Best Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

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

The layers bake with smooth sides that are perfect for stacking and frosting. I now use this as my go to white cake base recipe, and color or flavor it as needed. I HIGHLY recommend it! Another perk is that it can be made in one bowl! That’s right, ONE BOWL!!!

The secret ingredient to this 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 such tender cake layers, and adds so much moisture! It also gives my cakes such 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, fear not. You can make your own! 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!

These layers can be made in advance, and can be stored in the freezer for up to 5 days! If you do plan to freeze them overnight, be sure to either place them in an airtight container, or wrap them tightly in saran wrap.

I also love to color my cake batter using Americolor gel food coloring (I order it on amazon), and used this recipe to make this checkerboard cake.

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The layers turned out perfectly! Level, delicious, and perfect for stacking!! You can see a full tutorial on exactly how I make the batter below.

The recipe is adapted from Kara’s Couture Cakes, and can be found below.

NOTE: The thing that make this recipe an amazing layer cake recipe (baking flat), cause it to make terrible cupcakes! They stick to liner and don’t rise enough. If you want to make vanilla cupcakes, I highly recommend using my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe.

If you do decide to trim your cake layers once they’re baked, be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart. Below is a full tutorial showing how I trim my layers:

Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword vanilla layer cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 36 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 1 seven inch layer cake

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (416 grams)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600 grams)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (13 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (5 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) - 2 sticks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (9 grams)
  • 1 cup egg whites (or about 7 egg whites) (244 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (360 grams)
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil (28 grams)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle 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. 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 medium speed for about 30 seconds. 

  5. If desired, add in gel food coloring. Mix the batter on a low speed, scrapping the sides and bottom of the bowl part way through. Mix until the batter is evenly colored.

  6. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter. This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.

  7. Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8 inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Recipe Notes

Once the layers have fully cooled, I sometimes like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife. While these layers bake pretty flat, sometimes I’ll also trim the top of the layers too if I’m working a super special partnership 🙂

OR if you want to make a smaller cake, here is a halved recipe, which I like to call my small batch vanilla layer cake recipe:

 

Small Batch Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

This recipe is a half batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe! It's perfect for making smaller cakes, and I usually use it to make 3, 6-inch cake layers.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword 6 inch cake recipe, small layer cake recipe, vanilla layer cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 1 six inch layer cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (208 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder (7 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (113 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (5 grams)
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (122 grams)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temp (180 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (13 grams)

Instructions

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 6 inch pans (for taller layers) or 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle 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. 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 medium speed for about 30 seconds.

  5. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter. This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.

  6. Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8 inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.

Recipe Notes

If baking a sheet cake using this recipe (one batch makes two 9x13 layers of sheet cake), be sure to place one of two flower nails upside down toward the center of the plan, to help the layer bake more quickly and evenly. Layer cakes take 38-40 minutes to bake, but can vary based on the size of sheet pan you're using.