Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe

The Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe

This Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe is very easy, with just a few important tricks to make it buttery, and soft and moist!

Can you even believe that in all the year (almost 10!) that I have been blogging, I have never posted a recipe for my favorite vanilla cake! I have shared my favorite vanilla cupcakes, which is very similar, but I have made a few adjustments to make the recipe perfect in cake form.

This Homemade Vanilla Cake is Easy, Soft, and Moist!

So often are homemade vanilla cakes too dense, or dry with that “cornbread” texture. It’s pretty dang hard to get that boxed cake texture…trust me I have tried. But what’s so great about a homemade vanilla cake is the flavor, and that is definitely not something you can’t get in a boxed mix!

My Vanilla Cake recipe will give you a soft, tender crumb thanks to the buttermilk, with a buttery, vanilla flavor. Top the cake with my creamy buttercream and you have the world’s most classic birthday cake, or cover it with fondant for something a little more fancy!

The Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe

How To Make The BEST Vanilla Cake

So since we’re going back to basics today, I have a few steps that will ensure the best results for you vanilla cake! None of the tips I am going to share are difficult at all. They are just easy suggestions that will ensure cake success that came from a lot of trial and error.

What kind of flour should I use in this vanilla cake?

The trick to this vanilla cake recipe is Cake Flour. It always produces a more tender crumb. Certainly you CAN use all purpose flour, and I used to think it wouldn’t matter too much, but it does. Oh friends, it does. I even went as far (like with the cupcake recipe) where you use a combo of all purpose and cake flour, which I think is totally fine for cupcakes. But for a cake, I truly feel that 100% cake flour is the way to go. Cake flour has less protein content, and forms less gluten when you mix it giving you a more airy texture!

Also note that I am not a huge stickler for sifting the flour or dry ingredients together. What I do, is add the baking powder and salt in with the eggs and vanilla. I find this gives them plenty of time to get evenly mixed into the batter. I love baking, but I really try and cut down on steps that I feel are unnecessary. It also saves me from washing another bowl. Some might argue this, I have never had an issue!

Can I Over Mix the Cake Batter?

DON’T OVER MIX THE BATTER! Once you add the flour and buttermilk in alternating portions you want your batter to be smooth and creamy, but you don’t want to overdo it. This will make your cake tough, and not as tender. The more you mix, the more gluten forms, which you don’t want for a light, fluffy cake. You want to want everything to be combined, but that’s it! It will take less than 30 seconds after the last portion of flour is added. And again, SCRAPE THE SIDES OF THE BOWL!

Why buttermilk? 

Another non-negotiable is buttermilk. The acid in the buttermilk combined with the baking powder produces the most tender crumb by breaking down the long strands of gluten. If you catch yourself in a pinch and don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, here’s a buttermilk substitution.

Please note: I do recommend first to sub in milk with lemon juice or vinegar for the buttermilk, as stated in the graphic below. If you don’t have either of those, you can sub in plain yogurt as a last resort.

Buttermilk Substitution


How To Prevent Your Cake From Sticking to the Pan

Don’t skip using parchment rounds in the bottom of the pan. I know this might be another step you might want to skip, but it’s really a simple step to take to ensure the cakes release from the pan easily. Here’s what you do:

  1. Use a baking spray to coat the pans.
  2. Cut circles of parchment paper out that fit into the bottom of the pans.
  3. Place the parchment in the sprayed pan, and spray it again!

There is  NOTHING worse than going to all the trouble of baking a cake and having it stick. You might swear that you greased or coated the pan enough…but please, just add the parchment paper for insurance. This cake has a high sugar content and will easily stick to the pan if not properly prepared.

The Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe

Quality Ingredients Are Key!

Use the best ingredients you can. This is something I feel very strongly about when baking “basics”. Ingredients can make the difference between your cake going from good to AMAZING.

High quality ingredients include:

  • Pure vanilla, not imitation.
  • Real butter, never artificially flavored margarine.
  • Quality Cake Flour

*I use salted butter in this recipe, (as I do in most of my recipes) which is completely personal preference. If you have a salt sensitivity, feel free to use unsalted.

How to Frost Your Cake

Frosting is the the fun part of cake baking. And do NOT worry, I am far from an expert cake decorator. I firmly believe it doens’t have to look good to taste good. But with that said, there are a few things you can do to make your cake pretty!

Leveling Your Cake

When the cakes are baked they might have formed domes on top. Domes are a visual indicator that your cake has risen and will likely be light and airy on the inside! So yay for domes! BUT domes aren’t great when you want to stack your cakes. Simple fix, friends!

