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. Michaela

    Hands down, this is the best vanilla cake I ever made ! It is so moist as it was the first day I baked it !! Perfect recipe!!

      1. Maria

        WOW!! The best ever vanilla cake. I have never baked a cake from scratch. I’ve only made box cakes at random times over the years. I had been craving vanilla cake and came across this recipe. I figured it was so easy that I couldn’t mess it up. I had all the ingredients except sour cream. I knew that the cake would turn out good because the batter was so tasty. I am absolutely pleased with this cake. I don’t have to look anywhere else for recipes. This is my go to site. Thank you so much! No more box cake.

  2. Leslie

    Will this cake taste just the same with regular fat sour cream and whole milk? I only have those in the fridge and I am scared of the texture of the cakes changing.

  3. Dianne Sironic

    Made this last week and it was gone in 2 days. One of the best Vanilla cake recipes I have tried. I knew it would be a winner as soon as I saw your recipe had oil and sour cream in it and it did not disappoint. It really was super moist. The only thing I cut the sugar in the recipe to just over 1 cup as I felt 2 cups was too sweet for us (but just personal preference) . Thank you.

  4. meng

    Thank you for such an easy recipe. I made it for my husband coz he loves cakes. Very tasty thank u soo very much.

    1. Michelle Co

      This recipe tastes really good. From now, it will be my forever vanilla cake. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Gemma Andres

    Used this recipe as a base for poke cake, since we had to use our strawberry gelatin and we ran out of butter. Followed your advice and excluded the sour cream, we also had to use cake flour since we ran out of AP flour, as well as almond extract instead of vanilla. We tasted the cake before poking and pouring the gelatin – it tasted great, and it was good enough to eat on its own! We turned the leftover batter to cupcakes as well. Thank you for the recipe!!

  6. Keely Cozad

    Very easy recipe! My oven is a little hot so mine was golden on top as well, but I am wondering if using 3 egg whites would help with color and taste. This one seems like more of a yellow cake texture and smell. Has anyone tried that? Just like how cake mix for white cake calls for the whites only?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hey Keely- thank you for sharing. This recipe with only egg whites will not produce a great result, it would require additional adjustments.

      1. Lisa

        Can I make this 2 days in advance and frost it on the day it is to be served? If so how would I store it? Frige?? Thank you!

        1. Beyond Frosting

          There’s a section in this post with a title called “how to store a frosted cake” that might be helpful for you to read. It depends on the climate you live in. However the unfrosted cake can be stored in an airtight container.

  7. Meridith M

    I’m making this cake now! It smells delicious. It’s been baking for 33 minutes in a glass baking dish, but every time I have checked it (from 28 minutes on) it’s literally jiggling in the center! I followed the recipe to a T. I know glass pans can take longer, but about how much longer? The edges are golden brown and perfect but the inside is jiggling!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      You’re doing the right thing to keep it baking. There’s no set time for baking it’s all depending on the pan and oven type. Also if the oven wasn’t fully preheated when you put it in that can add a couple minutes to baking. Could be just a few more minutes. Also you can try rotating the pan in the oven to avoid hot spots.

      1. Julie Hartjes

        This happened to me too. I know my oven is a bit low (about 10 degrees) so I set for 360. After 28 min. the middle was still liquid. probably had to add about 8 minutes to it. Smells good. Can’t wait to frost and eat!!!

  8. June

    This cake was amaaaaazing! I made it for my little girl’s third birthday and the whole family loved it! I dumped a handful of raspberries in the frosting and it was a nice tart addition. One question, though. Your slices look so beautifully flat. How did you do that? The top of my cake was a bit raised. The taste was perfection, though! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Aaron

    So this is my new favorite Cake recipe. It’s awesome!

    BTW for all the people that think it tastes like cornbread (it doesn’t) I adapted the recipe for a sweet jalapeño cornbread.

    Use 1.5 cups sugar instead of 2
    1.5 cups Masa and 1 cup cornmeal instead of flour
    After batter is almost finished mixing add:
    1 cup corn (fresh or thawed frozen)
    1/2 cup diced fresh Jalapeño

    Will need to add a few min to bake time.

  10. Jen

    My 4 year old twins and I just made this. I’m not a great baker, but it turned out so good. I used the ff Greek yogurt.

    1. Deanna

      This recipe was delicious and easy to make! I have been searching for a perfect and easy buttercream icing forever. I have tried so many and this was by far my family’s favorite! The cake didn’t last long! I ran out of vanilla extract after using the last bit for the cake batter, but I had Almond and it actually turned out very tasty in combination with the vanilla cake! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  11. Fabiola

    Hello, what would you recommend bake time will be if I divide the batter in two 8inch pans? Thanks for the recipe 🙂

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I don’t think the recipe is quite as good with melted butter, but you can use 1/2 cup butter, melted in place of the oil

  12. Jasmine

    Hi, hope you are safe and well! I wanted to know if you have halved this recipe before, or if you have any suggestions on doing so. My concern is the 3 eggs.

  13. DeShan

    This actually turned out so yummy!! I added sprinkles insides, as my daughter requested a funfetti version! I am keeping this recipe on hand. Thank you.

