This soft-as-clouds Vanilla Layer Cake is super simple yet stunningly elegant. It is made of tender and fluffy cakes layered and coated with pristine and smooth vanilla buttercream. This recipe will show you a way to keep it moist and soft for days!
The Best Vanilla Layer Cake
In the world of cake, vanilla may be considered the most basic of flavours. But its simplicity is what gives it that classic beauty that never grows out of style! Furthermore, this cake is easy to make and requires no special equipment. A two-layered treat made of perfectly baked cake smothered with simple vanilla buttercream frosting.
So what’s the secret to a moist, fluffy cake batter? Using half oil and half butter. Oil gives you a cake that stays moist for several days, while butter adds a rich flavour and fluffiness! Trust me, this cake is hard to resist. I won’t judge you if you go in for seconds (or thirds, or fourths!)
A Cake for All Occasions
This classic dessert recipe works great for any occasion. Keep it clean and simple by using a ‘naked cake’ style for an everyday dessert that you can enjoy at home. Or, you can take it up a notch by adding some colorful sprinkles and edible sparkles to bring to casual celebrations like birthdays and reunions.
You can also transform it into an extravagant dessert by adding fresh fruits, nuts, edible flowers, and other cake decorations. However simple or fancy you make it, one thing will remain true about this cake- it is delicious and creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness in it!
For the Vanilla Cake:
- Plain / all-purpose flour: this reliable flour is easy to find and is perfect for making cakes with soft and moist crumbs.
- Can I use cake flour instead? Sure! Using cake flour will give you lighter and softer crumbs that are also really good for this cake! Just add 2 tablespoons of cake flour for every cup of plain flour used.
- Can I use a gluten-free flour brand? No problem, just substitute it 1:1
- Baking powder: works as the leavening agent that makes your cakes light and airy. Without this, your cake will be heavy and grainy with an unappealing texture.
- Caster / superfine sugar: – adds sweetness and contributes to moisten the crumbs.
- Can I use granulated sugar? Yes, the only difference between them is their texture. Caster sugar is more refined and dissolves much more quickly, which results in a fluffier and moister cake.
- Can I use brown sugar? Absolutely, it will give the batter a deeper flavour due to its molasses content. Take note that using dark sugar will also affect the colour of the cake.
- Salt: Adding a pinch of salt to the batter will not result in a salty cake. Rather it intensified the vanilla flavour and allows its delicate taste to shine through.
- Canola oil (or any other flavour-free vegetable oil): is considered a liquid fat and is lighter than butter. This makes the cake moist and light. Corn oil, palm oil, or grapeseed oil are considered suitable substitutes.
- Unsalted butter: Adding butter gives the cake a rich flavour that oil lacks. This is why both are used in this recipe!
- Can I use vegan butter? Sure you can! However, vegan butter does not exactly taste the same as its dairy counterpart. So expect a difference in flavour.
- Eggs: As the cake bakes, the protein from both the yolk and the white coagulates, giving the crumb a great structure and form.
- Can I use a vegan substitute for this? A great dairy-free replacement would be applesauce of flax eggs.
- Buttermilk: If you cannot find one, simply combine a cup of whole dairy milk with a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon. Though buttermilk has a tangy element to it, it will not affect the overall taste of the cake. It is essential in achieving soft and tender crumbs.
- Can I make vegan buttercream? It is simple enough to do. Just use non-dairy milk like almond, oat, or soy milk.
- Vanilla essence or extract: Adds a tantalizing aroma and taste to any baked goods. Vanilla extract and essence can be used interchangeably. Vanilla extract has a richer, deeper flavour than vanilla essence.
- Boiling water: gradually pouring it over the batter will allow you to combine everything easier, resulting in a smoother mixture. No unnecessary dry lumps!
For the Vanilla Buttercream
- Unsalted butter: Make sure that it is softened but not melted.
- Icing sugar / powdered sugar: A staple when making frosting or icing.
- Vanilla essence or extract
- Milk: It is used to combine all ingredients and thin out your frosting for the perfect consistency.
- Food colouring, optional: A small bit of food colouring can be used to make a light or pastel colour on your cake if you want a dash of colour. If you want more vibrant hues, simply add more.
How to Make Vanilla Layer Cake
This recipe yields decadent, light cakes that taste as good as anything you buy from the bakery! Let’s get started.
- Prepare the following before you start:
- Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan/convection) or 180°C / 355°F.
- Use 2 of 20cm or 8inch round cake tins and line them with parchment paper.
- Mix dry ingredients: Sift the flour and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar and salt, then whisk. Set aside
- Cream butter and add eggs: In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and melted butter. Whisk in the eggs until well combined. Slowly add in the buttermilk while whisking. Finally, add the vanilla extract.
- Combine all ingredients: Mix the wet and dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir the ingredients together with a wooden spoon or a flat spatula. Pour small amounts of hot water gradually while constantly whisking until the batter is smooth.
