Our Test Kitchen created our best vanilla cake recipe yet. It's tender, moist and packed with rich vanilla flavor—a must for any special occasion.
Best Vanilla Cake Recipe photo by Taste of Home

A rich, moist and flavorful vanilla cake is a yummy people-pleasing dessert that can be dressed up for any special occasion. Whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, a baby on the way or just a job well done, having a dependable vanilla cake recipe in your baking repertoire is a good idea. However, finding a recipe that manages to hit all those marks can be challenging—until now.

Maggie Knoebel, a culinary assistant in our Test Kitchen, spent months perfecting this vanilla cake recipe. After dozens of practice cakes, she created the best vanilla cake any of us at Taste of Home have tried. It’s moist, lush and incredibly flavorful—a feat for vanilla cake. We’ll walk you through how to make Maggie’s masterpiece. You’ll definitely want this one on hand for your next celebration.

Vanilla Cake Ingredients


  • Sour cream
  • Vanilla bean paste
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cake flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Canola oil
  • Egg whites
  • Eggs


  • White baking chips
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Vanilla bean paste
  • Vanilla extract
  • Egg whites
  • Sugar
  • Cream of tartar
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter


Step 1: Combine vanillas

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Start this cake by combining both the vanilla extract and paste together in a bowl with sour cream. Let this sit for 10 minutes.

This recipe uses two kinds of vanilla—extract and paste. Trust us, you want to use both here to get all the flavor. Many white cakes tend to be a bit mild, but this one brings depth of flavor thanks to this double dose. And make sure to use the best vanilla here—you’ll notice it.

As for the sour cream, it helps make this cake extra moist and tender.

Step 2: Mix the cake batter

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While the vanillas and sour cream are sitting, sift together cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together twice. You’ll want to sift twice just to make sure there are absolutely no lumps here and to ensure the cake is as fluffy and soft as possible (the cake flour also helps make the cake soft). Then add canola oil and softened butter and beat until the mixture is crumbly.

Next, add the egg whites one at a time to create the batter. Be sure to beat well after each addition. Then add the whole eggs—again, one at a time—and beat well. Be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl occasionally. Finally, add in the sour cream and vanilla mixture and beat in a mixer until just combined.

Editor’s Tip: If you forgot to take the butter out of the fridge, here are some tips on how to soften butter fast.

Step 3: Bake

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Grease and line three nine-inch pans with parchment paper. If you don’t have three pans—don’t sweat it, you can make the cake layers in shifts.

Divide the batter equally between the three pans and bake in a 350ºF oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out clean. When the cakes are done, move them to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then turn them out of the pan, peel away the paper and let them cool all the way before frosting.

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Editor’s Tip:If you’re new to baking cakes, here are step-by-step instructions on how to grease a cake pan.

Step 4: Make the buttercream frosting

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This modified Swiss meringue buttercream frosting is definitely a level up from basic American buttercream (that’s butter, confectioners’ sugar and milk), but it’s worth the extra effort. If you’re going to make a special occasion vanilla cake, you may as well finish it off with decadent frosting.

Start making the frosting by melting the baking chips with cream until smooth. You can do this in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Once this mixture is smooth and melted, stir in the vanilla paste and extract. Set this aside to cool slightly.

While that rests, whisk the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in a heatproof bowl until well blended. Then place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water on medium heat. Whisk the mixture constantly until a thermometer reads 160ºF. This should take about six to eight minutes.

Editor’s Tip: An instant-read thermometer, like our Test Kitchen’s favorite Thermapen, comes in really handy here. It’s a worthwhile investment for baking, cooking and grilling.

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When the mixture reaches that temperature, remove the bowl from the heat and beat on high speed until the frosting cools down to 90ºF. This will take around seven minutes, so be patient! Gradually beat in the butter a few tablespoons at a time on medium speed until the butter is well incorporated. Finally, beat in the cooled vanilla and white chocolate mixture until well blended.

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Step 5: Frost the cake

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With the vanilla cake made and the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting ready, it’s time to put them together. If you find that your cakes are a bit mounded on top and not quite ready for stacking, carefully even them out with a serrated knife. Here’s how to level cakes.

Once the layers are flat, place the first layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. To help it stay in place as you frost, put a small dab of frosting on the plate and then place the layer on top. This keeps it from scooting around.

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Using an offset spatula, frost between the layers. Once the layers are stacked, give the outside a quick crumb coat. A crumb coat is just a very thin layer of frosting that you spread over the whole cake. This thin coating helps contains any crumbs (hence the name) and serves as a good base for further decorating.

With the crumb coat finished, frost the outside however you like. You can opt for fancy piping or just simple swirls using that offset spatula. This cake will be gorgeous however you finish it.

Vanilla Cake Tips

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How do you serve vanilla cake?

You can serve this cake up plain, but it would be divine paired with some fresh berries spooned over the top or even a scoop of your favorite ice cream. And if you need tips on how to get the perfect slices of cake (and you’ll want them with this beauty), learn how to (easily) cut a cake.

Do I have to use white chocolate in vanilla cake?

Not a white chocolate person? Don’t worry! The addition of white baking chips just adds a bit of sweetness and richness. The vanilla imparts the most flavor.

Watch how to Make Best Vanilla Cake

Best Vanilla Cake

There's a reason this vanilla cake recipe is the best. Adding creamy vanilla bean paste into the moist, rich cake batter creates a power-packed vanilla flavor that can't be bought in stores. Try spreading vanilla buttercream frosting on top to finish it off. —Margaret Knoebel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Best Vanilla Cake Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time

Prep: 20 min. + standing Bake: 30 min. + cooling


16 servings


  • 1-1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, mix sour cream, vanilla paste and vanilla extract until combined. Let stand 10 minutes. Line bottoms of 3 greased 9-in. round baking pans with parchment; grease paper.
  2. Sift cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together twice into a large bowl. Add butter and canola oil; beat until mixture is crumbly. Add egg whites, 1 at a time (about 2 tablespoons), beating well after each addition. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream mixture just until combined.
  3. Transfer batter to prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire racks; remove paper. Cool completely. Frost cake as desired.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 399 calories, 16g fat (8g saturated fat), 54mg cholesterol, 462mg sodium, 59g carbohydrate (32g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.