A perfectly plush, soft, classic vanilla cake recipe made entirely from scratch! It’s so simple to make, and tastes much better than a box mix! Recipe includes a how-to video.

A Classic Vanilla Cake, Made Entirely From-Scratch

Every baker needs a solid vanilla cake recipe in their repertoire, and today’s recipe is just that.

It’s soft, plush, and perfectly moist. Not to be confused with my white cake, this recipe is a beautiful pale golden color and distinctly vanilla flavored. It pairs beautifully with any frosting, although a traditional chocolate frosting is my favorite finish!

Like my chocolate cake, this has been one of my most popular recipes for years (and you may recognize it as the base for both my pineapple upside-down cake and my marble cake). It’s a simple, classic, and incredible vanilla cake. So many of you have tried and loved this recipe, and while the recipe remains exactly the same, I thought it was about time for a facelift with new photos and a new video.

The flavor and texture of this cake is so much better than box-mix, and the preparation is almost as easy. I’ve included a few tips below to help you be successful, so make sure to read all the notes before you get started.

What You Need

After testing many versions and combinations of ingredients, I’ve found that a good vanilla cake needs the following ingredients:

  • Oil AND butter. A blend of these two ingredients gives the cake the best possible flavor and texture. Butter provides flavor while oil adds moisture and keeps it from being too dry. A cake made with all oil would be moist but lacking in flavor, and an all-butter cake may have a more buttery taste, but would be more dry. Any neutral cooking oil will work here, but I typically recommend using either vegetable or canola oil. For the butter, unsalted is best so we have maximum control over the flavor of the cake
  • Sugar. Plain granulated sugar works best. Brown sugar would add moisture, but would detract from the classic vanilla flavor and even weigh down the cake a bit.
  • Eggs. You’ll need four eggs, and it’s best if you bring them to room temperature before adding them (this helps them incorporate into the batter more evenly).
  • Vanilla. You can’t have vanilla cake without vanilla! I recommend using a good quality vanilla extract, so if you’ve got a batch of homemade vanilla extract, use it here!
  • Flour. I developed this vanilla cake recipe to be work with all-purpose flour and that’s what I always use. However, you *could* use cake flour instead. To substitute by weight, you would use the same amount, but if you are using measuring cups you will need to substitute your flour properly.
  • Baking powder. I know a tablespoon of baking powder may seem like a lot, but that’s not a typo. Always make sure your baking soda is fresh and avoid using a generic brand, which I’ve had mixed results with in the past.
  • Salt. You can just use plain table salt.
  • Buttermilk. I strongly recommend using full-fat buttermilk for the best flavor and texture. While I do have a buttermilk substitute, it doesn’t really make this vanilla cake quite as moist and flavorful as I like it to be, so now I strictly recommend using real buttermilk. And no, you do not *need* to have baking soda in a recipe in order to use buttermilk; we’re using it for its moisture and flavor here!

SAM’S TIP: One of the biggest mistakes you can make with this recipe is neglecting to measure your flour properly. If you over or under-measure your flour, your cake will not turn out right! Use the right method, be as precise as possible, and use a kitchen scale if you have one.

Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!

How to Make Vanilla Cake

  1. Cream the butter, oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then, add your vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. Combine your dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add about ⅓ of the mixture into your bowl. Use a spatula to gently stir until just combined. Follow this with about ½ of your buttermilk, and stir again until just combined. .
  4. Add ½ of the remaining dry ingredients stir, and then add the remainder of the buttermilk. Finish with the final portion of dry ingredients and use your spatula to make sure the batter is smooth-do NOT overmix!
  1. Divide the batter evenly into two greased baking pans.
  2. Bake, then use a toothpick to test for doneness. Let the cakes cool in their pans a bit before inverting onto a cooling rack, where they’ll need to cool completely before frosting.

SAM’S TIP: While a toothpick that comes out clean indicates a fully baked cake, an over-baked cake will also yield a clean toothpick. It’s best to pull your vanilla cake out of the oven when a toothpick shows moist crumbs!

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes dry cake?

Dryness is typically the biggest complaint bakers have when making a cake from scratch, so I thought this FAQ deserved its own space. There are three main causes for a dry cake: over-measuring the flour (addressed above), over-mixing, and over-baking.

  • Do not over-mix your batter! Mixing the batter properly can be tricky and this is often where most mistakes are made with homemade cakes. To avoid over-mixing, thoroughly cream together the wet ingredients, particularly the butter, sugar, oil, and eggs. I highly recommend using an electric mixer for this step! However, once you get to the point of combining your wet and dry ingredients, you need to be gentle and fold by hand using a spatula. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, folding thoroughly, but not aggressively. The batter will be smooth and mostly cohesive; there may be some small lumps remaining, but that’s fine! Also, remember that while over-mixing can make your vanilla cake both dry and dense, under-mixing has its own risks and should be avoided as well!
  • Do not over-bake your cake! Even a minute too long in the oven can cause a cake to be too dry and dense. When baking, place your cake pans on the center rack of your oven and always make sure your oven is running at the proper temperature (most ovens do not, so keep a thermometer in yours!). Don’t check your vanilla cake too early (that can make it sink!), but do keep an eye on it. When your cake is ready to come out of the oven, the center should spring back if lightly touched-it should not deflate or appear jiggly. You can also use the toothpick test to check for doneness. To do this, simply insert a toothpick in the center of your cake; it’s done if the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs (not wet batter). Once your vanilla cake is done, let it cool in the pan for only 10-15 minutes before running a knife around the edge and inverting it onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

SAM’S NOTE: Under-mixing your cake batter, not baking the cake for long enough, or opening the oven door too frequently while the cake bakes can cause the cake to sink as it cools.


Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook

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