Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe

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This perfectly Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe is a slightly denser than average cake with a tight crumb. It’s a super easy recipe and topped with my tried and true vanilla frosting. You can make this recipe as cupcakes or a layer cake as well.  

An overhead shot of a slice of vanilla cake on a light teal plate. The cake is garnished with colorful sprinkles and there's a couple gold forks in the background.

The Easy Vanilla Cake I Can’t Stop Making

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to have a homemade and versatile basic cake recipe. I’ve shied away from the task, fearing I would not be up to the challenge. After months of recipe testing, I finally landed on this recipe.

This easy vanilla cake recipe makes the most moist cake that’s covered with my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting. This is not a light and fluffy cake, it’s more of a spongy, heavier cake made with whole eggs, oil and sour cream. 

When I say this recipe is quick and easy, it’s because this recipe uses basic panty ingredients that don’t require room temperature ingredients. You can make this cake in about 10 minutes before your oven is done preheating.

You’ll also find this cake recipe is very stable and reliable. You can use it to make cupcakes or a layer cake.

A gold fork sitting on a teal plate with a slice of vanilla cake. There's a few bites missing from the cake showing the spongy inside of the cake.

Why I Use Oil Instead of Butter

I prefer oil-based cakes over butter-based cakes because oil tends to make cakes moister. It also makes the crumb and texture a bit more tender.

Since this cake uses oil instead of butter, there’s no waiting around for your butter to come to room temperature. Often times recipes using butter require properly whipping the butter and sugar together, but we don’t have to worry about that with this recipe.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Granulated sugar: The ratio of sugar to flour is very important in baked goods, so be sure to follow the recipe. Some people have reduced the sugar without an issue but I don’t recommend it.
  • Vegetable oil: Oil makes this cakee more moist than a recipe with butter.
  • Whole eggs: This is a dense and spongy cake, so we’re using the whole egg. 
  • Pure vanilla extract: Be sure you get a high-quality REAL vanilla extract for this recipe because the vanilla is your main ingredient for flavor. 
  • Sour cream: Sour cream helps keeps this cake very moist.
  • All-purpose flour: This is not interchangeable with cake flour. So be sure to use all-purpose for this recipe. 
  • Baking powder: There’s 3 whole teaspoons to give this cake the perfect rise.
  • Salt: Adding small amounts of salt to desserts enhances the flavor and sweetness.
  • Milk:  I use nonfat because that’s what I keep in my fridge, but you can use any type of milk you have on hand

an overhead shot of ingredients for vanilla cupcakes: milk, sugar, flour, eggs, sour cream, oil, vanilla

Ingredient substitutions

  • Sour cream: This is essential for keeping the cake moist. If you don’t have sour cream. I recommend substituting with non-fat Greek yogurt. The recipe calls for light sour cream, but you can also use full-fat sour cream. A few people have asked about substituting buttermilk for sour cream. I have never tried this, and this batter is already pretty thin, so I am not sure if adding additional liquid will work. 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

How to Make Vanilla Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract until well incorporated.
  3. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.two side by side images showing the process of making a vanilla cake batter
  4. In a separate bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the dry ingredients, and beat on low speed while pouring in half of the milk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  5. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients, and the remaining milk. Beat on low speed until all of the ingredients are well combined.two side by side images showing the process of making a vanilla cake batter
  6. Pour the batter in a 9×13 inch pan and bake at 350°F for 28-32 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Mistakes to Avoid

Over or under mixing the batter: With any baked good, there is a certain level of balance needed when you’re preparing the batter. If you over beat the batter, your cake will be too dense and it will not rise. If you under beat it then it can cause your cake to bake unevenly because the oil and eggs are not well incorporated. To help with this, turn off your mixer when you can’t see any more loose flour on top. Then use a spatula to stir the batter a few times, getting all the stuff that is stuck to the bottom of the bowl and bringing it up to the top.

Ingredient substitutions: Wherever possible, try not to substitute ingredients. You’ve heard the term, baking is a science. The ingredient and ratios are the way they are for a reason.

