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Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Vanilla cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is a sweet and simple cake that suits any occasion! Our classic vanilla cake recipe is tender and moist, and the cream cheese buttercream is rich and slightly tangy. It’s one of those combinations that fits just about any cake-worthy gathering.

A slice slice of vanilla cake frosted with cream cheese frosting.

Sometimes a classic vanilla cake is exactly what you need. But I want a cake that is tender, soft, and moist. This cake started out with a recipe from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum, then slowly morphed into the cake that it is today. It is the perfect blend of a butter cake and an oil based cake.

We have made countless types of cakes and frostings over the years, including our Rose and Pistachio CakeVanilla flavored Cake Filling and our 6-inch White Cake Recipe

I have taken everything I learned and put an extra delicious spin on this vanilla layer cake! This recipe features a few tips and tricks for getting ultra moist cakes with an incredibly rich flavor. 

By swapping in some of the butter for oil, you will get a fluffier cake that stays moist for days. And I added a tiny bit of sour cream to the recipe, which tenderizes the cake crumb and adds a very subtle tanginess that goes so well with the natural flavor of the cream cheese.  

The ingredients aren’t the only trick to an incredible cake. This recipe uses a special mixing method that guarantees incredible results!

Lifting up a slice of cake with a cake server.

​Why This Vanilla Cake Recipe Works

Who doesn’t love a good vanilla flavored cake? It’s the kind of cake that’s elegant yet seemingly effortless, simple to make, yet anything but basic.

A slice of fluffy vanilla butter cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting feels equally appropriate mid-day alongside a hot cup of coffee as it does at a birthday party or holiday gathering. 

The bottom line? This dreamy layer cake works for any occasion, any time of day and in any season!

We like to think of it as the vanilla version of our Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. It’s a classic for good reason. 

​Here’s why you will love it:

  • The combination of simple ingredients along with a reverse creaming method produces a moist, ultra tender and delicate crumb that is melt-in-your-mouth good. 
  • ​A sweet vanilla flavor is complimented by the rich and tangy frosting. 
  • This recipe is easy to make and it works for all occasions. 
  • It’s the perfect white cake that you can pair with a combination of frostings and fillings, like our Raspberry Cake Filling or our Nutella Buttercream.

What is Reverse Creaming?

If you’ve never heard of reverse creaming (also called the “paste method”), it’s a technique that is key to extra moist and velvety-soft cakes. 

You first mix the dry ingredients with softened butter to create a sandy mixture (you’ll then go on to add the remaining ingredients).

Enveloping the flour in butter first curbs the development of gluten. The result? A fine and delicate crumb, less doming, and a method that prevents the cake from becoming too tough due to over-mixing. 

Ingredients Needed

Here’s a look at the main ingredients you will need to make our vanilla layer cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting:

For the Cake

  • Milk. Make sure to use whole milk for the best results. It should be at room temperature so it blends well with the rest of the ingredients. 
  • Vegetable oil. ​Instead of an all-butter cake, we’re swapping in half vegetable oil which helps create a less dense cake. Instead, you’re left with a light, fluffy cake that stays moist for days. 
  • Vanilla and almond extract. Vanilla extract is a must in both the cake and the frosting, but the almond extract is optional. We like just a hint of almond flavor in this recipe. If you do too, make sure that you only use 1/4 teaspoon otherwise the almond flavor will overpower the vanilla.
  • Flour. Feel free to use all-purpose flour or cake flour. Both work out well. Cake flour will produce a much more delicate crumb.
  • Granulated sugar. ​Regular white sugar is all you need to make an epic cake!
  • Leavening. Baking powder and baking soda are both needed to achieve the perfect rise. 
  • Salt. ​A little bit of salt helps add flavor. 
  • Butter. ​This gives the cake a rich, buttery flavor. Use unsalted butter softened to room temperature. 
  • Sour cream. ​Sour cream in baked goods adds a distinct tangy flavor that is ever-so-subtle. But it also helps create a tender crumb!
  • Eggs. ​Use eggs that are at room temperature. You can let them sit in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to quickly take off the chill.
Two photos showing the ingredients for a vanilla cake on top and the ingredients for cream cheese frosting on the bottom.

For the cream cheese frosting

  • Butter. ​Softened so it whips up nice and fluffy. 
  • Powdered sugar. ​Your go-to for frosting recipes. Powdered sugar (also known as confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar) blends beautifully right into the other ingredients and creates a smooth frosting texture (without grittiness)!
  • Vanilla extract and salt. ​​Key ingredients for achieving the perfect flavor profile for the vanilla layer cakes. 
  • Cream cheese. Make sure you’re using block-style cream cheese and not whipped cream cheese in a tub. 

