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! This recipe was originally posted on April 12, 2019.
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??
Moist White Cake Recipe
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.
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!
White Cake Ingredients
You’ll need a few things beyond pantry staples. Here’s what to get at the store. (Quantities given in the recipe below.)
- Salted butter. You can use unsalted butter, but you may want to add another pinch of salt to the recipe.
- Granulated sugar
- Vegetable oil. I like to use light olive oil, but any kind (canola oil, etc) will do.
- Large eggs
- Vanilla extract
- Full fat sour cream. Yes, I said full fat!
- Flour. I used all-purpose flour and have a moist, fluffy cake!
- Kosher salt. A flakey salt that absorbs moisture. To substitute table salt instead of kosher salt, use ¾ teaspoon table salt for every 1 teaspoon of kosher salt called for in the recipe.
- Baking powder
*Cheater buttermilk will do just fine! I tried it. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup, then fill it to the 1 cup mark with milk. Use the highest fat content milk you have; whole milk is best. Stir it together and let sit a couple minutes to thicken up.
White Cake Frosting Ingredients
Mmm, frosting. We are making a classic American buttercream. (Quantities given in the recipe below.)
- Butter. You can use unsalted butter, but you may want to add another pinch of salt to the recipe. To soften butter, remove the butter from the wrapper and place it on a small plate. Put in the microwave for 30-40 seconds on power level one. Don’t use full power! Your butter will melt!
- Powdered sugar. Sift the powdered sugar if it looks extra clumpy (I usually don’t bother)
- Heavy cream. *Feel free to use whole milk or whatever milk you have on hand. It won’t be quite as thick and creamy but it will work.
- Kosher salt. A flakey salt that absorbs moisture. To substitute table salt instead of kosher salt, use ½ table salt for every 1 teaspoons of kosher salt called for in the recipe.
Can you substitute a different extract flavor besides vanilla?
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 lets the vanilla and butter flavor shine. If you are looking for something a little more unique, try these ideas! You can use these as a replacement for the 1 tablespoon of vanilla called for in the cake or frosting.
- ½ tablespoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon citrus zest
- ½ tablespoon butter extract
How to Make a Cake From Scratch
So let’s get started making this tall, glorious, carby, moist, delectable homemade white cake to end all white cakes. (All instructions given in the recipe below.)
- 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. Your cake will be dry if you use all butter. I like to use light olive oil (see notes), but any vegetable oil will work.
2. Grab two other medium bowls, one for dry and one for wet ingredients.
3. 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.)
4. On the right, sift some flour, salt, and baking powder.
5. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients ONLY until just combined. Don’t over-stir.
*See below for a whole conversation on why some white-cake bakers will literally kill me for putting egg yolks into this white cake recipe. But it tastes better. (It does, okay?)
6. Line the bottom of two 9-inch pans 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 (more on that below).
7. Bake the cakes at 325 for about 28-32 minutes. I like to bake my cakes one at a time because my oven is not exactly amazing. I’ve done 2 cakes at a time, but I wouldn’t do all 3 cakes at once, unless you have a pretty stellar oven that you trust.
8. Rotate each cake 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
If you look at the photo above of the layered cakes before I frosted them, you will see how torn up the outside edges are on the bottom two. This is because my cake pans are garbage apparently. I grabbed a new $6 one at the grocery store the 3rd time I made this cake, because I was tired of having to wait to bake my third cake (I only had 2 pans.) And that $6 cake pan did a way better job releasing my cake intact. You can see the top cake in that photo is perfectly intact. So the point is that high quality cake pans are actually important. (Or at least $6 grocery store ones are?? ha. That’s going to be a gamble.) I just bought these USA brand pans. My mother-in-law Kris swears by USA pans. And well, if Kris trusts it, then you all know that we should too ;) UPDATE: I’ve been using the USA pans for years now and they are phenomenal.)
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. As my friend Melissa once told me, “If you don’t like frosting, don’t eat cake.” Amen and amen.
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.)
How to Make White Frosting from Scratch
Soooo creamy! (All instructions also given in the recipe below)
- Beat 2 cups butter until completely smooth.