- Bake: Evenly spread the batter between the two tins and bake for 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tins before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
This vanilla cake is covered with a classic vanilla buttercream frosting that is simple to make. We’re using the old-fashioned creaming method. Here is how to put it together:
- Cream. Using an electric mixer or a hand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, milk, and food coloring (if using). Set it at low speed for a minute or until the ingredients are mostly blended.
- Make adjustments. Set the speed to medium-high and continue to beat for 5 minutes, scrape and clean the sides. The mixture should look light in color and fluffy.
Time to assemble!
This is the point when you can let your creativity run free. Depending on your mood or the occasion, you can go plain or jazz it up.
- Secure. Spread a little frosting in the middle of the plate to secure the cake. Place one cooled cake with the correct side up. Apply a thick layer of icing and spread.
- Layer. Place the second cooled cake on top of the first cake upside-down. Add another heavy layer of frosting on top. Smooth the frosting from the center to the cake’s corners, pushing any extra icing down the sides.
- Decorate. Spread the icing evenly over the sides of the cake with a long flat spatula. Scrape away any extra buttercream. Put some sprinkles, sparkling sugar, or flower frosting on top.
Chill. To firm up the buttercream, place the cake in the refrigerator. Cut into slices and enjoy!
- Frosted cake. Use a cake carrier or transfer the cake to a large sealed container to lock in the moisture. It can last in the fridge for a week or a month in the freezer.
- Sliced cake. Placing a plastic wrap on the sliced edge will help prevent the cake from drying out. Then store as instructed above.
- Make-ahead layers and frosting. Cover the cake layers with parchment paper on top and bottom, then double wrap them in plastic wrap before freezing. Make-ahead frosting can be kept in the fridge for up to a month or frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Once it has thawed, give it a thorough stir to get the consistency back to smooth.
For the Vanilla Cakes
- 2 1/2 cups plain / all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups caster / superfine sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup canola oil or any other flavourless vegetable oil
- 125 g (4.5 oz / 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk - see notes for substitutes
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence OR 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup boiling water
For the Vanilla Buttercream
- 250 g (9 oz / 1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups icing sugar / powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla essence OR 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp milk, plus more as needed
- 1/4 tsp food colouring, optional.
For the Vanilla Cakes
- Preheat the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan/convection) or 180°C / 355°F. Grease and line TWO 20cm (8 inch) round cake tins. The batter is fairly thin, so only use springform tins if they are tight-fitting.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Whisk in the caster sugar and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil and melted butter. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. While still whisking, slowly stream in the buttermilk. Finally, whisk in the vanilla.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon or flat spatula to stir together the ingredients until just combined.
- Whisk in the boiling water, a little bit at a time, and continue to whisk until the batter is smooth and combined.
- Evenly distribute the batter between the two tins and bake both cakes together for 40-45 minutes or until lightly golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Vanilla Buttercream
- Add butter, sugar, vanilla, milk and food colouring (if using) to the large bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand mixer).
- Beat on low speed for 1 minute, or until the ingredients are somewhat combined.
- Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, scraping down as needed, until very pale, light and fluffy. If the frosting is too stiff, beat in 1 tsp of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
- Spread a little bit of frosting on the centre of your serving plate. Place one cooled cake the right way up onto the plate. Spread with a thick layer of frosting.
- Flip the second cooled cake upside-down onto the first cake. Top with another thick layer of frosting. Smooth the frosting from the centre of the cake towards the edges, pushing excess frosting down the sides of the cake.
- Using a long flat spatula (or the back of a dessert spoon), spread the frosting evenly over the sides of the cake. Scrape off excess buttercream for a 'naked cake' effect.
- Refrigerate the cake to set the buttercream firm. Slice up and enjoy!
- The frosted cake will last up to 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature. It may last 1-2 extra days if kept in the fridge.
Substitutions & Tips
- Homemade buttermilk: combine 1 cup (250 mL) of whole dairy milk with 1 tsp of vinegar (any kind) or lemon juice. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before using.
- Regular sugar vs caster sugar: regular granulated sugar will give you a denser, heavier cake. Caster sugar more easily dissolves into the cake batter and gives you a fluffier, moister cake.
- Oil: use any mildly flavoured vegetable or canola oil. Avoid strongly flavoured oils such as olive, avocado, flax etc. or you will be able to taste them in the cake.
- Salted butter: if you are using salted butter, omit the added salt.
- Vanilla: this cake works best with a high-quality (NOT imitation) vanilla or vanilla essence. Avoid alcohol-based brands.
Nutrition Information:Serving Size: 1/12th of Frosted Cake
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 657Total Fat: 36.5gSaturated Fat: 17.6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16.1gCholesterol: 127.6mgSodium: 368.3mgCarbohydrates: 78.5gFiber: 0.7gSugar: 58.3gProtein: 5.8g