  14. suzie

    This looks great. I think leaving out butter like this will make this a moister cake. Looking forward to trying it. Ever made it in round pans? Doesn’t seem like enough batter for two 9-inch rounds…

  15. Nastassja

    I love all of your recipes and I’m very excited to try this out! Can I use this recipe to make mini bundts in my mini bundt silicone mold? I tried a mini vanilla bundt recipe earlier this month that I found online and it was too dense and the crumb was very tight. If I can use this to make mini bundts, would you more or less know how long to bake them for? Thanks so much!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Nastassja! Thank you so much for your comment. I will give you my personal opinion. I developed another recipe for a Vanilla Bundt Cake because I did not like the way this cake baked as a bundt cake. The method of preparation and ingredients are a little different and meant to accommodate for a longer baking time with a traditional bundt cake. The structure of the crumb is a little different. The bundt cake is a little tighter, but overall I think a lighter texture than this cake. This cake is also very dense but I don’t think to crumb is very tight. Ultimately vanilla cake is a tough one because everyone like something different. If you’re feeling up for it, I might try both and see which one you like better. You can try halving each recipe for testing purposes.

  16. Tina

    Have used this recipe many times! It’s one of the best ones out! Even the crumbs disappear from the cake platter!! Can’t thank you enough!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      They are not a 1:1 ratio. I have not tested this with cake flour and you’ll need to look into more details for that sort of substitution.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Grainne- yes, but I don’t usually freeze this cake when it’s frosted. The cake should be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. If placing the wrap directly on the cake, I use parchment paper because this cake is very moist and it will stick the the paper, but it’s better than sticking to the plastic.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Pearse- I would say your cake would be a lot more dry. Instead try reducing the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and that might suite you.

  17. Vicky

    I love this recipe! I’ve made this cake three times and it always came out scrumptious! I want to make it again but would I be able to do so using olive oil instead of vegetable oil? Would it still come out well?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Whoohoo! Love that Vicky. I’ve never tried it with olive oil personally. The flavor could be a little different and the texture might be a little different as well.

  18. Lisha

    It came out well , I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream, and reduced a little bit of salt. Thanks for the recipe.

  19. Jennie Forman

    Tasted like corn bread. It was salty and gross. Had to just throw out and ended up making a boxed cake. What a waste!!!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      You shouldn’t be tasting the salt… something doesn’t seem right. Sorry you didn’t like this recipe, but if I’ve learned anything, everyone has a different opinion about vanilla cake. It is definitely NOT the same as a boxed mix.

  20. Zam

    Hi,

    Thanks for this yummy ingredient. I would like to know if what are other alternatives for light sour cream. May i use hot water/ milk/ or heavy cream? And will the alternative be of the same measurement(1/2cup) like the sour cream. Thanks a lot

    Zam

  21. Tania

    Can I just say, this recipe was a lifesaver last week for me. I had a cupcake order and typically me, did not have enough butter so I googled white cake with oil. Up pops your website. I baked my cupcakes and just to be sure I tasted good, I tested 1 (ok 2 just to make sure) and it was perfect. I prefer oil to butter and this was just the perfect recipe. Thanks for this.

  22. Cakes

    I was wondering can I use buttermilk in replacement of the milk? Also if I’m not serving the cake that day may I use simple syrup to keep it moist?

      1. Cakes

        Can you add simple syrup if optional? Also I forgot to ask can you do reverse creaming method? (Wet ingredients in separate bowls and dry in another separate bowl and mix dry with wet)

  23. Carina

    I’d like to make a round, 3 layered cake using this recipe. Would it be possible to tell me what size tins would be best please (if I were to equally pour the mixture between 3 separate tins)?

  24. Iris Doyle

    I have a few birthday cakes to make and am going to try this recipe as it sounds lovely. Would I be able to make the sponge in advance and freeze until I need them.

  25. olamide

    Hi. Thanks for sharing. I stumbled on ur recipe and I have used this recipe at home for a c
    ouple of times, It usually looks like it isnt completely done sometimes. Substituting sourcream with homemade butter milk. Can I substitute the oil with margarine for a better flavour? If yes, in what proportion? I want to try this recipe for a client’s cake and I am going to be sculpuring and sculpting with fondant and I am a little scared, can it withstand the weight without sinking? I am also thinking of how to improve on the flavour.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      If you are substituting the sour cream with buttermilk, it’s quite a shift from the original recipe and a lot more liquid. I have followed the original recipe, and swapped out the oil for melted butter but I don’t like it as much myself. Regarding the fondant, I also don’t work with fondant so while some people have posted in the comment about fondant, I can’t speak from experience.

      1. RP

        This has become my go-to vanilla cake recipe for birthdays, etc. I have used half butter-half oil (quarter cup each) before with great results. I have also successfully used buttermilk, but I cut the milk back to one cup. Both substitutions have results in a yummy, well textured cake.

  26. Scarlett

    Hello

    Mine took about 45 minutes to cook, the last 15 wrapped in tin foil because the centre was sticky and wet. Did I do something wrong? I made sure the temperature was right and followed your recipe step by step. Also I used a 22cm tin. Was that too small maybe? Because it had that weird muffin top affect which I think is because it was trying to rise/expand?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Did you use only one 22cm tin for the whole batter? If so, that would be why your cake took so long to bake. That is a ton of batter for a pan this size! Normally this batter would be 2-3 of those.

  27. Libby

    Such a good recipe! This was used for a wedding cake, added poppyseeds and almond emulsion. Filling homemade Bavarian creme with stabilized real whipped cream frosting. It was moist from moment it came out of oven, did not shrink and two days later it was even better:) I am curious to try it with cake flour for a tighter crumb. This was a happy medium for all cake needs and easy recipe to follow.

  28. Lance Albert

    This is a delicious and sturdy cake recipe but it doe shrink after baking. Is there something I can do to fix that?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Lance, my cake also shrinks a little bit, I grease and flour the pans. I’ve read that it can be a number of things including over greasing, bakig too closely together in the oven or over baking. My results are pretty consistent though and it usually shrinks enough to pull away from the edges, but I still need a knife to run around the outside edge to release them.

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