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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 in This Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe: 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 Cake 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 Vanilla 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 Your 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 The Best Vanilla Layers

  • 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.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, please check out my cake troubleshooting guide.

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.

Tag me @chelsweets and use the #chelsweets on social media so that I can see your amazing creations!

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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 33 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 8 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
  • 1 cup pasteurized egg whites from a carton (or about 7 egg whites) (235 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (345 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (28 grams)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8 grams)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (678 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (12 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" or three 8" pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Mix together 3 cups all purpose flour, 3 cups sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until fully combined.
  3. Mix in 1 cup of unsalted butter slowly into the dry ingredients on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain and the mixture looks crumbly.
  4. Pour in 1 cup of egg whites and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in 1 1/2 cups buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed.
  5. Add in 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil and 2 tsp of vanilla extract and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated.
  6. If you plan to color your cake layers, add in the gel food coloring with the vanilla and oil.
  7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat on a low speed for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is properly mixed together.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between your prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 33-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  10. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  11. Place cake layers into the freezer for 30 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.
  12. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers right before you plan to assemble your cake, or you can wrap and freeze them in you're making them in advance.
  13. If you make these cake layers in advance and freeze them, let them thaw for about 20 minutes before making your cake. The cake layers should still be slightly cold to the touch, which will make it easier to assemble your cake.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 3 cups of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
  3. Mix in 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and 1 tsp salt on a low speed.
  4. Slowly add in 11 cups of powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of 1/3 cup of cream.
  5. Continue to mix on low speed for a few minutes, until the desired consistency is reached. 
  6. 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).
  7. 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

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Saira Salazar

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

Hi! What kind of buttermilk do you use for this recipe? Is like the buttermilk dressing?

Liz

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

I was just wondering why you use egg whites instead of whole eggs? I was wondering if there’s a texture preference, etc thank in advance!

Solange

Saturday 27th of February 2021

Could I use fondant with this cake? I would like to give it a try.

Teal Davis

Wednesday 24th of February 2021

Hi! I was wondering if i could add some almond extract to this recipe to make it more of a vanilla almond cake, and was wondering how much i should add? Thank you!

Kathleen miller

Wednesday 24th of February 2021

I need to make a 9x13 2 layer would this single recipe work or do I need to double it?