Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

I’ve tried several vanilla cake recipes, and have found a few that I liked. However, this vanilla layer cake recipe blows them all out of the water!! It’s delicious, moist, and best of all, it keeps its shape!

This recipe is a butter cake recipe, and not a sponge cake recipe. This is important to note, because it has a denser texture than a fluffy sponge cake.

It also means that you don’t have to worry about whipping up egg whites, or carefully folding in dry ingredients.

In fact, this recipe is so easy to make, I call it a fool-proof recipe! My vanilla cake recipe comes together in one bowl!

The butter and buttermilk in the recipe give it an amazing taste. I now use this as my go to white cake base recipe, and color or flavor it as needed.

Stacked vanilla cake layers - this recipe is to die for, and can be made in one bowl!!

The Secret Ingredient: Buttermilk

What is the secret ingredient to this vanilla layer cake recipe?? BUTTERMILK! I don’t know what is is, but I’m absolutely crazy about buttermilk.

I love baking with it, and use it in most of my cake recipes! It makes such tender cake layers, and adds so much moisture! It also gives my cakes a delicious tang.

While buttermilk can be found in most grocery stores, some parts of the country or foreign countries don’t sell it! If you’re having a hard time getting your hands on buttermilk, don’t worry.

You can make your own buttermilk! For each cup of buttermilk that the recipe calls for, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to fill 1 cup. 

You also can use plain, low-fat yogurt as an equal substitute, cup for cup.

Making Layers Ahead of Time

One of the best things about this vanilla cake recipe is how easy it is to make. This entire recipe can be made in one bowl.

I’m a big fan of one bowl recipes, or anything that helps reduce the amount of dishes I have to do! Another great part about this recipe is that the layers keep insanely well!

These layers can be made in advance, and can be stored in the freezer for several weeks if properly wrapped!

If you do plan to freeze them, be sure to either place them in an airtight container, or wrap them tightly in saran wrap.

Rainbow swirled cake, made with my vanilla layer cake recipe

Coloring Your Cake Layers

If you want your vanilla cake layers to be a super vibrant color, I highly recommend using gel food coloring. Liquid food coloring can work too, but you won’t be able to get as strong of a color.

You also can throw off the consistency of the vanilla cake batter if you add too much liquid food coloring.

Gel food coloring is incredibly concentrated, so it allows you to use less. A tiny drop will create beautiful, bright colors like the ones in my Peeps cake below (or my rainbow swirl cake above)!

Gel coloring is also thicker, and won’t change the consistency of the cake batter. My favorite brand of gel food coloring is Americolor, but any brand will work.

IMG_7391 (2)

How To Bake Flat Cake Layers

Another fantastic aspect of this vanilla layer cake recipe? It bakes super flat!

This is mainly due to the way the recipe is formulated. I also like to rotate my cake layers halfway through baking.

This helps ensure that the hot spots in my oven don’t cause any sides of my cake layers to bake higher than the others.

Another trick to bake flat cake layers is to wrap wet baking strips around your cake pans.

Believe it or not, I have a mini oven and can barely fit 4 cake pans in my oven! I’ve found that baking strips don’t really work for me since my pans are so close to the edges of my oven.

However, you all have let me know that in a standard oven, baking strips work great with this recipe!

Baking strips reduce the amount of caramelization around the sides of the cake layers, and also help them bake flat.

Trimming and Torting Cake Layers

If you want to completely remove any caramelization from your cake layers, you can use a serrated knife to clean them up! I like to trim my cake layers for my cake videos, to help the vibrant colors of my cake layers shine through.

If you do decide to trim your cake layers once they’re baked, be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. The layers will fall apart if you try to cut them while they’re still warm.

You can also level your cake layers, by trimming off the top of each layer.

This makes it easier to built a straight, level cake! While this is by no means necessary, it can be an important step if you’re building a tiered cake.

Another option with this recipe is to torte your cake layers! Torting cake layers means you cut them horizontally, to create multiple layers.

I like doing this, because it creates an amazing cake to frosting ratio. A great example of torted cake is my snowflake cake.

