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Vanilla Butter Cake

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Makes two 9-inch cakes.

  • To learn more, read:
    A Piece of Cake
  • by Katherine Eastman Seeley from Fine Cooking
    Issue 78

  • Nonstick cooking spray for the pan
  • 10-1/2 oz. (2-3/4 cups) cake flour
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3-3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 6 oz. (12 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole or low-fat milk, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly coat two 9x2-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment.

Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed (#2 on a KitchenAid mixer) until the ingredients are well combined.

Add the softened butter pieces and mix on low speed for 20 to 30 seconds to mix the butter into the dry ingredients—the mixture should look a little lumpy, with the largest lumps being about the size of a hazelnut. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed (#5 on a Kitchen Aid) for 1 min. to thoroughly blend the ingredients and aerate the batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed for about 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl after the second egg.

Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans. Use a small offset spatula or spoon to spread the batter evenly in each pan. Bake until the cakes are golden brown and the tops feel firm but spring back a little when tapped lightly with a finger, and a pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 min. Set the pans on a rack, run a table knife around the edge of each cake and let cool in the pans for 30 min. Invert the cakes onto the rack, lift the pans, peel off the parchment, and let the cakes cool completely before filling and frosting. 

Make Ahead Tips

You can bake the cakes up to one day ahead of filling and frosting. Let the cakes cool completely, then wrap them tightly in plastic.

Photo: Scott Phillips

Cakes from scratch never work for me. They are dense. But this time when using this recipe as exact as I could, the cake turned out wonderful. It rose and looks beautiful. I even cut the recipe in half so it serves the purpose of a little birthday celebration for 3 of us. it is cooling right now. The batter was lovely even though I absent mindedly added 1/8 teaspoon too much of the baking powder and forgot to put the sugar in until the very end of mixing.

I disregarded the reviews that said the cake was dry - mistake! I followed the recipe exactly but my cakes didn't really rise and were quite dry. The flavor was fine, but I'm not making this again. One of the few Fine Cooking receipes that was a failure.

Made this cake and while the flavor was ok, it came out quite dense not at all like the picture, not sure what I did wrong, I've done other cakes before that came out quite well. Will try again but felt really bad wasting the ingredients on the first one.

Used this recipe for the Orange Marmalade Layer Cake that I wanted to make for our family Christmas party. After reading the reviews referencing dryness, I was worried about using this one. It came out perfect! It was nicely moist and had a good crumb and no one was looking for a drink to wash it down. Whether someone wanted a slab or just a sliver of a slice, it held up great. It was sweet enough for the kids but not too sweet for the adults.

Love, Love, Love this cake. It is as impressive presentation wise as it is taste wise (minus the sweetness which is another reason why I love it). However... my cakes don't ever rise enough to be able to cut in half. I've made this cake 3 times and always the same. Any ideas why?

I have made this cake several times and it has been delicious every time and never dry. I even make cupcakes out of this recipe which also came out perfectly. This is my go to vanilla cake recipe.

I made this cake from the sweet cakes special edition with raspberry and chocolate buttercream. Overall I thought the cake was easy to make and was so excited about it, I was making for my mother-in-laws's birthday. Sadly it seemed very dry and slid apart on the way. I was able to repair the damage, but again the cake had a dry texture. I followed the recipe exactly, even making sure everything was at room temp, which i typically don't do. Not sure what went wrong. I did bake the cakes the night before to assemble the next day, and wrapped as instructed.

This is the First Vanilla Butter Cake that i ever made and it came out really well!! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

This is the easiest and tastiest white cake I have EVER made....so GOOD!

Kind of dry. I baked it in 8 inch pans for exactly 30 minutes, so I don't think it was overbaked. The flavor was good and the layers were beautiful, but I needed a sip of milk with every bite. The pan size was my only substitution.

The best Vanilla Butter Cake.

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