When I say this recipe took me MONTHS to perfect, I mean it! This vanilla cake has the most soft, tender, melt-in-your mouth crumb and is bursting with vanilla flavour. A moist vanilla cake that acts as a great base recipe that can be paired with literally any type of frosting and filling!
What makes this vanilla cake so soft and moist?
Well, there’s a few different things at play here!
Lets talk about the ingredients first:
- This recipe uses a cake flour substitute (a mixture of all purpose flour and cornstarch – cake flour is actually banned here in New Zealand which is why I can’t just use regular cake flour!). Cake flour has a lower protein content than regular flour, which results in a more tender crumb.
- Secondly, this recipe uses oil, vinegar and buttermilk to really amp up the softness! Oil is liquid at room temperature, resulting in a moist cake. Vinegar and buttermilk help to break down the protein in the flour, resulting in a fluffier cake.
Another factor is the mixing method. This recipe uses an electric mixer at first, but when it comes to folding in the dry ingredients at the end, you want to use your hands. By being ‘gentle’ with the flour, you’re going to prevent too much gluten from forming (which is great for things like bread, but we don’t want TOO MUCH gluten in a cake!).
Why it took me months to come up with this recipe
I’ve tried so many vanilla cake recipes, and even have an old recipe of my own on YouTube! Many of you love that original recipe, but many were also struggling with the initial creaming process because of the high oil content.
When I launched my new blog, my goal was to create simple recipes that people could easily recreate. Because many people were struggling with my first vanilla cake recipe, I was determined to come up with another recipe that was simpler, and less dense.
Now for some reason I became OBSESSED with the reverse creaming method. This is where you first beat the butter with the dry ingredients and sugar, coating the dry ingredients with a layer of fat which prevents gluten formation. You then mix the remaining wet ingredients into the flour.
I read so much about the reverse creaming method and was determined that it would be the new method I use to make my vanilla cake. I PROBABLY MADE 30 CAKES over the span of a few months trying to get that perfect texture, but I just couldn’t get it right. I think the problem was that I was using a cake flour substitute instead of actual cake flour (cake flour is banned here in New Zealand so I use a flour and cornstarch mix instead). I tried with just regular flour too but my cakes kept coming out a little dense. When I would reduce the fat content, then the cakes would dry out really quickly. I FINALLY GAVE UP.
Sometimes when you know something works, you don’t need to try and be fancy or different to recreate something similar. I decided to go back to the original mixing method I used for my first vanilla cake, but instead of using my mixer to mix in the dry ingredients, I decided to hand mix the dry ingredients at the end. This method combined with different ingredient combinations finally led me to this cake – THE BEST VANILLA CAKE I’VE EVER MADE! 😀
How to make this vanilla cake
Start off by preheating your oven to 165°C with the fan on, and greasing and/or lining two 8 inch cake tins. I like to grease my cake tins with my homemade cake release.
For the cake batter, start off by sifting together your dry ingredients. By premixing our dry ingredients, it helps ensure that everything is mixed well, preventing us from overmixing our batter when we come to combining our wet and dry ingredients.
Set your dry ingredients aside and in another bowl cream together your butter, oil and sugar for 2 minutes. This is going to incorporate air into our batter which will give us a fluffier cake!
Next add in your eggs one by one, mixing well in between each addition. Eggs add structure and moisture to our cake.
Next add in the vanilla, white vinegar and half a cup of buttermilk, and mix until well combined.
Now the last step is to fold in our dry ingredients while alternating with our buttermilk. So to do this, add in half of your dry ingredients and fold it into the wet mixture until just combined. Then add in your buttermilk, and fold that through until just combined. Lastly, add in your remaining dry ingredients and fold through until just combined.
It’s important to do this step by hand as this will prevent us from overmixing our batter and developing too much gluten. Gluten is what gives bread great structure, and although we want SOME structure for cakes, we don’t want too much otherwise it’ll make our cake tough and dense.
Once the batter is done, evenly distribute it into the two 8 inch cake tins and cook for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to completely cool before frosting.
