Basic White Cake

This is my go-to cake. Get this recipe down and you can make variations so tasty no one will ever realize they all rely on the same basic recipe. Use it for cupcakes, as a layer cake with whipped cream and fruit, or with your favorite frosting. I’ve layered it with sautéed pears, roasted peaches, or crushed berries in the middle. I’ve filled it with coffee ice cream and poured chocolate glaze over the top.

There are so many ways to dress up this basic white cake, the combinations and uses are endless. Let me know what you end up doing with it. I’m sure you’ll come up with something original!–Emily Luchetti

LC Not Your Basic White Cake Note

With apologies to the talented and lovely pastry chef Emily Luchetti, we beg to differ with her bold assertion that this recipe is a basic white cake. This is not your basic white cake. It is a cake. And it is white. But basic? Only if you mean “basic” in terms of simple and quintessential. But not basic. That just doesn’t seem to do justice to it. Perhaps she meant to say “best.”

Another thing we love about Luchetti? She doesn’t pretend to know which frosting we’ll be partial to on a particular day, instead trusting the home baker to rely on experience and preference when it comes to that momentous decision. [Editor’s Note: If you find yourself in need a suggestion, we’re partial to a billowy, whimsically named marshmallow frosting, also known as seven-minute frosting. Delicate yet sturdy, light as air yet luscious as can be, it boasts a sweet, sweet, sweetness that envelopes this cake to stunning effect.

Basic White Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 45 M
  • Makes 2 (9 x 2-inch) round cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk, or 1 cup whole milk mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Butter the bottoms and sides of two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans and coat them evenly with flour, tapping out the excess.


  • 2. In a large bowl or on a large piece of parchment paper, sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together with a sifter or with a fine strainer by gently tapping your hand against the edge. Add the salt (you can just leave it on top of the flour pile because it will get mixed in later). Set aside for the moment.
  • 3. Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer, beat the butter and sugar together, first on low speed and then gradually increasing the speed to medium until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then mix in the eggs, 1 at a time, just until combined.
  • 4. In a glass measuring cup, combine the buttermilk or milk and lemon juice mixture with the vanilla. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add half of the milk mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated, and then scrape down the side of the bowl. Mix in half of the sifted ingredients and then scrape down the side of the bowl. Add the remaining milk mixture and sifted ingredients in the same manner.
  • 5. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake the cakes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean or the cake has slightly pulled away from the side of the pan, 20 to 30 minutes or so. (If you leave the cakes in the oven longer than 20 minutes, you may need to cover them loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning. And if you had to put the cake pans on two different racks in the oven, switch the pans halfway through baking so they’ll bake evenly.)
  • 6. Let the cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack. Unmold them by running a small knife around the edge of the pans and then placing a plate on top of each cake and inverting the pan and plate. Remove the pans and let the cakes cool completely before frosting. (The wrapped cake layers keep at room temperature for a few days or in the freezer for up to a couple of months.)
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Anna Scott

Feb 20, 2012

The title of this recipe in one way is deceiving — there is nothing basic about how DELICIOUS the flavor and texture of this cake is on its own! On the other hand, it is basic because it is easy, uses ingredients you normally have in your pantry, and can be topped with anything you want. I bought some fresh berries and cream to top the cake with, but I did not end up using them because it was so tasty on its own. We have houseguests for the long weekend, and this cake has become dessert and breakfast both days so far. My only suggestion to the recipe itself is the cooking time — I found that after 20 minutes, the centers of the cake were still quite liquid. I ended up cooking my cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, and they turned out well. I would probably cover the cakes with foil after about 20 minutes of cooking so that the tops don’t get too brown during the remainder of the baking time. I loved this cake and will certainly be making it again — very soon!

Testers Choice
Carrie S.

