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Versatile Vanilla Cake

For variations on this cake, see our chocolate and lemon cake recipes.

  • prep: 15 mins
    total time: 45 mins
  • servings: 12

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • Whipped Frosting

Cook's Note

Reserve the egg whites left over from the cake for the frosting. If you don't have buttermilk, substitute plain yogurt or sour cream (not fat-free).

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

      In this step:

  2. Step 2

    In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.

  3. Step 3

    Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.

      In this step:

  4. Step 4

    Place one cake, bottom side up, on a cake stand. Tuck strips of parchment paper underneath. Using an offset-spatula or table knife, spread top with Whipped Frosting. Top with remaining cake; frost top, then sides.

Source
Everyday Food, May 2009

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Reviews (38)

  • Fremantle 6 Aug, 2014

    I made this cake with just a minor adjustment. I never serve my cakes until the next day. I had it in the fridge overnight, and then I frosted it and then put it back in the fridge. By keeping it in the fridge overnight the cake was dense but very moist. I think, like most recipes, you have to adjust to your taste. If you think it uses too much sugar, use less. I personally find many recipes bland and I just readjust them. I have used this recipe for giant cupcakes. I really like this.

  • substituteMartha 19 Feb, 2014

    This cake was TERRIBLE. So bad that I registered with the website just to be able to write a review. I took a chance, even though there were a few others warning about the density and dryness. But seriously, this was AWFUL. Followed recipe to a T, double checked it when I saw how thick the batter was. And once it was baked and frosted - ugh. What a disappointment. Hey Martha, Are you proud of this recipe?Did you or your staff ever think to revise it based on the comments in the reviews? #skipit

  • Tarna Pandaram 29 Nov, 2013

    If u using buttermilk 1 cup of butter is too much for this cake that is why its dense and the amount of sugar is also to much as well as the baking soda and baking powder is less I think Martha try using 1/2 cup melted butter I myself rather use margarine like rama original and use 1 tsp of baking powder and 3/4 teaspoons of baking soda Agitate the dry ingredients with a ball whisk to incorporate air Use 3 whole eggs only and then see the difference. I adj the qts a few times to get a perfect ck

  • ohsnapitsbrit 4 Mar, 2013

    Would it be okay to use normal milk instead of buttermilk? How different will the taste be?

  • Jack03 9 Feb, 2013

    I just wanted to tell if you have fan oven the baking time much less ~25 min. (specsburner.com)

  • Curly Cookie 27 Jan, 2013

    This cake is so simple to make and it tastes great. I made this for my brother's birthday but frosted it with chocolate ganache (we're not fond of egg whites in frosting). It's still yummy even if it comes out straight from the fridge!

  • Johann_E_W 1 Dec, 2012

    I made this cake for my mother's birthday a few weeks ago. I used a cream cheese frosting. Her friends loved it & ate every crumb. This cake will be a regular at my future parties.

  • Debra Wilson 7 Nov, 2012

    Wonderful vanilla cake recipe and it is now one of my favorite go to recipes. I did change a few things though, I used 1 tsp baking powder instead of 1/2 and I used 2 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp vanilla bean for extra flavor.

  • skyann 1 Oct, 2012

    I made this for some kids at church celebrating birthdays. it was a big hit! This was a delicious, moist, easy to make, simple recipe that will be my new "go to" !! Goes well with fruits or butter cream icing.

  • Kristen Zievert 18 Sep, 2012

    I made this the other night because I was craving cake and had delicious chocolate frosting but nothing to put it on.... So i searched the web for an easy vanilla cake recipe. This came out perfectly and tasted AMAZING! I love Martha Stewart recipes every one I have tried has turned out to be a favorite around my household! I definitely recommend this to everyone~

  • Kristen Zievert 18 Sep, 2012

    I made this the other night because I was craving cake and had delicious chocolate frosting but nothing to put it on.... So i searched the web for an easy vanilla cake recipe. This came out perfectly and tasted AMAZING! I love Martha Stewart recipes every one I have tried has turned out to be a favorite around my household! I definitely recommend this to everyone~

  • Kristen Haas 8 Sep, 2012

    I made this cake for my son's birthday. I wanted a really simple vanilla cake and I think this fits the bill. It's moist, but holds together nicely. I made 2 six inch cakes (2 inches high) and used the leftover batter to make some mini cupcakes. The cakes took longer than I thought to bake. The got pretty brown around the edges and were still a bit jiggly in the middle. The cakes are sturdy and easy to frost, plus yummy!

  • krzycandy82 16 Jun, 2012

    I love this cake. I have made it for cakes and cupcakes the only thing I have done differently is add 1tsp of baking soda and 1tsp baking powder and increased the vanilla to 1tbsp. This is only because I wanted it to raise more, and I wanted a stronger vanilla flavor. Perfect the original way though no cornbread type cake:)

  • jjnopierre 13 Jun, 2012

    Good day all. I would like to say that I tried this recipe last night as a test. I made one layer in a 10" square pan. Frosted it with buttercream. It was delicious. So delicious that there is more left this morning. The kids loved it, my daughter's friends couldnt get enough and I shared two pieces with friends who also loved it. This will be my vanilla recipe from now on. Thanks so much, I always wanted a great vanilla cake recipe.

  • labby890 3 Nov, 2011

    This cake is amazing! I made it with Mrs. Milman's frosting and loved it! I fell in-love with it. One of my favorite cakes recipes!

