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Moist Vanilla Layer Cake

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This is the perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe! Thick layers of vanilla cake and my favorite vanilla frosting. It’s an easy recipe to make using oil instead of butter which makes it super moist and spongy.

If you love vanilla cake, try pairing it with strawberry-filled cake or turning it into a cookie and cream cake.

a slice of vanilla cake decorated with white and blue buttercream laying down on a white plate

Easy Vanilla Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Everyone needs their go-to, easy vanilla cake, especially if you’re making a layer cake. This cake is dense but spongy and very stable for stacking the layers. It can be paired with just about any flavor of frosting, but my favorite is my vanilla buttercream.

This is one of the easiest cakes to make because it’s an oil-based cake recipe, so there’s no waiting around for the butter to soften or worrying about properly creaming the butter and sugar together. The oil also creates a more tender and fluffy crumb as well.  The texture is denser more so than it is light and airy, but it’s super moist and fluffy. It’s also very sturdy which makes it a great option for a layer cake.

This cake is perfect for just about any vacation. It can be dressed up for Valentine’s day or dye the cake layer for a 4th of July cake, Tint the frosting red or green for Christmas or coordinate it with the colors for a baby shower or birthday party.

A vanilla cake with blue sprinkles on a white cake stand

Cake Ingredients

  • Granulated sugar
  • Vegetable oil: Oil contributes to the moistness and texture of this cake
  • Large eggs
  • 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 & Salt
  • Milk: Use any type you have

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.
  • Gluten-free flour: I have tested this recipe with a 1 for 1 measure for measure gluten-free flour and it worked out great
Ingredients laid out for a vanilla cake

Let’s Make a Vanilla Layer Cake

Prepare: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare pans for baking (more tips below!)

Combine the sugar with wet ingredients: Beat together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract until well incorporated. Then mix in the sour cream and beat until all ingredients are combined.

Combine and add the dry ingredients: Combine the dry ingredients together and then add half the dry ingredients, and half of the milk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.

Add remaining ingredients: Then add the remaining dry ingredients and milk. Beat on low speed until all of the ingredients are well combined.

Fill the pans and bake: Divide the batter between the three pans, it’s about 1 2/3 cups per pan. Bake at 350°F for 20-23 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Birds eye view of a vanilla cake layer in a round pan

How to Prepare the Cake Pans

Grease and flour your pans: Generously greasing and flouring the pans will help to prevent the cake from sticking. I prefer using Crisco vegetable spread as opposed to a cooking spray.

Line the pans: Lining the pans with parchment paper or a silicone baking mats (affiliate link) will ensure that the cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pans, and it makes it much easier to remove them after baking.

Bake Even stripes: I love using bake even stripes (affiliate link) because it helps the layers to bake flatter. Without them, the edges of the cake bake quicker, and therefore doming in the middle. You’ll notice the outside edges of the cake are also a little darker without them. The bake even stripes should be very wet when applied to the outside edge of the pan.

For more tips on making layer cakes, be sure to check out my full tutorial on baking Layer Cakes.

My Secrets for the Best Vanilla Buttercream

This recipe uses my tried and true vanilla buttercream. I am sharing a couple of my secrets below, but if you’d like to see the full tutorial on making this frosting, see my original buttercream post.

  • It starts with cold butter: Yep, I said COLD butter- as in straight from the refrigerator. This allows you to control the consistency of the frosting and prevents the butter from getting too soft when decorating or coloring the frosting.
  • Properly beat the butter: Since the butter is cold, you’ll need to spend several minutes beating the butter before adding any powdered sugar. Then, as you add the powdered sugar, spend a few extra minutes beating it at each stage. This is key to making the best whipped, silky texture. 
  • Use heavy whipping cream: Heavy cream makes this frosting extra creamy but helps to whip additional air into the frosting.

For this cake, you’ll need quite a bit of frosting. Besides the filling in between the layers, you’ll need extra frosting for decorating. You won’t have to worry about running out of frosting!

A close up of a slice of a 3 layer vanilla cake with a couple bites missing

How to Decorate This Cake

I love this cake because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I am not a cake decorator in the traditional sense. Of course, I’ve had a lot of practice over the years, but when it comes to cakes, I so often tend to stick with my go-to large open star piping tip.

