Fluffy White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

by Natasha on February 26, 2013

Cake, glorious cake!

Purple Vanilla Birthday Cake-3

It’s hard to believe that until recently, I rarely made vanilla cakes from scratch. In fact, I rarely made them at all. I found them to be too tempermental, bland in taste, and not worth the effort. All I can say in my defense is, what was I thinking?! It’s true, when not done right, vanilla cakes can be dull and dry, but they can also be magnificent! The recipe I’m sharing today is my favorite so far. It’s light, fluffy, and full of vanilla flavor.

I think that the turning point came for me when I got a kitchen scale. If you bake often, it’s worth the investment. Your cakes will turn out so much better if the measurements are accurate. I do everything by weight when I bake now, especially cakes. The results are so much more consistent. Oh, and if you don’t want your cake to be dry, don’t over bake this cake. Dry cakes are a sad, sad thing.

Vanilla Cake

The original recipe, from The Cake Bible, makes two 9-inch layers, but I scaled it down to fit two 7-inch round pans. I love my 7-inch pans. They’re just the right size to make a cake for a small gathering. They’re also just big enough to make a proper looking birthday cake that’s not too diminutive (although I have nothing against diminutive desserts). This recipe will also work in 8-inch pans, but it won’t be as tall, and you may need to adjust the baking time by a few minutes.

I also added a healthy dose of vanilla bean paste to the batter, since I love flecks of vanilla bean in my cake. It just makes it feel more…vanilla-y. If you want a whiter cake, you can use clear vanilla extract, but if you’re going for taste, use the good stuff.

Vanilla Cake

While I love a good vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream, my friends prefer the American variety. I was only 1/5 of the equation eating this cake, so I compromised and went with a not to sweet American Buttercream. However, I had to have my way when it came to the color, and in true Cake Merchant fashion, it had to be purple.

Fluffy White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Yield: One 2 layer 7-inch cake

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 3 large egg whites (90 grams), at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (200 grams) sifted cake flour
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
  • For the frosting:
  • 3 1/2 sticks (28 tablespoons or 396 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups (313 grams)  powdered sugar, sifted
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons (15-20 ml) heavy cream (or milk)
  • food coloring of your choice (optional)

Instructions

    For the cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line 2 7-inch round
  2. In a bowl, combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup of the milk, and the vanilla bean paste.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using the paddle attachment, beat on low for 30 seconds to combine.
  4. Add the butter and remaining milk and beat on low until moistened. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and for 90 seconds.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg mixture in 3 separate additions, beating on medium after each addition.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans (I used a scale to do this). Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cakes on wire racks for 10-15 minutes. After they are slightly cooled, run a knife around the edge of the pan, and invert the cakes onto the wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.
  8. For the frosting:
  9. With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it becomes pale and creamy (2-3 minutes).
  10. Add the powdered sugar and salt and beat on low until combined. Turn up to medium and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  11. Add the vanilla extract and beat on medium, about 3 minutes.
  12. Add the cream 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Add the food coloring, one drop at a time until you reach the desired color. Beat until the food coloring is fully incorporated.
  13. Assembly
  14. Place one layer of the cake on an 8-inch cake board. Place 1 cup of the frosting on top, and spread evenly with a palette knife. Place the second layer on top of the first.
  15. Place a generous scoop of frosting on the top of the cake, and spread evenly across the top of the cake. Work your way around the sides until the entire cake is covered with a thin layer of frosting. I find that a turntable is helpful when frosting a layer cake. Let the crumb coat set in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  16. Once the crumb coat has set, spread a thicker layer of frosting on the top and sides of the crumb coat to create a smooth finish. Use the leftover frosting to pipe onto the cake and top with sprinkles.
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Notes:
Cake recipe adapted from The Cake Bible
Don’t open the oven too early. If you want to open the oven to check on the cake while it is baking, wait at least 20 minutes before you do, or the cake may fall.
kitchen scale and an oven thermometer are invaluable tools when it comes to baking cakes.
My favorite video tutorials on crumb coating and smoothing a cake are from Zoe Bakes.
I use a turntable and an offset spatula for frosting the cake.
I used two of these 7-inch pans for making this cake.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aimee @ ShugarySweets February 27, 2013 at 7:45 am

This is very similar to my white cake recipe!!! GLORIOUS!! your photos are beautiful, and so is that cake :)
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2 Natasha February 27, 2013 at 11:31 am

Thank you, Aimee!