How to make easy vanilla buttercream
This vanilla buttercream is literally the easiest thing ever! It is an American buttercream so is a ‘sweeter’ frosting, although my recipe does use a lot less icing sugar compared to a regular American buttercream. However, if you still want a less sweet frosting, I’d recommend a Swiss meringue or French buttercream.
So to make this easy buttercream, begin by adding your butter, icing sugar, vanilla and milk to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on a low speed for about a minute until the ingredients are combined (this will prevent the icing sugar from flying everywhere!).
Once combined, turn up the speed to a medium-high and mix for a full 10 minutes. This is going to lighten up the buttercream in both taste and texture. It also helps to reduce the grittiness that you normally get with a traditional American buttercream. For a completely grit-free alternative, try out my grit-free American buttercream!
And that is it! You’re left with a beautifully smooth buttercream.
How to decorate this vanilla cake
You can go ahead and decorate this cake however you like, but here’s a little ‘how-to’ on how I did mine.
So to start off I trimmed off the brown bits around my cake layers, which in all honesty is not necessary at all – I just wanted the perfect thumbnail (haha!). You can skip this step if you want 🙂
I then went ahead and placed my first cake layer in the middle of a cake stand and smoothed out some buttercream on the top with my offset spatula.
I then placed the next cake layer on top, and again smoothed out some frosting on top of that layer with my offset spatula. I then used any excess frosting from the sides and top to cover the entire cake in a thin layer of frosting. This is what we call a crumb coat.
A crumb coat traps in all the crumbs, and is then chilled, before we place our final layer of frosting on.
Once the crumb coat is chilled, I then placed a generous amount of frosting all around the cake. I used my offset spatula to smooth out the top, and then a cake scraper to smooth out the sides.
Now when you scrape the sides of a cake, you usually end up with a lip of frosting around the top edges. To get rid of these and get a ‘sharp edge’ on the top, slowly bring your offset spatula into the middle of the cake, catching that lip of frosting as you go.
I then finished off by piping some little swirls on the top using a 1M piping tip.
And that is it! This vanilla cake is ready to serve 🙂
Soft Vanilla Cake
- 2¼ cups (300 g) flour - regular all purpose (see note 1 if you want to use cake flour)
- ¼ cup (25 g) cornflour - also known as cornstarch
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt - omit if using salted butter
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter - room temperature
- ½ cup (105 g) unflavoured vegetable oil - I use canola
- 1⅔ cups (332 g) white granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs - room temperature
- 1¼ tbsp vanilla essence/extract
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1½ cups (337 g) buttermilk - room temperature, see note 6 if using a homemade buttermilk substitute
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (see note 4)
- 1½ cups (340 g) unsalted butter - room temperature
- 3 cups (375 g) icing sugar - also known as powdered sugar/confectioners sugar
- 1½ tsp vanilla essence/extract
- 1½ tbsp milk - heavy or whipping cream okay too
- IMPORTANT: For this recipe I would highly recommend using gram measurements, especially for the flour for accurate results. It has a high fat/liquid ratio so slight adjustments to the quantities can throw off the balance of the cake 🙂
- Preheat oven to 165 °C (329°F) with the fan on (see note 5 if you don't have a fan function) and grease and/or line two 8 inch cake tins (I use my homemade cake release).
- In a bowl, sift together your flour, cornflour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Using a whisk or fork, mix until well combined. Set aside.
- In another bowl, add in your butter, vegetable oil and sugar. Using an electric mixer (hand or stand mixer are both fine - see note 2), cream together for 2 minutes until light and creamy.
- Add in eggs one by one, mixing well in between each addition (about 10-15 seconds between eggs).
- Add in your vanilla, vinegar and half a cup of the buttermilk, and mix until well combined. Now set your mixer aside as the remainder of the batter will be finished by hand.
- Finish off by adding in half of your premixed dry ingredients to your wet mixture, and gently fold it in with a spatula until just combined. Then add in the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk, and fold it in until just combined. Lastly, add in the remaining dry ingredients and gently fold it into the mixture until just combined. Do not overmix (see note 3).
