This homemade vanilla cake recipe isn’t short on vanilla flavor! There’s a tablespoon of vanilla extract in the cake itself and in the vanilla buttercream frosting. This is the perfect cake for any occasion!
There’s something so special about a classic vanilla cake. Although I love indulging in a slice of ultra rich double chocolate cake now and again, I find vanilla desserts to be more versatile.
Take this simple vanilla cake recipe, for example. It can be served as is, or you can add seasonal sprinkles on top to suit any holiday. You could even add a few drops of food coloring to the vanilla buttercream to match the occasion.
But don’t you go thinking I’d ever share a boring vanilla cake recipe with you all! Oh no, this cake is packed with pure vanilla flavor.
Both the cake batter and the frosting are flavored with vanilla extract. I also used a combination of cake flour and buttermilk in the batter to create fluffy but moist cake layers. This is a vanilla cake you’ll never get bored of, promise.
Ingredients for This Recipe
I adapted this vanilla cake with buttercream frosting from my homemade white cake recipe, which uses ingredients you likely have in your pantry already. Note that all of the ingredients need to be at room temperature before making the cake, even the buttermilk.
Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to make the cake and the buttercream frosting:
- Cake flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which results in a lighter, fluffier cake. If you don’t keep cake flour in the house, you can make your own for this recipe.
- Baking powder & baking soda: This helps the cake layers rise in the oven. My white cake recipe only uses baking powder, but I found that reducing the baking powder and adding some baking soda helped to create a soft and fluffy vanilla cake.
- Salt: Balances out the sweetness in the cake and frosting and enhances the vanilla flavor.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk helps to create a cake that’s soft and tender. Make sure your buttermilk is at room temperature or about 70°F (21°C). If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own buttermilk substitute.
- Oil: I love to incorporate oil into my cakes, so we’re adding 1/4 cup of oil along with the butter. This is a trick I learned when I created my lemon blueberry bundt cake recipe, it helps to keep the cake moist even after a few days. Be sure to use a neutral flavored oil, like canola or vegetable oil.
- Vanilla extract: There’s a full tablespoon of vanilla extract in the cake AND in the frosting. This is not a mistake! Be sure to use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor too.
- Butter: You’ll need five sticks of butter to make the frosting and cake layers. Set the butter on the counter about an hour or so before making the cake. You need the butter to be at room temperature before beginning the recipe.
- Granulated sugar: Sweetens the batter without altering the flavor.
- Eggs: These add structure to the cake. If you forget to bring the eggs to room temperature, set them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.
- Powdered sugar: Makes for a fluffy, sweet vanilla frosting. Don’t substitute granulated sugar, as that’s too grainy for making frosting.
- Heavy cream: Helps thin out the frosting while keeping it rich. You may use regular milk instead, if desired.
How to Make Homemade Vanilla Cake
This recipe has three stages: making the cake layers, making the vanilla cake frosting, and assembling the cake.
To make the cake layers, whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract.
Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter on low speed until smooth, then slowly pour in the granulated sugar. The butter and sugar must be beaten together at medium speed for roughly four to five minutes. Do not skip this step! This adds lots of air to the butter mixture and makes for a supremely fluffy cake.
Once the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy, mix in the eggs one at a time. Make sure to stop and scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl after each egg. This will ensure they’re properly mixed with the creamed butter and sugar.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three increments, alternating with the buttermilk mixture. Make sure to only mix in each addition on low speed until just combined. Once the batter is combined, divide it between two greased and lined 9-inch round cake tins.
Bake the cake layers until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let them cool in their pans for 20 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.
While the cake layers cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting. I used my homemade vanilla buttercream for this recipe and scaled it up so there was enough for the cake.
Homemade frosting is as simple as beating the butter until smooth using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, then gradually adding in the powdered sugar. Add the salt, cream, and vanilla last and mix until fully combined.
Once the cake layers have cooled completely and the frosting has been whipped up, it’s time to assemble the cake!
I recommend leveling the tops of each cake layer with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. This makes it easier to stack the cake layers on top of each other and makes the finished cake look more polished.
Then, all that’s left to do is to spread frosting atop the first layer of cake, place the second layer carefully on top, and finish frosting the cake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Make This Recipe in a 9×13-inch Pan?
Yes! Grease a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray, pour the batter into the pan, and spread it out into one even layer. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
Can I Make a Three-Layer Cake Instead?
Yes, simply divide the batter between three 8-inch round cake pans. Adjust the baking time to 23 to 28 minutes.
Can I Prepare the Cake in Advance?
You can prepare this vanilla cake from scratch one to two days in advance and store it in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the cake layers and frosting in separate containers for up to three months and thaw to room temperature before assembling the cake.
Can I Use This Recipe To Make Cupcakes?
Yes! This recipe will make about 30 to 32 cupcakes. Make sure to only fill each liner about 2/3 of the way full and adjust the baking time to 16 to 20 minutes. If you prefer less cupcakes, you may cut the recipe in half.
- Because vanilla is the star of this recipe, it’s important that you use pure vanilla extract to make the cake. Pure vanilla will deliver the strongest flavor.
- Remember to set out the ingredients ahead of time so they are at room temperature when you begin this recipe.
- Don’t rush or skip creaming together the butter and sugar for several minutes. That’s what makes this homemade vanilla cake so fluffy!
More Simple Cake Recipes to Try!
- Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- Classic Chocolate Layer Cake
- Red Velvet Cake
- Pineapple Upside Down Cake
- Carrot Cake
Vanilla Cake Recipe
- 3 cups (345 grams) cake flour (spooned & leveled)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk (room temperature)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks, or 230 grams) unsalted butter (softened)
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs (room temperature)
- 1 ½ cups (3 sticks, or 340 grams) unsalted butter (softened)
- 4 ½ cups (540 grams) powdered sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons (45 ml) heavy whipping cream or milk
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Tiny pinch of salt
To make the vanilla cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until well combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract together until well combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, then slowly mix in the granulated sugar.
- Once all of the sugar is added, increase to medium speed and continue mixing for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl after each egg.
- Add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk mixture (begin and end with the dry ingredients) on low speed. Mix in each addition until just combined, making sure not to over mix the batter.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is well combined.
- Evenly divide the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans and spread it around into one even layer.
- Bake for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Slide a knife around the outside of the cakes, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the vanilla frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.
- Mix in the powdered sugar on low speed, one cup at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition.
- Add the heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on low-medium speed until fully combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
To assemble the cake:
- Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler. Place one of the cakes on a cake stand, top with a layer of frosting, and smooth it out into one even layer. Place the second layer on top, then use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.