My Favorite Vanilla Cake Recipe is light and fluffy and covered in vanilla buttercream frosting! The perfect birthday cake for vanilla lovers! But also perfect for special occasions like Easter, Mother’s Day, and 4th of July!
Classic Vanilla Cake
It’s no secret I LOVE cake! So it’s kind of crazy that up until now, I haven’t had a classic vanilla cake recipe to share with you. But honestly? Vanilla cake is not my favorite! It’s typically dry, bland, and boring. At least the ones I’ve experienced. But my husband LOVES vanilla, so I was determined to create a recipe that was the exact opposite of what I just described!
I was on a mission to create a vanilla birthday cake that was super moist, buttery, and loaded with flavor! And that is exactly what this cake is, my friends! It’s intensely buttery, with a great pop of vanilla in every bite (thanks to 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract, baby)! The layers are somehow both light and fluffy… and dense and buttery! And how you decide to serve it is totally up to you! Because this cake can easily be covered in sprinkles, topped with fresh fruit, or drizzled with caramel sauce… and beyond! My point is, it’s pretty versatile!
How to Make Vanilla Cake Layers
To start, let’s square away the ingredients you’ll need! This cake calls for: cake flour (do not sub all-purpose flour!), baking powder and salt, baking soda, butter, sugar, vanilla extract (yes, 2 TABLESPOONS), almond extract (no, it doesn’t taste almond-y), eggs (you’ll use eggs and egg whites!), buttermilk, sour cream, and oil! I know you’re probably thinking… “whoa, that’s a lot of ingredients”, but I promise, this unique blend is what creates the magical taste and texture!
Thankfully, assembling this cake is quite easy! First, you’ll need to prep those cake pans! This recipe calls for 3 9-inch pans, so be sure you have that before beginning! I have not tested this using smaller or larger cake pans, so I cannot advise on how that would work. But a general rule of thumb is smaller pans would take longer to bake and larger pans would bake faster. But for best results, use the pans called for!
And you’ll want to line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds AND generously grease! Otherwise you’ll run the risk of your cakes sticking. And no one wants that!
To make the actual vanilla cake layers, you’ll simply mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then you’ll beat the butter and sugar until fluffy, and then toss in the extracts. Next, add in the eggs, then add in the flour and wet ingredients. And voila, you have vanilla birthday cake batter.
Next you’ll find yourself dividing the batter evenly among the prepared pans! Then you’ll pop them in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes… or until they’re golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If your oven runs hot, this could be more like 20 minutes. Bake times vary based on the pan you use and the way your oven runs, so use your sensory indicators and best judgement!
Frosting the Cake
Once the cake layers are done baking, you’ll want to transfer them to a cooling rack to cool COMPLETELY! Don’t skimp on time here. Evenly slightly warm cakes will cause your beautiful frosting to melt everywhere. It takes about 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours for cake layers to cool.
Once they’re cool, it’s time to frost! As you can see, this recipe is not super heavy on the frosting. I prefer to really let the cake shine! But if you want a thicker amount, simply double the recipe and slather away! Then decorate with fresh berries, sprinkles, or whatever your heart desires. You could even leave the cake plain and set out a few measuring cups with different toppings and let your guests decorate their slices as they desire!
More Cake Recipes:
- Ultimate Funfetti Birthday Cake
- White Chocolate Almond Raspberry Cake
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake
- Best White Cake Recipe
- Old-Fashioned Devil’s Food Cake
My Favorite Vanilla Cake Recipe
For the Vanilla Cake
- 4 cups (480 g) cake flour
- 1 Tablespoon (14 g) baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 and 1/4 cups (447 g) granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (28 ml) vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 3 large egg whites room temperature, beaten until frothy
- 1 and 1/4 cups (284 ml) buttermilk room temperature
- 1 cup (227 g) sour cream room temperature
- 1/3 cup (67 ml) canola oil
For the Vanilla Frosting
- 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 6 and 1/2 cups (741 g) confectioners' sugar sifted
- 1/4 cup (57 ml) whole milk room temperature, more as needed
- 2 Tablespoons (28 ml) heavy cream room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Vanilla Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Generously grease the bottom and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans; line with parchment paper rounds and set aside until needed.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add in the sugar. Once all of the sugar has been added, beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Reduce the speed to medium-low and add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently.
- Beat in the frothy egg whites, in three additions, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- In a spouted measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, sour cream, oil and mix until evenly combined.
- On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly (about 710 g per pan) among the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
- Bake for 24 to 25 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes in the pans placed on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then invert the cake layers onto cooling racks and cool completely.
For the Vanilla Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until completely smooth; about 2 minutes.
- Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted confectioners' sugar. Add in the milk, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined.
- Once all of the ingredients have been incorporated, increase the speed to high and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until super fluffy. If the frosting appears too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar as needed. If the frosting appears too thick, add more milk as needed.
- Place one cake layer on a large plate or cake stand. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top of the cake, covering it completely. Top with another cake layer, and repeat the layering process, ending with the last cake layer on top. Spread all remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
- Allow the cake to set for 20 minutes before slicing. Then slice and serve.