Below is a video showing exactly how I trim and level my cake layers.

Tips for Making This Vanilla Cake Recipe:

  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake, to make it easier to stack and frost.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated; this will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients
  • Use a serrated knife to level your cake layers once they’re fully cooled, to make it easier to assemble and frost your cake
  • I do NOT recommend using this recipe to make cupcakes! Instead, I highly recommend trying my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe (I like the texture better for cupcakes)
  • Use my small batch vanilla cake recipe to make a 6-inch layer cake

Making These Cake Layers in Advance and Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them: It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try my vanilla layer cake recipe, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment 🙂

Also please tag me @chelsweets, and use the #chelsweets on social media so that I can see your amazing creations!

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

Stacked vanilla cake layers - this recipe is to die for, and can be made in one bowl!!

This vanilla cake recipe is made in one bowl, and is super moist! One batch makes 3, 8-inch cake layers, and is frosted with vanilla buttercream frosting.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake Recipe

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (390 grams)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600 grams)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) - 2 sticks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (8 grams)
  • 1 cup pasteurized egg whites from a carton (or about 7 egg whites) (235 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (345 grams)
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil (28 grams)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (678 grams)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (18 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 11 cups powdered sugar (1375 grams)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream) (75 grams)

Instructions

Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7-inch pans or three 8-inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer until fully combined.
  3. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
  4. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed.
  5. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on low speed for about 15 seconds (the key is to mix until the ingredients are JUST incorporated, so that the batter isn't over mixed). 
  6. If desired, add in gel food coloring. Mix the color in by hand using a rubber spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl part way through. Mix until the batter is evenly colored.
  7. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, to make sure the layers are the same height.
  8. Bake for 34-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  9. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  10. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Mix in the vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and salt on a low speed.
  3. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  4. Continue to mix on low speed for a few minutes, until the desired consistency is reached. 
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 TBSP at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  6. If you plan to color the buttercream, add in the gel food coloring once the frosting is fully made, and beat on low until it reaches the desired color

To Assemble The Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  3. Add a thin coat of frosting around the cake, fully cover the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired!

Notes

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them: It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.

Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 657Total Fat 33gSaturated Fat 20gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 86mgSodium 297mgCarbohydrates 88gFiber 0gSugar 75gProtein 4g

1,070 thoughts on “Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

  1. This cake looks so good!! I’m going to bake it for my moms birthday coming up! I love seeing all of your new recipes- they are all so cool! Is there a way to use less sugar in the frosting? 11 cups just sounds like a lot. Thank you!!

    1. Aw thank you Kenna! I hope your Mom loved it!!

      You can use less powdered sugar to the frosting to make it less sweet, but it will change the consistency of the frosting! Hope that helps, happy baking!

  2. Have you tried freeze dried berries? The flavor is intense! Strawberry and raspberry are my favorites, very fresh tasting. Just process the freeze dried berries into a powder in a blender, spice mill, or food processor. I usually sift it as well, just to remove any larger particles. This method doesn’t add any moisture so it doesn’t effect the texture, and it doesn’t take much to get big flavor. When I was testing for flavor intensity, I mixed up a batch of cake batter, removed about 1/2 cup and put it in a small bowl, and carefully measured in the powdered berries, starting with 1/4 tsp. Then I heated a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat and made a pancake with about 1 tablespoon of the batter. (Texture of the pancake is different than baking, but this was to test flavor quickly and with less potential waste) I continued to carefully measure and add the powdered berries to the same cup of batter and made more small pancakes until I got a flavor intensity I liked. Remember that your 1 cup of batter is depleted each time you remove a tablespoon for testing, so you’ll need to adjust for that in your final recipe. When I reached a great flavor, I multiplied the number of 1/4 teaspoons by the number of TOTAL cups of batter I was flavoring.

  3. Hi Chelsea!
    Thanks for sharing your recipes!!! I cant wait to try this one out. I was wondering if it could be made with less sugar, maybe 2.5 cups instead of 3? I know it will be less sweet, but i’m hoping the texture is not affected too much.
    Thoughts?!

