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Perfect Vanilla Butter Cake

This is the only Vanilla Butter Cake recipe you’ll ever want or need. Mixing technique can make a big difference when making cake batter. Find out the best way to get a light and tender cake.

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When I was developing the base recipe for my wedding cake business I wanted a tender and melt-in-your mouth layer cake that could be stacked into a multi-tier wedding centerpiece or carved into a detailed 3-d creation. This Vanilla Butter Cake recipe was the basis for most of the cakes I sold at Cake Art Studio.

Recipe Ingredients

Vanilla cake ingredients in bowls with text overlay on the photo identifying the ingredients.

Ingredient Notes

  • Cake Flour – Has a lower protein content than all purpose flour so it makes a softer cake. I prefer bleached cake flour. Bleached cake flour is acidic which tenderizes the cake and allows the batter to absorb more liquid for a moister cake.
  • Sour Cream – Is used instead of milk as the “liquid” in this batter. Because sour cream is acidic it tenderizes the crumb of the cake and the added fat enriches the batter.
  • Eggs – Extra egg yolks in the batter enriches the cake and emulsifies the batter for an even and soft crumb. The whites are whipped and folded into the batter for an extra light and soft cake crumb.
  • Cream of Tatar – This acidic ingredient stabilizes the whipped egg whites and acidifies the batter for a softer crumb.

Professional bakers use the “Baker’s Percentage” to balance the ingredients in a recipe. You can find the exact percentages for this Vanilla Butter Cake recipe in this all-encompassing post describing how to create the best cake recipes.

How to make Vanilla Butter Cake

See the recipe card for detailed instructions and measurements.

A sheet of parchment paper with a circle cut out.
  • Draw an 8″ circle on parchment paper using your cake pan as a guide. Cut out two circles and use them to line your cake pans.
  • If you don’t have parchment paper butter and flour the bottom of the cake pan only, not the sides.
A bowl with eggs, vanilla and sour cream.  A bowl of flour, salt and baking powder.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the yolks, sour cream and vanilla.
  • Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
  • Mix the dry ingredients on low speed and add the butter. Mix until it forms a thick paste. Add the reserved sour cream.
  • Mix the batter on high speed until it is light and aerated. Scrape the bowl and beater.
  • With the mixer running on low, add the yolk mixture. Mix until combined.
  • Whip the whites with the cream of tarter and the remaining sugar. Do no overwhip the whites.
  • Fold the whites into the batter in two batches.
  • Fold just until there are no streaks of whites.
  • Evenly divide the batter between the two pans. Smooth to even level then use the tip of your spatula to make an “X” in the center of each cake. This will help the cake rise more evenly in the oven.
  • Bake until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes then cool completely before icing.
  • Visit this page to see how to assemble a perfect layer cake.

What’s the difference between vanilla cake and yellow cake?

Most people use the terms “vanilla cake” and “yellow cake” interchangeably. Vanilla is the flavoring in the cake. The cake is yellow because of the eggs in the cake.

That being said, not all vanilla cakes are yellow cakes. If you eliminate the egg yolks in the cake and make white cake flavored with vanilla, it too is a vanilla cake.

The Reverse Creaming Technique:

I always make my butter cakes using the “reverse creaming” method of mixing. When I developed this recipe for my cake business I only tested it using the reverse creaming technique since that’s the only way I make butter cakes.

Before posting this recipe I decided to do a quick kitchen experiment to back up my claims that reverse creaming is the way to go for this cake.

I used the same ingredients and mixed them with traditional creaming, reverse creaming and reverse creaming with the eggs separated and the whites whipped and folded in.

There were distinct differences between the three cakes.

  • Cake 1 (traditional creaming method) had an open and regular crumb, but was not as tender as I would like and it had a slightly oily mouth-feel.
  • Cake 2 (reverse creaming) was very tender, velvety and soft.
  • Cake 3 (reverse method with whipped whites) had a slightly irregular but very tender crumb. It was not quite as velvety as cake 2, but it was lighter and quite tender.
Three slices of vanilla cake side by side on a white background.

Three cakes with the exact same ingredients, but different mixing methods. Left=Traditional Method, Middle=Reverse Creaming, Right=Reverse with Whipped Whites

This is a really great all purpose yellow cake that is tender yet strong enough for stacking or carving. For more information about cake batter, visit the Baking School page.

Watch the recipe video to see how to do the “reverse creaming” method for a light and tender cake.

I like this recipe filled and iced with Italian Meringue Buttercream or Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

You might also like my Chocolate Butter Cake recipe. Can’t choose? Then make Marble Cake.

Now that you’ve made this recipe what should you do with all the extra egg whites? Check out this collection of recipes that use extra whites for some great ideas.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please consider leaving a 5-star review.