Feb 20, 2012

Basic but not blah, this cake recipe is definitely going to be added to my baking repertoire. The cake wasn’t overly sweet, therefore, it was a great base for a rich and dark chocolate frosting. The cake remained moist even on day three. I was surprised to see a cake recipe without cake flour and do think it is more dense than what you may get from a boxed mix, but I think that lends a homemade quality to it that reminds me of cakes my mother used to make. Plus, you can taste the real vanilla (use the best vanilla you can find). It is nice to have a simple recipe that doesn’t require cake flour, since I don’t always have it on hand. While this recipe is called a Basic White Cake, the cake ended up being a pale yellow. This didn’t really make a difference to me, but if you are hoping for pure white cake, a recipe without egg yolks may be a better choice. Also, this book provides helpful tips, in a conversational format, and is definitely worth reading along with the recipe.

Testers Choice
Cindy Zaiffdeen

Feb 20, 2012

Everyone can use a basic white cake recipe, and this one is really easy and quick to throw together. I always use parchment paper in the bottom of my pans (after a disaster where half the cake stuck to the pan and friends were coming for dinner), so there was no issue with removing the cakes from the pans. They took about 30 minutes to bake in my oven. This would make a great birthday cake, frosted anyway you like it. I served it with freshly whipped cream and sliced strawberries from the garden. The only thing I would change next time is to cut the sugar — maybe even in half — because I found the cake itself really sweet.

Testers Choice
Rita Reino-Kinch

Feb 20, 2012

I saw a photo online of a cookie monster cake, and I wanted to duplicate it. So I decided to use this recipe as well as David's chocolate chip cookie recipe. Due to my following a gluten-free diet, I used gluten-free all-purpose flour. The cake was very good. It was not too sweet, yet sweet enough to enjoy. Even after 3 days it still tastes good. This was an easy recipe and definitely one to make again.

Testers Cookie Monster Cake


Comments
Comments
  1. Allison Parker says:

    Happy Birthday LC, indeed. And I have to say that my most batter-spattered book ever is one of Emily Luchetti’s. She’s a perennial favorite in my house. So, I think there’s some white cake in my immediate future. Cheers to another year… and many more!

  2. Susan says:

    This is so similar to the butter cake that I make, the only difference is my recipe uses 1 2/3 cups of sugar…that’s the ONLY difference! It is, hands down, the best buttercake I’ve ever eaten. I use the whole milk lemon juice combo most of the time because I rarely have buttermilk on hand and I’ve noticed that I seem to get better rise with that combo. Go figure!
    I like mine with caramel frosting, which is really my brown sugar fudge made with additional cream beaten in. So good!

  3. Lin says:

    I will try this one as soon as I am due a break from my getting healther diet (which means just after I give that vial of blood to my Dr. at my check-up)…LOL! I will let you know how great it is, because I know it will be. I am guessing it is your birthday due to the comments……so HAPPY BIRTHDAY LC!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      What a great way to break your diet, please let us know how you like it. Thanks for the birthday wishes- LC is now 13. David has a teenager on his hands!

  4. Pearse says:

    What is the texture of this cake. And do you get a fairly high layer? Thanks.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Pearse, we asked Emily Lucchetti, and she explained that “it doesn’t have as fine a crumb or as delicate a texture as a genoise or sponge, and it holds up well to frostings but isn’t heavy.” And while it’s not a skinny cake, it’s not exceptionally lofty. Does that help?

      • PEARSE says:

        Thanks for the reply. I think I should give it a try. It sounds good. The reviews says it’s delicious. The reason I asked about the structure and texture is I am crazy for tiered cakes. I can’t think of anything below 3 tiers. Thank you again for your reply.
        Pearse

        • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

          I think you should try it, too, Pearse. Emily Luchetti truly knows what she’s doing, and, well, you saw our recipe testers’ comments. And my curiosity is piqued by your cake-baking experience! Wherever did you cultivate this passion of yours?

  5. T.J. Morton says:

    I just finished using this recipe to bake cupcakes. I live in a place where cake flour is readily available, and substituted it for the all-purpose flour. However, my cupcakes came out a bit oily, and they sank in the middle. Can you tell me if there’s a common mistake I might be making, which has this effect, or is it likely only the change in flour? But it is by far, the most delicious cake (non-chocolate) I’ve EVER tasted! Now if I can just get the consistency/crumb right…

    Thanks for sharing the goodness,

    T.J.