Our vanilla layer cake recipe also calls for three 8-inch cake pans, lined with parchment paper and prepped with a nonstick spray. 

Vanilla Layer Cake with the Creamiest, Dreamiest Filling

Here’s a look at the steps needed to make this delicious vanilla layer cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to view the printable recipe card for all of the details and ingredient amounts. 

Milk, oil, and vanilla extract mixed in a glass measuring cup.

Combine the wet ingredients- the milk, oil, vanilla extract and almond extract-  in a small dish or measuring cup. Set it aside. 

Sifting flour into a mixing bowl.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to mix. 

Showing what the crumb looks like after mixing butter into the dry mixture.

Add the softened butter and beat on medium speed. The flour mixture should soon resemble damp sand and clump together when squeezed in the palm of your hand. 

Thick cake batter in a mixing bowl after beating in sour cream and a portion of milk.

Add the sour cream and a 1/2 cup of the milk/oil mixture, then beat on medium speed for a couple of minutes. 

Mixing cake batter in a mixing bowl.

Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then slowly drizzle in the rest of the milk and oil mixture. Add the eggs one at time, mixing well after each addition.

Pouring cake batter into cake pans.

Divide the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before you remove them from the pans. 

Make the Frosting and Assemble the Cake

Once the cake cools, you can frost it and fill it.

To make the cream cheese buttercream frosting, combine the butter and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth and creamy, then add the vanilla and salt. Mix well and add the cream cheese. Beat the mixture until it’s well blended. 

Spread a layer of cream cheese icing in between the two vanilla butter cakes, then cover the sides and top of the cake with more vanilla cream cheese icing. An offset spatula works the best for frosting the cake. 

Top this vanilla flavored cake with your favorite cake decor or sprinkles, then enjoy!

Serving the Cake

Serve the cake at room temperature. The cake and the cream cheese frosting tend to firm up in the fridge, which can make the cake feel denser and less moist. At room temperature, the frosting becomes creamier and the cake crumb softer, making it taste even more delicious.

Storing Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

At room temperature: You can safely leave the cake at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

In the fridge: if you plan to store it for a longer period, it’s a good idea to refrigerate it. A cake keeper works well for layered cakes like this. They will keep the cake fresh and keep odors from the fridge out of the cake.

In the freezer: You can freeze the frosted cake for up to 2 months if it is stored in an airtight cake keeper. You can also freeze the unfrosted cake layers and frosting separately for up to 3 months. Wrap them tightly in a freezer-proof container before storing them.

A partially eaten slice of a layer cake next to a cake plate.

Pro Tips for Cake Success

  • Cake flour will give the cake a more tender crumb, but it’s not necessary. All-purpose flour also works well. 
  • Room temperature ingredients will give you the best results. If the ingredients are cold, they won’t combine well. 
  • Full-fat milk and sour cream will give the cake a more tender crumb than reduced-fat alternatives. 
  • To make vanilla cupcakes, you can fill cupcake tins 2/3 full and bake them at 340°F for 19 to 22 minutes. This vanilla layer cake recipe will make about 3 dozen cupcakes. 

Tips for Making the Cake in Advance

  • You can bake the cake layers in advance, then freeze them for up to 3 months. To freeze, make sure the cakes have cooled completely, then wrap them in plastic wrap. Thaw the cake layers overnight in the refrigerator once you’re ready to use them. 
  • The frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When it’s cold, let it come to room temperature for an hour, then whip it with an electric mixer to lighten it up before assembling and frosting the cake. 

More Cakes to Bake

When it comes to celebrating life’s special moments or simply satisfying a sweet tooth, nothing quite does the job like a homemade cake. Here are some recipes for delicious cakes that will bring a smile to your face.

Helpful Tools Cake Making

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More Recipes You Will Love:

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream are soft and elegant treats that celebrate white chocolate! Each tender cupcake is filled with a creamy ganache and topped with fluffy, white chocolate cream cheese frosting. You will savor every bite!

Our Banana Layer Cake with Nutella Buttercream is a flavor-packed treat! The cake is moist and tender with bold banana flavor, and the nutty Nutella buttercream makes an irresistibly delicious frosting that pairs so well with banana. With unique flavors and incredible textures, this cake is everything!

This Easy Vanilla Flavored Cake Filling is rich, creamy and flavorful! It’s the quickest and easiest cake filling recipe that strikes the balance between a vanilla mousse and a sweet cheesecake filling.

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A three layer vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles.

Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 12 to 14 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Total Time: 53 minutes

A classic vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting. This is the kind of recipe that's perfect for nearly any occasion. Whether you're celebrating a birthday, hosting a family dinner, or simply craving a slice of heaven, this cake ticks all the boxes.

