Vanilla Buttermilk Cake is the old fashioned layer cake we all know and love. The cake has a moist, fine crumb and lovely vanilla flavor.
I love this cake because it has a very soft and moist crumb that is reminiscent of a cake made from a box-mix.
WHAT??? How dare I talk about cake mix in this everything-baked-from-scratch-all-the-time blog.
But wait, stay with me a minute. While I’m convinced that I can always spot a cake made from a mix because there is a certain artificial flavor that comes through, cake mixes do have one thing going for them.
Cakes made from a mix have a the super soft, very fine crumb that many, many people think of as the quintessential old fashioned layer cake. It’s the kind of cake that I grew up with, and maybe you did too.
But we don’t have to resort to using cake mix.
Why is Vanilla Buttermilk Cake so soft and tender?
- There are two secret ingredients in this recipe that create the type of super-fine crumb you get from a cake mix — buttermilk and oil.
- Buttermilk is acidic and acidic ingredients tenderize the cake crumb.
- Buttermilk has a lovely tangy flavor and helps moisturize the cake.
- Oil stays liquid at room temperature and when chilled, so cakes made with oil are softer than cakes made with butter.
- Oil has more water than butter, so the wet batter bakes up into a very moist cake.
- We don’t “cream” the batter as we do with a butter cake, The air in the batter comes from emulsifying the batter and from the leavening. This means we get lots and lots of tiny air bubbles in the batter. That translates to a very fine and even crumb that melts in your mouth.
Scroll through the step by step process photos to see exactly how to make Vanilla Buttermilk Cake:
For a real old-fashioned slice of heaven, fill and frost this cake with simple-to-make American Buttercream. If you prefer your frosting less sweet, try Italian Meringue Buttercream or Ermine Frosting.
If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.
- 2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz, 315g) cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (8 oz, 240 ml) vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (8 oz, 240 ml) buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (16 oz, 448g) granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of three 8" round cake pans with parchment paper, or butter and flour the bottom of the pans (don't butter/flour the sides). (see note)
- Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda and set aside.
- Combine the oil, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and sugar in a mixer bowl. Mix on medium speed to combine the ingredients, continue mixing for 2-3 minutes to emulsify the ingredients. With the mixer running on low, add the flour mixture.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
- Cool completely before filling and icing.
If you only have two pans you can bake 1/3 of the batter in one pan and 2/3 of the batter in the other pan. Allow extra time for the thicker cake to bake. Once the cakes have cooled, split the larger cake in 1/2 horizontally for a total of 3 layers.
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