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This perfectly Moist Vanilla Cake is a timeless dessert, full of sweet vanilla flavor and topped with my best vanilla frosting. It’s an easy cake recipe that you can make as cupcakes or a layer cake, too!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Easy Homemade Vanilla Cake
I’m always chasing the perfect cake recipe. After months of trialing and adjusting to get it just right, this easy vanilla cake recipe might be my most versatile dessert ever. There’s rarely an occasion when this cake isn’t the answer, whenever I need a dessert for a special occasion, or just because I’m craving something sweet.
My cake recipe is a real classic. It makes perfect, ultra-moist cake, frosted with my all-time favorite vanilla buttercream frosting. The crumb is rich and spongey, and the batter comes together easily using either a stand or hand mixer.
Birthdays, parties, potlucks, bake sales – this cake is the best, perfect for frosting and decorating. You can even make it into a layer cake or cupcakes!
What to Expect
Over the years, millions of people have visited this recipe, and countless readers have made it. Here’s what you need to know.
- Taste: The cake itself isn’t overly sweet, allowing it to pair perfectly with the frosting. High-quality vanilla gives the best flavor.
- Texture: Dense but spongy. If you are looking for a light and fluffy vanilla cake, this isn’t it.
- Crumb: Very moist with a tight and tender crumb.
Below I’ve included the main ingredients you’ll need for this vanilla cake recipe and frosting. The full recipe details and ingredient amounts can be found in the recipe card, so don’t forget to scroll to the end.
For the Vanilla Cake
- Oil – I use oil in place of butter in many of my cake recipes. Oil makes for a lighter, moist crumb. Vegetable oil and coconut oil will both work great.
- Vanilla – Vanilla is the star here, so make sure to use a high-quality vanilla extract for this recipe.
- Sour Cream – My essential ingredient for an ultra-moist cake! Sour cream (either light or full-fat) brings lots of added moisture and richness to cakes and cupcakes. If you don’t have sour cream, substitute plain Greek yogurt instead. If you need to, you can omit it completely, but note that this vanilla cake will not be nearly as moist.
- All-purpose flour: I often get asked if cake flour can be used, and the simple answer is no. They’re not a 1:1 replacement. Sifted, all-purpose flour is the way to go.
- Milk – I use nonfat milk because that’s what I keep in my fridge. You can use any kind of milk (whole, 2%, etc.) you have on hand. You’ll want to let your milk as well as the sour cream come to room temperature before you start, so they’re easier to combine with the batter.
For the Vanilla Frosting
- Butter – This is a basic buttercream so, naturally, it starts with butter. My secret to perfect buttercream frosting is cold butter (trust me!), so keep it chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
- Heavy Whipping Cream – Or milk, to adjust the consistency of the frosting. I prefer to use heavy cream as it always yields the creamiest, fluffiest vanilla frosting.
Oil vs. Butter In Cakes: Which Is Better?
Oil alllllll the way. Oil makes this cake bake up more light and tender than butter-based cake. The difference comes from butter being a solid fat at room temperature (even after baking), while oil stays liquid and moist.
Another major perk of working with oil? There’s no waiting around while your butter comes to room temperature! Many cake recipes often call for room-temperature butter so that it’s easier to whip, but not this one.
If you’d prefer to bake this cake using butter instead, use 1/2 cup of melted butter in place of the oil that’s called for in the recipe. Just know that it won’t come out quite as soft or moist, so I usually don’t recommend it.
How To Make a Moist Vanilla Cake
Here’s just how simple it is to make the perfect vanilla cake from scratch:
Combine the wet Ingredients. Begin by beating together the sugar, oil, and the rest of the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Next, you’ll beat in the sour cream, and set the bowl aside.
Sift the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Slowly mix the sifted flour mixture into the wet ingredients, alternating with milk until you have a smooth batter.
Bake. Add the vanilla cake batter to a 9×13-inch baking dish, and then bake at 350ºF for about 30 minutes. Once the cake is done, take it out and leave it to cool completely before frosting.
