Recipe : Classic Vanilla Cake

Today’s post is a two-parter.  One part recipe.  One part love story.  A love story that started years ago, way back in high school.  At first, this love of mine was not accepted by my family.  You see, my family had always been a chocolate cake family.  Chocolate cake always and forever, all birthdays and all celebrations.  But then, I met vanilla.

I can remember one birthday asking my mom for vanilla cake.  Still to this day I’m not sure if she didn’t hear me or thought I was joking.  But when I blew out the candles and the first slice was cut, the traditional chocolate cake awaited inside.  It wasn’t until I started making my own birthday cakes that I was united with my true love.  Ah, sweet vanilla cake!

For years vanilla has been my go-to favorite flavor.  Plain and simple and always delightful.  We’ve been through it all together… the ups and the downs.  From the early days of baking, back when I used a box mix (gasp!).  To the hundreds of cakes baked for customers and now to blogging.  We’ve made it through tweaks and fads, cake crushes and cake wrecks.  New ovens and even diets.

But somewhere along the way, this little love affair has grown stale.  Maybe it’s too much of a good thing?  Maybe I’m simply taking vanilla cake for granted after all these years.  But it all seems so routine now.  Just another vanilla cake.

Classic Vanilla Cake Recipe  |

What used to be exciting and fun now seems so ordinary and plain.  So very vanilla.

Classic Vanilla Cake Recipe  |

So what’s a girl to do?  I can’t just turn my back on vanilla cake.  Not after everything we’ve been through. It’s still just as delightful as when we first met.

Like every relationship in a rough patch, I just think we need to spice things up a bit.  So the remainder of my week is dedicated to vanilla cake.  I think this is going to require some serious quality time.  Just me and vanilla cake.  Mixing it up and adding a whole lot of heat!  Hopefully we can rekindle the magic…   Until then, I’ll leave you with this Classic Vanilla Cake recipe.  With the hopes of a spicier, zestier version to come next week!

Classic Vanilla Cake Recipe  |

a recipe by Carrie Sellman

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted twice then measured
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare three 8″ round pans with butter, parchment and flour.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Stir vanilla bean paste into buttermilk.  Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high using the paddle attachment.  Cream until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. With the mixer on low, add egg whites one at a time.  Mixing well after each egg.
  6. Add one third of your dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  7. Add one half of your buttermilk.  Mix.  Alternate ingredients again. Dry, wet, dry and mix gently.  Do not over mix.
  8. Divide batter between the three prepared pans.  Bake 30-33 minutes, rotating pans once.  Cake is finished when a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Cool 10 – 20 minutes before inverting cakes from pans.  Cool completely before assembling cake.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using until tomorrow.

For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream

2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In bowl of stand mixer combine egg whites, sugar and salt.  Place over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously until temperature reaches 160 on a candy thermometer and the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. (The mixture should feel smooth when rubbed between your fingers).
  2. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Starting on low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high, whisk until stiff peaks form and mixture is fluffy and glossy, about 10 minutes.  Your bowl should no longer feel warm to the touch.
  3. With mixer on medium speed, add butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Continue mixing until icing is smooth and silky, about 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Add vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

Note:  If your icing looks curdled, continue mixing and it will return to a silky smooth texture.  If it is too runny, simply refrigerate it for a few minutes and then mix it again.

Wish me cake luck over the next few days… here’s hoping I have a zesty new recipe for you next week!

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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Kraft via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Kraft.

Carrie Sellman , Founder & Editor

Carrie Sellman is the Founder & Editor of The Cake Blog. Her work has been published in BRIDES Magazine, Country Living Magazine and featured online at People, Today, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, Real Simple, TLC, The Cooking Channel and more.


    • 2

      Carrie Sellman says

      No, I use the whisk attachment for the entire recipe.

      I know a lot of SMBC recipes have you switch to a paddle attachment to add in the butter. Which, from my understanding, is to help prevent air bubbles.

      I’ve done it both ways and using the whisk attachment the entire time doesn’t produce a noticeable difference. So I like to streamline when possible!

      If concerned about air bubbles, you can always pull out the paddle attachment at the very end. Mix on low for 2-3 minutes to knock out any bubbles.

      Sorry for such a long response… hope it answers your question though!

      • 3


        Thanks for this detailed response. I’ve been wondering about this for a very long time, I’ve tried it both ways as well, and I tend to agree with your logic and experimentation.
        I’m so glad to hear that you do it the same way!


    • 5

      Carrie Sellman says

      My buttercream looks a little off white as well Christina. But I’ve found that it’s much whiter when cold. So I tend to keep my cakes in the refrigerator. It will start to appear more cream colored at room temperature.

      Living in south Florida, it’s always hot and humid in my kitchen. So refrigeration is a must!

  1. 10

    ChristinaH says

    How lovely to discover someone else who appreciates the sublime, delicate vanilla! My father especially covets any dessert that’s vanilla, always prepared to battle anyone who claims that vanilla is boring! Because of his love of vanilla, I use several types of vanilla…Tahitian, Mexican, Madagascar, Bourbon and vanilla bean paste…nummy!

    I’ve tried several types of “classic white” cakes, and I’ve never seen one with buttermilk. I can’t wait to try it and if I love it, it will get made for my parent’s 50th anniversary! Thanks!

    • 11

      Carrie Sellman says

      Oh, I hope your father enjoys it! Congrats to them on 50 years of marriage, such a day to celebrate!

