Vanilla cake holds a near and dear place in my sugarcoated heart.
For every birthday growing up as a kid, I would always request plain vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.
Fast-forward a couple decades, and this demure dessert is still my one true love.
And I’m ready to share the love with all of you, with this delicious recipe!
A simple vanilla butter cake is an essential kitchen staple to add to your baking (and eating!) portfolio.
Unlike a heavy, dense pound cake, this dessert is lighter and fluffier, with a more delicate crumb.
So, hands off the Crisco.
While shortening is often used in baking as the fat of choice, due to its (shockingly) infinite shelf life and soft, malleable texture, I am 100% on board the butter bus. And there’s plenty of room for more passengers!
With a base of thick and fatty cream, butter is a more natural form of fat compared to chemically hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Needless to say, it is significantly tastier.
Experience all the buttery glory with our delicious recipe. Get it now below!Print
Want to learn how to make a basic vanilla cake? You’ll love our recipe. It’s fluffy, buttery, and packed with delicious flavor.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, and lightly spray again.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until softened and lightly whipped. Add the salt and sugar. Beat at medium-high speed until well combined.
- With the mixer running on low speed, add one egg at a time. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fully incorporated. Repeat with the other two eggs.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Measure out the milk in a separate measuring pitcher. Measure the vanilla and mix into the milk. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and liquid mixture alternately to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition, beating well until a uniform batter develops.
- Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until done.
- Cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Turn cake out of the pans onto a cooling rack, remove the parchment paper, turn right side up, and allow to cool completely. Decorate and serve.
- Prep Time: 15 mintues
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Baked Goods
Keywords: vanilla, cake, butter
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare the Oven and Pans
After setting the oven to 350°F, trace the bottom of the pans on parchment paper and cut out. Check to make sure they fit in the bottom of the pans, and set aside.
Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line with the precut liners, and lightly spray again.
Step 2 – Cream the Fat and Sugar
With a paddle attachment, lightly whip the butter to soften and evenly distribute it in the bowl. Then add the salt and sugar.
Mix until they are incorporated fully, and the mixture gets a little light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Scrape down with a spatula, and mix for another 30 seconds.
Step 3 – Add the Eggs
With the mixer on low speed, drop in one egg, and increase the speed to completely mix in the egg. Do not add another egg until the previous one has been fully incorporated in the mixture.
Once all of the eggs are in the bowl, scrape the bowl, and mix for another 30 seconds.
Step 4 – Alternate the Dry and Liquid Ingredients
Start by adding 1/4 of the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and mix slowly to incorporate. Then, add 1/3 of the liquid ingredients.
Alternate between the dry and liquid ingredients until you finish with the last remaining 1/4 of the dry ingredients.
This methodical process, though it may take some extra time, is very important to making a perfect butter cake.
It ensures that the batter is fully homogenized and will not break or curdle. A smooth, evenly incorporated batter means that your final product will be the perfect texture!
Step 5 – Bake
After dividing the batter evenly between the two prepared pans, bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
You can check for doneness in two ways:
Insert a sharp knife or cake tester in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, or has a few dry crumbs clinging to it, it is ready! If there is wet batter covering it, keep it in for a few more minutes.
Gently press on the top of the cake with your hand. If it is too soft and easily sinks under the pressure of your hand, give it a few more minutes. If it springs back, it is ready!
Step 6 – Cool, Decorate, Serve, and Store
Allow to cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Run a small paring knife around the edge, and invert onto a cooling rack.
Remove the parchment paper on the bottom, and turn the cake over so that it is right side up. Let cool completely, for another 30-50 minutes. It should be completely cool to the touch before decorating or storing.
Decorate as you wish, and serve!
Use any style of frosting – like cocoa fudge frosting, American-style buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, or chocolate ganache glaze – to add the finishing touches to this recipe when you’re ready to decorate it. The white base on both of these frostings is ideal for mixing in food coloring to add some colorful flair.
If you want to store your cake before decorating, wrap each individual round tightly in plastic wrap, being sure to not expose any cake. Freeze for up to 1 month.
A Sweet Classic
I don’t think I’ll ever stop requesting vanilla butter cake for my birthday – it’s a tasty tradition celebrating a classic dessert that will never get old!
No matter if you are planning to use this recipe for a birthday party or for any other celebration, it’s definitely a treat that every cook should know how to make.
While we love this recipe, we value the necessity to save time! Try using our DIY yellow cake mix to save a few steps of prep, if you find yourself strapped for time.
Just imagine everyone’s delight when you slice into a beautifully decorated homemade dessert, covered in fluffy icing.
That sweet aroma and taste of vanilla, butter, and sugar will be irresistible – right down to the last couple of crumbs.
What is your favorite way to serve a simple vanilla cake? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!
For more lovely cake recipes, bake any one of our beautiful recipes below:
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Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.