easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

This perfectly Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe is a slightly denser than average cake with a tight crumb. Instead of light and fluffy, this is more like a sponge cake. It’s packed full of vanilla and after the first bite, you know it’s homemade. This vanilla cake recipe can be made as vanilla cupcakes and it’s very versatile. You can alter the flavor with lemon, lime or even almond extract. 

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to have a homemade and versatile vanilla cake recipe. I’ve shied away from the task, fearing I would not be up to the challenge. While the majority of you don’t seem to mind a cake mix, some of you have asked for a homemade version of my recipes, so I am thrilled to be able to give you such a wonderful and moist vanilla cake.

Several weeks ago, my fiancĂ© made a zucchini bread recipe from his childhood, and when he described it, he said it was much more cake-like than my banana bread recipe. So I thought to myself, maybe I’ll start here, adjusting the recipe as I go to get to where I wanted to be.

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

This perfectly Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe is a slightly denser cake with a tight crumb. Instead of light and fluffy, this is more like a sponge cake. After the first bite, you know it’s homemade. It bursting with vanilla flavor. I’ve topped this cake with my tried and true vanilla frosting.

Eight. Eight is the number of times I baked this cake before I decided it was just right, tweaking ingredients along the way. Then I baked it 3 more times but in the form of cupcakes to make sure it would be easy for you to use this recipe in a variety of ways.

That’s right, this vanilla cake can be made as a cake and also as vanilla cupcakes. For the cake, you’ll use a 9″ by 13″ inch pan. If you choose to make vanilla cupcakes, this recipe will make a hefty 24 cupcakes with a little batter leftover.

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

The best way to make the cupcakes is to use a large cookie scoop to ensure the batter is evenly divided between each liner. This batter is on the thinner side, so the cookie scoop works perfectly.

For the best results, you should store the finished cupcakes in an airtight container. I’ve shared plenty of tips for baking cupcakes, but using a cookie scoop is by far the best way to get consistent results.

This vanilla cake recipe has your standard ingredients: sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. You can’t really have a cake without those. A lot of recipes use similar amounts of dry ingredients. However, where most cake recipes vary is in the number of fats (butter or oil), eggs and any other wet ingredients.

For this cake, the wet ingredients are vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. Plus my secret weapon, light sour cream. The sour cream is the secret to keeping this vanilla cake moist, even after 3 or 4 days!

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

Since this cake uses oil instead of butter, there’s no waiting around for your butter to come to room temperature (you know I am terrible at planning that type of thing!), and far less time is spent creaming together the butter and sugar. Oil tends to make cakes moister than butter. It also makes the crumb and texture a bit more tender.

With any baked goods, there is a certain level of balance needed when you’re preparing the batter. If you overbeat the batter, your cake will be too dense and it will not rise. If you under beat it then it can cause your cake to bake unevenly because the oil and eggs are not well incorporated.

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

My rule of thumb is to turn off my mixer when I can’t see any more loose flour on top. Then I use my spatula to stir the batter a few times, getting all the stuff that is stuck to the bottom of the bowl and bringing it up to the top. When I’m making cupcakes, I tend the stir the batter with my spatula every 5 or 6 cupcakes.

However, even though the batter is a little thinner, the cake is denser when baked and therefore it will not rise as high as a cake with a more light and airy texture. This won’t be a problem for us!

If you’re planning on using this cake as a base for a poke cake or some other type of “wet cake”, I suggest omitting the sour cream. This will produce a lighter cake, allowing more space in the crumbs to soak up the filling.

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch

Commonly Asked Questions about this Vanilla Cake Recipe:

Can I make this as a layer cake?

I have made this as an 8-inch 3 layer cake. See my recipe for the Moist Vanilla Layer Cake. If you’d like to bake this as a 9-inch or 10-inch layer cake, the baking times will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Do I have to use Sour Cream?

As I mentioned above, sour cream helps keeps these cupcakes very moist. I recommend substituting the sour cream with non-fat Greek Yogurt if you do not have sour cream. Some people have made it with mayonnaise but I have not tried it myself.

A few people have asked about substituting buttermilk for sour cream. I have never tried this, and this batter is already pretty thin, so I am not sure if adding additional liquid will work.

If you need to, you can omit it completely, but note the cake will not be nearly as moist.

Do I have to use nonfat milk or can I substitute it with something else?

Yes, you can use any type of milk for this recipe.

I had to bake my recipe for longer than the required time, what did I do wrong?
Likely nothing! Different types of pans will bake differently. Glass baking pans will always need to bake longer as they do not conduct heat as quickly as metal pans. Disposable containers are much thinner and thus require additional baking time. Also keep in mind that not all oven temperatures are alike, and unless you have an internal thermometer, your oven temperature could be off.

easy Vanilla Cake Recipe from scratch


For the cake:

  1. 2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
  2. ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  3. 3 large eggs
  4. 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml) vanilla extract
  5. ½ cup(118 ml) light sour cream
  6. 2 ½ cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
  7. 3 teaspoons (11.2 g) baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  9. 1 ¼ cups (296 ml) milk (I use nonfat)

For the frosting

  1. 3/4 cup ( 170g )unsalted butter, cold
  2. 2 1/2cups (325g ) powdered sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon (5ml ) pure vanilla extract
  4. 1 tablespoon (15ml ) heavy whipping cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  4. Add half the flour followed by the baking powder and salt, and beat on low speed while pouring in half of the milk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  5. Finally add the remaining flour, mixing at low speed while pouring in the remaining milk and beating until all of the ingredients are well combined.
  6. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  7. Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 28-32 minutes, keeping a careful eye on the baking during the last few minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  8. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done.
  9. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally, beating until the butter look light in color.
  10. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into the butter then add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and mix to combine. Beat for about 60 seconds.
  11. Continuing beating on low until the ingredients start to mix together. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for another 3-5 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting. Spread over cooled cake.

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