My Recipe Box

Very Vanilla Layer Cake


Serves 12 to 16

Yields one 3-layer, 8- or 9-inch round cake

Simple, understated, and elegant, this deeply vanilla cake is moist, yet light and airy, thanks to the addition of beaten egg whites. Pair it with Very Vanilla Frosting or use your own favorite.

  • 4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pans
  • 10 oz. (2-1/2 cups) cake flour; more for the pans
  • 3-3/8 oz. (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup ice-cold water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 batch of Very Vanilla Frosting

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 8- or 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour and knock out the excess flour.

Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the water, milk, and buttermilk.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the egg, and beat until just combined.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the water mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Increase the speed to medium for a few seconds to incorporate. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form; do not overbeat. With a silicone spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans, and smooth with a small offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove from the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Frost with Very Vanilla Frosting or with another favorite frosting.

Make Ahead Tips

The cake layers may be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 1 month. Let thaw for a couple of hours before frosting; a partially frozen cake is easier to frost because the crumbs don’t come off as easily.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 300, Fat Calories (kcal): 120, Fat (g): 13, Saturated Fat (g): 6, Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3, Cholesterol (mg): 30, Sodium (mg): 230, Carbohydrates (g): 41, Fiber (g): 0, Sugar (g): 23, Protein (g): 4

Photo: Scott Phillips

Made this cake for my daughter's birthday. Everybody loved it! It turned out to be moist and fluffy and flavorful. Totally agree with the baking soda comment from the other review though.

Anyone giving this recipe less than 5 stars has no tastebuds.

This was the first white cake recipe I have made that turned out light and fluffy with good flavor. Usually my white, butter cakes turn out dense and heavy. I followed it exactly except used coconut oil in place of vegetable shortening. I think next time i make it i will cut the baking powder in half because my husband said he could taste it, but I was very happy with how it turned out overall and will make it again.

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