Vanilla Dream Cake

Prep 25 mins
Cook 25 mins
Add'l 30 mins
Total 1 hr 20 mins

This moist and tender Vanilla Dream Cake may only be 2 layers, but it’s so soft and fluffy, it’ll send you to cloud 9. The simplicity of this cake makes it the perfect light dessert to serve after a filling meal.

A cake on a pedestal with one slice cut out and set on a plate in front of it

Fluffy Vanilla Cake With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This vanilla dream cake really is the perfect dessert for any occasion. The airy, delicate texture of the layers and the subtle, elegant flavor of the vanilla make this a great cake for more formal events like graduations and fundraisers. But with its smooth vanilla buttercream, it’s also a yummy, uncomplicated crowd-pleaser. It fits in just as well at fun and playful events like birthdays and barbecues.

Dream cakes are known for their pillowy softness and moist layers, and this cake is the perfect example. The vanilla flavor in the batter and the buttercream frosting is sweet, subtle and simple. It’s everything a vanilla cake should be.

A slice of yellow cake on a plate with two layers separated by white frosting

What is the Difference Between White Cake and Vanilla Cake?

All white cakes are vanilla cakes, but not all vanilla cakes can be called white cakes. This is because of a simple change in just one ingredient: eggs. A white cake is specifically a vanilla cake where the egg whites are used but the egg yolks are left out. This small change can make the color of your cake a purer white, but there’s also a subtle difference in the texture and flavor.

Since dream cake is meant to be moist and flavorful, leaving the egg yolks in is a must. It’s also true that white cakes often use oil instead of butter to keep the cake whiter, which further affects the taste and texture. You’ll notice that this dream cake uses both. The egg yolks and butter keep the layers wonderfully moist, fluffy, and flavorful.

A slice of vanilla dream cake on a plate in front of the whole cake with a slice missing

Ingredients You’ll Need

With this classic cake, vanilla is the headliner, but there are a few other important ingredients to pull together. You can find the amounts for everything by scrolling down to the recipe card.

For the Cake

  • Flour: Use all-purpose.
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda: Yes, you need both! Never substitute one for the other.
  • Salt
  • Water: To dissolve the sugar and make the cake fluffier.
  • Sugar
  • Butter: Use unsalted. Changing the ratio of salt to baking soda can mess with the taste and texture.
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Vanilla Extract: Use clear vanilla for a whiter cake. Just note that the clear extract is a little less flavorful.
  • Vanilla Bean: Open the pod to scrape out the seeds. This is where the flavor comes from.
  • Eggs: Keep the yolks in.

For the Buttercream

  • Butter: Let it sit until it reaches room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Milk

Which Vanilla is Best for Cake?

Clear or imitation vanilla extract can keep your cake and frosting whiter, but using it means sacrificing something in the taste department. Imitation vanilla works just as well in recipes where vanilla is only a small and subtle part of a more complex flavor profile. In this cake though, vanilla is the star of the show, and using the imitation instead of the real thing can make the experience a little lackluster.

Vanilla beans are pretty pricey, so if you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry. You can skip the vanilla bean and still end up with a moist and delicious cake. Just remember, if you’re not using the vanilla bean, it’s even more important that you use a good-quality natural vanilla extract.

A frosted and decorated Vanilla Dream Cake on a cake stand

How to Make Vanilla Cake From Scratch

This simple cake is easy to make, and whipping up the buttercream while it’s baking can help you save time. Follow these steps for a perfectly sweet and tender vanilla cake.

Make the Cake Layers

  1. Prep Your Materials: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spread butter or cooking spray on the inside of two round 8-inch cake pans. Set the pans aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. Dissolve Sugar and Butter: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water and sugar. Bring the water to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves, which should take about 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and add your butter, stirring until it melts.
  3. Whisk It All Together: Let the water, sugar and butter mixture cool completely. This takes about 20 minutes in the fridge. Then whisk in vegetable oil, vanilla extract and the scrapings from the vanilla bean. Beat in the eggs. Whisk in the dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Bake: Divide the batter evenly between the greased pans and bake both layers for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Let It Cool: Let both layers cool in pans until they feel cool to the touch. Make sure they’re cooled through before you start to frost.

