Skip to Content

Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

I’ve tried several vanilla cake recipes over the years, and this will always be my favorite. It’s delicious, moist, and best of all, it keeps its shape!

This recipe is a butter cake recipe which means it has a denser texture than a sponge cake, but is also more tender.

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.

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 it is, but I’m absolutely crazy about buttermilk.

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

Buttermilk can be found in most large grocery stores in the US, but I know that it can be difficult to find in some countries. 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 or sour cream as an equal substitute, cup for cup.

image of a bite of white chocolate mousse cake on a fork

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.

Image of cake layers made in advance and frozen

Coloring These 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 small amount will create beautiful, bright colors like the ones in my Peeps cake or my octopus cake layers shown below!

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.

image of an octopus cake made with colorful cake layers and homemade buttercream

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

Pink Velvet Valentine's Day Cake Slice

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 marbled hearts cake.

I also share a video showing exactly how I trim and level my cake layers here.

image of a 6-inch cake layer that's been leveled and trimmed using a serrated knife

Tips for Making the Best Vanilla Layers

  • 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.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes it so much easier to stack and frost.
  • 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 makes it more approachable. They can be frozen for up to 3 months, and as long as they’re wrapped right I promise they’ll taste just like they did the day you baked them.

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.

image of a vanilla layer cake recipe frosted with strawberry american buttercream

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try my vanilla layer cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you think of it! Please leave a rating and comment below.

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 33 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 8 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake Recipe

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600g)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10g)
  • 1 tsp salt (6g)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (226g)
  • 1 cup egg whites from a carton or about 7 egg whites, room temp (235g)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temp (360g)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (30g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8g)
  • gel food coloring - if desired

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temp (452g)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (12g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (875g)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (60g)

Instructions

Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Line four 7" or three 8" pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Mix 3 cups all purpose flour, 3 cups sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until fully combined.
  3. Mix in 1 cup of room temperature, 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 like moist sand.
  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 medium speed for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is properly mixed together.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between your prepared pans. I like to use a scale to make sure each pan has the same amount of batter and will bake up to be the same height.
  9. Bake for 33-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  10. Let the pans cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  11. Place the 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 if 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 2 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 and 1/2 tsp salt on a low speed.
  4. Slowly add in 7 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream halfway through to make the frosting easier to mix.
  5. Continue to mix on a 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 (30 minutes) or freezer (10 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 and enjoy!

Notes

Recipe Variations

This recipe can also be used to make a sheet cake! One batch will make 2, 9 inch x 13 inch cake layers that are about 1 inch tall. I did this with the cake pictured above and cut 4 square cake layers from my sheet cakes.

One batch of cake batter makes about 1800 grams. If you plan use four circular cake pans, add 450 grams of batter into each pan.

Tips for Making the Best Vanilla Layer Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. It will make your cake layers bake to the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Bang your cake pans on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any big air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Level your room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes it so much easier to stack and frost them!

Making This Vanilla Layer Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes 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 524Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 66mgSodium 263mgCarbohydrates 70gFiber 0gSugar 57gProtein 5g

Joan Ishaku

Monday 23rd of May 2022

I need to learn more about cake making

Amelia

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

This cake was delicious and so easy to make! I came across your blog by mistake and decided to try this recipe out. I was debating between two others, but I saw yours I thought why not. I’ve been hoping to find a good vanilla cake recipe and this will be my go to! Flavor and texture were both great, and the cakes did bake flat

Nilha

Monday 16th of May 2022

I tried 2 other highly rated vanilla cake recipes before I found yours. They were ok but not what I wanted. Yours was perfect! I made 9 layers for a 3 tiered graduation cake. The cake was light, moist, flavorful and had the wonderful velvety texture that I wa looking for. Best of all, it held its structure under all the weight of 9 layers plus butterercream , fondant, and decorations! This recipe will be my go to white cake recipe. Thank you for sharing it. The guests raved about how delicious it was. It gets a 5 star rating from me!

Sophia

Friday 13th of May 2022

Can I just say this is my go-to recipe of all time, its delicious. Thank you so much for 1)sharing with us and 2) your unearthly patience answering all our questions for so many years after you first posted this. Bravo. I myself have used this recipe for all my "white" cakes, adapting and adding different flavours to make it lemon cake, victoria sponge cake, coconut cake you name it. Ive even multiplied the original recipe by 6 to make large tiered wedding cakes. I've used it in up to 12" pans.

Ill be honest I do like my layers deep so I use x1.75 of your original recipe for the 7" pans (four pans) but I know the limits too and you cant really put the whole batch (whatever you size up to) into two pans and hope to trim the layers in half (although I have for small sized cakes, id say 6 and 7" is fine, 8" and above and you're on shaky ground trying to achieve a height that you can trim in half). Ive done it a few times because it saves a lot of time but best results are always when split into four pans.

So..moving on to my actual question. Id love to make a white chocolate and raspberry version of this buttermilk cake but im struggling with the raspberries and I know its because this is a wet batter..the frozen raspberries sink to the bottom and dont disperse evenly, ive tried coating in flour first and ive even tried fresh raspberries. I've yet to try freeze dried raspberries but I cant see how they'd have much flavour. Any tips on converting this to a white choc & raspberry cake? Can you add melted white chocolate to the batter? What would I have to omit if I did? Im thinking maybe some of the butter or buttermilk since chocolate (melted) is kinda liquid. Ive tried adding white chocolate chips - they also since and go a bit caramelised. Currently im only adding the white chocolate to the Swiss meringue buttercream but it would be lovely to get a taste of the white chocolate in the sponge too...as well as having raspberries throughout the cake. Thank you

Cassandra

Friday 13th of May 2022

Hi Chels, I have a question... I love this recipe so much but how would I make this into 3, 10in rounds? T.I.A

Skip to Recipe