Easy Classic Vanilla Layer Cake

White easy classic vanilla layer cake with sprinkles on a white cake stand

Cakes are central to so many occasions. It’s your birthday? You get a birthday cake! Wedding time? The cake is the show-stopping centerpiece. High school graduation party? A cake to congratulate. Retirement? Yep, another cake! 

Cakes bring people together. We sing around the cake together, we cheer in unison, we gather to watch the bride and groom cut the cake — if there’s a celebration, its time for cake!
Our easy classic vanilla layer cake is the answer when you need a great cake but you’re short on time. We take a few short cuts by starting with a box of vanilla or white cake mix. Next we transform it with a few extra ingredients like pudding mix and sour cream. Add our homemade buttercream frosting and you’ll have a winner!
Easy classic vanilla layer cake is moist and has a gentle vanilla flavor. It’s light in texture and is the perfect base for our buttercream frosting, as a result, our cake and frosting make a tasty pair. We added some vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract to our buttercream frosting for a little gourmet touch. You might be able to see the little vanilla speckles!


You can make this cake in a 9×13-inch rectangular cake pan. Or, if you want to dress it up, make a two or three layer cake. Traditionally, I’ll make this cake in two 8-inch round cake pans. Sometimes, I’ll feel a bit more creative and use three 6-inch round cake pans like the cake pictured. I think it’s fun to have a taller, more narrow cake. 

Assembling the Cake

While assembling the cake I think it’s best to put all layers upside down. This gives you a more level top with distinct edges. You’ll want to place the first layer down, then frost it with about one cup if frosting. Place the next layer upside down and centered over the frosting. For three layers, repeat.

Frosting the Cake

Next, lightly cover the cake with a thin coat of frosting. This is called a “crumb coat.” Put your cake in the fridge or freezer for at least an hour to set the frosting. Once the crumb coat is set, you can continue by frosting the sides and the top. I used a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton 1M star tip for my frosting swirls a top the cake. Then I added heavy sprinkles up the sides of the cake, and a light dusting on top.  
Easy classic vanilla layer cake is just what you’ll want for your next celebration, or the next time you need a dessert. Whichever size of pan you use, we hope you’ll add this recipe to your lineup of favorite cakes!



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Yield: 12 servings

Easy Classic Vanilla Layer Cake

Easy Classic Vanilla Layer Cake

Easy Classic Vanilla Layer Cake features an enhanced version of a box cake mix. Add a few extra ingredients for a simple, moist and delicious three layer vanilla cake iced with butter cream frosting.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 23 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 3 minutes


For Cake

  • 1 White Cake Mix (I like Duncan Hines Classic White best)
  • 1 package (3 oz.) dry Vanilla Cook & Serve pudding mix
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • (3 6 or 8-inch round metal cake pans)

For Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional--the added flavor is really good)
  • 8-cups sifted confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream


For Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For a 3 layer cake: Lightly grease sides and bottom of three 6-inch (if you want it taller and narrower) or 8-inch (if you want it shorter and wider like a traditional cake) round cake pans.

Cut parchment paper by tracing the bottom of pan and insert circle of paper to cover only bottom of pan. (For a 2 layer cake, use two 8-inch round metal cake pans.)

Blend cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, water and oil in a large bowl at low speed of electric mixer about 30 seconds to moisten all ingredients.

Beat at medium speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes.

Use a rubber scraper to scrape sides of bowl and pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake immediately. (20-23 minutes for 3 layers; 25-28 minutes for 2 layers.)

Note: Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cake springs back when touched gently.

Cool cakes in pan on cooling rack about 15 minutes, then remove cakes from pan by running a metal spatula between the edge of cake and pan and inverting cakes on cooling rack.

For Buttercream Frosting:

1.   In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer.

2.   Add vanilla & almond.

3.   Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.

4.   When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.

5.   Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. (I like to frost immediately after making frosting while it is soft and smooth.)

To Frost Cake:

I find it easiest to frost the cake layers if they are frozen (see cake notes). For a 3-layer cake I like to stack each layer upside down. Make sure they are level by pushing layer down while slightly warm or trimming/shaving off a bit if there is a pronounced dome.

For each layer, place a big blob of frosting in the middle; then push to sides with spatula while turning the cake. Frosting should slightly pass the edges of the cake.

Stack layers upside down and repeat.

I find it easiest to fill pastry bag and large tip with frosting, then pipe around sides of the cake in wide stripes. Go back with narrow metal off set spatula to smooth and spread.

Finish with top layer.


Cake Notes:

Once cool, wrap and freeze until ready to use. It’s much easier to frost a frozen cake layer!

Frosting Note:

For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 749 Total Fat: 34g Saturated Fat: 15g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 17g Cholesterol: 85mg Sodium: 250mg Carbohydrates: 112g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 108g Protein: 2g

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