    • David Leite says:

      Hi T.J., the substitution of the flour definitely could have been a factor in the middle of the cake sinking. Cake flour is more delicate (has a lower protein content) and therefore doesn’t build the same gluten structure as all-purpose flour. Also, make sure to use unbleached all-purpose flour, as it has more protein, making a sturdier cake.

      I think this change alone should fix your problems. Let us know how it goes.

      • T.J. Morton says:

        Thanks for the help, David. I made cupcakes with this recipe, which is probably why I thought it was too oily. The butter soaked the papers. The second time around, I reduced the butter to about 1 2/3 cup, and I used half all-purpose and half cake flour (I have bags and bags of cake flour–tipo 00 that I buy every time we drive down to Italy, which is why I was so determined to use cake flour). This time, the cupcakes came out perfectly! :-) I’m excited to try some with a vanilla buttercream frosting!

        Cheers,

        t.j.

        • David Leite says:

          T. J., nothing makes me happier than a happy reader/cook. And you’ve made me aware of a glaring omission: we have no vanilla buttercream recipe. That will be remedied soon.

  6. Dawn says:

    I added an extra tsp of baking powder and used 2 whole eggs plus 4 egg whites and clear vanilla and got a beautiful white, moist cake. Thanks so much for the starting point. I finally have the perfect white cake to go with my keylime frosting!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      So lovely to know, Dawn! Glad we were able to help on your quest for the perfect white cake.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      You did it, Dawn! Brilliant on being stingy with the yolks and using clear vanilla extract, which can be tricky to come by. Where do you source yours, may we ask?

    • David Leite says:

      And Dawn, will you be sharing that recipe for key lime frosting?!

  7. T.J. Morton says:

    Yes, please share the key lime frosting recipe!!!

  8. Dawn says:

    The recipe for the key lime frosting is soo easy!
    1. juice and zest from about 6 keylimes plus 1 TB of lime juice
    2. can of sweetened condensed milk
    3. 8 oz softened cream cheese
    4. 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    Blend the cream cheese and condensed milk then the sugar and then the juice and zest. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before you frost the cake.

    I buy my clear vanilla from walmart or publix

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Dawn, thank you soo much! I think there will be a mad dash to the store to buy key limes this morning.

    • mike says:

      dawn, when you say clear vanilla, you mean the imitation clear vanilla? i cannot find clear natural vanilla. thanks.

      • David Leite says:

        Hey mike. Clear vanilla is imitation but because it’s uncolored it won’t change the tint of your frosting. You can find clear vanilla online, including from J. R. Watkins, an all-natural extract company (except this product is imitation; nature doesn’t make white vanilla beans!)

  9. An Nguyen says:

    So. I used this cake recipe to make the cake for my own wedding (which was just last weekend). It was very easy to make with superb flavors. I filled the layers with homemade sour cherry jam and frosted the cake with Italian meringue buttercream. What could better testify to how delicious the cake is than the fact that 45 people totally demolished a 12-inch tier and a 9-inch tier in the evening?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Congratulations, An! How lovely. As to your question–rhetorical, we know, but still, I feel compelled to reply…no one, An. No one. That is an exceptional testament. Thank you! And thank you, Emily Luchetti, for this not-so-basic white cake that became a wedding cake!

  10. Sofia says:

    Used this recipe to make two cakes for my daughter’s 4th birthday celebration. It was a huge hit both with the little ones and adults alike. A few people asked me for the recipe. It came out extremely moist, tasty. This will be my to-go white (more yellowish) cake whenever I need to make it again.

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Sofia, so glad that your cake(s) worked out! I know that you had several huge cake projects in the making. Birthdays finished for a bit?

  11. Emily says:

    Thank you for this delicious recipe! I am so happy I found it in time for my daughter’s first birthday party. The texture was lovely and light, and it held its shape beautifully. I don’t usually like white cake, but now I am a convert! I was sad when all of the children dug into the cake and made it a huge mess of icing and crumbs because I desperately wanted more for myself!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Emily, that’s wonderful! I love this story. Many thanks for sharing it with us. Now I’m craving it myself….