  2. 14


    Gasp! I too love a vanilla bean cake with vanilla SMBC.
    Lovely pictures and gorgeous execution, Carrie! The pictures make my heart smile! : )

    • 15

      Carrie Sellman says

      Thanks Miso. You’re too sweet – and your cakes and photography always make me smile as well!

  3. 18


    Beautiful creation, Carrie! I’ve read that vanilla paste can be replaced with an equal amount of vanilla extract. Do you know if this is so? I wonder, however, if pure vanilla extract would effect the color (or lack thereof!). Perhaps I could substitute a clear artificial liquid vanilla that I use in my icings.

  4. 19

    ChristinaH says

    In addition to making my parent’s anniversary cake, I’m making a wedding cake for the first time in July; will this cake recipe hold up for a tiered cake also? I don’t know yet if I’m going to stack or use columns.

    • 20

      AzlynnH says

      I was just wondering the same thing! I am doing a stacked wedding cake and was wondering if it would hold up.

  5. 23

    katie stilo says

    how do you get your buttercream so perfectly smooth? im a recent pastry grad and have a small home cake business but i can not seem to ever get perfect angles and consistency in the buttercream without a million air bubbles! i know its a matter of practice but i would like to know if you have any tips or tools ! :)

    • 24

      Carrie Sellman says

      It does take some practice but you’ll get the hang of it! I like to use a warmed offset spatula to do my finishing touches, but that is just my preference. Dip it in HOT water and then dry with a paper towel. It is a great way to smooth your icing.

  6. 26

    Tracy says

    Would this cake rise correctly at high altitude? I am at 7500 feet. I have tried the high altitude adjustments before but they never seem to turn out for me. do you have any suggestions??

  7. 30

    Djuana says

    Beautiful cake and too familiar story! I feel the exact same way. Can’t wait to make this!! #Stoked

  8. 31

    Kaushik says

    Hi! First of all I just wanted to say that this is a stunning cake — so simple and so elegant.

    I had a couple questions regarding vanilla bean paste: Have you noticed any difference in flavor using paste instead of extract when making cakes? From what I’ve read, the vanilla taste can get lost somewhat if you bake with paste.

    Have you tried vanilla paste in other cake recipes? Thanks!

  9. 33

    Karmen Bruner says

    Oh my goodness! I LOVED this! I made this cake for my sisters 21st birthday and everyone loved it so much! Thank you for sharing this!

  10. 34

    Allana Grasso says

    I feel kind of silly asking this question, but in one step you say prepare butter, parchment and flour, how exactly do I go about this? I want to make this for my Mother’s 70th Birthday. I am not a super experienced baker, I am more of a cooker. If you could explain this to me I would be so grateful. At this point I only have one chance at making this cake, because I am also making a five -course meal for Mom’s birthday dinner. Thank you so much, this cake looks incredible. Can’t wait to try it.

    • 35


      While I am no expert, I made this cake and this is what I did. I traced my pans onto parchment paper and cut them out. I then greased the whole pan with butter, placed the parchment paper onto the bottom of the pan and greased the top of that for good measure, and then sprinkled the buttered pan with a light layer of flour. It makes it so the cake slips out of your pan much easier. Hope this helps!

  11. 36


    I just had to come back and give you some love for this cake! I made it for my mother’s birthday and people said it was the best cake they had ever had! Thanks for sharing it with the world!

  12. 37

    minh says

    Wow, this look absolutely dreamy. How do you get your sponge so white? Is your flour bleached?

    As soon as I add butter (I’m in Switzerland and it’s quite yellow), and the brown vanilla extract, it’s never that white. Are your pictures slightly photoshopped?

    Still dreaming of the perfect scratch white cake… after so many tries I’ve yet to pull a perfectly white cake from the oven. Thanks for any enlightenment!

  13. 39

    Thérèse says

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog/site! Any chance you could add the weights to your ingredient list? Im in Ireland and we don’t use cups and sticks!

  14. 40


    ok, just did the recipe today, gave me 15 cup cake and 2 X 8 inche round cake (mabe not all that high but high enough) and you know what????
    I LOVE IT, taste wonderful, the cake is moist, sweet just enough and I swear, it will be great with ganache or any other icing but also naked, flavorful and moist, what more can you ask from a cake.
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

  15. 42

    Judy says

    This is a beautiful cake. I’d love to try the cake recipe. Do you think it would be sturdy enough to use for stacked tiers?

  16. 43

    Blia says

    Your cake amazing! I’m planning on making this for little sister’s birthday and she put in a request for chocolate chip white cake. Do you think if I added 1 cup of chocolate chips it will dry out the cake or make it dense? Thanks!

  17. 44

    ShayDarian says

    Hi!! I love this cake, it looks so pretty! My question is, how big of a cake does this make and how would you suggest going about making a rectangular cake with this recipe for my husband’s nieces birthday?
    Thank you!!!

  18. 46

    Krysten says

    Hi Carrie,

    Beautiful cakes! Do you think I would be able to use a regular hand mixer instead of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment? I don’t have a stand mixer, and would love to make your speckled egg cake for Easter this year using this vanilla cake recipe. Just not sure if using a regular hand mixer will mess it up. Thanks!

  19. 47

    Kara says

    Do you have this recipe in a metric conversion?? I find that recipes that give weighted measurements are more accurate, and lend themselves to more consistent results.

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