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Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting

Sometimes you just can’t beat a classic! This Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting is simply delicious, and when you add some sprinkles, it’s perfect for a celebration!

slice of Vanilla Cake on a green and white plate, topped with sprinkles

Classic Vanilla Cake from Scratch

Vanilla is often overlooked in the baking world, but a good vanilla has just as much flavor and aroma as the best chocolates and caramels. When vanilla is the star of the show and not competing with a bunch of other flavors, you can really appreciate its nuances and depth. This simple vanilla cake recipe is a great way to enjoy vanilla in all its delicious glory!

We’re also awarding bonus points here for how wonderfully quick and easy it is to make this cake. The ingredients are everyday pantry staples, and the cake is baked in a rectangular pan, which makes it easy to decorate, serve, store, and transport. 

I like to add sprinkles for some color and fun, but you can leave your cake unadorned for a more classic presentation. Alternatively, for a bigger splash of color, you can add a little food coloring to the frosting, which makes this the perfect celebration cake for birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions!

Overhead view of slices of Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting on colorful plates

What You’ll Need

This cake is made with basic baking ingredients that you likely have on hand if you bake frequently. That makes it one of my go-to dessert recipes!

Overhead view of vanilla cake ingredients

For the cake:

  • Cake flour – Learn more: A Baker’s Guide to Wheat Flours
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter – The butter needs to be softened, so let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour before you start the recipe.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Eggs – Your eggs should be room temperature for best results. There are 4 in this recipe, which means you get a super fluffy, light cake.
  • Vanilla extract – With a vanilla cake, the vanilla you use is important! Choose a high-quality, real vanilla, not imitation.
  • Milk – I recommend baking with whole milk, but reduced-fat (2%) milk will do in a pinch.
Overhead view of vanilla frosting ingredients

For the frosting:

  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Unsalted butter – This butter will also need to be softened.
  • Milk
  • Vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Sprinkles – These are optional!

How to Make Vanilla Cake With Vanilla Frosting

Here’s what you’ll need to do to make this quick, simple cake.

To make the cake:

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 9″x 13″x 2″ baking pan with parchment paper, then grease the paper and any exposed areas of the inside of the pan.

Mix dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. 

Mix wet ingredients. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

Overhead view of cake batter in mixing bowl and prepared baking pan

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry mixture in 3 portions, alternating with 2 portions of the milk. Continue to mix until just combined.

Overhead view of cake batter in parchment-lined baking pan

Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to make sure it’s distributed evenly. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to eliminate any air pockets, then bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool. Place the cake pan on a wire rack to cool.

To make the frosting:

Cream the butter and sugar. In a mixing bowl, beat the confectioners’ sugar and butter with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.

Finish the frosting. Beat in 2 tablespoons of milk and the vanilla. Continue beating, adding more milk if needed to reach your desired thickness.

Decorate. Spread the frosting onto the cooled cake and top with sprinkles, if you’re using them.

Pieces of Vanilla Cake on colorful plates, topped with sprinkles

Tips for Success

Here are some hints to help you along the way with this recipe:

  • Making a layer cake. The recipe will also make two 9-inch round cake layers if you’d prefer to make a layer cake.
  • Lining the pan. The parchment is used to make a “sling” that you can use later to remove the cooled cake from the pan. This makes it easy to cut the cake into nice, clean slices! If you’re not as concerned about aesthetics, you can just grease the pan and pour the batter in directly.
  • About the frosting. I find that this is plenty of frosting for the cake. It adds sweetness without being overwhelming. As is the case with many frostings, this one is pretty sweet, so a thicker layer might be too much for a lot of people. But feel free to scale the recipe to make more if you’d like an extra kick of sweetness. You can also switch things up with a different frosting! Vanilla cake pairs well with just about any flavor.
Overhead view of Vanilla Cake pieces on colorful plates

How to Store

Keep leftover vanilla cake in the refrigerator, either covered in the baking pan or transferred to an airtight container. It will last for up to 5 days in the fridge. I recommend letting the slices sit on the counter to come to room temperature before serving.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

Yes, like most cake recipes, this one freezes beautifully! To keep the frosting looking perfect, pop your vanilla cake in the freezer uncovered just until the frosting is frozen solid. At this point, you can wrap the cake and freeze it for up to 2 months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator before serving, loosening the wrap so it’s not in direct contact with the frosting as it thaws.