Mix Up the Buttercream

  1. Mix: In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until it reaches a light and fluffy texture. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix thoroughly after each addition.
  2. Beat in Vanilla and Milk: Increase the speed of your mixer to medium and add the vanilla extract. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting is too thick, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk.

assemble the Cake

  1. Stack: Put the first layer on a cake plate or another large, flat dish and spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Stack the second layer on top of the first and apply a thin crumb coat on the top and sides. Pop the cake into the freezer for about 10 minutes, or until the crumb coat hardens.
  2. Frost: Apply one final thick and even layer of buttercream around the outside of the cake.

Can I Make It Ahead of Time?

This cake is really easy to make in advance. Just wait for both layers of the cake to cool completely before wrapping them in plastic wrap and keeping them in the fridge along with the frosting. That way, when you’re ready to make the cake, all you have to do is stack, frost and serve!

Close-up of a white frosted cake with multicolored sugar sprinkles decorating the edge

Tips for Success

Making this cake is a breeze! Follow these quick tips to reach light, fluffy perfection.

  • Temperature Matters: Be sure to leave your milk, eggs and butter out on the counter for half an hour or so before baking. You want everything to be at room temperature before it’s added. This is because baking is a chemical reaction. Ingredients that are too hot or cold can speed that reaction up or slow it down, which messes with your cake’s taste and texture.
  • Spoon Out Your Flour: Too much flour can leave your cake dense and flat. Use a spoon to add flour to your measuring cups instead of scooping it up directly. That way, it doesn’t get packed down and overfilled. Level it off by sliding the back of a knife gently across the top.
  • Check Your Baking Powder: The baking powder is what helps this cake to rise. If the batter doesn’t rise, then the cake will never reach its tender, fluffy potential. Make sure you check the expiration date of your baking powder before you use it.

Variation Ideas

One of the best things about this cake is its simplicity. Still, shaking things up can be exciting! Try some of these ideas to put your own twist on it.

  • Experiment With Flavors: If you wanted to have some fun, you could always add a flavored fruit filling or put some almond extract into the buttercream. You could also switch it up and try another flavor or kind of frosting. Adding a flavored simple syrup to the tops of your cake layers can help them stay moist for longer and add a fun new element in the process.
  • Dress It Up: Be creative! The cake in the images here has been bedazzled with confetti-colored sparkling sugar around the edges. More challenging ways to decorate include frosting flowers, honey or syrup drizzles, mirror glazes, and fun patterns made with scoring or piping tips. You can even use freshly cut flowers if you want something really fancy.

Storage Instructions

When wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in a sealable container, this cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days unless it’s hot enough where you live that the frosting starts to melt. If you still have some left over after that, you can stick it in the fridge for another 3 days.

Keep the cake as whole as possible to lock the moisture in. Cold cake can taste dry, so make sure to leave the cake out on the counter to return to room temperature before you serve it again.

Does This Freeze Well?

Yes, it does! When wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept in a sealable freezer-safe container, this cake will last for up to 3 months. You can freeze the unfrosted cake layers, the whole cake, or even individual cake slices. Let them thaw on the counter overnight and then serve them when they reach room temperature.

Yield: 10

Vanilla Dream Cake

A slice of vanilla dream cake on a plate in front of the whole cake with a slice missing

This moist and tender Vanilla Dream Cake may only be 2 layers, but it's so soft and fluffy, it'll send you to cloud 9. The simplicity of this cake makes it the perfect light dessert to serve after a filling meal.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the Vanilla Dream Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 2 large eggs

For the Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 3 tablespoons milk

Instructions

Make the Cake Layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 8 inch round cake pans. Set aside.In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine water and sugar. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted.
  3. Let cool completely (about 20 minutes in the fridge) and then whisk in vegetable oil, vanilla extract and the scrapings from the vanilla bean. Beat in eggs. Whisk in dry ingredients, until smooth.
  4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Let cakes cool in pans until cool to the touch – then frost.

Make the Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  2. Increase speed to medium and add vanilla extract. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting is too thick, add remaining 1 tablespoon of milk.

Assemble the Cake

  1. Assemble the 2 layers with a thick layer of frosting in between the layers. Then apply a thin crumb coat on the top and sides. Pop the cake into the freezer to harden the crumb coat for about 10 minutes.
  2. Apply one final thick and even layer around the outside of the cake. Store in the fridge if not serving within the next couple of hours. Let cake come to room temperature before serving (let cake sit on counter for about 30 minutes before serving to warm up!).