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Print Recipe
4.49 from 303 reviews

Vanilla Butter Cake Recipe

Perfectly tender and buttery vanilla cake layers. Super soft, yet strong enough for sculpted or wedding cakes.
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour
16 servings


  • 6 large egg yolks (room temperature)
  • 8 ounces sour cream (1 cup, room temperature, divided)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar (1 ½ cups, divided)
  • 9 ounces cake flour (2 cups)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter


  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line two 8"x3" round cake pans with a circle of parchment paper or butter and flour the bottom of the pans only, not the sides.
  • Combine the yolks, 1/2 the sour cream and the vanilla in a small bowl, whisk to combine, set aside.
    6 large egg yolks, 8 ounces sour cream, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Into a mixer bowl put 1 ¼ cups of the sugar, sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed for 10 seconds to distribute the leavening. Add the butter to the flour mixture. Mix on low until the butter is incorporated and the batter looks like a paste. Add the other ½ of the sour cream to the flour and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and mix about 3 minutes until the batter lightens in texture. If you're using a hand mixer add another minute or two to the total time.
    12 ounces granulated sugar, 9 ounces cake flour, ¾ teaspoon baking powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add ½ the egg yolk mixture. Mix until mostly incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the egg yolk mixture. Scrape the bowl and mix until incorporated.
  • In another bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium high until they form soft peaks. Turn the mixer to medium low and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Turn the mixer to medium high and whip the whites to full peak. Fold the whites into the base in 2 parts, folding just until there are no streaks of egg whites.
    3 large egg whites, ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
  • Divide the batter between the 2 pans and spread so it’s level.
  • Bake until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack. When fully cooled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight before filling and assembling the cake with your favorite frosting.


My Book
KA Stand Mixer
Round Cake Pan, 8 x 3-Inch
Parchment Sheets
Cooling Rack

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The cake is very soft the day that it’s baked. If you’d like to trim the crust and split the layers allow it to chill in the refrigerator until it’s firm enough to handle without breaking.
The filled cake can be kept at room temperature for several days (unless it has a perishable filling).
The cake cake be frozen for a month.


Serving: 16g | Calories: 295kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 166mg | Potassium: 56mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 535IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!
Recipe Rating


Wednesday 1st of March 2023

Hi can i half the ingredients measurements as i do not want too much batter?

Eileen Gray

Thursday 2nd of March 2023

Yes, certainly.


Sunday 28th of August 2022

For the amount of sugar, the measure is given in grams, ounces, and cups, but I don't think the three values are equivalent. 340g=12oz, but these aren't 1.5 cups (300g). From what I can tell, 340g would be 1.67 cups for sugar. Would you please check/clarify the sugar amount? Thanks


Friday 16th of September 2022

@Jeanette, I agree with you that most websites indicate 8 fluid oz of sugar weighs ~7.05 oz, but when I measured out a leveled cup of sugar, it actually weighed closer to 8 oz (more like 7.8 oz). I guess it depends on the density or crystal size of the granulated sugar, as well as how settled it is in the measuring cup. All the more reason to weigh our ingredients rather than using measuring cups.


Monday 29th of August 2022

@Eileen Gray, Thank you for replying. As a novice baker desiring to make a yummy cake for my mom's birthday, I spent several days researching recipes and techniques (thank you for all the great info on your site). Although your 8oz per cup resulting in 12oz=1.5 cups makes sense, I'm still confused about the weight in grams. Every site I've seen with both cups and grams listed shows 1 cup of sugar weighing 200 grams (or 2 cups weighing 400 grams, etc). So why would 1.5 cups of sugar weigh 340 grams instead of 300? Thanks for your patience with my question. I want to be sure I don't mess up mom's cake (and in case you couldn't tell, I'm very nervous about it).

Eileen Gray

Sunday 28th of August 2022

I use the conversion of 8oz per cup of sugar. So 1 1/2 cups would be 12 oz or 340g. 300g per 1 1/2 cups would be closer to 7oz per cup of sugar. When I dip a cup of sugar into the bin and fill it, then level it flat I always get very close to 8 oz per cup. So that is the conversion I use.

Diane V.

Tuesday 29th of March 2022

Can you use whipped cream as icing on outside of cake and buttercream when making dams? I’m going to make the “luscious lemon mousse cake”. You write such nice clear directions. Do you have whipped cream icing recipe?

Diane V.

Thursday 31st of March 2022

@Eileen Gray, Thank U so much for answering. I’m looking fwd to making in future. You are so clear in directions…I’m ordering your baking book from Amazon. Thanks again. Diane V. USA

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 29th of March 2022

Yes, you can use whipped cream. But do keep the cake refrigerated until serving so the cream doesn't soften too much. I don't have a particular whipped cream icing recipe. I sweeten a cup of whipped cream with 2 tablespoon of sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. At the store (if you're in the US) try to buy "heavy" cream rather than "heavy whipping cream" because it has a higher fat % and will be more stable.


Saturday 26th of March 2022

My daughter in law always requests yellow cake with chocolate frosting for her birthday. I have yet to find success with any recipe I’ve tried, last years attempt had the consistency of play doh. Is this recipe considered yellow cake?

Eileen Gray

Saturday 26th of March 2022

Yes. Yellow cake just means there are yolks in the batter.


Sunday 16th of January 2022

Hello! Im really new to baking so I enjoyed learning about the process. I don’t have cake flour can I use all purpose flour instead? Thank you!

Eileen Gray

Sunday 16th of January 2022

For each cup of cake flour you can use 3/4 cup of all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons of corn starch.