How to Make the Vanilla Frosting
This cake is frosted with my favorite Perfect Vanilla Frosting. It’s honestly the most versatile buttercream frosting. I use it for everything, from this vanilla cake to Rainbow Cupcakes, Red, White, and Blue Layer Cakes, and Sugar Cookies!
The best buttercream frosting is whipped, fluffy, and very spreadable. Here’s how to prepare this easy frosting for decorating your vanilla cake. I have a more detailed tutorial on how to make frosting if needed (linked above- see my perfect vanilla frosting).
- Whip the butter. This is key. Since this frosting begins with cold butter, you’ll need to whip it a little longer at the start. Cut the cold butter into cubes, then add it to your mixer and whip it for a good 3-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally.
- Add powdered sugar. With the mixer on low, you’ll gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the vanilla, and lastly the heavy cream.
- Whip again. Continue to beat your vanilla frosting for an additional several minutes or so to get it nice and airy.
- Frost the cake. When your cake is completely cool, it’s ready to frost. Place dollops of frosting around the top of the cake and use an angled spatula to spread the frosting. Don’t press too hard or you’ll risk pulling the top of the cake along with you! See below for more helpful frosting and decorating tips.
Tips for Success
Below are some common mistakes and how to avoid them, along with a couple of handy tips for making the best moist vanilla cake:
- Room temperature ingredients: I’ve made this cake both ways, and I can assure you that room temperature ingredients does allow the ingredients to better incorporate together.
- Sifted flour. I know it’s a pain, but I’ve made this cake so many times over the years, and using a fine mesh strainer to aerate the flour is the way to go.
- Don’t over (or under) mix the batter. Once the dry ingredients have been added, low and slow is the name of the game. There’s a bit of a delicate balance when preparing cake batter. If you over-beat the ingredients, your cake won’t rise and will come out overly dense. Meanwhile, batter that’s not well mixed will bake unevenly.
- Try not to substitute ingredients wherever possible. You’ve heard the saying, “cooking is an art, baking is a science”. Think of the ingredients and ratios in a cake recipe as a tested and successful science experiment. Straying from the recipe can have unpredictable results.
- Avoid overbaking or underbaking. Baking times may vary depending on the type of pan you’re using (see the next point below) and your individual oven. Test the cake by inserting a toothpick into the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is ready to come out.
- Different types of pans will bake differently. Cakes in glass baking pans will always need to bake longer since glass doesn’t conduct heat as well as metal pans.
More Frosting and Decorating Ideas
A classic homemade vanilla cake is seriously the best dessert for any occasion! It’s just as delicious as a birthday cake as it is for everyday baking, and I’ll never run out of ways to decorate it. Here are more frosting options to pair with this easy vanilla cake:
You can be as creative or as basic as you’d like when it comes to how you frost your cake, too. Most of the time I just smear the frosting in an even layer all over so I can get to slicing ASAP. But the vanilla buttercream frosting is also perfect for piping! I have helpful tutorials on How to Use a Piping Bag and How to Use and Decorate with Piping Tips that walk you through it.
Then, try one or more of these fun topping ideas:
- Fruit – Top your cake with fresh berries, fruit, or a compote.
- Chocolate Ganache – Drizzle the top of the cake with an easy homemade chocolate ganache (borrow the filling from my Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes!)
- Caramel Sauce – Add a bit of caramel or butterscotch sauce over top.
- Sprinkles – Top your cake with fun and festive colorful sprinkles, nonpareils, or chocolate shavings.
- Crushed Cookies – Give your cake a crunchy texture thanks to a sprinkle of crushed cookies, like Oreos or Nilla Wafers.
Easy Recipe Variations
This recipe makes a very simple and very delicious single-layer vanilla cake. But it doesn’t have to end there. Here are some more recipe variations you can try:
- Cupcakes – This vanilla cake recipe can easily be made as vanilla cupcakes. The batter will make a hefty 24 cupcakes, with a little left over. For some helpful cupcake decorating tips, check out my post on How to Decorate Cupcakes.
