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 servings

Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

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 slices

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 571Total Fat 33gSaturated Fat 20gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 86mgSodium 297mgCarbohydrates 66gFiber 0gSugar 54gProtein 4g

997 thoughts on “Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

    1. You totally can! I’ve found that shortening works better for creating a good texture, but you might want to add a bit more extract to make up for the loss of flavor the butter usually adds. Almond milk is my favorite dairy free milk to bake with, and I like adding in a couple tsp of almond extract with it to amp up the flavor. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  1. Hi I have two quick questions, would you double the recipe for 9″ cakes or 8″ cakes and can you explain how you use the flower nails?

    1. Hi Nichola,

      ONe batch of this recipe makes 3 8-inch cake layers, or 2 9-inch cake layers. I place the flower nails upside down in the center of the pan, so the flat part is against the pan. Spray them generously with non stick spray, then pour your batter into your pan. This helps them conduct heat into the center of the cake pan to help the layers bake more evenly. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  2. Hi! I’m a new baker and I want to try this recipe today. I have 3 9 inch pans. Would that work for this recipe?

    1. Hi Tosin,

      There isn’t quite enough batter to make that many layers, they’d be super thin! I recommend using one batch of batter to make 2, 9-inch cake layers. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  3. Just finished with the cake which I baked in 1 8×3 pan. I baked over an hour. The middle was bubbling out and the top is very caramelized. Waiting for it to cool to see if it’s salvageable.

    1. Hi Tanya,

      I definitely don’t recommend baking that much batter in one pan!! This recipe is designed to be baked in separate pans, using at least 3 or 4 pans. I would recommend trying that next time, the layers will bake much more quickly and evenly. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  4. Hello Chelsweets. Thanks for sharing. I have some questions. Can fresh egg whites be used only? As I don’t understand the pasteurized eggs thing.
    How many egg white should be used and how many inch tall will it be if I made it in a size 9 pan?

    Thank you
    With love from Nigeria

    1. Hi Ayomi,

      In the US we have cartons of egg whites at the grocery store, and usually they’ve been heat treated so they’re pasteurized! I use these carton egg whites, which work great. You can also use fresh egg whites if you can’t find the kind that come in a carton.

      Like I mention in the recipe card, 1 cup of egg whites is the equivalent of 7 egg whites. This amount of batter works for making 2, 9-inch cake layers that are about 1 inch tall once they’re leveled. I hope that helps, happy baking <3

  5. I am going to make your Easter egg basket. But that calls for 4 8 inch layers of cake. Should I follow a different recipe?

    1. Hi Destiny,

      I’m not quite sure what you mean! Do you not have 8-inch pans? Are you looking for a recipe with small cake layers? You can also make 4 7 inch cake layers if that’s the size of pan you have. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  6. I’ve made this the regular way and with a substitution for the eggs. The regular way can taste kinda eggy (in a good way) and gets crispy delicious sugary edges which I like. Unfortunately my gut doesn’t like eggs so this time I used 1 cup of 5% fat Plain Greek yogurt (although regular whole milk yogurt should also work) instead. And it tasted way better than the other eggless vanilla cake recipe I tried. I think the high sugar content helped lol. I still think it’s better with eggs but maybe next time I’ll try doing half eggs, half yogurt.

    1. Hi Catherine,

      That’s great to know! I’ve wanted to play around with adding greek yogurt into some of my cake recipes, so it’s super helpful to hear your results 🙂 Hope that the half and half version turns out great, happy baking!

  7. Hello,

    I want to bake this recipe but i would like to make it 9”. Do you think I will still be able to bake 3 cakes?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ann Sophie,

      Sadly your layers would be super thin if you tried to make 3, 9-inch cake layers with this recipe! I recommend using one batch to make 2, 9-inch cake layers. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  8. Hello! Love your recipes!
    Some questions: Do you use 2 inch or 3 inch deep pans? Do you know how much weight of batter goes into each 8 inch pan? Also, about how tall are our tiers before and after torting? When considering servings and say, a 7 inch extra tall tier, are you accounting for the entire tier with filling, in inches? Thanks so much for your help!

    1. Aw thank you Danielle!

      I like to use 2 inch deep pans. I place about 450 grams of batter in each pan when I’m making 4, 7-inch cake layers. The cake layers bake up to be about 1 1/4-1 1/2 inches, and they end up being just a bit over an inch once they’re leveled. The cake layers don’t dome up too much, so there isn’t a ton of height removed when it is leveled. The overall cake is about 6 inches tall once it’s filled and frosted.

      Hope that helps, happy baking!

    1. Hi Nayab,

      You can use coconut milk or almond milk in place of the buttermilk! It will change the texture and taste a bit, but it will still taste great! Hope that helps, happy baking!

    1. Hi Kymberlee,

      You can totally substitute the almond milk for the buttermilk! It will change the texture and taste of the cake a bit, but it will still taste great. Hope that helps, happy baking!!

  9. Hey! Thanks for the instructions! Using this recipe how many grams would you weigh in for 2 ten inch pans or 2 8 inch pans?

    1. No problem Catherine! one batch of batter makes about 1900 grams, so I’d add 800 grams to each pan if you plan to only make 2 cake layers. Hope that helps, happy baking!

    1. Hi Cami,

      You can definitely make this with a hand mixer 🙂 It might take a little bit longer to make, but it’s totally doable. Happy baking!

  10. Hi! Does the batter rise a lot in the oven? it looked a little thin in my two 9-inch pans so just wondering if i should make some extra layers

    1. Hi Allie,

      It usually rise about 1/4-1/2 inch depending on the pan size. You might want to make a double batch of batter if you want to make a taller layer cake (and make 4 layers). Hope that helps, happy baking!

  11. Can I use this recipe to make 5 6″ cake layers as well? I am wanting to make a checkered pig cake for my daughters birthday, so I need 4 layers for sure, as well as enough cake to make ears. Any tips or suggestions? TIA!

    1. Hi Lynnsey,

      I think this cake recipe would be perfect to make 5 6″ cake layers! They probably only need to bake for 30-33 mins, so keep an eye on them. Hope that helps, happy baking!

Let me know what you think!