- Distribute the batter evenly into the two 8 inch cake tins, and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Once baked, allow the cake layers to cool in the cake tins for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them out onto a wire rack to completely cool before frosting with the vanilla buttercream recipe below, or another frosting of your choice.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (see note 4)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and milk.
- Using the paddle attachment, mix on the lowest speed until the ingredients are combined (about a minute), and then turn up the speed to a medium high and mix for a full 10 minutes. Scrape the bowl down half way through.
- The frosting is now ready to use.
Nutritional information are estimates only as they are automatically calculated by a third party application. Actual values may differ based on brands and types of products used.
I messaged you earlier as well. I tried this vanilla cake receipt twice and my cake didn’t rise up completely. The bottom part of it was not sponge. I followed your recipe completely, I am not understanding what have ai missed out. Kindly help me with it
Hi Kavita 🙂 I’m so sorry I thought I replied to your previous comment but perhaps it didn’t go through. This is the response I wrote:
Hi Kavita 🙂 Sorry to hear your cake didn’t rise properly! That can be very frustrating. This could be due to a few reasons, first being there was too much liquid in the batter. I would recommend using the gram measurements if you didn’t already, and if you did then I would reduce the amount of buttermilk slightly. Also remember that a homemade buttermilk substitute doesn’t work well with this recipe so if using a homemade version you will need to reduce the quantity. Secondly, the cake batter was undermixed. I would recommend folding the batter a little more at the end and also make sure all ingredients are at room temp so everything combines together properly. One last note, if you’re not using the same cake tin size then too much batter in one cake tin can also result in a ‘gummy’ bottom. Hope these tips help 🙂
Thanks Maryam for getting back to me. Yeah I was using homemade buttermilk. . I guess that could be the reason and I will make sure that it mixes well. Would you please guide me how much butter milk should I use then- 1 +1/4 cup rather than 1.5 cup.
Thanks for the tips
My first time doing a cake from scratch. It was delicious! The cake wasn’t dry at all it was moist. Everyone loved it, definitely doing this recipe again. thank you!!!
Awesome! So happy to hear that Eztelle! 🙂
This was my first try making a cake from scratch and it turned out amazing! I used a different American buttercream recipe, which I regret, but this cake is more dense than I expected and not overwhelmingly sweet. I think I would’ve preferred to go for a lighter frosting option knowing this. I will be trying this recipe again!
So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe Dinah! 😀
Softness is my favorite part
So happy to hear that Sindi! 🙂
Absolutely love this recipe and was wondering if I could make a chocolate version of it (does buttermilk work with chocolate…)? If so, would you use cocoa powder or chocolate and in what quantities?
Hi Julie! So so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe 😀 I’m actually in the process of testing out a chocolate cake recipe that just uses cocoa powder and am also trialling it with this recipe. I haven’t tasted it yet so I can’t say for sure yet if it worked but do keep an eye out next week or the week after for the new chocolate cake recipe. If I decide to use a different method to this recipe then it means the other version was better haha 😀
My cake came out absolutely delicious! So moist and tender with great vanilla flavor. I am so happy with this recipe! I’ve tried so many vanilla cakes, and this one checks all the boxes! I followed your recipe and steps exactly with great results.
Thank you for sharing Maryam!
So so happy to hear that Donna! 😀
Thank you so much for these amazing recipes and for your generosity in sharing them with us for free. You vanilla, lemon, red velvet and chocolate cake recipes are my go to recipes and my clients love them. Thank you…
So so happy to hear that Mabel! 😀 Really appreciate the wonderful feedback 🙂
Hi dear! What is the role of vinegar?
Hi there! It helps with the reaction of the baking soda so the cake rises and also the acid in the vinegar helps to create a fluffier texture 🙂
Hola. Prepare esta receta y me encanto. Me alcanzó para 3 moldes de 6×2 pulgadas. Quedo súper humeda y con excelente sabor. Es una receta infalible. Muchas gracias. Me gustaría que me respondieras si a esta receta se le puede añadir sprinkles, chips de chocolate o pasas?
So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe 😀 and yes you should be able to add those in at the end of the recipe I would fold it in at the end 🙂