The Best Homemade White Cake from Scratch
HALLELUJAH! Finally a moist white cake from scratch that doesn’t taste like cardboard. I promise, this will be the best homemade white cake recipe of your life! It is soft and fluffy, while still being super moist. The balance of fluffy and moist is exactly perfect for how cake ought to be! It’s full of buttery rich flavor. I’m so excited. You are going to love it too!
Over the past few years, especially after I hit the 30 mark (and had my 3rd kid), I’ve become a lot more stingy with the carbs in my life. 10 years ago, a sandwich for lunch was standard, and there were zero feelings of indulgence. Pasta for dinner? Of course! It’s cheap.
These days, I tend to view all carbs as equal. Pasta is basically cookies. Bread is kind of the same as cake. You can choose to eat a dinner roll, but just know that it’s basically dessert.
This is a bit extreme and ridiculous I know, but I think it’s my weird brain’s way of putting limits on the carbs in my life. The unfortunate development after all this brainwashing is that these days, I sometimes skip out on regular mealtime foods, because I know I’m going to eat brownies later, whether or not I eat the real food.
Should I eat a healthy lunch at 11:30, after skipping breakfast? (I dabble in intermittent fasting) Or shall I just start off with a few bites of this gorgeous homemade white cake? I mean, I did skip breakfast. So this is just kind of like the breakfast that I would have had…But now I ate the whole slice, and who really needs lunch anyway?
Do you see the slippery slope??
I have a quarter of this white cake left. It’s sitting on my counter right now, on the white cake stand you see in these photos, with an ugly metal bowl inverted on top, because I don’t have a pretty cake dome thing. Eric is hosting his book club tonight and he told me that they can take care of the cake if I want.
He meant it as an offering, a service. You see, I’ve been testing white cake recipes for weeks now, and I’ve been shoving off white cake to every single human who passes the threshold of this house, and even those who don’t. I beg Eric to take the rest to work. I yell at my mail lady as she fills our box. I call over my neighbors. I chase down my friends who are doing carpool drop off. “WAIT, DO YOU WANT SOME CAKE?”
But now it’s just me. Alone in my house, with a quarter of a homemade white cake sitting next to me, trying to write a blog post about said white cake.
How to Make a Cake From Scratch
You might be thinking, who even likes white cake? I mean isn’t chocolate always better? WRONG SIR. White cake from a box destroyed my opinion of white cake, but I’m telling you guys, one bite of this from scratch version will have you shouting hallelujah. It is moist, tender, and perfectly fluffy. The vanilla flavor really comes through. It’s a winner!
So let’s get started making this tall, glorious, carby, moist, delectable homemade white cake to end all white cakes.
First we’re going to beat the heck out of some butter and sugar (left). Then we’re going to add a bit of oil. I love using oil in my cakes. You need the butter for flavor, but you’re not going to get that soft moist texture without a bit of oil. You cake will be dry if you use all butter. I like to use light olive oil (see notes), but any vegetable oil will work.
Then grab two other medium bowls, one for dry and one for wet ingredients. On the left we have 5 whole eggs, buttermilk (cheater buttermilk works fine! See notes) a bit of vanilla, and sour cream. Sour cream and I are like THIS when it comes to cake. I just love the tender moistness it adds. (When I do make box cakes, I always add sour cream. It works wonders.)
On the right, sift some flour, salt, and baking powder.
A note on eggs: some homemade white cake recipe purists might be shaking their fists at me for adding the yolks to my white cake. TECHNICALLY a traditional white cake uses no egg yolks, and you are supposed to even beat the egg whites to get it SUPER DUPER fluffy. (Think angel food cake). But guys, I tried it. It’s just not as flavorful.
Let me ask you this: would you rather have a regular omelette made with whole eggs, or an egg white omelette? Obviously no one wants to eat plain egg whites unless they’re on a diet, because guess what, most of the yummy egg flavor is found in the yolk. And this cake, my friends, is NOT on a diet, to say the least. So I just couldn’t handle leaving them out. I’m not alone here, in my research I found plenty of white cake recipes that use the egg yolk. I think it’s just a matter of preference!
Here’s how I always prepare cake pans before putting batter in. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then spray the heck out of it. I can’t tell you how many cakes I’ve destroyed by forgetting parchment paper. I think it’s especially helpful if you have cheap cake pans, which apparently I do.
See the notes below the recipe for the new cake pans I just bought. You can see the the bottom two cakes in this photo got pretty torn up coming out of the pan, and I think this is entirely because I was using poor quality pans. (The top layer was a new cake pan that I randomly grabbed at the grocery store, and you can see how much better it released the cake.) But no matter; it still worked fine. I just lost a little bit of the edge.