More Vanilla Dessert Recipes

Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting

Yield 12 to 20 servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting is the perfect cake for most any celebration!

slice of Vanilla Cake on a green and white plate, topped with sprinkles

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 & 1/4 cups (390g) cake flour
  • 1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/4 cups (296ml) milk

For the frosting:

  • 2 & 1/2 cups (275g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
  • sprinkles, for garnish

Instructions

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9"x 13"x 2" baking pan with parchment paper. Grease (or butter and flour) the paper and any exposed parts of the inside of the pan.*
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 portions, alternating with 2 portions of milk. Mix just until combined.
  5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of large air pockets.
  6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.

To make the frosting:

  1. Beat the confectioners’ sugar and butter until thoroughly combined.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the milk and the vanilla. Continue beating, adding a small amount of milk at a time until the frosting is the desired consistency.
  3. Spread the frosting on the cooled cake. Top with sprinkles.

Notes

*The parchment can be used to make a "sling" that you can use later to remove the cooled cake from the pan.

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    10 Comments on “Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting”

  1. Do do you have a book I can purchase ?
    Alberta 

  2. I made this cake exactly as directed, including using the parchment paper.  My advice on the parchment paper, Don’t.. Do. It!  
    The cake is extremely dry, as in dry toast. All those good ingredients wasted. I baked it for 33 minutes in my 4- year old oven. Maybe I should have baked it for 20 minutes?
    Also, put in some flavoring; lemon would be nice, and make more icing, cream cheese icing would be much better, with or without flavoring. Just get some flavor in there. 
    I went to a wedding a couple of years ago where the vanilla cake was to die for. It was very mouse and just delicious without any other flavoring. I had hoped this would be like the wedding cake. It was not. 😢

    • I’m sorry you had troubles, Carol. I just had this cake again yesterday, and I don’t find it dry at all. I find it wonderfully soft and moist. If you didn’t change anything at all about the recipe, my first thought was perhaps your cake flour was self-rising. Otherwise, perhaps check the freshness of your ingredients and the accuracy of your oven’s temperature.

    • Dry cake is definitely not fun…as a life long baker, I have found careful measuring to be crucial to a success filled outcome. Jennifer’s recipes have almost exclusively included gram weights, which I have followed like road maps. I once wrote to her to say that her importance is akin to the late Maida Heatter. Her recipes have been nothing but spot on for me, and those who I share the results with. So thank you Maida and Jennifer!

  3. There’s so much I could say…..but I’m going to try and practice what I preach. EVERY SINGLE food blogger I follow, including Jennifer, has taken constructive criticism with grace and accepted feedback and questions with the utmost professionalism and patience. And EVERY SINGLE food blogger I follow has had a recipe or two that didn’t float my boat……if you know what I mean. Each recipe I choose not to make again has always been edible and halfway decent, just not better than another I may have come across. To each his own I say. You simply cannot please everyone all of the time. I never classify any recipe as a “waste of time” because I learn something new every time I try a new recipe……even if that means learning that I don’t want to make that particular recipe ever again. Bottom line: KINDNESS IS A CHOICE. SOMETIMES IT IS A CHOICE WE HAVE TO MAKE EVERY SINGLE DAY, MAYBE EVEN EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. Thank you Jennifer for your wonderfully positive and fun blog. I look forward to checking in weekly and seeing what new recipes and helpful tips you have in store for us.

  4. After raving success with your simple and simply divine Irish Cream cake, this recipe has “make me” all over it. I have perhaps a silly question which has nothing to do with my baking or not baking this cake, as it is definitely happening…my question is wondering if this cake falls under “yellow cake” category. For a while I was on a bender trying to find the quintessential yellow cake recipe, and truth be told I guess I don’t know what defines yellow cake. Thank you for my future calories!

    • Hi, Jeff! I consider any no-frills vanilla cake to be a yellow cake. The distinction I make is whether or not it has whole eggs or just egg whites, as the yolks are what makes it yellow. I don’t know if that reasoning is correct, but that’s how I’ve always made the distinction. Hope that helps!

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