Classic White Cake


May 31

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 – not 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 over mix the batter. Over mixing 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!

Classic White Cake

Prep

Cook

Inactive

Total

Yield One 4-layer, 6-inch cake

Tender and fluffy white cake layers with a whipped vanilla buttercream.

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes

For the Buttercream

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, chilled (I take the butter out of the fridge 30 minutes before I make my frosting)
  • 6 cups powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 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. 
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, whole egg and the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter one piece at a time, about every 10 seconds. Once all the butter is added, pour in the buttermilk and mix on low for about 1 minute, until the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Scrape down the sides of bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches, mixing on miedum-low until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Fold once or twice to ensure the batter at the bottom of the bowl is incorporated and mix for another 20 to 30 seconds.
  6. 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.
  7. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out with a few crumbs when inserted into the center, about 20 to 25 minutes. Check cake at 20 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Once the cakes are cooled completely, level the tops if needed.
  10. Wrap each cake layer with plastic wrap and chill in 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:

  1. 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.
  2. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing a little in between each addition.
  3. With mixer on medium speed, add whipping cream, vanilla and salt.
  4. 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.
  5. Before spreading on your cake, spend a couple minutes mixing the buttercream by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets. 

Assembly

  1. Place the first cake layer, top side up. For the 6-inch cake, add about 1/2 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.
  2. Repeat this step until you get to the final cake layer, which you will lay top side down.
  3. Apply a thin coat of frosting around the entire cake to lock in the crumbs. Freeze for about 10 minutes.
  4. After the crumb coat is set, continue frosting and decorating the cake.

Notes

I did three 6-inch cake layers and baked for a little longer.

Courses Dessert

Cuisine Cake

30 thoughts on “Classic White Cake

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  1. This looks amazing! I am so excited to make it for my daughter first birthday in a couple weeks 🙂 How come you’d bake three 6-inch cakes longer than three 8-inch cakes? Thank you!

  2. So are you saying you did this same recipe in three 6” cake pans and used all of the batter? Do you recommend that over doing three 8” pans?

  3. I made …or tried to make this cake; followed the recipe carefully…. my cakes came out dry; and the frosting wasn’t sticking to the cakes; it would just peal off and started to crumble my cakes the only way I found it would kind of stay was If I pressed it with my fingers; I gave up and made a frosting I have made in past that would glide easily…. I’m not sure what went wrong. BUT I tried and I think flavors were good … just to dry.

    1. Usually when a cake is dry and crumbly, it’s been overbaked. Our ovens are all very different, and there’s a chance yours runs a little hot and needed a couple minutes less for bake time. Next time, check the cake after 80% of the baking time has past. When you pull a toothpick out of the center, there should be a few moist crumbs on it.

  4. Hi how are you? I have a question 2 actually. Do you have any recipes for 10 inch pans or 12 inch? Also if I made the classic white cake do I just double it for a 10 inch or triple it?

    Thank you

  5. My buttercream always becomes very delicate with lots of air pockets when I add heavy whipping cream. Despite mixing it afterwards by hand, the air pockets for the most part remain so I never get a smooth finish like yours. Any thoughts?

  6. Hello! Recipe looks amazing ! I was wondering, do I have to double or triple the recipe to make three 10 inch layers? And how long would I have to bake that for?

    1. Yes, I would double the recipe for 10-inch layers. I’m not exactly sure on the bake time. I’d start with an extra five minutes and continue to add 3 minutes after that if it needs more time.

  7. Hi Couetney I absolutely love your recipes! Do you think it would be ok to make your buttercream the day before I decorate and keep refrigerated? If so would I need to let it sit at room temperature before I use it? Thanks!!

    1. Thank you! Yes you can totally make the buttercream ahead of time and refrigerate it covered in a bowl. Let it get back to room temp. before you use it and rebeat it in the mixer too.

  8. This recipe is amazing! It turns out perfect every time! I was wondering how many recipes I would need in order to make 4x8inch layers. Thanks!

  9. Hello! I followed this recipe very carefully and used 3x 8” pans, but they didn’t rise. Any idea why this might have happened? I definitely put in the baking powder… :/
    Ps – love your videos and your recipes are so well written!

    1. Hi! I’m so sorry to hear that – so it could have been a few things: old baking powder (I don’t use anything over 6 months old) or you might have over mixed the batter (low speed just until the flour is incorporated), or your oven temperature is off from what the screen is telling you (use an oven thermometer to check the internal temperature).

    1. Also if I wanted to make this more almond flavor. Would i replace all the vanilla or do 2tsp almond extract, 1 tsp vanilla?

    2. Yes, my cakes can switch between 4, 6-inch pans or 3, 8-inch pans. You might need to reduce the baking time a little. Keep an eye on it toward the end. And yes, split the vanilla and almond extract.

  10. Hi Courtney!

    I found your site and just can’t stay away! I am learning so much and your cakes are incredible. Can your classic buttercream be used under fondant? If so, does it need to stay refrigerated? Thanks so much for sharing your incredible talent.