Over or under baking: Baking time are suggested and vary depending on the type of pan you’re using and your individual oven. If you need to bake this cake for longer than specified, that’s okay. Test the cake with a toothpick or knife in the center of the cake. If the knife is clean, then your cake is done.

An overhead shot of a vanilla cake bake in a 9x13 inch pan

How to Frost this Vanilla Cake

You want to me be sure your frosting is whipped, fluffy and very spreadable. 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 pull the top of the cake along with you. 

How to Store Frosted a 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this recipe as cupcakes?

That’s right, this vanilla cake can be made as a cake and also as vanilla cupcakes. This recipe will make a hefty 24 cupcakes with a little batter left over.

Can I turn this into a layer cake?

I have made this as an 8-inch 3 layer cake. See my recipe for the Moist Vanilla Layer Cake. If you’d like to bake this as 9-inch or 10-inch layer cake, the baking times will need to be adjusted accordingly. All the information you need is in that specific blog post. 

Can I make this as bundt cake?

Personally I don’t love the way this bakes as a bundt cake. So I developed another recipe for the perfect vanilla bundt cake. It uses only egg whites, and the method of preparation is also different, but it’s also easy!

A gold fork holding a slice of vanilla cake. You can see the cake is blurred out in the background.

I had to bake my cake longer than the required time, what did I do wrong?

Likely nothing! Different types of pans will bake differently. Glass baking pans will always need to bake longer as they do not conduct heat as quickly as metal pans. Disposable containers are much thinner and thus require additional baking time.

Also keep in mind that not all oven temperatures are alike, and unless you have an internal thermometer, your oven temperature could be off or you didn’t preheat it all the way prior to placing your cake in the oven.

More cake recipes you’ll love

After a lot of requests, I’ve also added a chocolate version of this cake. My moist chocolate cake is less dense and more light and fluffy. Looking for more cake recipes? Here are all my best cake recipes. 

a slice of vanilla cake on a teal plate, text overlay

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A slice of vanilla cake with frosting and sprinkles on a dark teal plate. The gold fork has a piece of cake on it, and there's a bite missing from the cake.

Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe

  • Author: Beyond Frosting
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 15 slices

Description

This easy vanilla cake recipe makes a fluffy, moist cake covered with the most perfect vanilla buttercream frosting.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup(118 ml) light sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons (11.2 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cups (296 ml) milk (I use nonfat)

For the frosting

  • 3/4 cup ( 170g )unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 1/2cups (325g ) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoons (5ml ) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml ) heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the sour cream beat until well combined.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients: In a separate bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the dry ingredients to the batter, and then add half of the milk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  5. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and the remaining milk. Beat on low speed until all of the ingredients are well combined. Stir with a spatula to ensure it’s well mixed.
  6. Pour the batter in 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.
  7. For the Frosting: Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally, beating until the butter look light in color.
  8. 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.
  9. Continuing beating on low until the ingredients start to mix together. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting. Spread over cooled cake.

Notes

  • 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
  • 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.
  • Ingredient substitutions

    • Sour cream: This is essential for keeping the cupcakes moist. If you don’t have sour cream. I recommend substituting 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
Nutrition Information:
15
443
47.5g
187.5mg
18.9g
65.2g
4.7g
65.4mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: vanilla cake recipe, best, easy, homemade, how to make vanilla cake, moist vanilla cake recipe, fluffy, birthday cake, sheet cake

 

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530 Responses
  1. Nay

    A wonderful recipe thank you,, I have made a few homemade white cakes and they always came out rather dry. This was so good I will be making this cake again and again and again and again😄

  2. Vladimira Do Nascimento Miranda

    Hi, I love this recipe! Since I found it about 5months ago I bake this so often – all versions- sheet cake, layer cake and cupcakes and all always work out so well! I also make the chocolate version simply by adding 2-3 tbsp of cocoa powder dissolved in about 2tbsp of hot water or coffee, using little less milk (about 280- 285 ml). The chocolate version is my kids’ favourite cake😃