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3 Erika February 27, 2013 at 10:35 am

LOVE! Can you please teach me your cake assembly/decorating/photographing secrets? I just made a cake for my friend’s birthday that was butt-ugly. But actually. Your frosting looks so perfect I thought it was fondant! Good to know that you love your 7″ cake pans–I feel like I should invest in some because my 9-inchers always feel too big for occasions other than a giant bday party. And I got a kitchen scale for Christmas so I really should start using it! The only problem is a lot of the recipes I use don’t use weight measurements…would you recommend the Cake Bible as a cake cookbook?
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4 Natasha February 27, 2013 at 11:43 am

Thanks, Erika! What tools do you use to frost your cake? I’ve added some links to the ones I use at the bottom. I took some cake decorating classes, and each cake I made got a little bit better, but the tutorials I linked to are super helpful as well. To be honest, this cake was not perfectly smooth. I just didn’t take a picture of the side that looked messy!
My favorite cakes have come from the Cake Bible and Baking Illustrated. Both use weight measurements, and both have explanations that go with each cake. Hope that helps!

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5 Erika February 28, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Haha um well…to be completely honest, I use butter knives, spatulas, and whatever else happens to be lying around. I just don’t understand how to use offset spatulas even though everyone raves about them! Thanks for pointing out your links–I missed them the first time but I will definitely check them out! And super helpful book recommendations, thanks! :)
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6 Julia February 27, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Wow you make really beautiful cakes!! It has never been my strong suit..can’t wait to see what else you make! :)

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7 Natasha February 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Thanks, Julia!

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8 Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes February 27, 2013 at 1:17 pm

This is such a gorgeous cake!! I may be partial to purple, but this cake is just beautiful! Love it…
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9 Natasha February 27, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Thank you Ashley!

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10 sally @ sallys baking addiction February 27, 2013 at 7:37 pm

This has to be the most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen Natasha! It’s like a piece of art! I’m glad you added extra vanilla. I always tend to do so when I’m baking white cakes or cupcakes. I am now drooling all over my keyboard. I want a huge fat slice for dessert right now!!
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11 Natasha February 28, 2013 at 9:04 am

Thanks, Sally! I agree, extra vanilla is never a bad thing!

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12 Averie @ Averie Cooks February 28, 2013 at 3:22 am

The color is just STUNNING! I want that….both the color and the flavor!

Thanks for stopping by earlier!

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13 Natasha February 28, 2013 at 9:06 am

Thanks, Averie! I’ve been a fan of your recipes for a while now, and your photos are beautiful!

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14 Anjo Angela Lim February 28, 2013 at 6:52 am

Um, HELLO?! You absolutely are not allowed to dangle such scrumptious, amazing looking cakes in front of us when we have no chance to partake in scarfing said cakes down!!! Otherwise…awesome! I love the hue of the buttercream, and the decadent swirls and sprinkles on top. The inside looks so fluffy and moist too. Just, UGH. Fedex me some, please. <3
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15 Natasha February 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

Haha, thanks! If I could Fedex some, I would. It might save me some calories!

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16 Nami | Just One Cookbook February 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Hi Natasha! Thanks for visiting my blog! Nice to meet you! I came to your blog and the first thing I saw was this amazing cake! WOW…so gorgeous! It does look fluffy and delicious. One day I hope to make a cake like this. :)
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17 Natasha March 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

Thanks, Nami! It’s nice to meet you as well.

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18 Laura Dembowski March 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Oh, I love white cake, but haven’t made or eaten it in forever, as it’s quite hard to find unless baking it yourself. I need to get to work. It looks delightful – the purple frosting doesn’t hurt either! I love Italian buttercream and almost never make American buttercream anymore, particularly for a cake as lovely as this.
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19 Natasha March 2, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Thanks, Laura! I love Italian buttercream as well.