This is a super approachable way to decorate a cake. I never thought I was very good at piping roses, but you guys, it’s SO SO easy! Here are some of the tools I used. 

  • 1M piping tip (affiliate link):  If you’re not fully comfortable, try piping a few of them on some clean parchment paper, and then you can reuse the frosting. Start by piping your roses, and then fill in the open spaces with the stars and rosettes.
  • Open star tips: Size 18 (affiliate link), Size 21 (affiliate link), can be used to create a variety of shapes and rosettes

If you use your piping bags with couplers (affiliate link), you can easily switch out the tips with the different frosting colors. These can be purchased at stores like JoAnn Fabrics, Michael’s, a cake supply store, or online. 

Here are some more helpful tutorials when working with buttercream: How to Use a Piping bag and How to decorate with piping tips

Overhead view of a cake decorated with blue and teal roses

How to Color the Frosting

You can use either the Wilton Color Right Food Gels (affiliate link) or AmeriColor Gels (affiliate link).

The best way to dye your frosting if you’re looking for different shades is to start with half a drop in one bowl and then get progressively darker. Just remember that you only need a TINY bit of this gel to color these small amounts of frosting. It’s helpful to use a toothpick to add small amounts to your bowls at a time. 

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup of frosting for the roses (AmeriColor teal)
  • ½ cup for the darker blue color
  • ¼ cup of the white, undyed frosting 

For more helpful tips on coloring buttercream, see my posts for How to Color Buttercream

How to Adjust This Recipe for Other Sizes

This recipe has been used for several other size pans without adapting the cake recipe- you just may need to scale the frosting recipe accordingly.

  • For two 9-inch cakes, they baked from 28-32 minutes. Baking times will vary due to how full the pans are, type of pans and true oven temperature. Please note these did “crust” a little more on the outside edge due to extended baking times and they rose quite a bite in the middle, so you’ll lose more of the “dome” of the cake.
  • For two 8-inch pans: divide the batter evenly, about 2 1/2 cups per each pan. Bake for 28-32 minutes.
  • For 6-inch pans: a full recipe will make four 6-inch layers, filling each one with about 1 1/3 cup of batter and baking for approximately 24-30 minutes. You can halve the recipe for a mini 2 layer cake. 
  • For 10 inch pans: I’ve never tested this with 10 inch pans myself, but I would recommend making 2 layers so you still have nice, thick cake. Trying baking for 15-20 minutes and assessing if additional time needed. 
A close up of a slice of a 3 layer vanilla cake on a white plate

How to Store a Frosted Cake

The best option is to use a cake carrier which can allow it to be stored in an airtight container. This locks in the moisture. You can also slice it and store it in a Tupper ware container. 

You do not have the refrigerate this cake unless you live in a hot or humid environment. If you need to refrigerate the cake, try to do so in an airtight container. If it’s already sliced, then I recommend placing plastic wrap up against the sliced edge to help prevent it from drying out. It’s best to serve at room temperature, so remove the cake in plenty of time prior to serving. 

Tips for Freezing Cakes

I normally don’t freeze a decorated cake. I’d recommend freezing the layers and frosting in advance, and then thawing and decorating when ready. Place a piece of parchment paper on the top and bottom of the cake layer, double wrap the cooled layers in plastic wrap.

Print
A close up of a slice of a 3 layer vanilla cake on a white plate

Moist Vanilla Layer Cake

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 90 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 slices

Description

This is the perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe! Thick layers of vanilla cake and  my favorite vanilla frosting. It’s an easy recipe to make using oil instead of butter which makes it super moist and spongy.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (118 ml) 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:

  •  2 cups (453g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 78 cups (910-1041g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 23 tablespoons (30-44ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

For the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch round baking pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the sides. Prepare with bake even strips if desired. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until twell incorporated. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add half the dry ingredients, and half the milk, 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.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the three pan, about 1 2/3 cups of batter per pan. Bake at 350°F for 20-23 minutes. Rotate your pans in the oven halfway through baking (around 10 minutes). Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, you cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the Frosting:

  1. Cut butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until the butter looks light in color.
  2. Alternate adding 2 cups of powdered sugar at a time with the liquid ingredients: vanilla extract & heavy cream. Ensure the powdered sugar is well combined, then and whip for 1-2 minutes before adding more powdered sugar.
  3. Once all the powdered sugar has been added, increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.

