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. This is the best vanilla cake recipe, and it's an easy cake recipe.
Alternative Homemade vanilla white cake
How to make a layer cake
Assembling the cake
How to frost a cake
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Easy Classic Vanilla Layer Cake
For Cake (short cut)
- 1 White Cake Mix I like Duncan Hines Classic White best
- 1 3 ounce package dry Vanilla Cook & Serve pudding mix
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup water
- ⅓ cup oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 6-inch or 8-inch round metal cake pans
(Alternative) For Homemade Vanilla White Cake or Cupcakes
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup butter
- 2 ¾ cups sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- 3 eggs large
- 1 ¼ cups milk
For Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 8 cups powdered sugar sifted
- ½ cup milk or cream
For Cake (short cut):
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Prepare your cake pans. For a 3 layer cake: Lightly grease sides and bottom of three 6-inch (if you want it taller and narrower) or 2 8-inch round cake pans (if you want it shorter and wider like a traditional cake). Cut parchment paper by tracing the bottom of pan and insert circle of paper to cover only bottom of pan.
- 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, divide and pour batter into prepared pans.
- For 3 layer cake bake 20-23 minutes. For 2 layer cake 25-28 minutes. 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.
(Alternative) Homemade Vanilla White Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pans and line 9x 13 cake pan or round pans with parchment paper to fit.
- Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl, set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed to soften butter. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each one.
- Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to beaten mixture.Beat on low speed just until flour disappears.
- Fill cake pans with batter. If using a 9x13 inch pan, bake for 23-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If using two 9-inch round cake pans, bake for 23-28 minutes. If using two 8-inch round cakes pans bake for 26-30 minutes. If using three 6-inch cake pans bake for 18-21 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
For Buttercream Frosting:
- In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla & almond extract.
- Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.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 the next layer on upside down and repeat frosting process. Repeat with last layer.
- 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 frosting around the outside of the cake.
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