The Perfect Vanilla Cake

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I can't wait to quit teaching.

Don't get me wrong. I love teaching. I love to teach. I love connecting with kids. I love seeing the a-ha! moment happen, and I love when they enjoy class. I love coming up with new curriculum that is engaging and captivating for students.

But if you ask me what I want to be when I grow up-teacher is not it. I want to open my own bakery. I live for cake. Cookies. Pastries. Cheesecakes. I think about them all the time.

When I eat a dessert in a restaurant, I immediately think about how I could make it better. What would I change? How would I present it?

I am a dessert snob. We went to the nicest restaurant in town (town= Philadelphia). We are talking $600 for 4 people for my birthday. And I refused dessert. They brought it anyway, and I ate it (hey, it's still dessert!), but I was judging it the whole time.

So, yeah, a bakery. As you can imagine, I love to bake for myself and my friends. And co-workers. And my daughters schools. And Friday. And that time of the month.
I spend all my time looking at recipes, combining them, comparing them, adding to them. I almost never make the same recipe the same way twice, so when I find something I am happy with, you can bet that it will be amazing!

Which brings us to the Perfect Vanilla Cake. I make all the birthday cakes in our house (naturally) and for large birthday parties, I generally stick with vanilla cake. I have done other types, but they never get eaten, and I end up with leftovers, which is a WHOLE OTHER PROBLEM.

I have been testing vanilla cake recipes for a few years now. My criteria- it must be good for sheet and stacked cakes; it must also be good for cupcakes. I want it to be fluffy and moist, like a box mix, but homemade. It has to take food color well and have a strong vanilla flavor. It can't be too difficult, with too many steps or ingredients, or have too many bowls.

For a while, I used the recipe for Old Fashioned Cupcakes out of the Back in the Day Cookbook, which is still awesome in it's own right. Excellent vanilla flavor, great for cupcakes, but I always wanted the texture to be more like a box mix, more fluffy/moist, and less dense.

Recently, I bought the Cookies and Cups Cookbook, and I have been loving her Vanilla Cake Recipe! I have used it a number of times, and it fits pretty much all of my criteria. That being said, there are a few little changes I make to it.

The first change is that I use either cake flour, or I make my own cake flour, using regular flour and cornstarch. Oh, you didn't know about that little trick? Heck, yeah!-for every one cup of regular flour, replace 2 tablespoons with cornstarch and sift to combine! I think it is a combo of sifting and replacing, but it works, so wooo-hooo!

I also beat the crap out of it. Cream the butter until it is light in color and fluffy, and then at the end, the original recipe says to turn to medium for 30 seconds, but I bump a little higher for a little longer.

The trick I find with all the whipping and beating is to be extra careful when getting trays in and out of the oven-not too bumpy or you will loose your air bubbles!

I think the combo of those two little adjustments makes a great texture! The colors are vibrant, the cake stays moist (after being covered in frosting) and the flavor is awesome!

It works pretty well as a cupcake, too!

So while I may never stop searching for the Holy Grail of vanilla cake recipes, I think this one is going to stick around a while!

I have also added my buttercream recipe below!
The Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe
(Adapted from Cookies and Cups Cookbook)

3 cups cake flour
             (or 3 cups flour minus 6 tbsp, then add 6 tbsp corn starch back in and sift 2-3 times)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, at room temp
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temp
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup whole milk, at room temp

Preheat oven to 350 and prep your baking pans (cooking spray and parchment). This will make 2-9" rounds, or about 24 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In your mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar. (I like to beat it until it is lightened in color.) Add the oil, eggs, vanilla and keep mixing until smooth, scraping as necessary.

Turn to low and add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, then about half the milk, beating after each addition. Repeat this step, and end with the flour mixture. Turn the mixer back up and mix for about a minute.

Put the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes. The tops should look dry and spring back lightly from your touch. A toothpick should come out clean from the middle.

Vanilla Buttercream
-makes about enough to thinly fill and frost one 3 layer 9" round cake or 24 cupcakes. Depends on how much you love frosting.....

3 sticks butter, at room temp
2 lbs powdered sugar (about 6-7 cups)
2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup whole milk (whipping cream is better!)

Beat the butter for a minute or so on medium speed to smooth it out. 

Turn the mixer to low and add 4 cups of the powdered sugar. 

Add the vanilla and half of the milk. Add the rest of the powdered sugar. Mix on medium for about 30 seconds, then turn back to low and add additional milk until it reaches desired consistency. 

Turn mixer up to medium/high and beat for about 5-10 minutes until frosting has increased and turned a lovely white, fluffy beautiful color. This is where using heavy cream (whipping cream) will really make your frosting sing! 


If you get a chance to try this out- let me know will you? 
I would love to hear your cake stories!!!


  1. I also live for cake. It's probably one of the reasons I can't shake my last few lbs of baby weight. I hope your dreams come true.

  2. I live for the butter cream frosting! This cake recipe sounds like a perfect companion for my much loved frosting!

  3. Fun cake. I love making rainbow cake as well. Thanks for sharing.