The BEST White Cake Recipe
Tender, moist, and fluffy, this white cake recipe is made completely from scratch and is so much better than a box mix. Make this simple but elegant cake for birthdays, family gatherings, and holiday parties!
Whether you’re an experienced baker with dozens of cakes under your belt or are just starting your baking journey, white cake is a classic dessert that every home baker should know how to make.
Why? Because homemade white cake is perfect for any occasion. The layers of tender cake and vanilla buttercream frosting make this simple cake the ideal canvas for any cake decoration you can imagine!
Top your cake with multicolored sprinkles for birthdays, add gel food coloring to the frosting to suit any holiday, or enjoy the cake as is any day of the year.
After one bite, I think you’ll agree that this is the best white cake recipe!
This is a simple white cake recipe topped with my favorite vanilla buttercream. But don’t let the word “simple” fool you — there’s still plenty of flavor in this cake!
A detailed list of ingredients is provided in the recipe card below, but here are the key items you’ll need to make it:
- Cake flour: I suggest sticking with cake flour versus all-purpose flour. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour which creates a tender, fine crumb. If you don’t keep cake flour on hand, you can make a substitute with just two ingredients.
- Salt: Enhances the vanilla flavor and also balances out the sweetness of the batter.
- Buttermilk: Creates a soft, tender crumb and also provides moisture. Don’t skip the buttermilk! If you don’t have any, you’ll need to make a buttermilk substitute using regular milk and vinegar (or lemon juice).
- Clear vanilla extract: Pure vanilla extract may be used as well. However, clear vanilla will ensure that the cake remains perfectly white.
- Unsalted butter: I recommend using unsalted butter since the amount of salt in salted butters can vary between different brands. The butter and sugar need to be creamed together for a good 4 to 5 minutes to create a super light, fluffy cake.
- Granulated sugar: I love brown sugar in cakes, but for this recipe you want to stick with granulated sugar to get that classic white cake look.
- Egg whites: Egg yolks have fat in them, which can weigh down the cake. By using just egg whites, you’ll create a lighter cake and it will help keep it perfectly white.
How to Make White Cake
If you’ve only eaten white cake from a box mix, you’re in for a treat! This scratch recipe is incredibly easy to prepare.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Whisk together the wet ingredients: In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.
- Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy: In a separate mixing bowl, beat the butter just until smooth. Then, add the sugar and beat for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is light in color and fluffy.
- Add the dry and wet ingredients: While the mixer is running on the lowest speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the butter and sugar. You’ll need to do this in three increments, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Beat egg whites to stiff peaks & fold them in: In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Make sure the bowl and the beaters are clean; if you use a dirty bowl the egg whites might not stiffen properly. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining half.
- Bake the cake layers: Divide the batter between two 9-inch round cake pans that have been lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake the cake layers until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool completely: Let the cake layers cool in the pans for about 20 minutes before removing. Then, they’ll need to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
- Make the frosting: Beat the butter until smooth. You can use a large mixing bowl and an electric handheld mixer to do this, or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the powdered sugar to the butter and mix until smooth. I prefer adding 1 cup of sugar at a time to make this process easier. Add the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and salt last.
- Decorate the cake: Level the tops of each cake layer. You can use a knife or a cake leveler to do this. Place one of the cake layers on a cake stand and frost. Place the second cake layer on top of the first, dollop with more frosting, and frost the entire cake. If desired, reserve some of the frosting to pipe onto the top of the cake. I also added sprinkles to mine for a pop of color!
Frequently Asked Questions
Vanilla cakes typically use the whole egg and have an off-white color. White cakes only use egg whites, which helps to keep the cake light and fluffy and also gives it the classic “white” color.
Absolutely! I opted to make a white layer cake, but you can certainly make this white cake recipe using a 9×13-inch baking dish and increasing the baking time to 35 to 45 minutes.
Yes! You may wrap individual slices with plastic wrap and freeze in a large freezer bag for up to 3 months.
The cake layers and frosting will also freeze well for up to 3 months. I recommend wrapping the cake layers tightly with plastic wrap and storing the frosting in a freezer bag. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, thaw the cake layers and frosting overnight in the fridge. Bring the frosting to room temperature and mix well before frosting the cake.
You can store this cake in an airtight container at room temperature for one to two days or in the fridge for up to four days.
If storing the cake in the fridge, I recommend setting it out a little bit ahead of time so that it can come to room temperature.
