to me! I can’t wait to bake another with a new pan!

  • Debra

    This cake came out light, moist, and so delicious! I used self-raising flour in place of cake flour, baking powder and salt and also whipped the butter and sugar for 6 minutes with my hand mixer. I made 2 -6 inch and 1-9 layers. Thank you Jen for a perfect recipe!

    • Jen Sobjack

      Using oil in place of butter can be tricky. You’d need less oil than butter and the amount also varies depending on the type of oil. I haven’t made this cake with oil so I can’t advise on how to substitute.

  • Lulu

    Very easy, tastes great, and comes together quickly. However, this cannot be divided into 3 8 inch pans. I had tiny tiny layers. I’ll stick to 2 next time!

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Lulu! I’m so glad you liked the recipe. And it certainly will work with three 8-inch pans. It’s the same recipe I used for my Eggnog Cake and made three beautifully tall layers with it. Make sure you’re using aluminum pans and not nonstick pans. Cakes don’t rise as much in those nonstick pans.

  • Jamie

    Question. I live in the USA. I have been weighing my ingredients, because I know it makes a difference, but what do I do about wet ingredients? It say 240 milliliters of milk, but that comes out to just a little over 8 ozs or a little over cup of milk. What do I do? Just stick with the one cup, or add a teaspoon more? Thanks!

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Jamie! I’m in the US also and I weigh all my dry ingredients then use a standard liquid measuring cup for wet ingredients like milk. But you can do either 8oz or 240ml. The scant difference will not ruin the recipe.