  12. Rina Louise says:

    Hi there! I’m going to make this for my sons 1st birthday cake. I was going to use box cake for cupcakes but would like to do this recipe instead. Can you tell me how many cupcakes I can get out of this recipe? And how much to fill the cups? Thank you so much!!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Rina, two 9-inch cakes should convert to 24 cupcakes. I would fill the cups 1/2 to 2/3 full.

  13. Kelly says:

    I just made this recipe into funfetti cupcakes for my daughter!! DELICIOUS I might add! This is a delightful cake! Great taste and easy to make!

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      We’re so glad you found it so easy and tasty, Kelly. Love that you put your own twist on the cake!

  14. Hello, please can you kindly give the metric conversion of the ingredients? I’m particular about the all-purpose flour, which would be 2 1/2 cups if going by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Lightly spooned flour in cup is = 121g per 1 cup of flour = 2 1/2 cups x 121g = 300g. I would like to know how Emily weighs her flour. This recipe is very similar to Maida Heatter’s buttermilk loaf cake, and she uses 3 cups sifted flour and half teaspoon each for the baking soda and baking powder. According to Joy of baking, All-Purpose Flour: 1 cup = 140 grams. Therefore: 2 1/2 cups x 140g = 350g

    So, I am bit torn between using 300g or 350g, because with the increased leavening, the cake might be way too moist as opposed to velvety. I await your reply.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      cakesbywhales, we’d love to provide you with baker Emily Luchetti’s measurements, and in fact whenever a cookbook author does include metric or weight equivalents in a recipe we share them with readers in the recipe. However, in this book, Luchetti lists only the cup measure, nothing else. In her introduction to the book from which this recipe was taken, titled The Fearless Baker, she states, “Professional pastry chefs weigh their ingredients but I discovered that beginning bakers prefer to use measuring cups and tablespoons.” I’m sorry, I wish we could answer your question, but we’ve already provided all the information we have. Kindly let us know when you try it which measure you use….

  15. T.J. says:

    Cakesbywhales, when I baked cupcakes with this recipe, I used the master weight chart from the website of King Arthur Flour. 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour weighs 4.25 oz (120.5 g). Therefore, 2 1/2 cups is 300 g. Here is a link to the website:
    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/master-weight-chart.html

  16. Fernando says:

    Muito Bem Grande Neta. Mande um cake para provar aos Avós…
    [Editor's Note: Just thought we'd explain that this note is from Rita's grandfather. We asked Sofia Reino, Rita's mom and Fernando's daughter, to translate for us, which she kindly did. "Very good, my great granddaughter. Send some cake for your grandparents to try." Sweet, isn't it?]

  17. Nancy says:

    Have kept this recipe and only had the time to try it today. Verdict: Just the texture that I want from a cake, a little moist, with a bit of crumb, not so sweet. Have tried other white cake recipes, ( Beranbaum’s, Lewis & Poliafito) but their texture was just not what I was looking for. Thanks David, Emily for sharing this. I cannot wait to play with it! Has anyone tried this under sugarpaste if I may ask?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Nancy, so glad that you loved it! Let’s see if any of our readers has tried it under a sugar paste. Anyone?

  18. Rina Louise says:

    I’d like to use this recipe but make it a lemon flavor. Can I substitute lemon extract for the vanilla? To give it a good lemon flavor? BTW, I’ve made this cake 3 times and people absolutely love it. Awesome recipe!

    • Beth Price says:

      Thanks Rina! Sure, I think it is fine to use lemon extract. Let us know if you like the results.

  19. JC says:

    Hi, Should I throw in the whole egg without separating the yolk and the white?

  20. teego says:

    Tried this cake tonight because im always in search of a scratch cake that Is moist and dense. This recipe has the dense aspect but since there are 4 eggs you get that slight egg flavor in the cake and while the moisture isn’t bad…I’d prefer it to be a bit more moist. Perhaps adding more sour cream to it would help or I may of just slightly over baked. Definitely worth another shot.

    • David Leite says:

      Teego, when you do make it again, let me know what you think. Readers’ small tweaks make recipes that much more customizable for others.

  21. Julianne Farrey says:

    Cake is in the oven right now. Excited to see how it turns out!…Ingredients seem well balanced, nothing to crazy! Will let you know what i think! :) Thanks.

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