Additional Frosting Options
For this particular cake, I used my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting recipe but increased the amount of frosting so I had enough to decorate the whole cake.
If desired, you may frost your homemade white cake with another frosting. Here are a few more options to try:
- Make sure to bring all of your ingredients (butter, buttermilk, and egg whites) to room temperature before getting started.
- Be sure to cream the butter and sugar together until light in color and fluffy. This step may take about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Alternate mixing the dry ingredients and the buttermilk + vanilla into the creamed butter and sugar. This will help to prevent overmixing and create a lighter cake.
- Gently fold the egg whites in until they’re just combined, you want to avoid overmixing them into the cake batter.
White Cake Recipe
For the white cake:
- 2 ¾ cups cake flour (spooned & leveled) (305 grams)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature (240 ml)
- 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract or pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (230 grams)
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar (350 grams)
- 5 large egg whites at room temperature
For the vanilla buttercream frosting:
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter softened (340 grams)
- 4 ½ cups powdered sugar (540 grams)
- 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (45 ml)
- 1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract or pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- To make the white cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup and stir 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.
- Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar 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.
- In a separate clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pans and spread around into one even layer. Gently tap the cake pans on the counter a couple times to release any air bubbles.
- 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 pan for about 20 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the vanilla buttercream frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on medium speed until fully combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- 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.
More Classic Cake Recipes To Make!
Adapted from My Recipes
I love your details in your receipes. I’m going to try my hand at creating this cake. Thank you.
Glad you found it helpful, Reyna! Hope you enjoy the cake!
Hey.. if i dont have buttermilk what can i use instead?? It look perfect ?
You can make a buttermilk substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup, fill with milk to the 1 cup line, stir, and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
this rly helped, thank you so much!!!
I can’t wait to try this cake! So happy to see you have used buttermilk AND cake flour (two of my favorite ingredients in a good cake). Additionally, I couldn’t agree more about whipping the butter and sugar for at LEAST 3-4 minutes. All of my butter cakes start with a good beating and it makes a huge difference. The only thing I can add is, when going through all of the work to create a delicious cake from scratch, trim the caramelization from your edges of the cake before frosting, ESPECIALLY for a white cake. It really doesn’t alter the taste, it is more for esthetics. The pic of your sliced piece is so pretty with its pure white sponge and frosting with the pop of color from the sprinkles, but the caramelized edges “dirty up” an, otherwise, pure white cake. Again, I can’t wait to try this cake! Thanks for sharing.
Yes! I do the same with any cake made with butter and sugar and it does make a difference. And you can certainly cut the darker parts off the cake layers, I skip this step so I don’t have to worry about too many crumbs. Hope you enjoy the cake, Jennifer! 🙂
This looks fantastic while I’m not much of a cake baker at all, I really want to give this a try. You explain things so clearly that it makes me feel like I could actually make it work lol. I have a question about the eggs … I am no good at separating eggs (whites from yolks) and don’t usually bother. I know you said it makes the cake lighter, but does it really make that big of a difference that it is an essential step. If I were to use cake flour and all the other tips to make it lighter, do you think I could get away with using whole eggs? And if so, I would use fewer eggs right … not 5? Or would it not work out right with whole eggs?
So glad you found the post helpful! If you’re wanting a traditional white cake, then yes, it’s necessary to separate the egg whites and only use the whites. I’m sure you could probably just use eggs (you’d likely need to reduce it down to 4), but it would be more like a vanilla cake and definitely not as soft and light as a white cake. If you separate the eggs while they’re still cold, it makes it much easier. You can leave the egg whites in a bowl and let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. They also make small egg separators you can attach to the side of the bowl that easily separate the egg whites from the yolks.
Ok, thanks for answering my question 🙂 I will take your advice and try separating the eggs … if my cake looks half as good as yours I will be ecstatic with the result!
I’d love to hear how the cake turns out if you try it!
I know it’s been a month since your comment, but I just wanted to point out that you can (probably?) buy pasteurized egg whites in a little carton, and it’s totally worth it! And whatever you don’t use up, you can throw it into the freezer for next time. Or make a lot of meringue cookies.
Thanks for sharing, Melissa! I haven’t tried the egg whites in a carton, but I’d love to hear if anyone does try it!
Can you use 8 inch pans instead of 9 inch?
