Homemade Vanilla Cake Recipe

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
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This homemade vanilla cake with fluffy vanilla buttercream and colorful sprinkles is the perfect layered cake for every occasion. So soft and decadent, this moist vanilla cake recipe will take your guests to a vanilla-flavored cloud 9!

Why This Is The Best Vanilla Cake Recipe

This simple vanilla cake is a family-friendly dessert that makes a perfect birthday cake! However, you can easily make it match any occasion with different filings, icing colors and festive decorations. Here’s why you are going to love it:

  • Double Vanilla: With vanilla extract and a vanilla bean, this cake is full of real vanilla flavor!
  • So Moist: This is a dense cake, made with 2 cups of water (or milk) to give it that perfect soft and moist crumb texture.
  • Beginner-Friendly: You can make the batter easily by hand with just a whisk and a bowl!
  • Party Ready: Everyone loves a homemade vanilla cake with fluffy vanilla buttercream and colorful sprinkles. It’s a well-loved classic for good reason!
  • Make It Your Own: This cake is a great base to dress up with different fruit fillings, icing flavors, fun extracts and citrus zests!

Love making stunning layered cakes? Me too! Try my favorite best banana cake, decadent chocolate peanut butter cake, impressive pumpkin cake or this double chocolate cake!

Ingredients for vanilla cake recipe arranged in bowls, from top to bottom: baking powder, salt, baking soda, flour, granulated sugar, water, eggs, oil, butter, vanilla extract and vanilla bean.

What You’ll Need

A potent vanilla bean is what sets this cake apart! Scroll down to the recipe card for exact amounts.

For the Cake

  • All-Purpose Flour: Feel free to use cake flour.
  • Leavening Agents: You will need both baking powder and baking soda.
  • Salt: Skip it if you’re using salted butter in the recipe.
  • Water: You can swap it for milk if you want a creamier cake.
  • Granulated Sugar: Light brown sugar can be used instead, but will darken the color of your cake.
  • Butter: Unsalted or salted, both will work fine!
  • Vegetable Oil: Corn or canola oil work too.
  • Vanilla Extract: Use your favorite kind.
  • Vanilla bean: This adds lovely aroma and sweetness. A tablespoon of vanilla bean paste also works!
  • Eggs

For the Buttercream

  • Unsalted Butter: If you use salted butter, skip the added salt.
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract: If color is important to you, using a clear vanilla extract will keep the frosting white.
  • Heavy Cream: You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead.
  • Salt: Just a pinch.
A slice of cake being cut with a spatula and pulled away from the whole cake.

How to Make Vanilla Cake From Scratch

Don’t over-mix the batter and make sure to let the liquid mixture cool slightly before adding the eggs. Scroll to the recipe card at bottom of the post for full detailed instructions. 

  • Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans.
  • Dry Ingredients: Whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Wet Ingredients: Simmer the water and sugar in a pot over medium-high heat. Remove it from the heat and add the butter. Chill the mixture in the fridge.
  • Combine: Mix the oil, extract, and vanilla bean into the chilled sugar-butter mixture. Beat in the eggs and then whisk in the dry ingredients until smooth.
  • Bake: Divide the cake batter evenly between the cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove them from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack before frosting.
  • Buttercream: Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, salt and 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Beat until smooth and fluffy.
  • Assemble: Layer the cooled cakes with a thick layer of frosting in between. Apply a thin crumb-coat. Chill the cake. Add a final, thick layer of frosting, decorate and serve!
A whole vanilla layer cake frosted and decorated with rainbow sprinkles.

Chef’s Tips

Some helpful tips to ensure success:

  • Measure Flour: Do not scoop from a packed bag of flour, it will create an overly dense cake! Instead, fluff the flour with a fork. Then spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level it off with a knife. This is the correct method for measuring flour!
  • Cool Before Frosting: Let the cake layers cool completely before decorating, otherwise, the icing will melt. The cake layers can be made a day or two before adding the frosting to save you time on the day of!
  • Make Ahead: Wait for the cake to cool completely before wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap. Store them in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to make the cake, all you have to do is stack, frost and serve!
  • Cover Cake: If the tops and edges of the cakes brown too much before the baking time is up, lightly cover them with foil. This will stop them from browning much more.
  • Prep Your Pan: If you’re worried about your cake sticking, flour the edges of each pan after you’ve buttered them. You can also add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom to guarantee your cake will not stick!
  • Even Baking: These cake pan strips wrapped around your cake pans make the biggest difference for a perfectly evenly baked cake! If you use these, you should not have to level your cake!
  • Crumb Coat: A crumb coat is a very thin layer of frosting used to “glue” crumbs down. This prevents any crumbs from coming loose and making your icing lumpy. Apply a thin crumb layer on the top and sides of your cake and then chill cake in the fridge until frosting is firm. Then frost with the final thick layer of frosting.