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20 Julia | JuliasAlbum.com March 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm

This is such a beautiful cake! You’re masterful! I am pinning it to my board.
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21 Natasha March 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Thank you Julia, and thanks for the pin!

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22 Kami March 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

can this cake be made in a 11×13 pan? I need to make a 1/2 sheet cake.

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23 David April 11, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Loved the recipe, my cake came out perfect using the weight measures!

I kept mine plain old white and added skor bits to the sides and some coloured sugar to the top. Thank you very much for posting.

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24 Natasha April 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I’m glad it turned out well for you, David!

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25 Nancy May 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm

I baked this ‘fluffy white cake’ and I followed it exactly to the recipe and it was hard, thin and not fluffy at all!! I’m very disappointed:(

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26 Natasha May 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I’m sorry it didn’t turn out well for you. This recipe is from The Cake Bible, and I’ve made it many times with great results. Did you weigh your ingredients, and were all your ingredients at room temperature? Oven temperature or over mixing also may have something to do with your results. If you want help troubleshooting, send me an email.

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27 Fiona May 30, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I just made this recipe into cupcakes and it is honestly the best vanilla cake recipe I have ever used. it’s now in my personal recipe journal and will be the only one I use when wanting a white cake. thank you thank you thank you

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28 Natasha May 31, 2013 at 11:03 am

I’m so glad you these turned out well for you, Fiona!

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29 Peacelovejoy July 4, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Hello,
thank you for sharing this recipie. It looks lovely but i just have one question.
Is the flour measurement before or after sifting?
I have made this for a friends wedding and I hope I’ve got it right!

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30 Natasha July 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

The measurement is after the flour has been sifted. I hope it turned out well for you!

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31 Rebecca July 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

The best vanilla cake ever. I’ve just baked & decorated it. The softest ever.
I just added alil more milk & an extra egg white because the batter wasn’t runny

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32 Natasha July 18, 2013 at 7:57 am

I’m glad you liked it!

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33 Katalini September 10, 2013 at 6:12 am

Your recipes & ideas are so similar to the ones I see on Rosie’s blog which is called sweetapolita. Your cakes even look like hers and the recipes are very similar. Ill let her know about your blog & let her decide for herself.

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34 Natasha September 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Your comment probably wasn’t intended this way, but I’ll take it as a compliment. I’m a big fan of Rosie’s blog, and I don’t think my cakes look nearly as good as hers. However, she did not invent the reverse creaming method. This recipe is from the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

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35 marie October 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

Would whipping cream or double cream be the same as heavy cream?:)

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36 Natasha October 2, 2013 at 9:35 am

Double cream in the UK has a higher fat content than heavy cream. It’s not available here in the US (although I wish it were) and I’ve never tried it in frosting before. You can substitute milk for the cream.

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37 Vianna October 13, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Hi! I just tried your cake recipe a couple days ago for some cupcakes and they turned out really well! I was just wondering if you had measurements or any suggestions as to how to convert the recipe to make two 9 inch cakes since those are the only size pans I have. Thank you!!

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38 Natasha October 15, 2013 at 10:48 am

If you multiply the ingredients by 1.5, you will have enough for 2 9-inch round cakes. Ex. instead of 2 cups of flour, you will need 3, etc.

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39 Faye January 8, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Hello, would it also be possible to bake the cake as a whole and then cut it into two, or is that not advisable?

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40 Natasha January 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm

If you are using 8×2 inch pans, the batter will not fit into one pan without spilling over.

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41 Jordan May 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Hi. The cake is beautiful! My question is (and I am currently measuring out ingredients to bake this for my son’s 1st birthday party tomorrow…) how much flour am I actually using? Because 200 grams is not equal to 2 cups…it’s 400 grams. I don’t want to end up with a dense cake. Thanks so much!

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42 Jordan May 9, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Not 400g, but rather 256g. Sorry.

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43 Natasha May 9, 2014 at 10:19 pm

You want to measure the cake flour after it has been sifted, so it should be about 100 grams per cup. Also, cake flour is lighter than AP flour. Here’s the resource I used- http://www.joyofbaking.com/flour.html

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