Don’t get too hung up on being perfect. No need to buy a fancy cake leveler, although, they are nice, they’re not necessary at all! Just let your cake cool completely and grab a serrated knife. and carefully trip off any dome at the top, so the cakes will stack evenly.

Do You Have To “Crumb Coat” Your Cake?

Sometimes I trim the sides a little bit if something isn’t perfect. But just know, the more you trim, the more crumbs you will get in your frosting, which is why a crumb coat is very important to get a perfect finish! So you don’t HAVE to, especially if you’re going for that rustic look, but if you want a perfect finish on your cake, a crumb coat is a good idea.

The Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe

What frosting should I use?

This cake is the perfect vehicle for frosting, and a great way to get creative! The “naked” technique that I used in the pictures is an easy frosting style. All you do is add a layer of frosting in the middle and lightly coat the sides. In these pictures and in the video below I used my Perfect Buttercream Frosting. I love it so much!

You can even slice each layer in half and create a fabulous 4 layer cake! If you choose to do this, increase the frosting amount by at least 50% so you have enough!

Here are a few other frosting recipes that are amazing on the Vanilla Cake:

I hope these tips have helped! Vanilla cake seems so simple, but can often give varied results. So, I hope these tips and vanilla cake recipe will be your go-to recipe from now on!


Perfect Vanilla Cake

  • Author: Shelly
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: serves 10 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


This Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe is very easy, with just a few important tricks to make it buttery, and soft and moist!


  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2, 8 or 9- inch round cake pans with nonstick spray. Cut two pieces of parchment paper into 9- inch circles. Place the rounds in the bottoms of the pans. Coat again with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment mix the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes. Add in the oil, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt, and continue mixing for an additional minute until smooth and combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary to make sure everything is evenly mixed.
  3. Turn the mixer to low speed and in alternating portions add in the buttermilk and flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix for 30 seconds, until combined and smooth, again, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Pour half of the cake batter into each prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the center of the cakes are set, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then remove the cakes and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.


Frost the cake with your desired frosting. I used my Perfect Buttercream Frosting in the pictures and video for this recipe.

If you’re making ahead, wrap the cakes tightly in cling wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. Alternately you can wrap the cakes in cling wrap, then place them each in a large zip-top bag and freeze for up to a month.

Keywords:: best vanilla cake recipe, perfect vanilla cake recipe, moist vanilla cake

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The Best Vanilla Cake


Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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78 Responses
  1. Angela

    I’m an avid baker and I’ve been looking for the very best vanilla cake for years. Why is vanilla cake so tricky?? Well this one is amazing. I agree with using quality ingredients! I’ve successfully made vanilla cupcakes (325 degrees F for 20-23 mins) and marble cake too. It also works great with 1 for 1 gluten free and also works well making it dairy-free with vegan butter and coconut/almond milk for anyone who has allergies 🙂

  2. Jennifer

    Do you think gluten free flour could be directly subbed for the cake flour? I sub it for regular all purpose flour in other recipes.

  3. Tracy Powell

    I have been looking for a moist yellow cake with a loose crumb (so many of the ones I have tried often seem more like pound cake texture), and this sounds perfect. Question though about the salt…..I have not previously used kosher salt in a cake recipe before (usually calls for table salt), and am concerned about the larger pieces dissolving. Does it turn out fine or is there a salty element to this cake?

    1. Shelly

      I don’t find there is at all, but if you are more comfortable using table salt that will work, just decrease the amount by 1/4 teaspoon!

  4. Catherine

    This is an amazing cake! It ended up tasting super good. The only thing I didn’t like is how it called for kosher salt. While it gave the cake nice favor, I tasted chunks of salt even after the cake was baked. That is the only thing I would change, so overall it was delicious!

  5. Lori

    I will be making a 4 or 5 layer pinata cake so I need a recipe that will allow the cake to be structually sound (weight of the layers and the hole in the two middle layers for the candy).

    Will this cake hold up to that?

  6. Melissa Bruno

    This is THE best vanilla cake! I’ve made it 4 times for different celebrations. For one of the bakes, I was low on cake flour, so I used 2 cups AP flour and 1 cup cake flour…still light, fluffy, and moist. Just the perfect crumb and texture!!! Thank you for a fabulous recipe!!! ?

  7. Felicia Daniel

    I would like to try this recipe, however, I can only bake one layer at a time. Can I let the batter sit on the counter until the first one is done? Will it affect the rise?

  8. Stacy M.

    I’m getting ready to make this in 2 days and I was wondering if a vanilla bean can be added or used instead of the extract for both/either the cake and frosting. Thank you.