To Assemble the Cake:

  1. Use a cake leveler I cut the domes off the top of the cake. Place a dollop of frosting on your cake board and place the bottom layer of cake on top of that.
  2. Place about 2 cups of frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a large open round tip, or simply cut off the end of the piping bag. Pipe a layer of frosting on top of the cake, starting at the outside edge and working your way into the middle. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. Repeat with the second layer of cake and then place your third layer on top.
  3. Use your piping bag to fill in any gaps between your layers and to create a crumb coat. Using an offset spatula or icing smoother, wipe away the excess frosting, leaving you just enough to coat the outside of the cake. Do not mix your crumb coating frosting back into your icing if it has cake debris in it.
  4. Proceed to frost the top and sides of the cake using your offset spatula. Once the sides of the cake are covered, use you icing smoother to remove any excess frosting.

To Decorate this Cake:

  1. Use your hands to press the sprinkles into the sides of the cake. It’s best to do this over a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, allowing you to easily capture and reuse the sprinkles that fall off the cake.
  2. Take your leftover frosting and separate into 3 bowls: 1 cup, ½ cup and ¼ cup of white frosting (undyed).  Dye 2 bowls with you desired color, and leave 1/4 cup of frosting uncolored.
  3. In a small piping bag, use a 1M piping tip to pipe the large roses on top of your cake.
  4. Place the other frosting in two small piping bags,  fitted with a coupler and size 18 or size 21 tips, fill with your other color and the white frosting. Fill in the negative space with a mix of stars and small rosettes.

Notes

  • Adjusting the cake sized:
    • For two 9-inch cakes, they baked from 28-32 minutes. Baking times will vary due to how full the pans are, type of pans, and true oven temperature. Please note these did “crust” a little more on the outside edge due to extended baking times and they rose quite a bite in the middle, so you’ll lose more of the “dome” of the cake.
    • For two 8-inch pans: divide the batter evenly, about 2 1/2 cups per pan. Bake for 28-32 minutes.
    • For 6-inch pans: a full recipe will make four 6-inch layers, filling each one with about 1 1/3 cup of batter and baking for approximately 24-30 minutes. Here is the mini 2-layer version
    • For 10 inch pans: I’ve never tested this with 10-inch pans, but I would recommend a 2 layer cake so you still have nice thick layers. Trying baking for 18-20 minutes and assessing additional time needed from there.
  • Sour cream substitute: Substitute with with non-fat Greek Yogurt if you do not have sour cream. 
  • Milk: Any type of milk can be used (full, reduced or low-fat)
  • Oil substitutes: I have tested substituting 1/2 cup melted butter in place of the oil. The cake still bakes just fine but I prefer the texture of the cake make with oil.
  • Storage and make ahead: The best option is to use a cake carrier which can allow it to be stored in an airtight container. You do not have the refrigerate this cake unless you live in a hot a humid environment. This is best served at room temperature. Cake layers can be prepared up to 2 days before serving. Cool completely and wrap tightly with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. 
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
944
113.4g
384.2mg
43.6g
28.4g
135.8g
0.7g
5.9g
135.9mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Vanilla Cake from Scratch, Easy Cake Recipe, Birthday cake Recipe, vanilla cake with oil

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190 Responses
    1. Beyond Frosting

      Some people have just made the recipe as is with 3 9=inch layers, they are just thinner. If you want to have thicker layers, you can 1.5x it

  1. Allison

    Delicious and moist. Best vanilla cake I have made and I am glad I found my new go to vanilla cake recipe. Thanks for such an incredible recipe!!!!