Yes, that would be fine! If you use 8-inch cake pans you may need to do 3 cake layers. If you do 3 layers, the baking time should be pretty similar.
Would this work with 7 inch pans? I’d like to do a 4 layer cake. I’m really excited to try this recipe this weekend!
That should be fine to make 3-4 cake layers, Jenn. I’m not sure on baking time though because I haven’t used 7-inch cake pans. I’d love to hear how the cake turns out for you!
This looks amazing!! I can’t wait to give it a try!! How do you get your icing to look so smooth when it’s on the cake???
Thank you, Kristin! It takes some practice, but I use a turntable, cake scraper, piping bag, and offset spatulas. I have some step-by-step pictures and links to the tools I use in my chocolate layer cake post. Here’s a link to that post: https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/chocolate-layer-cake/. Hope you enjoy the cake!
Do you prefer using clear vanilla or pure vanilla? I love the flavor of real, but would the clear make a whiter cake? Thanks in advance! Planning on making this next week.
I’ve used pure vanilla extract in this cake and didn’t notice too much of a difference in the color. I do notice some of a difference in the frosting though when I use pure vanilla extract versus clear. I do think that either option is fine though! If you prefer the taste of pure vanilla and that’s what you have on hand, then I would stick with that.
I am from Argentina and I am not sure what buttermilk is. Is it a particular kind of milk or regular milk? thanks!!
Buttermilk is soured milk. You can make a buttermilk substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup, fill with milk to the one cup line, then stir and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
Your cake looks lovely and I will definitely try it. I’m wondering if you think the batter would work well for cupcakes. Thanks!
Thank you, Janet! I haven’t tried baking this recipe into cupcakes, but I think it would be fine. I would guess the baking time to be somewhere around 20 minutes, give or take a few minutes.
I’m wanting to use this cake recipe in place of a mix (which is called for in another recipe, for a candy corn cake). The other recipe has you separate the cake batter into 3 sections, coloring one orange, one yellow and leaving the other white. You put one color in the baking dish and then freeze it for 20 min., then add the second color and freeze for 20 min, and then add the white layer, bring it to room temp, then bake. Do you think this recipe would tolerate those times in the freezer without changing texture or flavor? Would love your opinion on this. Your recipe looks great!
Hi, Diane! I personally wouldn’t advise mixing up the cake batter and freezing it for that long. If the batter sits for over an hour, then it’s likely that your cake won’t rise as well and won’t be quite as light. I do think that it would be fine to divide the batter between three bowls, then add the food coloring, and bake 3 separate cake layers.
This looks great! Gonna try it tonight. When you say “For this particular cake, I used my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting recipe but increased the amount of frosting so I had enough to decorate the whole cake.”, Does your frosting recipe reflect that ‘increased’ amount, or should I double it. I’d like extra frosting for decorating 🙂 Thanks!
Yes, the frosting recipe in the recipe card reflects the increased amount.
I made this cake this weekend and it was amazing! I’m not normally a fan of white cake but the flavor was divine. Multiple people said I should open my own bakery (so thanks for making me look good!) this cake is as light, fluffy, and moist as it looks. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!
That is so wonderful to hear, Jessica! I tend to be more of a chocolate cake person, but this cake is right up there with chocolate cake for me. I’d love to hear if you try any other recipes! 🙂
This was the best white cake I’ve ever tasted. Thank you so much for the recipe and explaining the details so well that I was brave enough to make it, and it was phenomenal! Mine wasn’t as pretty as yours but I know that takes some practice. I was still pleased though with the way it looked. Thank you again and my family thanks you as well!
That is so wonderful to hear, Marjorie! I’m glad the cake turned out great for you!
I am going to use your recipe to make my sister a birthday cake, but i wanted to get proffedsional advice.
I’m going to cover the cake with marshmallow fondant.. do you think it will still taste good or would it be too sweet?
I don’t find the cake itself to be too sweet, but I haven’t tried covering it in fondant. I’m not quite sure how it would taste.
what other one of you recipes would you recommend with fondant?
I haven’t worked with fondant, so it’s hard to give suggestions without trying it first.
Does cultured low-fat buttermilk work for the recipe? It’s the only buttermilk I can find!
Yes, that will be just fine!
danielle, i would like to know the nutrition facts for this cake please
I’m not sure on the nutritional information, you can plug the ingredients into an online calculator like My Fitness Pal to get an estimate though.
if i want to make this into a 4 layer cake would i have to double the ingredients for the butter cream frosting?