- Add powdered sugar and cream, alternating. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and then 1/4 cup cream. Repeat until all the sugar and cream has been added.
- 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. Be sure to scrape the sides!
- Assemble your cake once cool. Smear a bit of frosting on your cake stand so it doesn’t go sliding off, then place your cake on the stand.
- Add frosting 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 the frosting 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. (That’s a dare. Be sure to read that right. Just TRY not to eat it for breakfast, mwahahaha!)
What is the difference between white cake and vanilla cake?
How many types of “white cake” have you seen before? It turns out, there may be as many definitions of white cake as there are people baking white cake! This recipe produces the creamy homemade yellow you see in the pictures.
It is not the bright crayon-yellow of “yellow” cake mixes you buy in a box at the store, nor is it the bright white of many wedding cakes.
Some white cake recipe purists might be shaking their fists at me for adding the yolks to my white cake. By some definitions, a traditional white cake uses no egg yolks, and you are supposed to even beat the egg whites to get it SUPER DUPER fluffy and BRIGHT WHITE. (Think angel food cake). But guys, I tried it. It’s just not as flavorful.
We’re not baking a showy wedding cake here, we’re making a homemade white cake with a rich, creamy flavor and texture. Unless you’re going for wedding-white, I say no to egg-whites only.
Why is my white cake yellow?
Yup, you guessed it. The egg yolk makes your “white” cake take on a creamy yellow hue. My feeling is that taste is king. (Did you read the part above where I ate cake for breakfast?!?)
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!
What size cake pans do you recommend? Can I use a different size? If so, how will that affect the baking time?
This recipe calls for the batter to be poured into three 9-inch cake pans, meaning three round pans that are each 9 inches in diameter. I haven’t tried making this cake in any other size pans. There is a lot of batter, so it won’t work in two 9-inch pans.
Any pan that you try out (a bundt cake pan, a 9×13 inch cake pan, etc.) just be sure to only pour the batter into the pan about ⅔ of the way up the sides of the pan. Any extra batter will cause your cakes to rise too high and then fall in on themselves. You will have to use your best judgment to know when the cakes are done baking. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick to the center. If the toothpick comes out of the cake clean (meaning there’s no wet batter on it), the cake is done.
Can this simple white cake recipe be made into cupcakes?
Can it ever!
- You must use paper cupcake liners. Grease each cupcake liner with a non-stick spray if you are nervous about them sticking. I usually don’t bother.
- Fill each cupcake liner only ⅔ full. Do not overfill or they will rise high and then fall flat!
- Bake cupcakes at 325º F for 12-18 minutes.
- Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are done.
How do I make a cake more moist?
Listen, you’re going to get a moist cake from this recipe! It’s homemade and uses exceptional ingredients. That said, here are some tips for a moist cake:
- Don’t overmix the wet and dry ingredients. Mix ONLY until just combined, making sure to scrape the bottom to get any hidden pockets of dry ingredients.
- Sift your flour, salt, and baking powder to add lots of airiness.
- Don’t overbake. Set a timer and then check for doneness by inserting a toothpick to the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are done.
- Use sour cream and/or buttermilk for moisture (this recipe has both!)
And there you have it! The best white cake recipe that is moist, tall, fluffy, and flavorful all at once. Hallelujah!
I think this homemade white cake recipe would be stunning to serve after your holiday 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. ;)
Here are a few of my other BEST CAKES:
- Brown Sugar Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting << This is a yellow cake but with brown sugar in it. It’s my FAV.
- The Best Chocolate Cake I’ve Ever Had << Okay never mind. This one is actually my fav.
- Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Maple Pecan Frosting << This would be perfect for Easter coming up!
- Homemade Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting << You will not believe the amazing aromas from this cake
- Almond Sheet Cake << This one will surprise with how good it is!
- The Best Authentic Tres Leches Cake << So deliciously moist and sweet.
- Easy Lime Cake from Love from the Oven
- Strawberries and Cream Cake from Valerie’s Kitchen
- The Very Best Coconut Cake Recipe from Shugary Sweets
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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