Cake Decorating Basics: The Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe

Updated on September 1, 2016

Are You Looking for a Great Base Cake?

If you're like me, you've scoured the internet for hours looking for the best recipe to use as a base for your cakes. I've tried hundreds upon hundreds of recipes and was never pleased with the results. The cakes turned out too dry, too crumbly, too moist, not dense enough, or just awful tasting with weird textures. I became very frustrated with these "World's Best Vanilla Cake Recipe" clickbait articles. Not a single one of these that claimed to be the world's best were even palatable. So I made a drastic decision. I decided I was going to come up with the recipe myself. I had already wasted tons of ingredients on these supposedly tried and true recipes, what was a few more pounds of flour going to hurt?

So I scrounged up my mother's old recipe book and found a basic vanilla cake recipe. I tried it and it was good, but it was missing something. So I started tweaking. Finally I came up with a recipe that I love and all my clients love as well. Give it a try, you'll be pleased with the taste, texture, moisture, and stability! I do a lot of carving for my clients, so I needed something that would hold up to lots of sculpting. This cake does just that and still tastes great!

Why Do You Need a Good Base Recipe?

The reason you want a spectacular base recipe is because if you have a perfect base, anything you add to it will end up perfect as well. You won't have to tweak so much in order to get the flavors and textures right. You can turn this simple vanilla base into more complicated flavors by adding ingredients you think will mesh well together. One of my favorite cakes to create is alternating layers of deep dark chocolate and peanut butter. The flavors meld together and end up tasting of a peanut butter cup! Both of those flavors start out with this base cake. In a later article, I'll share with you what I add to create the deep dark chocolate and the peanut butter flavors. I'll also give you some ideas of things that work really well together and you can come up with your own creations!

My Peanut Butter Cup Cake

This is the peanut butter cup cake I was talking about, using the vanilla base cake I'm sharing here.
This is the peanut butter cup cake I was talking about, using the vanilla base cake I'm sharing here.

Personal Rating

3.8 stars from 5 ratings of Basic Vanilla Cake

This Cake Behaves Well

What I mean by that is not only is this recipe tasty, but the crumb is very tender and sticks together well. If you're going to use this recipe for a stacked cake, it is perfectly dense so there's no worry of collapse. Crumb coating is almost unnecessary as it holds the moisture so well that there are barely any crumbs to deal with. The best part for me personally is the way this recipe holds up to carving. As I've explained before, I do a lot of sculpted cakes. It's kind of my specialty. I can make a cake look like anything you want it to look like. In order to have a cake hold it's shape, you have to have a recipe that isn't going to crumble when you carve it. It needs to be moist and dense, but not too heavy to taste. It also needs to freeze well and thaw to taste as if it was freshly baked when you're using it to sculpt. This recipe freezes perfectly and thaws just as perfectly.

Perfectly Carvable

I used the perfect vanilla recipe to carve this Charmander cake
I used the perfect vanilla recipe to carve this Charmander cake

Bonus Recipe

Here's a bonus recipe for you that isn't the from scratch recipe. My cake cohorts may have my head for sharing this, but I don't believe in keeping secrets. We're all here to make amazing cakes, right? So why not share it with folks who are searching. This cake recipe is called the WASC, which stands for white almond sour cream cake. However, I don't use almond flavor in mine because I hate how sweet and almost vaguely perfume-like the flavor is. So I use a half butter, half vanilla flavoring combination. It tastes amazing.

Ingredients

  • 1 box of cake mix - any flavor will work, you just need to make sure you match the flavors when you add the other ingredients. My personal favorite is Betty Crocker brand
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon flavoring - the flavoring you use will depend on the flavor of the cake mix you use. For all flavors except chocolate, I use half vanilla and half butter flavoring

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the cake mix, flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until there is no variation in color.
  2. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the water, eggs, sour cream, and flavorings until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.
  3. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk out any lumps.
  4. Add the second half of the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and again whisk out any lumps.
  5. Pour the batter into a prepped 9" cake pan and bake in preheated oven at 325 F.

Pretty as a picture in this rainbow glaze!
Pretty as a picture in this rainbow glaze!
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 40 min
Ready in: 50 min
Yields: 24 slices of cake from a 9" round

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Salted Butter
  • 5 Cups Sugar
  • 9 Eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla extract
  • 2 Teaspoons Butter flavoring
  • 6 Cups Cake flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Heavy cream
  • 2 Cups Sour cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it is a very light yellow color and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well until each egg is completely incorporated. Your end result should look like a soupy pudding.
  5. Add a third of the flour, then milk, then a third of flour, then sour cream, then the last third of flour. After each addition, mix until just incorporated and do not overbeat the mixture!
  6. Stir in the flavorings and mix until just incorporated.
  7. Add the batter to your prepared cake pans and bake at 325 F for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
The "Oh So Decadent" S'mores cake, made with this vanilla base.
The "Oh So Decadent" S'mores cake, made with this vanilla base.

Your Search is Over

I'm happy to say that this is the best recipe I have made and will likely use from now on. Barring some crazy miracle recipe that hasn't been invented yet, I'm sticking to this as my base cake. I've tweaked, added, taken away, tasted, and finalized on this recipe as my favorite. Give it a try, you may decide that this will be your favorite recipe, too. Happy baking and rock on!!!

WASC Cake in Action

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