  3. K.M.U.B Kulasekara

    thank your for this Amazing recipe,i doubled the recipe and subtitude milk with coconut milk.it came out perfectly.❤️

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Deb, I bake this frequently and I seldom use room temperature ingredients, so I did not specify them to be room temp.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      You can use dairy-free milk and yogurt, I don’t think that would be an issue. In regards to vegan butter, I have never made a frosting with vegan butter but if you can find something in a brick form or a vegetable shortening, you could try that and then use dairy-free milk instead of heavy cream.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Via, the answer to this is in the blog post under Ingredient substitutions and also listed in the recipe card in the notes section. I hope you’ll find those suggestions helpful.

  4. Sarah

    I wanted to try to make this cake but with two round pans. Do you know what temperature and time it would need to bake at?

  5. Alisa Mason

    This is my absolute go-to recipe for a vanilla cake. The sponge comes out perfect every time. I’ve made it as a layer cake and as a 1/2 sheet (11×15). For the layer cake, Julianne’s directions are spot on. For the 1/2 sheet size I doubled the ingredients and baked at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes. You really can’t go wrong with this recipe no matter what size you do.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thank you so much Alisa!! I really appreciate that! Thank you for sharing your sheet cake adjustments too!

  6. Nivida

    The cake came out super moist & delicious! This will be my go-to recipe from now onwards! Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! 😊

  7. Wadzie

    So moist and yummy, I reduced the sugar to 1 cup and it came out good as well. Thank you for the recipe

  8. Kadi

    Exactly what I was looking for! Nice and easy recipe but also not too sweet and really moist!

  9. Jenny

    We cant get All purpose flour where I am. What can I use instead if I cant use cake flour?
    We get bread flour, cake flour, self raising flour??

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Jenny- what do you normally sub for all purpose flour? Definitely not bread flour. I don’t bake with self rising flour, but if that’s an alternative, you would likely reduce the baking powder in this recipe.

  10. sylvia

    Hello, so glad I found this recipe. it’s by far the best vanilla cake I’ve made!
    Is the original recipe in cups and then converted to grams or was it originally in grams and adapted to cup measurements? thank you 🙂

    1. Beyond Frosting

      All my recipes start in cups and are converted to grams using an online tool that estimates. They also vary from brand to brand, especially with flour!

  11. Anar I Gulamhussein

    My late husband used to tell me that my cakes always turn out too dry,for years I tried but to fail everytime until I came across this recipe & omg 😱 what a difference it made, not only moist but delicious & def not dry I couldn’t stop eating it same with my family 🤤😋❤️🌹

  12. Jessica Jonceski

    Hi, i’m just wondering if this recipe is restricted to vegetable oil? could you use canola instead?
    thank you 🙂

  13. Abby Clay

    Amazing cake! It’s so hard to find a cake that has a little more to it and is not super light and airy but this recipe is THE ONE. This cake was exactly what I hoped for and super moist. I made coconut frosting for the top and put coconut on the outside and had the most moist and amazing coconut cake of my life. Excited to use this cake with lots of different frostings!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thank you Abby!! You should also try my yellow cake or lemon cake which were adapted from this as well! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Jasmin, I’ve never tested this recipe with cake flour, but they are not a 1:1 substitute. Yes, you can use buttermilk, but I would consider using some baking soda in combination with the baking powder. At least 1/2-1 teaspoon.

  14. Rebecca

    I’ve made your 8″ 3-layer recipe a few times now (after searching for so long for a good white cake recipe!), and it’s perfect. I was planning to double it to make a 9×13 version, since my Wilton 9×13 pan says I should use 10 cups of batter. But here you’re using the same recipe (which I think makes 5 cups) for a 9×13. Will this be a high enough single-layer sheet cake?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Rebecca, I use the same recipe for both a 9×13″ cake and the 3 layer 8-inch cake. I am afraid if you doubled the recipe, the edges would burn before the middle was cooked

  15. joy lyon

    I’m in the U.K. and made this for the first time today. I can see this becoming a firm family favourite.

