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.



Classic White Cake

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 1/2 batch.


For the Cake

  1. 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. 

  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, and the vanilla. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium speed.

  4. Add the egg mixture, followed by the sour cream. Mix until combined. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled.

  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder and the salt.

  6. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk, starting and finishing with the flour. 

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  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. .

For the 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.

    After the crumb coat is set, continue frosting and decorating the cake.

100 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.

    1. Hi! I’m not exactly sure because I’ve never tried fondant over my buttercream. I would say yes, if you take out of the heavy cream from my recipe so it’s a little more stable.

  11. What kind of color dye do you use for the buttercream? Also, when do you recommend adding that to the recipe?

      1. Can you help me clarify the rules of leaving buttercream out or refrigerating it? I’ve read butter is completely fine to leave out and the high sugar makes the heavy cream okay to leave out covered for 2 days. I’m always afraid to do this though but it would make things so much easier if I could! If you don’t agree with 2 days, how long would you leave it out?

  12. This is the first recipe of yours I have tried. The first time the cakes baked flat, though still delicious. I lowered my oven temp because I always thought it was a little hot.. what a difference! They were thick and perfect! I used your frosting method as well and am so happy with the results! I have your acrylic discs in the way! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

  13. This might be a stupid question, but how do you cut this recipe in half? 2 egg whites and one whole egg still? Thanks!

  14. I tried this recipe for the first time today. I love the taste and texture. I tested a 6″ and cupcakes. The cupcakes had a hard flat top to them. It this recipe only for larger size cakes. Thanks, looking forward to your reply. Starla

  15. I have 3 questions! 1) would this cake stand well to be a tiered cake? 2) if I was making a 12in how long would it expect to bake? 3) does this cake dry out in the fridge if completely decorated?

  16. Hi, would I be able to use regular pure vanilla extract instead of the clear one? Would the only difference be in the color of the cake?

      1. Is it ok to hand make the cake flour? Or is it essential to use an already made one from a box? Same for the buttermilk.

  17. Is it ok to hand make the cake flour? Or is it essential to use an already made one from a box? Same for the buttermilk.

  18. How long would I bake the layers if using 7″ cake pans. I am looking to make this cake higher for decorating.

    Thank you


  19. I used your vanilla buttercream for a birthday cake and it was AMAZING!!!! I had to use a hand blender but it still did the trick! Thanks!!!!!

  20. Hi Courtney! I love this recipe and so I really want to make it! However, I have this big question (I have had the same question with many other recipes over the years). When you say 12 tablespoons of butter and the butter should be cubed, how big or small should the cubes be? I am wondering because the quantity changes slightly. Is there a way to find this out in grams?

  21. Is it possible to make this same recipe, but do standard size or mini cupcakes instead? Or do you have an awesome basic vanilla cake cupcake recipe? Thank you! I love your cakes so much and your buttercream frosting is my go to for everything! People absolutely LOVE it!

  22. Hi! It looks like the recipe has deleted from this page. Is it possible to get it back? Thanks so much!!

  23. Hi! You are so talented! Thanks for sharing your recipes! We are excited to try making this classic white cake of yours, however the recipe is nowhere to be found????? Are you no longer sharing it?
    Thank you

  24. I have a question…..I measured all the ingredients by grams, but the tablespoon of baking powder was off. Only half of my tablespoon came to 10 grams. So, do I continue with an entire tablespoon (which will be over 10 grams) or just use 10 grams? Thanks.

  25. Hi, for your egg whites can I use pasturized egg whites instead? I just don’t want to waste the egg yolks.

  26. 5 stars
    A very quick recipe that turned out sooo fluffy I could use it as a pillow and very moist and tasty! I might have added another tsp of vanilla. Thank you for this!

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. 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?

  30. 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?

  31. 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!

  32. 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

  33. 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?

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

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

  36. 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?