Two simple layers of fluffy vanilla cake topped with the dreamiest creamy white frosting, this one is perfect for parties and celebrations or when you just feel like delicious cake.
Want a simpler vanilla cake? Try this Vanilla sponge tray bake.
Why is this the best vanilla cake recipe?
This is now my go-to vanilla cake. It’s morphed over the years to this one that I now use over and over. But why so good?
- A soft, tender crumb which comes from the flour combo
- It’s fluffy from beating together butter and sugar
- Light and airy from the addition of extra egg whites
- It’s perfectly moist from the addition of oil but doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth
- Intense vanilla flavour from the addition of genuine vanilla extract
- It doesn’t dome too high making it perfect for layer cakes
- It’s easy and versatile working in 8 or 9 inch tins, a loaf pan or even cupcakes.
This cake makes a perfect decorated birthday cake – I recently turned it into a butterfly cake for my niece which was a hit.
Vanilla Cake Ingredients
- The flour – a combination of plain (all-purpose) flour and cornflour (cornstarch) – essentially a homemade cake flour – that gives it the soft texture. You can substitute the whole amount for cake flour.
- Baking powder – just 2 teaspoons. This in conjunction with egg whites, will give it the perfect amount of lift without an overly domed top.
- Eggs – a combination of whole eggs and egg whites give this cake the perfect amount of richness, structure and also a lighter texture.
- Vegetable oil – oil is what keeps this cake super moist.
- Butter – the butter is the other half of the fat equation in this vanilla cake and gives flavour.
- Sugar – just regular granulated white sugar, or you can use caster (superfine). Beaten with the butter, it helps to create a fluffy texture as well as add sweetness.
- Milk – I use whole milk for a better flavour but you can use hilo / 2%.
- Vanilla – I use genuine vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste for great vanilla flavour. Please don’t use imitation or vanilla “essence” which are not natural flavourings.
Tips for Success for the best fluffy vanilla cake
So now you need to know how to make vanilla cake. You’ll find all the steps below in the recipe card but here’s some important tips.
- Prep the tins. Grease the baking tins, line just the base with baking paper, then flour the sides making sure to tap out the excess flour.
- The butter should be softened but not greasy. Just soft enough to make a dent when you press it.
- The milk and eggs should be at room temperature
- Make sure to beat the butter and sugar together very well. Give it a good few minutes as you want it to be light and creamy.
- Scrape down the bowl – use a silicone spatula to scrape around the sides and bottom of the bowl often. This will ensure everything is combined properly.
- Sift and whisk the dry ingredients – first sift them into a bowl, then whisk them together to combine. This make sure they’re aerated.
- Beat in the two eggs until just combined but beat longer once you add the egg whites to fluffy them up.
- Fold in the remaining ingredients with a spatula – 1/3 of the flour, the oil & vanilla, another 1/3 of the flour, the milk, then the remaining flour. Fold using a spatula after each addition until it’s just combined so as not to knock out the air.
The fluffy buttercream frosting
This is next level vanilla buttercream frosting. It’s known as ermine frosting / ermine buttercream / flour buttercream / cooked milk buttercream and it’s my very favourite for a few reasons.
- It’s super creamy and silky-smooth
- Not sickeningly sweet
- And has the texture of fluffy whipped cream
I need to be clear here – this recipe may look strange if you haven’t come across it before but please, please trust in the recipe and process and you’ll be rewarded with the most luscious frosting you’ve ever had.
- You’ll start by cooking some flour, milk, vanilla and granulated sugar together (YES! Granulated sugar – again, trust me) until it gets very thick and pudding-like.
- Tip this into a shallow dish, cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface and let it cool to room temperature. You can speed it up in the fridge but make sure it’s at room temp before you use it.
- Beat together some softened butter and the remaining granulated sugar (YES, I promise I know what I’m talking about) until light and creamy – 4-5 minutes. It will still be grainy at this stage.
- Add the cooled flour / milk paste 1 tablespoon at a time. Not super slowly but just making sure it’s mostly mixed in before adding the next one.
- Now beat the buttercream for 6-7 minutes or until it looks pale and whipped and all graininess has disappeared.