  • sweetcakes12 8 Aug, 2011

    This was a wonderful cake. I believe this is the best vanilla cake I have ever baked. The cake was very fluffy and very moist. I can't wait to try more cake recipes from your collection. Thank You

  • carrieknific 27 Jul, 2011

    Versatile Vanilla cake, round 2: A BIG HIT! I made this cake in 3 layers for my mom's birthday. I drizzled some melted caramel over two of the layers prior to frosting, which hardened in the fridge, but was great when we microwaved a slice. For frosting, I made Martha's Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream (http://www.marthastewart.com/348602/fluffy-vanilla-buttercream). PERFECT!!! This cake, with the vanilla buttercream, will be my go-to cake recipe from here on out!

  • carrieknific 2 Jul, 2011

    Great! I halved this recipe, along with another half of the chocolate variation, and made a six-layer chocolate and vanilla cake. The layers were very thin. I think this cake recipe is best for no more than four layers. But still yummy!

  • floridascrubtech 27 Apr, 2011

    I am a beginner baker, with much to learn, but i did well with this recipe. i made the double layer cake, and it was moist and good. i took it to work for a girls birthday at my job. i had read many reviews on how difficult the whipped frosting was, so i decided to use a vanilla icing recipe from one of my own recipe cook books. it came out very very well, the whole cake was eaten. and i felt proud, thank you martha, from florida!!

  • CountryTart 5 Feb, 2011

    This cake can turn the home cook into a professional baker but you have to let the butter and eggs warm to room temperature and carefully follow each instruction. Batter is whipped and cloud-like and the cake has a commercial texture without the chemical additves and with much more flavor. A winning recipe that works well with Italian buttercream and whipped milk chocolate frosting.

  • Cakeisgood4u 17 Dec, 2010

    Not good. Very crumbly and too dry. More like a scone than a cake. I made it as a birthday cake and guests were not pleased. I love Martha, first recipe of hers that did not work for me. Did not bake well and the edges were hard. Very thick and unruly batter.

  • AllyPally 21 Nov, 2010

    overall a yummy cake but not what i was expecting. it's thicker than i thought it would be - more dense and it tastes like sugar cookies. i made it with cream cheese frosting. everyone seemed to like it but it's not my favorite. i think it would have been better with a lot of frosting or with the whipped frosting that they recommend.

  • peterswife 26 Sep, 2010

    I made this cake for my parents' birthday, and it was a let-down. The texture was kind of cornmealy and crumbly. The frosting tasted good but even after 15 minutes of mixing, never formed stiff peaks. I added 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar and it helped it thicken a little more. Overall, it was just lacking in flavor. The cake might have been salvageable if the cake batter had chocolate chips or if strawberries were folded into the frosting. Not one of Martha's best.

  • India141 16 Aug, 2010

    I've made this cake twice in the past month. I made it for a women's church group and a birthday party. Everyone love it! They all said it was delicious. The only thing I added was coconut to the top and sides of cake.

  • detroiterchick 16 Jun, 2010

    A delcious cake! Perfect consistency, texture and taste. I made traditional vanilla buttercream instead of the whipped frosting and it was delicious.

  • WestVillager 18 May, 2010

    Made this cake for the second time last week and, again, pure happiness. I've only made about 10 cakes in the last couple years, but this one seems easier than others somehow. And it's really good. As for Clairedelune, the protein and leavening differences can definitely wreak havoc on the results.

  • clairedelune 6 May, 2010

    Last try! One had cake flour

  • clairedelune 6 May, 2010

    (continued from below).... One had cake flour

  • clairedelune 6 May, 2010

    I don't know what we did wrong but the cake never rose! Also, even though the knife came out completely crumb free at 32 min, the cake tastes raw. The one thing I found out (after the fact) was that my baking powder had expired in 2007. However, I had just made two cakes the week before that came out beautifully with that same baking powder. One had cake flour

  • mellymells 5 Mar, 2010

    save egg whites for frosting!

    this cake is delicious! i do not recommend the whipped frosting with it though. you can find tastier.

  • BreeLeeD 15 Sep, 2009

    I made the chocolate version of this cake and it was delicious! The frosting makes it taste even better!

  • Susan94 28 Aug, 2009

    I save the egg whites from the cake recipe in the freezer until I have enough to make angel food cake. Delicious recipe and I like how you made it easy for us to change it around to be different cakes.

  • Niconomicon 15 Jun, 2009

    susanaqnunes, soy oil is incredibly unhealthy. Butter is not bad for you, you should do some research. I recommend looking into Weston A. Price.

  • EWjunk 4 Jun, 2009

    sorry - the comments app is sketchy with Macs! I made the vanilla version, except I used 1/2 vanilla

  • EWjunk 4 Jun, 2009

    I made the vanilla version, except I used 1/2 vanilla

  • susanaqnunes 14 May, 2009

    Instead of butter I use 1 cup soya oil, or sunflower oil (I don't know if you have it).
    It makes the cake more fluffy and with less colesterol.

  • BuncoAddict 6 May, 2009

    On the Today Show ...... You said we could make it a coconut cake.... How much would you add? And what changes would we have to make to the flour if any? Thank you for sharing this recipe with us!

  • BuncoAddict 6 May, 2009

    On the Today Show ...... You said we could make it a coconut cake.... How much would you add? And what changes would we have to make to the flour if any? Thank you!