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Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

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.

an uniced vanilla buttermilk cake on a cake stand

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:

sifted dry ingredients for baking a vanilla cake
Sift the dry ingredients to remove lumps, aerate and distribute the salt and leavening.
a closeup shot of eggs and oil in a mixing bowl for cake batter
Emulsify the eggs, oil and sugar. This helps create an even crumb and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
a bowl of batter for a vanilla cake recipe make with oil
Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix just until combined. This is a fairly wet batter, which makes a very moist cake.
three cake pans filled with vanilla buttermilk cake batter
Divide the batter between 3 pans. If you only have 2 pans, put 1/3 of the batter in one pan and 2/3 of the batter in the other. Torte the larger cake after baking.
three vanilla buttermilk cake layers on a cake stand
I always trim the crusts from the layers before filling and icing.
By trimming away the browned edges, you’ll have a really pretty slice of cake.

For all you chocoholics, try this Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Old Fashioned Chocolate Frosting to satisfy your cravings.

Got buttermilk? Try these other fabulous cake recipes that use one of my favorite ingredients: Buttermilk Bundt Cake, Buttermilk Spice Cake, Blueberry Crumb 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.

a slice of vanilla buttermilk cake on a plate

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

The is the perfect old fashioned buttermilk Cake. The cake has a moist, fine crumb and lovely vanilla flavor. It's perfect filled and iced with Old Fashioned American Buttercream.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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)
  2. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the 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.
  5. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  6. Cool completely before filling and icing.

Notes

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.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Jean

Thursday 10th of November 2022

Can this be made in two layers instead of three?

Carol Gilbert

Sunday 1st of May 2022

Made the cake. It makes great strawberry short cake.

Emma

Sunday 24th of April 2022

Hi, How long does this cake keep for and can you freeze it ?

Eileen Gray

Monday 25th of April 2022

Yes, the cake can be frozen. Double wrap it in plastic to prevent freezer odors from getting into the cake. Will keep for at least a month if properly wrapped. The baked cake can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 days (refrigerate if you fill it with a perishable filling).

Alma

Thursday 24th of February 2022

Can you mix in the dry ingredients by hand instead of using the mixer? I don’t want to over mix and end up with a dry cake. My mixer throws flour when mixing flour into a running mixer. Any tips

Alma

Thursday 24th of February 2022

@Eileen Gray, so would it be better to stir the dry ingredients in just enough so flour ingredients is wet and then use the mixer as instructed

Eileen Gray

Thursday 24th of February 2022

Just to clarify, over mixing doesn't necessarily cause a dry cake. For certain recipes, over mixing can cause a tough cake. Yes, you can mix the flour in by hand. I would use a balloon whisk to avoid creating lumps of flour. If you're using a stand mixer the pouring shield really helps avoid flying flour.

Suzanne

Monday 21st of February 2022

Can I make these as cupcakes??

Eileen Gray

Monday 21st of February 2022

Yes.

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