If you double the recipe it may be a bit too much, but it kind of depends on how thick of a layer of frosting that you use and how much you use to decorate the cake. You could also make a little less by multiplying my vanilla buttercream frosting by 2 and 1/2: https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/how-to-make-buttercream-frosting. If you have any leftover frosting you can always freeze it too.
I followed this recipe to the T but my cake is not white but kind of yellow. It’s also really moist and kind of greasy because of the butter. I just put it on the fridge i hopes its going to “dry” a little. I’m kind of bummed that it didn’t turn white as the picture. I guess that even if you don’t use egg yolks, the yellow color of the butter surely comes through.
Sorry to hear that! Some brands of butter tend to be more yellow in color, grass-fed butter is much more yellow. I prefer to use store-brand or Challenge butter because they tend to be lighter in color. Do you remember what brand you used? Also, it’s really important to beat the butter and sugar together for several minutes to help lighten the color of the butter.
Hi! So this would make one 9×13 cake? Or could I make two??
Correct. If you’re wanting two 9×13 cakes you would need to make another one.
I love the simplicity of this cake. Do you have a recipe for a smash cake or how to make this one smaller. Thank you Heather
Hi, Heather! I don’t have a recipe for a smaller cake and this one may be harder to cut in half because of the egg whites. I do have quite a few cake recipes that would cut in half really well to make a single layer cake though. Here’s a link to my cake recipes: https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/category/cakes-pies/.
I’ve always heard that cakes made with butter get dry in the fridge. Is that true with this cake, or will it remain moist? I’m about to frost the cake now!
I don’t find that this cake dries out at all. As long as there’s enough moisture in the cake batter, that shouldn’t be an issue even if it’s made with butter. Hope you enjoyed the cake!
Great recipe! Is there a way to increase the ingredients to make 3 layers in 9 inch round pans?
Because of the egg whites, it would be hard to multiply the recipe by 1.5. You could probably make 3 cake layers in 8-inch cake pans using this recipe though.
My mom’s birthday is coming and I really think this cake would be perfect for her special day. I love everything about this cake. Even that cake slice looks perfect. Thank you so much for this recipe, Danielle. I hope my cake would turn out as good as yours.
Thank you, Lianne! Hope you enjoy the cake!
Do you spray the entire pan, or only the bottom?
You’ll want to spray the entire inside of the pan.
I sprayed the entire pan and it pulled away from the sides quite a bit. I did use a flower nail in the middle. Was it supposed to do that?
It will pull away from the sides some, I’m not sure that the flower nail would have caused it to pull away more. Did the cake still turn out okay for you?
Yes! It turned out great and everyone loved it.
I have made this cake twice in the last month. It was so good each time. First was the two 9in and the second I ended up making into a 3 for my daughters birthday. I made the cake a few weeks ago and froze it then thawed it, made fresh icing and enjoyed it just as much as the first time. I highly recommend this recipe!
I just used this recipe to make cupcakes and they are amazing!!! Perfect white cake cupcakes I paired with lemon cream cheese frosting! The cake recipe makes exactly 24 cupcakes, if you fill the cups about 2/3 way full. These were for a friend’s birthday/girl’s night out and all the women were just drooling!!
So happy to hear that, Jenny!
Great recipe! can’t wait to try this out… I’d like to make a 10 inch/12 inch 3 layer cake, please how to I recalculate the recipe for this?
I haven’t ever made it that way, so it’s hard to give suggestions. Some readers have found this guide helpful for converting recipes though: https://food52.com/blog/13239-how-to-make-your-baking-recipe-fit-your-pan-size.
Thank you! I’ll give it a try
My cake came out hard.
Was the cake overbaked?
Hi! Can’t wait to try out this recipe. I was thinking of making three 10” round cakes. Would three layers be too heavy? Or would it be better to make two 10”layers and split them? How would I alter the recipe for one 10” pan?
I don’t think three 10-inch layers would be too heavy. If you use this recipe for three 10-inch layers though they may be kind of thin. I’m not sure how you would alter the recipe for 10-inch pans, but you could probably bake it in 2 of them and split the layers.
I made miniature cupcakes for a “Candy Bar” at an event this past Friday and they were a big hit!!!
Thank you for this wonderful recipe. I’m excited about trying the chocolate cake next.
So glad to hear that, Peyton! Hope you enjoy the chocolate cake too!