Instead of an all butter cake, I swapped some of the butter for oil and a small amount of sour cream. The sour cream tenderizes the crumb, and the oil keeps it moist while the butter gives it a rich flavor. The end result is an incredibly soft and fluffy cake that will melt in your mouth with every bite.

This recipe uses a reverse creaming method. Reverse creaming is a technique that not only produces a fine and delicate crumb but also safeguards the cake from becoming tough. By enveloping the flour in butter, it curbs the development of gluten.

The recipe uses a hint of almond extract to complement the vanilla notes, but it is completely optional. If you do use it, don't use more than a 1/4 teaspoon, or it will overpower the vanilla flavor.

Ingredients

For the Vanilla Cake

  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature (227 grams)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (100 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 3-¼ cups all-purpose or cake flour (390 grams)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400 grams)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened (168 grams)
  • ¼ cup sour cream (57 grams)
  • 4 eggs, room temperature (200 grams)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 16 ounces cream cheese (block style)

Instructions

Make the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 340°F. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cake release spray. 
  2. Combine the milk, oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract (if using) in a dish and set aside. 
  3. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl, then whisk it together until well combined. Add the softened butter and beat on medium speed until the butter gets distributed into the flour and the mixture looks like damp sand. If you squeeze some of it in your hand, it will clump together. 
  4. Add the sour cream and ½ cup of the milk/oil mixture. Beat on medium speed for 1-½ to 2 minutes. This step will strengthen the structure of the cake and it will not make the cake tough since the flour was coated in butterfat first.  
  5. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Start the mixer on medium-low speed and slowly drizzle in the rest of the milk/oil mixture. 
  6. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between each addition. 
  7. Divide the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs clinging to the toothpick. 
  8. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before you remove them from the pans. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Add the butter and powdered sugar to a mixing bowl. Start the mixer at slow speed, then increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and salt. Mix well. 
  2. Add the cream cheese and beat on medium high speed until well blended. 
  3. Wait until the cake is completely cool before filling and frosting it. 

Notes

  • You can use all purpose flour or cake flour for this recipe. Cake flour will give it a slightly more tender crumb. 
  • A small amount of almond extract enhances the notes of the vanilla. Don’t use more than ¼ teaspoon unless you want the cake to have an almond-like flavor. Omit if you don’t care for almond. 
  • Make sure the ingredients come to room temperature before you begin mixing the cake batter. A quick way to bring eggs to room temperature is to plop them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes (with the shell on, of course). 
  • Full-fat milk and sour cream will give the cake a more tender crumb than reduced-fat alternatives. 
  • You can bake the cake layers in advance and freeze them for up to 3 months. Make sure they cool completely, then wrap them in plastic wrap before freezing. Thaw the cake layers overnight in the fridge. 
  • You can make the frosting in advance and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour, then whip it with a mixer to lighten it up before frosting the cake.  
  • This recipe will make about 3 dozen cupcakes. Fill cupcake tins ⅔ full and bake at 340°F for 19 to 22 minutes. 
  • Serve the cake at room temperature. The cake and the cream cheese frosting tend to get firmer in the fridge, which can make the cake feel a bit denser and less moist. When the frosting is at room temperature, it gets creamier and the cake crumb becomes softer, which makes it taste better.

Storing the Cake

  • At room temperature: You can leave the cake at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
  • In the fridge: If you're thinking of storing it for a while, it's a good idea to pop it in the fridge. A cake keeper does wonders for layered cakes like this, keeping them fresh and free from any fridge odors.
  • In the freezer: You can freeze the frosted cake for up to 2 months if it's stored in an airtight cake keeper. Optionally, you can freeze the unfrosted cake layers and frosting separately for up to 3 months. Just make sure to wrap them tightly in a freezer-proof container before storing them.

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As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 14 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 689Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 151mgSodium: 688mgCarbohydrates: 69gFiber: 0gSugar: 62gProtein: 5g

Nutrition information is a guideline only. It is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Dahn Boquist

Dahn is a retired nurse, recipe creator, home cook, baker, and self-proclaimed foodie. She loves creating in the kitchen and cooking for family and friends. She lives in Washington State with her husband and dog. When she isn't cooking or baking, you can usually find her spending time with her grandson or exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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EllenL

Thursday 25th of January 2024

Can I use this recipe to make a 9 X 13 inch cake, or would there be too much batter? And I wonder how long to bake that size. Have you done this? Thanks for any help.

Dahn Boquist

Friday 26th of January 2024

This does make a bit more batter than what I would normally add to a 9x 13 pan. I would fill the pan 3/4 full then use any leftover batter for cupcakes. A 13 x 9 sheet cake should take between 30 and 35 minutes to bake. Check it with a toothpick when it looks like it is done baking. A few crumbs on the toothpick are fine but if it has sticky batter on the toothpick, let it bake a bit longer.

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