  9. Sarah

    Hey Shelly, I am baking a cake for a baby shower, and I don’t know how to make a three layer 10-inch cake. How much batter do I need to make a three-layer? Should I triple the recipe three times?

    1. Shelly

      Hi! You could make this 3 layers, if you divide the batter up into 3 pans and bake. They would be thinner cake layers, but you will also have another layer of frosting in there. I might recommend just increasing the amount by 1/3, or even 1/2 to make the layers a little thicker 🙂

  10. Bree

    Hi! Wondering if you’ve ever used this for a 6 inch cake?? I was thinking of using two 6-inch pans. Would there be batter left over? I could probably use towards cupcakes.

    1. Shelly

      Yes, there would definitely be batter left. if you fill a 6- inch pan up with this it will definitely overflow 🙂 You could also do 3, 6- inch cakes.

  11. Kate

    I just made this and it is delicious! I love the golden crust. So much buttery vanilla deliciousness! A tip for anyone who doesn’t use buttermilk often, i buy powdered buttermilk and it works great, and stores well.

  12. Michele

    THis cake looks amazing!! Must try it!
    Wanted to ask why you dont use any baking soda in this recipe since buttermilk is used??
    Thanks so much


  13. Jennifer

    Hi, My daughter is allergic to cow’s milk.. Can I use almond milk? I also don’t have kosher salt. Can I use regular salt? Thanks!

  14. Sharon

    Hi there. I am keen to try this recipe out but only have 1 x 9” round cake pan which is very deep. Can this cake be baked in one tin then layered for frosting. If so how long would you bake for? Many thanks.

  15. Mike

    Hi Shelly,
    The recipe sounds great and I’m keen to use it for my daughters birthday cake.
    Is it suitable for fondant icing also?

  16. Gina

    It sure of taste yet but I have this baking right now. I used 8 inch cake pans and so far it’s been in for 45 min and there is still batter on a toothpick when I test the middle but the edges are getting overdone. ?? Not sure what I’m doing wrong but now I’m worried I’ve over baked it and it will be dry.

  17. Dawn

    Thank you so much! I just used salted butter. This is hands down the best best best best best vanilla cake I have ever had! Thank you so much for helping me find the perfect one! 🙂
    Do you have a chocolate one?

  18. Dawn

    Cannot wait to make this! I have been looking for an amazing yellow cake recipe. If I do not use salted butter, how much salt should I add to the batter?

    1. Shelly

      It’s really a personal preference. I just prefer a tiny bit more salt, so if I were to use unsalted butter I would use 1 1/2 teaspoons, but if you are at all sensitive to salt, just use the 1 teaspoon!

  19. Stephie Scat

    I made this cake today. It came out excellent. I have made many vanilla/yellow cakes and this one is one of the best. I also used Challenge Butter. The cake texture is perfect, and it has a great vaniilla flavor. Thanks for great recipe!

  20. Stephie Scat

    There are two versions to this recipe for Perfect Vanilla Cake. I just made this cake, and I just put the cake in the oven… I had remembered seeing “oil” as an ingredient and when double checking, one of the versions, there is no oil on the ingredient list I was following, nor in the instructions. Then I switched over to check another window (also Cookie & Cups), and there is was, 1/4 cup oil. If I had not watched the video, last night I would have not remembered I had seen the oil listed. I just checked, and they are both the Cookies and Cups site, so I am not sure why both recipes don’t match exactly. The only difference is the addition of the oil Can you please clarify and correct? Thank you.

    1. Shelly

      Hi, yes, there was an omission in the recipe that was posted yesterday, but luckily someone brought it to my attention and it’s all fixed! The recipe includes 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and the recipe should reflect that now!

  21. Ebony

    In the video you add vegetable oil to the batter but I don’t see it listed in the ingredients. How much oil do you add?
    Thank you ?

  22. Carol

    I’m sorry if I’m not seeing it, but which frosting did you use in the photos? Is it the Perfect Party Frosting? Yellow (vanilla) cake is my all-time favorite, so I’ve tried to find my “perfect one” and, though I’ve found one I’ve come back to for years, this may outdo it — I can’t wait to try it! I like a pastry cream filling but would love to try the frosting you show here along with it, too. Thanks!

    1. Shelly

      Not sure what happened to that in the recipe, but I fixed it and it’s there now! It’s 1/4 cup vegetable oil added when you add the eggs and vanilla!

    1. Shelly

      You absolutely can…the vegetable oil adds to the fluffier texture of the cake. I love the taste that the butter gives, which is why I use a combo. All butter will produce a slightly heavier cake, but it will taste great!

Leave a Reply

Shelly Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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