    1. Hi Gaby,

      You can use 2.5 or 2 cups of sugar in this recipe instead of the 3 it calls for. The texture will be a tiny but less fluffy, but it will taste great!! I’ve done it before, and I don’t think you’ll notice the difference <3 Happy baking!!

  4. Hi Chelsea!

    Just had a big fail at a different cake I tried to ice but it fell apart so much.

    Is this cake firm enough that I can frost it and cut layers and it won’t crumble like my last one?

    Can homo milk (3.25%) be used instead of buttercream?

    Thank you ?

    1. Hi Kristin,

      Whole milk can be used in place of the buttermilk in this recipe, and this recipe does make pretty sturdy layers.

      I also recommend chilling the cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before frosting them, so that they’re cold to the touch. this will also help reduce crumbing.I do that with all my cakes, and it makes it SO much easier to frost them.

      Hope that helps, happy abkign!

  5. Hi there
    If I want to add chocolate chips to this recipe would it work do you think? I’m
    Making this cake today but I wanted to add some white chocolate chips.
    Thank you

    Hina

    1. Hi Hina,

      It works great, just be sure to either chop up regular chocolate chips a bit or use mini chocolate chips! Regular sized chocolate chips can be a bit much, and I like when they’re smalls bis so that they more evenly distribute throughout the cake layers.

      Also toss them in flour to help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake layers as they bake. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  6. Hi Chelsea.. I have tried applying sugar syrups to cakes and somehow it clogs on the surface. Must the layers be trimmed on top to apply the syrup? And must the syrup be thin? Tanx.

    1. Hi Blessy,

      You definitely need to level your cake layers before adding simple syrup, and the syrup should be quite thin (1 cup of sugar heated to a boil with 1 cup of water). It should only be a tiny bit thicker than water. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  7. Hi Chelsea!

    Just had a quick question, would I be able to use this recipe if I’m using 3 cake pans that 7.5 inches each?

    Thank-you
    Shrangi

    1. Hi Shrangi,

      That should work great! They might take slightly longer to bake (a minute or two) because they’ll be a bit thicker. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  8. Hi Chelsea ~ I need a 10” cake; would I increase this recipe by half? I, too, love baking with buttermilk; this sounds delicious! BTW, the recipe says it makes 3, 8” layers, but photo shows 4? Thanks, Chelsea!!

    1. Hi Lauri,

      How many layers do you want the cake to be? I’d actually suggest doubling the recipe! The recipe card says to line either 3, 8″ cake pans or 4, 7″ cake pans. The photos are of cakes made with 7″ inch cake pans 🙂

    1. Hi Judah,

      To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour. Happy baking!

  9. Hi Chelsea ~
    I’m making a 6”, 8” and 10” wedding cake; If I want a 10” cake, would I add 1/2 a recipe to the 8” recipe? This cake sounds delicious!

  10. Hi there! I love your recipes they sound amazing! It’s so nice to see a page which has so clear steps and so much info. I’ve got my daughters birthday coming up and I wanted to make the cake 3 days in advance as I don’t have time! Do you think the cake would taste the same after 3 days, would it change the taste or make it dry?

    1. Hi Ammarah,

      For sure! A frosted cake can stay good in the fridge for up to a week! As long as the frosting is completely covering the cake layers, it should lock in all the moisture, and the cake should stay nice and moist 🙂 I let cakes sit in the fridge overnight, or for a few days all the time! I usually leave my cakes just open in the fridge without a covering. It should be fine as long as you don’t have anything fragrant in your fridge (like fish or onions).

      Hope your daughter’s bday cake turns out great!! 🙂

  11. Yessss!!! I made this cake following your recipe exactly for a birthday cake. Added layers of salted caramel AND salted caramel buttercream. Drizzled the top with caramel.

    Honestly the best white cake I’ve ever tried!

    1. You totally can Melissa! I like to add 2 tsp to the cake batter and 1 tsp to the frosting in addition to the vanilla. You can adjust though if you want a more or less intense almond flavor. Hope that helps, happy baking!

Let me know what you think!