Classic White Cake

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

5 from 3 votes
Tender and fluffy white cake layers with a vanilla buttercream.

Ingredients
 

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 1/2 batch.

Instructions
 

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 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.
  • 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.

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

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Comments

  1. I made the cake layers last night and they seem to not have risen properly. My baking powder is brand new and I used an oven thermometer. Two things I do wonder about are that my tablespoon of baking powder was over 10g and after looking through comments today I see that you have suggested using the full tablespoon instead of just the 10g, I did not but will do so next time, and I read that your favorite substitution for buttermilk is half part milk half part Greek yogurt. The Greek yogurt I used was nonfat and after some research this morning it seems that may have been unwise. Do you have any thoughts on if the nonfat Greek yogurt played a role in this or if it was likely just not enough baking powder? I tried some crumbs and they were delicious, so I am looking forward to giving this another go!

      1. 3 stars
        Made this yesterday in 8″ pans the batter came to be around 485 grams per pan, too less for my liking and didn’t rise much either… Maybe due to cold kitchen? But anyway I will double or 1.5x this recipe for next time for my 8″ pans

  2. Hi Courtney!

    Will this recipe work for a tiered wedding cake? If not, which of your recipes would you suggest?

    I’ve loved all your recipes I’ve ever made! Making my brothers wedding cake and need a good one!

  3. Hello! Recipe looks amazing ! I was wondering, do I have to reduce the recipe to make two 4 inch layers? And how long would I have to bake that for?

  4. Hi just made this cake. It was rather a thicker batter than the funfetti and I had holes in my cake. I sifted. I had new baking powder etc.
    1. What did I do wrong or any tips.
    2. I used 3 8” pans but only had the 3” deep ones. Can these pans still be used even though they are deeper?

  5. Thank you for this recipe! I’m so excited to try it out! I have a quick question regarding the buttercream – is this a crusting buttercream? Will it harden and form a crust when left at room temp and/or in the fridge? Thank you so much!

  6. Hello Courtney,
    Beautiful work you do, my question is when you refer to bake the cake to a certain degree, what should be Celsius or Faranhight?
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful job

  7. 5 stars
    I LOVE all of your recipes and decorating techniques! I aspire to be as awesome as you! I made the “classic white” cake today for a baby reveal. Can you tell me why my layers are so thin? Is it because I used (3) 8″ pans? I followed the recipe directions to a “t”. Any expert advice?

    1. You might have overbaked them or try beating the sugar and butter even longer. Like 5 minutes.

  8. Wondering if I should double the recipe if I need to make 2-3 10″ pans?? What are your thoughts?? Thanks!

  9. Hi, I am wondering how do you make light pink color? When I added pink to my buttercream it turned peach color.. thank you!

  10. 5 stars
    Hey! I love the flavor of the cake but my cakes did not rise at all. I must have went wrong somewhere. Any ideas?

  11. 4 stars
    Hi!
    So my buttercream looked perfect and then I left it mixing for 7 minutes as you suggested and when I came back it was soupy 😭😭 what did I do wrong? How do I fix it? Help!!

    1. Hi Sandra, did you happen to use a Bosch mixer or whisk attachment? Both could affect the buttercream like that.

  12. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe over a dozen times. It’s my go-to. The last few times I’ve made it, the cake has come out very dense instead of tender and fluffy. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I follow the recipe to a T every single time. The only change I’ve made is using carton egg whites. Do you think that could be making the difference?

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