Notes

To Store: Wrap cake in plastic wrap and keep in a sealable container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Can be transferred to the fridge for another 3 days of storage. Keep as whole as possible to lock moisture in. Return to room temperature before serving.

To Freeze: Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze in a sealable freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Freeze the unfrosted cake layers, the whole cake, or individual cake slices. Let thaw on counter overnight and serve at room temperature.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 548Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 504mgCarbohydrates: 101gFiber: 1gSugar: 77gProtein: 5g

Categories

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Comments

306 Responses
  1. Jessica

    Could I add sprinkles to the batter for funfetti or is it too thin to hold them throughout? This looks amazing. I have been looking for a vanilla cake recipe with water as the chocolate one I have with water always comes out perfect but I never could figure out what to exchange the cocoa for.

  2. The Toy Box

    I use cake flour as opposed to all purpose flour. Would I still use the same amount of flour that you use with all purpose?

    1. The Toy Box

      Never mind. I think I found a good ratio. I used 2 1/4 cups cake flour PLUS an additional 8 tablespoons. Baked at 375 for 14 minutes – WOW! What a flavor! Yes, the batter was still very soupy, and I was very skeptic, but they turned out great. Going to let them cool, and see if the fluffy moist consistency stays. Also have another batch in the oven going for 20 minutes on 350. Will update with what my final outcome is. As of now though, great recipe!

      1. The Toy Box

        350 for 20 minutes seems the better option. At 375 I got the volcano effect that others mentioned. At 350 I got perfectly rounded tops. Going to see how they hold up in the moist department overnight. BUT, I will say this – While these are good, they have a very similar flavor and mouth feel to that of cornbread.

        1. The Toy Box

          I feel like I’ve taken over this post….

          After sitting over night, the cupcakes definitely firmed up, and got a little dense – Just a little. They retained their moistness though.

          The very noticeable thing about these is that they definitely smell like vanilla – In fact, they’re almost a little too strong in the scent department. I dare say you could leave a dozen out in your house in lieu of an air freshener.

          In handing out a dozen around the office, everyone commented how good they were – Which is the most important thing out of all of this. If they don’t taste good, it doesn’t matter what they smell like.

          This recipe is definitely going into my rotation. The one thing I’m considering is adding half a cup of vanilla pudding in place of 1/2 a cup of flour. Perhaps this will help them stay light and fluffy.

  3. Brandi

    Wondering what kind of texture is the cake supposed to have? Dense or light and fluffy? Most cakes with all purpose flour tend to be a bit more dense. Thanks.

  4. Melinda

    Hello Jessica, Kathy Pollack from Noble Pig blog, posted your beautiful cake today. I live in England so I need to know if the all purpose flour you were using was bleached flour or unbleached flour. ( we don’t have any bleached flour here…banned in 1997. I have ways around it though.)
    I can see this is quite the controversial cake from the comments ( Let the criticism roll off your back.. No one has paid to get your recipe!) I am willing to gamble a few ingredients to see if I can recreate the dream cake. I admire your curiosity and tenacity to experiment with cake baking. Consider yourself a baking explorer!

  5. Celyn

    Is the batter supposed to be runny and soupy? I followed the recipe to a T and it came out badly. Hopefully, you’re able to answer my question.

  6. Valerie Walker

    Very disappointed with this recipe. It is not at all fluffy as shown but sad and heavy. I followed the recipe exactly but did bake for another ten minutes. The batter was very thin. I have made chocolate cake this way and it was very good but I don’t think we can even eat this one.

  7. Lisa

    How would I make this cake with srf please?  I have been dying to find a fluffy moist white cake as beautiful as this and I believe that I just found it!

  8. Dee

    Eating this cake as I write this review. It really is quite dreamy, with a wonderful vanilla flavour and moist texture. I have a new go-to vanilla layer cake!

    A few things to keep in mind. The batter is quite runny – don’t be put off or add extra flour. I found it hard to get the cakes out of the pans (I buttered and floured). Using an icing spatula helped me to successfully lift the cakes out of the pans. I also found it strange that the cake didn’t rise evenly, despite rotating the pans. This has never happened before in my oven. These are small issues and they would not deter me from making this cake again. Once baked, the cake speaks for itself. 

  9. Jasmine

    Hi! I want to make this cake but I would like to know if I can substitute the all purpose flour with cake flour? And if so what are the proper measurements for the cake flour and the baking soda and baking powder to the cake flour measurements? Also how much vanilla extract should we use if we do not have vanilla beans? Thank you!