- At this point the buttercream will be incredibly aerated and all those air bubbles don’t make for a smooth frosting, so use your spatula to stir the buttercream for a minute or so, pushing it against the sides of the bowl to remove most of the air bubbles.
Ermine buttercream often (not always) goes through a stage where it looks split – just keep beating and it will come together.
I’ve made ermine frosting in a bunch of different flavours including;
How much buttercream do I need?
This is obviously down to personal preference but the buttercream recipe with this cake makes roughly 3 cups and the cake in these pictures has about 2 ½ cups of that. It could have taken the other half a cup in the centre or to create a naked cake effect.
If you’d like a thicker layer and frosting all around the outside, make 1.5 to 2 times the amount in the recipe.
Storing this fluffy vanilla cake
This cake will keep well 4-5 days in the fridge. Keep it covered or in an airtight container. Let it come to room temperature before eating.
You can also freeze it, best done in slices.
More amazing cake recipes
Fluffy Vanilla Cake from scratch
FOR THE FLUFFY VANILLA CAKE
- 260 g plain (all-purp) flour (2 cups / 9.2oz)
- 35 g cornflour (cornstarch) (¼ cup / 1.2oz) (notes)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 egg whites
- ½ cup vegetable oil (125ml)
- 300 g granulated sugar (1 ½ cups / 10.5oz)
- 113 g unsalted butter, softened (½ cup / 1 stick)
- ½ cup milk (125ml)
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
FOR THE FLUFFY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
- 200 g white granulated sugar (1 cup / 7oz)
- 1 cup whole milk (250ml)
- 32 g plain (all purp) flour (¼ cup / 1.2oz)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 226 g unsalted butter, softened (1 cup / 2 sticks )
- Pinch of salt
FOR THE FLUFFY VANILLA CAKE
- Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan forced. Grease 2x 8-inch cake tins. Line the bases with baking paper the dust the sides with flour before tapping out the excess.
- Combine the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt. Whisk well to aerate and set aside.
- Add the two whole eggs and beat on low-medium until combined. Scrape around the bowl again.
- Add the egg whites and beat on medium-high for 1 full minute - it should look a bit like shiny whipped cream at the end.
- Swap to a spatula and gently mix through ⅓ of the flour mixture until just combined.
- Add the remaining oil and vanilla and mix again until just combined.
- Repeat this process three more times - flour, milk, flour. Each time stir through until only just combined.
- Pour evenly between the two tins.
- Bake for 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a crumb or two attached.
FOR THE FLUFFY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
- In a small saucepan whisk together the milk, flour, roughly half the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Heat over low heat for 5-6 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency. It's thick enough when it takes a good few seconds to merge together again after you stir and the smell of uncooked flour has disappeared.
- Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap making sure the plastic wrap is touching the paste (this will stop the top from forming a skin), then let it cool to room temperature. You can speed it up in the fridge but make sure it’s at room temperature when you use it.
- Once the milk paste is completely cool, beat together the butter and remaining sugar until really light and creamy (5-6 minutes). Make sure to regularly scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the milk / flour paste one tablespoon at a time, just mixing to combine after each.
- Beat on high for 5-7 minutes. If it looks like it separates at the start, don't worry, keep on beating and it will beat up into an almost whipped cream consistency.
- Add the salt and quickly beat through.
- Once it’s thick, whipped and the sugar grains have gone, use a spatula to stir and press the buttercream against the side of the bowl to help the air bubbles to dissipate. Now it’s ready for frosting.
- For this design, split the buttercream into thirds. Add colouring as you like, then transfer to piping bags with different piping tips. Pipe rings of frosting over one layer, then use a spatula to even it out.
- Place the second layer on top and pipe little stars and flowers randomly all over the top.
- I use a combination of flour and cornflour to create homemade cake flour simply so that I don’t have to keep another container of flour on hand. Feel free to use 2 ¼ cups of cake flour in place of the combined flour and cornflour in this recipe.
- All ovens vary – always test for doneness 3-5 minutes before the recipe suggests
- For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
- If you'd like to frost the sides of the cake, 1.5x or double the buttercream recipe.
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