- Layer Cake – I make this cake as an 8” three-layer cake in my recipe for Moist Vanilla Layer Cake. If you’d like to bake this as a 9-inch or 10-inch layer cake, the baking times will need to be adjusted accordingly. All the details are in the post.
- Bundt Cake – I’ll be honest, I don’t love the way this recipe bakes as a bundt cake. Luckily, I developed the perfect fluffy Vanilla Bundt Cake instead. The preparation is a bit different but just as easy!
- Gluten-Free – I’ve made a gluten-free vanilla cake using 1-to-1 gluten-free flour and it came out great. If you’re looking for another easy gluten-free dessert, try my Easy Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcakes.
- Poke Cakes- I’ve used this as a base recipe for many of my poke cake recipes.
How to Store a Frosted Cake
Whenever possible, this homemade vanilla cake should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature to keep it fresh and moist. However, if you live in a hot and humid environment, you may want to store this in the refrigerator instead. Take the cake out of the fridge ahead of time and serve it at room temperature. Either way, be sure you’re using an airtight container.
Can I Freeze Vanilla Cake?
Yes, though it’s best to freeze homemade cakes before they’re frosted. Once the vanilla cake is baked and cooled, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, plus a layer of foil. Store your cake frozen for up to 1 month.
Before serving, thaw the vanilla cake completely and let it come to room temperature before frosting.Print
This easy and homemade Moist Vanilla Cake recipe is perfectly sweet and fluffy and full of rich vanilla flavor. Topped with a creamy vanilla buttercream frosting, it’s the best vanilla cake to make for any occasion!
For the Cake:
- 2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml) vanilla extract
- ½ cup(118 ml) sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 ½ cups (350 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 3 teaspoons (11.2 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
- 1 ¼ cups (296 ml) milk (any type), at room temperature
For the Frosting
- 3/4 cup ( 170g )unsalted butter, cold
- 2 1/2cups (325g ) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5ml ) pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon (15ml ) heavy whipping cream or milk
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Mix the wet ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well incorporated. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add the sour cream and beat until well combined.
- Combine the dry ingredients: In a separate bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half the dry ingredients, and half the milk, and beat on low speed just until the flour starts to incorporate. Repeat until all ingredients are added and combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
- Pour the batter into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 28-32 minutes. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely prior to frosting.
For the Frosting:
- Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally, and beating until the butter is whipped and fluffy.
- Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into the butter then add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and mix to combine. Beat for about 60 seconds.
- Continuing beating, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting. Spread over cooled cake.
- The batter will be quite thin. It’s important that you stir the batter after mixing, to ensure everything on the bottom of the bowl is well mixed.
- This can easily be made into vanilla cupcakes or a vanilla layer cake
- Greasing the pan: if you are using a pan that isn’t nonstick, or you plan to remove the whole cake from the pan, be sure to grease and flour the pan first.
- Baking times will vary by pan type and true internal oven temperatures.
- Storing this cake: Whenever possible, cakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you live in a hot and humid environment, you may want to store this in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
- Freezing this cake: I do not prefer to freeze cakes once they’re frosted/ If you need to freeze this cake, double wrap it in plastic wrap and then with foil. Thaw to room temperature to serve.
- Sour cream: This is essential for keeping the cupcakes moist. If you don’t have sour cream. I recommend substituting it with non-fat Greek yogurt. The recipe calls for light sour cream, but you can also use full-fat sour cream. If you need to, you can omit it completely, but note the cake will not be nearly as moist.
- Butter instead of oil: You can use 1/2 cup of melted butter instead of oil, but I don’t think it is nearly as good. You can also use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.
- Gluten-free flour: I have tested this recipe with a one-for-one gluten-free flour and it worked out great
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American