Classic White Cake

May 31, 2018

The classics never go out of style, especially when it comes to cake flavors. This light and fluffy classic white cake with whipped vanilla buttercream should be a staple in everyone’s kitchen. 

This classic white cake with vanilla buttercream was my very first post on Cake by Courtney. It was two and a half years ago right after Avery turned 2. I remember asking her about what she wanted for her birthday and she never talked about toys. All she requested was a pink birthday with pink cake (clearly thinking about only the important things!). So, that’s exactly what she got! Pink decorations, pink clothes, pink presents, and a pink cake.

The original recipe I used for Avery’s cake was from Sweetapolita. It’s a great basic vanilla cake but it was always coming out a little dry for me – no matter how carefully I watched the layers as they baked. So, over the last year or so, I’ve been testing out other white cake recipes and finally developed one I absolutely love.


Classic White Cake

I tried to mimic my cake after the flavor of a white box cake mix, which I grew up on and loved as a child. This cake is tender and fluffy and holds a subtle and kind of sweet vanilla flavor, thanks to the use of clear vanilla extract instead of pure vanilla extract.

As you make this cake, it’s important to remember not to overmix the batter. Overmixing any cake batter is one of the main reasons it sinks while baking. Also, take a look at your baking powder to make sure it’s fresh. This cake relies on a good amount of baking powder to help it rise. If your baking powder is more than 6 months old, throw it away and grab a new container.

Whipped Vanilla Buttercream

I’ve paired this classic white cake with my all-time favorite vanilla buttercream. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I have a few tricks to making the perfect buttercream. I actually just talked about them in my post How to Make the Perfect Birthday Cake. The reader’s digest version of what you can read more about in that post includes:

  1. Sift your powdered sugar
  2. Use cold butter
  3. Add heavy whipping cream
  4. Beat for about 5 minutes on medium-high
  5. Mix by hand with a wooden spoon for a few minutes as well

Following these 5 little steps is a game changer to your buttercream!

The texture becomes so much lighter and silkier. The color also lightens up, which is nice if you’re trying to achieve a nearly white buttercream.

This classic white cake is a great base for so many frosting and filling flavors too. I’ve paired it with raspberry, strawberry, lemon, chocolate… the list is endless.

Enjoy! You can follow me on Instagram @cakebycourtney for more tips and recipes on all things cake!

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Classic White Cake

5 from 44 votes
Tender and fluffy white cake layers with a vanilla buttercream.


For the cake

  • 5 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk at room temperature
  • 3 tsp (12.6 g) clear vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 3 tbsp (366.5 g) cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (14g) baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp (4g) salt
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into cubes

For the buttercream

  • 2 cups (452g) unsalted butter slightly chilled
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
  • 3-4 tbsp (43-57g) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp (8.4 g) clear vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch.


For the Cake

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray four 6-inch round or (three 8-inch round baking pans) with nonstick spray, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside. 
  • In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, and the vanilla. Set aside.
  • In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  • Add the egg mixture, followed by the sour cream. Mix until combined. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder and the salt.
  • With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk, starting and finishing with the flour. 
  • Using a kitchen scale, divide batter evenly among your pans (about 12 ounces of batter in each of the 6-inch pans and about 16 ounces of batter in each of the 8-inch pans), spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife.
  • Bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out with a few crumbs when inserted into the center, about 23 to 28. Check cake at 23 minutes and then set the timer for 2 to 3 minute intervals if the cake needs to bake longer. You're looking for a few moist crumbs to come out on the toothpick when inserted into the center of the cake.
  • Let the cake layers cool on racks for 10 minutes before inverting onto greased wire racks. Gently turn the cakes back up so the tops are up and cool completely.
    Once the cakes are cooled completely, level the tops if needed. Let the cake layers cool on racks for 10 minutes before inverting onto greased wire racks. Gently turn the cakes back up so the tops are up and cool completely.
  • Wrap each cake layer with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for at least an hour before using. The cake layers can be stored for up to a few days wrapped once in plastic wrap and frozen. To store longer than a few days, wrap twice in plastic wrap, then in foil, and seal in a zip-lock bag.

For the buttercream

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter for about 2 minutes. This will soften the butter without it having to be warm.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing a little in between each addition.
  • With mixer on medium speed, add whipping cream, vanilla and salt.
  • Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. The frosting will become lighter in color and texture.
  • Before spreading on your cake, spend a couple minutes mixing the buttercream by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets. .