What to Frost a Simple White Cake With
I haven’t even talked about the amazing frosting yet. I love to frost my cakes with American buttercream, which is just butter, powdered sugar, cream, vanilla, and some salt. For this 3 layer cake, I used a full pound of butter just for the frosting. This is a bit excessive, which is exactly how I like it. I put measurements in the notes for a more reasonable amount that will do the job just fine if you are not a frosting fanatic like me. (If you plan to do a crust coat, make the full amount.)
And there you have it! The best white cake recipe that is moist, tall, fluffy, and flavorful all at once. I am a huge chocolate person (see The Best Chocolate Cake I’ve Ever Had), but I actually love frosting this cake with vanilla frosting. It really let’s the vanilla and butter flavor shine.
I think this homemade white cake recipe would be stunning to serve after your Easter festivities! Dress up the top and edges with some fresh berries for a stunning presentation. Everyone will love you!!
P.S. Update: Eric’s book club did not see any of this cake. I made them brownies instead. ;)
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The Best Moist White Cake Recipe
For the cake
- 1 cup salted butter, 2 sticks, softened
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, I like to use light olive oil
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk*
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup full fat sour cream
- 3 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
For the frosting
- 2 cups butter, 4 sticks, softened
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Trace the outline of 3 9-inch cake pans** on parchment paper. Cut out the circles and place in the bottom of each cake pan. See photos. With the paper in the bottom of the pan, use nonstick spray to grease each cake pan very well, including up the sides.***
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until is is smooth. (You can actually start with cold butter if you have a stand mixer. Just beat a couple minutes, scraping sides, until it's smooth.)
- Add 3 cups granulated sugar. Beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes, stopping once to scrape sides and bottom.
- Add 1/2 cup light olive oil ("light" refers to the taste, not the calorie level. Sad, right? ;) Beat butter and sugar with the oil for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape once.
- In a medium bowl (or in one of those giant 8 cup glass measuring cups, wish I had one), add 5 large eggs. Beat with a whisk until smooth. Add 1 cup buttermilk*, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 1/2 cup full fat sour cream. Whisk it all together til smooth.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over another medium bowl. Spoon and measure 3 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour into the strainer. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon baking powder. Stir until it has all gone through the strainer and is sifted well.
- Alternate adding the liquid and the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating every time. I added half the liquid, stirred, half the flour, stirred, then repeated.
- Mix ONLY until just combined. Scrape the bottom and sides to make sure it's all incorporated.
- Divide the batter between the 3 prepared pans.
- Bake the cakes at 325 for about 28-32 minutes.
- Notes on baking: I like to bake my cakes one at a time because my oven is not exactly amazing. I've also done 2 cakes at a time though. I wouldn't do all 3 cakes at once, unless you have a pretty stellar oven that you trust.
- However you choose to bake, make sure you rotate them 2/3 of the way through the bake time. This means turn the pan 180 degrees if there is one cake, or if there are two cakes, switch their places. The cake pans should NOT touch the edge of the oven.
- Do NOT open the oven door at all, except for when you need to rotate the pans. Rotate the pans at about the 22 minute mark. If the whole top looks completely liquidy, do not rotate yet. You don't want to deflate your cake. Again, the total bake time for each cake is about 28-32 minutes.
- Remove the cake/s from the oven. Let cool on a cooling rack for about 10-15 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edge of the cake from the pan. Use your hand to invert the cake onto the cooling rack and continue cooling. At this point I often put them in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to speed up the cool time.
- Make the frosting: Beat 2 cups butter until it is completely smooth.
- Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add the cream in 1/4 cup increments in between cups of powdered sugar. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. (less if you're using table salt) Beat until very fluffy, at least 2-3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom at least once or twice.
- Once all the cakes are completely cool, assemble your cake. Smear a bit of frosting on your cake stand so it doesn't go sliding off, then place your cake on the stand. Place several squares of parchment paper under the edge of your cake so that you don't get frosting all over your cake stand (see photos).
- Add about 1 and 1/2 cups frosting (just eyeball it) to the top of the cake and spread evenly.
- Add the next cake. Repeat.
- Add the final cake. Add all the remaining frosting to the top of the cake. Spread it over the top of the cake, and then use an offset spatula to drag some of the frosting from the top over the edge of the cake. Keep moving the frosting all the way down. Continue this method until all sides and top are frosting.
- If you want to make nice swirls like you see in the photos, use the back of a spoon.
- Devour! Try not to eat it for breakfast like I did!
- 3 sticks of butter (1 and 1/2 cups)
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
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