  16. Stephanie

    Hey (Hugs)
    How are you? I only use your vanilla in my business, its phenomenal huge fan, I was wondering if I can make your vanilla in a caramel cake (in the sponge) 🙏🏻

          1. Stephanie

            It worked, thanks to your brilliant recipe I successfully managed to make a caramel one. You are amazing, thank you

  17. Becky

    Can I change the vanilla extract for almond extract? I’m hunting for an almond recipe that includes oil and yogurt/milk but you don’t seem to have one.

  18. Kelly

    Before I try this, I want to ask what you recommend for higher altitudes. We are at 3700 feet. I normally reduce the leavening, add a bit more liquid, etc. I look forward to trying this!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Kelly, I am not too familiar with high altitude baking, and unfortunately I have not made this cake at high altitude myself so I am can’t be of much help here. I’m sorry!

  19. Mia

    The cake came out with a bread like texture – is this how it normally comes out or did I do something wrong? I was expecting a tight crumb, but this seemed more pound cake/sweet bready. (used yogurt instead of sour cream and half the amount of sugar – could this have been the culprit??)
    Thank you!!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Mia, yogurt would have been a find substitution but yeah, you cannot halve the sugar and expect to have the same results. That is a definite contributor to the texture you described. I would recommend trying the recipe as it’s written.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Taylor, I do not, I’m sorry I am not too familiar with sugar free baking. If you can find a 1:1 sugar substitute like Swerve that might work?

  20. Shannon DeRoza

    Great recipe !! Easy to follow. And the taste and texture is phenomenal!!!! Thank you Julienne. I’ll be sure to tag you again in my next cake post ! @shanshomebakery

      1. Maria

        Love your receipes.. How much quantity of cake can you make with this given ingredients. You have specified in no of slices,can you please tell me in kg.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Cake flour and AP flour are not interchangeable due to the proteins in the flour, and further adjustment would be required. I have not tested this recipe with cake flour.

  21. A J

    This was SO good! We only made the cake, but it smelled so amazing out of the oven my boyfriend and I both had two slices. Will be making this over and over again. Thanks for the recipe!

  22. Mel

    This cake is excellent…I did add less milk and added a bit more sour cream since I only had exactly one cup of milk. I did whip the sugar and egg whites together and then added the oils and yolks and vanilla. Made it a bit more fluffy but still had great texture. Tasted great even without frosting.

  23. Kerry

    Omg. Made this into 12 cupcakes today and they are so scrummy! Moistest recipe I’ve found yet so will prob stick with this one from now on. Thank you for sharing!

  24. Tara

    Here we are day 3 and this cake is just as moist as day 1. I used 1/4c butter and 1/4c vegetable oil. Amazing cake! Fir the frosting I made a buttercream frosting and after whipping the butter added 1 T of meringue powder and whipped that in before adding the confectioners sugar. The frosting is just as good as day 1 and fallen flat. This recipe can be made the day before and is a keeper.

  25. Heather

    I make a lot of cakes – this recipe is excellent, and super simple. I substituted half greek yoghurt and half buttermilk as I did not have sour cream in the house. And then I folded in some flour-coated frozen raspberries. Totally delicious. Thank you!

  26. Melissa Fernando

    I made this today and we are currently in a lock down. Used curd instead of sour cream. Used 2tsp of baking powder and less than 1/2tsp of baking soda since I was running out of baking powder. Used part coconut oil and part melted margarine. Didn’t frost the cake but added few cashews and raisins. Cake rose a lot than other vanilla cakes I’ve made. It was soft and delicious. 👌👌👌Froze a part of the cake.
    Thank you for the recipe!!!😊😊

  27. Shiku

    This is the yummiest recipe for vanilla I have ever found, especially for someone like me who likes to be generous with the vanilla essence 🙂 ! I will definitely stick around. Keep up the good work Julianne!

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