For the assembly

  • Place the first cake layer, top side up. For the 6-inch cake, add about ½ cup of frosting on the cake layer. For the 8-inch version, add about 1 cup of frosting. Spread over the cake layer as evenly as possible. Make sure to get eye level with the cake to ensure the frosting is spread evenly over the cake.
  • Repeat this step until you get to the final cake layer, which you will lay top side down.
  • Apply a thin coat of frosting around the entire cake to lock in the crumbs. Freeze for about 10 minutes.
    After the crumb coat is set, continue frosting and decorating the cake.

Join the Conversation

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you thank you! I used this recipe as the base for a rainbow layered cake. It came out gorgeous – only change I made was replacing half of the vanilla extract (for the cake) with orange flower water because I ran out of vanilla…

  2. Have you ever used egg whites from a carton in a cake that just calls for egg whites? Or is it better to use fresh egg whites?

    1. I have and my cakes come out flat. Use fresh!

  3. 5 stars
    Hi! I absolutely love your recipes. I made this one last night. One issue I have with all of the recipes though that I could use some help with – they all end up a little more dense and dry than most other recipes I use. I’m definitely not over cooking them. It almost seems like too much flour? All ingredients are at room temp. I measure the flour and then sift it. What am I doing wrong? Thank you so much for your help!

    1. Are you overmixing?

  4. I would like it if you gave weight measurements – at least for the flour. It is so easy to use too much flour if just using a measuring cup and leveling. It would be especially helpful for those of us living outside the US where the flour isn’t quite the same as Gold Medal or Swans Cake Flour (or Lehi Mills’ cake flour).

  5. Sorry – I just made a comment and asked for weight measurements – and then reread the recipe and saw they do have weights. My mistake. Please ignore my previous post

  6. Jennifer Hershner says:

    How many cups does the icing make? I’m trying to figure out how much I will need to make for 75 cupcakes

    1. It’s about 6 cups of frosting.

  7. If i make homemade buttermilk (whole milk and vinegar) will that work?

  8. I plan on trying this cake. I need to make a 10″ cake with 3 layers. How many batches of mixture do you think I would need?
    Thanks so much!

    1. I would do a double batch.

  9. I am hoping to use this to make a 5-6 layer rainbow cake for my daughter, Avery :), but I only have 3 pans. Can the batter sit at RT while I book the first batch?

  10. If I 3, 9” round pans, do I need to double the recipe or should I do 1.5 batch??

  11. I don’t knkw what I did wrong but my cake came out kinda of bland. I followed the recipe to a T.

  12. Stephanie says:

    3 stars
    Okay – so my cake turned out very dense and not light and fluffy at all. It tasted great, just very heavy. I followed all instructions to a T – even bought new baking soda. The only thing I can think of is that I did not beat/mix it long enough for fear of overmixing like you said. Any thoughts on my sense cake? (oh, I did use regular flour but did the cornstarch addition – 3 cups regular flour, minus 2 Tbsp – added 2 Tbsp cornstarch. Could that have been the problem?)

    1. So I do think premade cake flour makes a big difference. I don’t mind the homemade cake flour, in a pinch, but I don’t think it gives the same texture. For mixing, yes, I’d mix the butter, sugar and eggs on high for longer (you won’t ruin anything there). It’s when you stir in the flour and baking powder that you want a slow speed.

  13. 5 stars
    I’ve used this recipe several times in 4″, 6″ and 8″ cakes with a variety of fillings and buttercream flavors and it has come out perfect every time! I’ve tried several other recipes, but none have compared to yours and it’s now my go-to recipe! Thank you! 🙂

    1. How thick would you say the layers are when you do the recipe in 3 – 8” pans?

      1. about 1.25″ for this one. If you’d like taller layers, you can 1.5x or 2x the batch 🙂

  14. Hi. I am wanting to try this recipe. My question is. Can we use cartón egg whites? Or need to be eggs from the shells? Thank you. Would realy appreciate the feed back

    1. Eggs from shells! carton eggs don’t work the same way!

  15. 3 stars
    Hi Courtney! I have made this recipe and your two strawberry cakes, following everything to a T, and yet they all are quite short layers and bake dense with little to no rise. They come out the same height as they went into the oven. I live in Austin, TX if that makes a difference. The cakes taste great, but do not reflect the images of the cakes you’ve mastered. Any tips? I’ve also made your chocolate cake and that one has a great rise. Don’t know what the difference is and how to alter my baking for future recipes.

    1. I have the exact same issue. Please help us in the south know how to make these cakes right

  16. Danielle says:

    Do you think this would work in a bundt pan? Trying to find a white bundt cake to make into a Funfetti cake. Would you reommend your Funfetti recipe instead for the bundt?

    1. Either would be great in a Bundt!

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