  2. Lynn A Spratley

    I love this cake and have made it several times–but does your baking time include the use of baking strips? The last time I made this cake I used an old printed version of the recipe. I used baking strips and when I took the cake out, it tested done with a toothpick, but WAS NOT done in the end (think super chewy & shallow layers/husband’s birthday cake ruined–sad face–certainly not your fault though). I had forgotten that I typically added 7-10 minutes to your baking time when I used cake strips in the past (I cooked with two 8 inch pans). Please help, because I plan to make this cake for Christmas. Thank You!!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Lynn, I do bake all my cakes with bake even stripes and the times in the post are from my oven. The baking times will vary for sure, especially if the oven was not fully preheated, or maybe the internal oven temperature is off, type of pans, how wet the bake even stripes are etc can all result in variances. Regarding extra baking time, maybe a couple of extra minutes. A 2 layer 8-inch cake should be much thicker, it’s strange that it tested done but was shallow.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I haven’t tried it but this is a very stable cake, and I think you should be able to do so if they are stacked properly.

  3. Norma

    Hi. I would like to try this recipe in a round 10 inch pan (26cm), with 2 layers. I saw your recommendations. What I want to make clear is, do I make two separate batches with the full recipe? Or do I separate the one batch into two pans?

  4. Gina Adams

    I’m not a regular baker at all but I followed the recipe and it did have good flavor but I messed up somehow. I let it cool completely then wrapped my two layers in plastic wrap a d stuck in fridge, the next day I iced the cake and I did not have an air tight container for it so I just put it in my fridge and then the day after that I served it. It was stale. I did make it 2 days before but I hoped refrigerating it would help keep it moist. What could I have done differently?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Gina, thanks for your question. The refrigerator will actually dry out the cake unless it’s stored properly. So if you make the layers only one day ahead of time, you can double wrap in plastic wrap and just leave them at room temp, you don’t really need to refrigerate them. Once the cake is frosted, it really only needs to be refrigerated if you live in a hot or humid climate. If you do store it in the fridge, it needs to be stored in an airtight container so that it doesn’t dry out. I hope that makes sense.

  5. Suraiya

    Please if I want to cut the recipe in half how do I go about it with the eggs? Since there are 3 called for, do 1 and a half? How do you go about it if the eggs are large or small? If they’re small do I just use two? Help please I wouldn’t want to put less or more in the recipe

  6. Michelle

    I have a question. Can you tell me how high your cake gets? I just halved this recipe to make one 8 inch cake – with the plan of torting it for two layers. My cake looks nice, but it is quite thin – only about 1.25 inches high. Did I do something wrong? I’m just wondering if my cake should be taller.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Michelle, it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. I don’t recall exactly how tall a single layer 8-inch cake is, but once you cut the dome off the top, to split in half would be rather thin. Doable but thin. Here is what a two layer 8-inch cake looks like.

    2. Cee-Shaz

      Thank you for the recipe, may I know at which point do I remove cake from.baking pan . Can I use colour/ marble this cake for a colourful kids cake or is it too thin

      1. Beyond Frosting

        I usually give it 15-20 minutes in the pan before removing it. If you want to do a cake with colored marble, I recommend using my yellow cake instead. The vanilla one is too thin and the colors tend to run together. I used the yellow cake to make this rainbow cake and it came out perfectly.

  7. Jacki

    I feel like this cake is over dense/moist to the point where it stuck to the roof of my mouth. The flavor was good, but texture wise, it was way too dense and moist.

  8. Margit

    Hi Julianne,
    I firstly have to say huge thank you! Omg this sponge is on next level. I am no baker but tried my best and thanks to you was amazing.
    Just little q. Can we have less sugar in sponge?
    Thank you

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thank you Margit, I am so happy to hear that! Some people have reduced the sugar to 1 1/2 cups with success. I have no tried it and it will alter the results.

      1. Lydia

        Hello, thanks for this recipe! I would like to know if any of the listed ingredients should be at room temperature before starting my cake ?

        1. Beyond Frosting

          Hi Lydia, I do not usually make them with room temperature ingredients. That being said, the recipe also works great with room temperature ingredients

  9. Pamela

    Hello! I love your recipes! I’m making this beautiful cake for my grand daughter’s 6th birthday, her mom is GF. Will cup to cup flour still make this amazing cake delicious? and, If I use cup to cup flour, are there any other recipe adjustments I need to make? Thank you! Pamela

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Pamela! YES! A cup to cup all-purpose gluten-free flour is the best option. I’ve done this several times! No other adjustment needed.

  10. Cat

    Hi,

    I just want to confirm that in order to make a 8inch 4 layer cake I need to double the recipe?
    I use silicon cake cake tins.