  10. Karina

    Hi, Iam so happy to find your post, Iam loving your recipe and I haven’t try it. How sweet is this cake?
    I have to do a Tres Leches Cake ( 3 milks cake ) or wet cake, do you think that if I cut the sugar to 1 1/2 cups on the cake will afecct the flavor? Tres Leches Milk is sweet and I do not want a super sweet cake. What do you recommend? 

  11. Sonya Gildred

    One more comment I think is important to make that I forgot to mention is definately use parchment to line your pan with.  I did notice the cake doesn’t completely separate from the pan when nearly cooled down.  I sprayed a metal pan with cooking butter spray and the bottom only stuck to the pan.  I was not looking this time for aesthetic appeal, so I just put the cake back into the pan and frosted the top only.  The top only was definitely enough to frost using the frosting recipe that’s given to go with the cake.  Sweetness is personal likeness, and Jessica does say she loves lots of sweetness 🙂  Also my website was incorrect in my first comment.  If you click on my name now in this comment you will find my family homeschool website now, hopefully 😉  The website is under construction, but if you are patient, I should have much content added to the website over time to look at, and I hope what I post will be found useful to anyone who homeschools or is thinking of homeschooling 🙂

  12. Sonya Gildred

    Awesome cake!  I almost did not dare comment on my results due to the negative feedback being given, namely the comment that if I loved this recipe I was then a liar and a friend of the baker making false positive comments about this recipe. I assure you I am a complete stranger to all here, including the baker.  Anyway, I did a one layer 9×12 pan Birthday Cake for my husband.  The kids even helped out.  I gave the cake 10 extra minutes since the pan I used was larger and hence needed more baking time.  I think I will make this again using next time cornstarch.  Does anyone know what ingredient should be omitted if I use cornstarch?  I normally use pudding in my cake recipes for moistness and believe me the results are always a moist cake.  If you thought this cake smells and even tasted eggy, then completely cool the sugar water first, and try to add a few Tablespoons of premade Vanilla pudding to your mixture as one resolve to any lack of flavor you thought the recipe had.  There are actually so many different ways to alter this recipe to your liking. The only thing you probably won’t be able to most of all alter is the heaviness of the cake.  I loved this recipe, and it has become one of my favorite keepers as far as making the basic recipe, but making a few changes to it every time I go to make it, until I find the changes I prefer to make to this recipe that will eventually put my personal mark on it.  I think the best kind of bakers out there would not so quickly discard this recipe, and I encourage novices to experiment with this recipe as well. I have never used water before in a cake recipe, but it works..water evaporates during cooking, and this technique of using water really does make this cake very moist as an end result.  I used food coloring for the frosting adding 3 drops of red and 3 drops of blue to make a purple color frosting since my husbands favorite color is purple.  The cake was so good.  If anything the frosting was just too sweet and my husband and I agreed the cake was delicious without needing such a sweet frosting.  We both thought whipped topping and fruit would be a great topping for this heavy moist cake.  I Again this cake is delicious without any topping at all, and served with coffee or tea any time of the day, and to make for any kind of event.  The cake recipe without the frosting gets 5 stars in my recipe book!

  13. Katherine

    It must be a matter of taste. My daughter and I think it is gross, but my husband and son are gobbling it up.  I will be baking another cake because this week one was supposed to be for my daughter’s birthday.  Oh ours looked like a brain in the miidle too.

  14. Bree

    So Sorry, Every Sunday I make a cake this Sunday I wanted vanilla,I found this recipe after 3 hours of research,I have all the ingredients and this was different. This cake tastes like cornbread and smells like egg,I will never use a recipe off of this site again. 

  15. Deb

    Didn’t work for me either 🙁
    Cake looked and smelled amazing but when I cut it wasn’t baked through even though the stick came out clean.

  16. Kristin

    This cake is amazing… however, I just “buttered the cake pans” as it stated and cooled the cake in the pans as it said, but when I went to pop them out… they stuck horribly. I should have listened to my inner voice saying “parchment paper your pans!!!” Ugh.

  17. Megan

    I LOVE this cake. I’ll be making it again for my son’s 4th birthday in a couple of weeks. A Ninja Turtle will replace the beautiful sugar sprinkles, but it will still be amazing! 😉

Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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