This Is Our Best Vanilla Cake Recipe To Date (2024)

You know about the sun-kissed yellow cake smeared with chocolate buttercream frosting and the classic yolk-less white cake. But what about the one in between, the one speckled with vanilla bean? Baking is as much a science as it is a skill, so once you get those down, the opportunities are endless for what you can make with this recipe. It’s as easy to make as it is to eat—here’s everything you need to know to get it right:

The batter:
Barely mix the batter. It’s okay if there are a few lumps; no one is going to know. Overmixing a batter won’t yield the tenderness you're looking for.
— Make sure your butter, eggs, and half-and-half are all at room temperature. If one or more ingredients is too cold, the batter will break or separate. You should be able to create a firm indent in your butter with your thumb. If your eggs are cold, place them in hot water from the tap for 5 to 10 minutes. If your half-and-half is cold, heat to 75° or 80° before adding to the batter.
— Creaming is ESSENTIAL to this recipe. If you don’t cream your fat and sugar, then the cake will result in a deflated disappointment. Whipping air into the fat and sugar is the first step toward creating that beautiful rise and cake crumb.

The leavening:
Without a doubt, leavening is one of the most crucial steps in cake making. There are 3 leavening agents present in this cake: chemical, organic, and mechanical. The chemical leavening agent is baking powder (and a lot of it). The organic leavening agent is egg whites. As the egg whites cook, they release water in the form of steam aiding in the cake's rise. Aren’t eggs just so dynamic? Finally, the mechanical leavening comes from the creaming of fat and sugar. When air is whipped into butter via sugar, it pumps up the cake volume.

Cake flour vs. all-purpose flour:
— Cake flour contains less protein than regular flour, which results in a softer cake crumb and a very tender cake. We recommend seeking it out if you plan to bake more often and want the most tender cake experience. If not, follow our guide on how to make cake flour at home instead.
— Does pre-sifted all-purpose cake flour mean you don’t have to do the sifting? Most likely yes, but the flour sits in the bag for who knows how long. It’s always a safe measure to sift your flour. If you don’t feel like breaking out the hand sieve from 1982, then whisk the flour with other dry ingredients in the bowl for 1 to 2 minutes.

The frosting:
This cake uses our best buttercream frosting recipe. If you're going to pipe florets on top of the cake, you'll need to make 1.5 times the amounts called for in the recipe so there's enough to fill the center, ice the cake, and decorate it.

Storage:
The cake, minus the frosting, can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. The iced vanilla cake should be placed in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Remove the cake from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Want to make the cake in advance? Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Made this recipe? Let us know how it went (and what you were celebrating!) in the comments below.

Yields:
10 - 12 serving(s)
Prep Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp.

    unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

  • 1 c.

    (200 g.) granulated sugar

  • 3/4 c.

    vegetable oil

  • 6

    large eggs, room temperature

  • 3 c.

    (360 g.) cake flour

  • 1 tbsp.

    plus 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 1/2 c.

    half-and-half, divided

  • 2 tbsp.

    vanilla bean paste

  • 1 tsp.

    kosher salt

  • Buttercream frosting, for decorating

Directions

    1. Step1Preheat oven to 350° and butter 2 (8") round pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment.
    2. Step2In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium-high speed (or in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat granulated sugar and butter until doubled in size, about 3 minutes. Add oil and beat until fluffy, white, and smooth, about 5 minutes.
    3. Step3Reduce mixer speed to low. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to blend and scraping sides of bowl after each addition, until incorporated.
    4. Step4In a medium bowl, whisk flour and baking powder until well combined, about 1 minute (this is to avoid sifting). Add half of dry ingredients and 3/4 cup half-and-half and beat on medium-low speed until batter is moist (it’s okay if there are some lumps). Add vanilla paste, salt, and remaining dry ingredients and 3/4 cup half-and-half and beat just until combined (the batter will still have a few lumps).
    5. Step5Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes with a few moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes.
    6. Step6Let cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
    7. Step7Using a serrated knife, trim domed top of cakes to flatten, if desired. Using an offset spatula, spread half of frosting on top of one cake. Place second cake on top. Ice top and sides of cake with remaining frosting and pipe florets on top, if desired.

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