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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.
  • 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.

You’ll also love my Genoise Sponge Cake recipe , White Cake Recipe and moist and tender Vanilla Butter Cake.

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
Print Recipe
4.69 from 333 reviews

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake Recipe

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.
Prep Time20 minutes
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
16 servings


  • 11 ¼ oz cake flour (2 ½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 oz vegetable oil (1 cup)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 oz buttermilk (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 16 oz granulated sugar (2 cups)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line the bottom of three 8"x3" round cake pans with parchment paper, or butter and flour the bottom of the pans (don't butter/flour the sides). (see note)
  • Sift 11 ¼ oz cake flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon table saltand ¼ teaspoon baking soda and set aside.
  • Combine 8 oz vegetable oil, 4 large eggs, 8 oz buttermilk, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 16 oz granulated 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 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.


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

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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.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 333kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 148mg | Potassium: 56mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 83IU | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!
Recipe Rating


Monday 21st of August 2023

Can this be made with only egg whites to achieve a more white cake?

Eileen Gray

Monday 21st of August 2023

I haven't tested it so I could say for sure, but I'm guessing it would work. I also have a recipe for White Cake that you can try.


Friday 11th of August 2023

Hi, thank you for this recipe!

I just made it, and the flavor was really good.

I think I made a mistake somewhere though, I made 2 batches of this, and both came out with a bit of a dome, and I think the edges are too brown/hard as well. There were also little wells when I flip the cake over, not a smooth and flat bottom.

Did I do something wrong in the process? I was afraid that maybe I overmixed the batter on my first try, so I was much more careful on the second, but the result was almost the same. Hope for some troubleshooting tips when you have time, thank you!

Eileen Gray

Friday 11th of August 2023

It sounds like maybe they baked a little too fast because of the browned sides and domed top. Do you have an oven thermometer? I know my oven runs hot and need to monitor it with an oven thermometer.


Tuesday 6th of June 2023

I’ve made this cake for several birthdays with rave reviews. Everyone loves it! I’d like to make a slightly taller cake this time…have you ever increased the recipe amounts with any success? I don’t need to double it. Maybe just 25 to 50% more batter? I can do the math, but it makes for some weird measurements, and I’m not sure which ingredients to round down and which ones to round up.

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 6th of June 2023

Do you need more cake or just want a taller cake? If you just want a taller cake you could bake more layers in smaller pans. If you baked two 8" cake you could bake three 6" cakes for a taller cake. If you let me know what pan sizes you want to use I can suggest how to multiply the recipe.

Barb A. J.

Saturday 11th of February 2023

I’m looking for a cake recipe to use Buttermilk before it goes bad. My question is : Can I bake this in a Bundt pan instead of layers ? If so, should I grease & flour (baking spray) the whole inside of the pan, esp. beings you said not to grease the sides of the pans ? I want to do this right for my family and me, of course. Thanks !!!

Eileen Gray

Sunday 12th of February 2023

Always grease and flour a Bundt pan as the cake will stick in the crevices. For regular round and square cake pans I don't great the sides because I can easily run a small spatula or knife around the cake to release it from the pan. You could make this as a bundt cake, but I have a recipe for Buttermilk Bundt Cake which has a more typical Bundt cake texture.

Olaribigbe idowu ogundare

Tuesday 24th of January 2023