Moist Vanilla Cake Slathered with Italian Meringue Buttercream.
This Vanilla Cake Recipe is a Building Block Recipe. Building Blocks are tried-and-true recipes that I find myself coming back to time and time again, sometimes to make them exactly as is, and sometimes as a starting point for something new. -> More Building Block Recipes.
My next door neighbor of 11 years is a cake decorator extraordinaire. For about a year, we actually worked as cake decorators together, which was a blast. We’ve both moved on to do other things over the past decade, and while I retired from wedding cakes years ago, she still decorates wedding cakes on the side.
This past Saturday, the two of us went out for a leisurely creole breakfast. We bitched and gossiped over biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, beignets and fresh squeezed orange juice. We also talked about cake. She’s doing a wedding cake this weekend for a bride that is very, umm… shall we say, particular? She is also welcoming a foreign exchange student to her house this week, and hosting out of town guests because her oldest daughter is graduating from high school this weekend. She doesn’t plan to sleep from Wednesday until Monday.
I offered to help by baking the cakes. Which sounds like a very generous, neighborly thing to do. In reality, my offer was a wee-bit selfish. We are currently experiencing a remarkably rainy spring here in Colorado. I’m talking rain every day. Every. Single. Day. For weeks. Staying inside and baking cakes (baking anything, really) is all I want to do in weather like that. Well, besides reading and sleeping.
Also, I already have a favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe. But I hadn’t perfected my vanilla cake. This seemed like a great excuse to shut myself in the kitchen and work on creating a vanilla cake recipe that I felt I could legitimately call “The Best”. So, that’s what I did, and this is the result.
Here’s what I love about this vanilla cake recipe…
First, it’s an incredibly moist vanilla cake, with a very tender crumb, but isn’t what I would call “delicate” or airy. Angel food cake is supposed to be delicate and airy. Vanilla cake from a cake mix is usually delicate and airy. In my opinion, those types of cakes are great covered in whipped cream or some other type of whipped frosting. This vanilla cake, however, has enough structure to stand up to a variety of fillings and Italian Meringue Buttercream, without getting lost and overwhelmed. You don’t want to make your cake feel lost and overwhelmed, do you? I didn’t think so.
Choosing cake fillings and frosting is like pairing wine with food. You don’t pair a big juicy steak with a light and fruity rosé. (At least, I don’t. I won’t judge you if you do. Much.) I prefer to match light, airy cakes with light, airy accompaniments. Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream and rich fillings like custard, pasty cream, fruit curd, or any kind of mousse begs for a cake substantial enough support all that rich, creamy deliciousness. That’s what this vanilla cake is.
Second, this moist, homemade vanilla cake is absolutely bursting with flavor.
Some cakes are meant to be a kind of background to other textures and flavors. This vanilla cake is having none of that. It’s the star of the show. It’s a bit of an attention hog, really. No matter how great a supporting role your filling and frosting play, nothing is stealing the spotlight from this vanilla cake. The incredible flavor comes from a few sources….
A lot of white cake recipes call for the use of all egg whites, shortening or oil in lieu of butter and a limited amount of vanilla extract. This is, of course, so the cake will be white. Personally, I could care less about how white my vanilla cake is. I just want it to taste good. So, this vanilla cake recipe includes butter, a few whole eggs and a large amount of vanilla. It also contains a bit of nutmeg and lemon extract, both of which accentuate the vanilla and give it a warm, rich flavor.
Finally, this vanilla cake recipe makes enough batter for three tall layers, which is somehow more impressive and decadent than two layers. You could even bake 4 smaller layers, if you really wanted to show off your mad cake skills. If you prefer cupcakes, you’ll get somewhere between 24 and 36 from this recipe, depending on how full you fill your cupcake tin.
So, there you go. The best vanilla cake recipe. Perfect for birthdays, anniversaries, parties, and even weddings.
Of course, you’ll have to try it yourself to judge whether you think it’s the best homemade vanilla cake. And, if you do, I hope you’ll let me know.
Used in this Vanilla Cake recipe:
A few of my other all-time favorite cake recipes:
- The Ultimate Chocolate Cake with Rum Custard and Almond Pralines
- Angel Food Cake with Peaches and Cream
- Carrot Cake Recipe with Caramel Rum Sauce
- Tripple Layer Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream
For even more delicious cake recipes, follow my Cake Recipes board on Pinterest.
- 3 whole eggs, separated
- 4 egg whites
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- ¾ cup shorting
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups cake flour (To make cake flour, replace 2 tbsp of flour with cornstarch per cup. So, for this recipe, add all the flour to a bowl, remove 6 tbsp and then add 6 tbsp of cornstarch. Whisk well to combine.)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp nutmeg (optional)
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 3 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp lemon extract (optional)
- Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour three or four 8 or 9 inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper that is also slathered with a bit of butter or shortening.
- Separate the whole eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl and the whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the 4 additional egg whites for a total of 7 egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form when you lift the whisk from the beaten egg whites. Scrape the egg whites into another bowl. Rinse and dry the standing mixer bowl.
- Fit the standing mixer with the paddle attachment and cream the butter, shorting and sugar until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl a time or two.
- Add the two egg yolks and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg to a large bowl and mix with a wire whisk just to combine.
- In a large measuring cup, stir together the milk, buttermilk, vanilla and lemon extracts.
- Beating on low speed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the liquid, in 4 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on low to medium speed, just long enough to incorporate each new addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter just until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pans. If baking 3 layers, bake for 30-40 min. If baking four layers, bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake will be golden brown, be pulling away from the sides of the pan, and will not jiggle in the center when you shake the pan slightly. To check for doneness, stick a toothpick into the center of one of the layers. Remove the toothpick and look for signs of raw batter. If only cake crumbs stick to the toothpick, the cake is done. You can also scoop a tiny amount of cake from the center of one of the layers to check for doneness. (You’ll be covering the cake with frosting anyway.)
- Let the cakes cool on wire racks for 5 minutes in the pan, then gently turn them out of the pans onto the wire racks to cool completely. If you don't plan on frosting the layers immediately, wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. The layers can be stored at room temperature for 1 day, or frozen for up to 2 months.
- Frost with Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream, or your favorite icing recipe.