Variations:

Add a fruity filling or make your cake almond flavored!

  • Fillings: Pipe a thick buttercream edge along the bottom cake layer but leave the center empty. Spoon in your filling of choice and stack the cakes and decorate as usual. Here are some fun options: homemade Nutella, dulce de leche or lemon curd.
  • Icings: Decorate the cake with my chocolate buttercream or your favorite cream cheese frosting for an easy variation.
  • Almond: Keep the vanilla bean if you want, but swap the vanilla extract for almond extract for a moist almond layer cake! For a raspberry almond cake, fill the center of the cake with fresh raspberries and a thick layer of raspberry jam.
  • Chocolate Chip: Add 1 cup chocolate chips to the batter and frost with either chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting. Instead of rainbow sprinkles, decorate the cake with mini chocolate chips.
  • Citrus: For a citrus flavored cake, swap the vanilla bean for 2 tablespoons fresh citrus zest. For even more citrus flavor, you can swap 1/2 cup of the water for orange, lemon or lime juice.
A fork taking a bite of layer cake.

How To Store Homemade Vanilla Cake

Storing your vanilla cake as whole as possible, versus slices of cake, will retain the most moisture. If storing slices, I recommend wrapping them tightly with plastic wrap.

  • Counter: Place it in an airtight container away from direct heat and sunlight for up to 3 days. This method isn’t great if your area is quite hot or humid because the frosting can melt.
  • Fridge: Store it in an airtight container for up to 7 days. Set it on the counter for 20 minutes before enjoying to let it warm up, if desired.
  • Freezer: Wrap it in plastic wrap then place it into a freezer-friendly bag or container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter for 1 to 2 hours, until fully thawed.
A slice of homemade vanilla cake being lifted with a serving spatula.
4.4 from 488 votes
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Yield: 12 servings

Vanilla Cake

This rich and moist vanilla cake with fluffy vanilla buttercream and colorful sprinkles is the perfect layered cake for every occasion. So soft and decadent, this homemade vanilla cake made from scratch will take your guests to a vanilla-flavored cloud 9!
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Additional Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Dream Cake

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large eggs

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream, half and half, or milk

For Decoration (Optional)

  • ½ cup rainbow sprinkles

Instructions 

Vanilla Cake

  • 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. Set aside.
  • 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. Chill the butter mixture in the fridge for about 20 minutes, until no longer warm to the touch.
  • Once chilled, whisk in vegetable oil, vanilla extract and the scrapings from the vanilla bean into the butter mixture. Beat in the eggs. Whisk in the dry ingredients, until smooth.
  • Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let cakes cool in pans completely until cool to the touch, then frost as desired.

Vanilla Buttercream

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

Assemble

  • Assemble the 2 layers with a thick layer of frosting in between.
  • Optional Crumb Coat: Apply a thin crumb coat (very thin layer of frosting meant to catch any crumbs) on the top and sides of the cake. Pop the cake into the freezer to harden the crumb coat for about 10 minutes.
  • Apply one final thick and even layer of frosting around the outside of the cake, decorate, and serve.

Notes

Store: Storing your vanilla cake as whole as possible, versus slices of cake, will retain the most moisture. If storing slices, I recommend wrapping them tightly with plastic wrap. To store, place cake in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the fridge for up to a week.
Freeze: Wrap cake in plastic wrap then place it into a freezer-friendly bag or container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter for 1 to2 hours, until fully thawed.
Measure Flour: Do not scoop from a packed bag of flour, it will create an overly dense cake! Instead, fluff the flour with a fork. Then spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level it off with a knife. This is the correct method for measuring flour!
Cover Cake: If the tops and edges of the cakes brown too much before the baking time is up, lightly cover them with foil. This will stop them from browning much more.
Prep Your Pan: If you’re worried about your cake sticking, flour the edges of each pan after you’ve buttered them. You can also add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom to guarantee your cake will not stick!
Even Baking: These cake pan strips wrapped around your cake pans make the biggest difference for a perfectly evenly baked cake! If you use these, you should not have to level your cake!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 slice, Calories: 637kcal, Carbohydrates: 98g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 91mg, Sodium: 369mg, Potassium: 50mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 79g, Vitamin A: 750IU, Vitamin C: 0.01mg, Calcium: 58mg, Iron: 1mg

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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.