    Thanks!

  11. Rivianna Smith

    Oh my goodness ! I made this cake Thursday evening only substituting mayo for sour cream because I didn’t have any. Folks it was a success. The cake was dense and moist. I was told it tasted like a famous bakery in Nassau, Bahamas

    1. Kristina

      I have made this cake several times and everyone I’ve made it for just absolutely loves it. I was wondering is there a way that I can make this cake into a marbled cake with chocolate?

      1. Beyond Frosting

        Hi Kristina! I have a separate marble cake recipe coming in January, but it’s based off my yellow cake, not my vanilla cake

  12. Jody

    Would the result be good if I decreased the sugar somewhat? We don’t like it overly sweet. How much could I decrease the sugar by without compromising the texture, moisture of the cake?
    Also, how about buttermilk instead of sour cream? Would that work well?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Jody- I recommend baking the recipe as it. Any variation of the ingredients will not produce the same results, it will compromise the texture and moisture. Some people have reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup and been happy with it. I have not baked it this way myself. The best substitute for sour cream or plain or Greek yogurt.

  13. Tammy

    I doubled this cake recipe and was able to make 3 layers of 8 inch cakes (at your recommended 2.5 cups batter) AND 3 layers of 6 inch cakes. Very excited they rose beautifully and cooked between 25-35 minutes.

  14. Araliya

    This is the best vanilla layer cake I’ve ever made, and I’ve been a home-baker for many years. It is light, airy, but still so moist. I’ve experimented with many recipes but this is by far the best I’ve ever had. I filled is with homemade strawberry jam and topped it with whipped mascarpone and berries as a summer dessert, and it turned out gorgeous. Thanks so much for this incredible recipe! Can’t wait to try more.

  15. M

    Hi i will be making this tomorrow for an engagement party. Do you think I can substitute the the sour cream for full fat Greek yogurt?

  16. Jasmine

    Hi!

    This is my go to base cupcake recipe. I love it so much. Lol. I wanted to know how you’d think adding pulverized freeze dried strawberries to the batter would work to make it a strawberry cake? If you’d think it work, how much of the freeze dried strawberries would you suggest?

  17. Ruth Stevenson

    i made this for my child’s 5th birthday and there was a lot of tears and disappointment.
    the icing was very runny, so much so that i had to throw the first batch away and start from scratch. but even then i couldn’t rectify it.
    the cake was absolutely delicious but due to the butter cream i had to scratch the 2 tier cake idea and settle for cake pops instead.
    to top it off the icing was too runny even for cake pops. to put it simply, the problem lies in the buttercream.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Ruth- I am sorry to hear this did not work for you. Sounds like you did not correctly make the buttercream. I can assure you this buttercream should not be runny AT ALL. It’s quite the opposite. I am not sure if you started with warm or room temperature butter (as this recipe starts with cold butter) or if you added too much liquid. This is the same recipe as my perfect vanilla buttercream, which has hundreds of positive reviews.

      1. Sena

        Thank you. 😊 One last concern. Cake pans that I have here are circle (24cm) and square (26cm) in shape. Would it be fine if i divide the batter equally into halves? If not, what would be the ratio for the two pans? How long would it take until it’s done?

        Still, i want to layer it as one. I’ll just cut the square cake circle then frost it with your buttercream recipe. Thank you Julianne.

  18. Sena

    Hi Julianne! i have buttermilk powder. Can i use it instead of sour cream? I want to try your recipe for my daughter’s first month this coming Sunday.

  19. Sana

    I have successfully made this recipe with no fail and this is my go to recipe for my fondant covered Vanilla Cakes as the cake needs to be a little sturdy under Fondant. I love this recipe.
    I have a question though. recently with the same recipe my cakes are coming out with a denser center. I’m making sure that I dont overmix my flour into batter as that creates a denser crumb. Any suggestion on avoiding denser cake centers?

    Thankyou!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Sana, thank you so much for sharing. I am glad you love it! Have you made any changes to your ingredients? Are you weighing the dry ingredients? It’s hard to say what might be causing it especially if you’ve made it before and it has not happened. I also recommend rotating the pans in the oven halfway through baking to help maintain an even bake.

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