White Cake

This white cake made with everyday pantry staples of flour, eggs, butter, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla is something everyone’s calling delicious. It simply has an understated elegance about it. Here’s how to make it.

A wedge of classic white cake and white frosting with a fork cutting in

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 cake. 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 endless dress up this cake. Originally published February 20, 2012.Emily Luchetti

Looking for a Frosting?

You know what 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. 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. Not your style? You’ll find plenty more frosting recipes here.

White Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 25 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 10 to 12
5/5 - 4 reviews
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.)

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Recipe Testers Reviews

The title of this recipe says it all — but there is nothing plain about how DELICIOUS the flavor and texture of this cake is on its own! On the other hand, it is classic 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.

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!

Classic but not blah, this cake 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 denser 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. 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.

Everyone can use a classic white cake, 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.

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.

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


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. Has anyone tried this recipe using gluten free all purpose flour (with or without anthem gum)? Did it work? Thanks!

    1. Geri, we do have a reader who has had great success substituting gluten-free flour here. Here recommendation is cup4cup brand, but I think any similar one should work. Do let us know how it turns out.

    1. Thanks, Bobby! We’ve got some fantastic frosting recipes on the site if you’d like to try one of those next time.

  2. LC, this cake actually saved Chrimbo this year. I had made a different–and very famous–white “velvet” cake on Christmas Eve and it was so tiny and dry, and didn’t smell great. I woke up early on the big day and came here immediately. I should never have looked elsewhere. I know exactly what these recipes go through to get the thumbs up. And still, considering my wandering eyes, you saved dessert. I presented my family with a lovely, moist four-layer vanilla cake, filled with caramelized white chocolate ganache, iced with tonka bean buttercream and decorated with a pile of sugar frosted berries. Thanks for letting me into this world and helping me, honestly, serve food in ways I never thought possible. All the best in the new year, Culinarios!

    1. Jenny, it’s notes like yours that are exactly why we do what we do. Exactly. Because food is more than just food, yes? It’s time, it’s ingredients, it’s expectations, and it’s an excuse to get together and make memories. And when the food is better, it simply elevates everything else in its environs. So pleased this cake worked out so well. So grateful to you for taking the time to let us know. Wishing you and yours the merriest and happiest of new years…

    2. Oh my, Linda, that sounds fantastic! Did you by chance take a photo? Would love to see those sugared berries.

      1. So here’s the thing about my Christmas Dinner – once the veg is in the oven, I’m into the cocktails and everyone is pretty much on their own. So, photos of food NEVER happen. But…it was breathtaking, if I do say so myself. It was mostly blackberries and some red currants.

        1. You sound like me. I always have the best intentions when it comes to photos, but forget and eat it. Then it’s too late.

  3. This recipe sounds good, I love buttermilk in a cake. I didn’t read all the comments but if I wanted to make this as one cake, what size pan would work? 9 x 13?

  4. Hello, That cake looks as soft as a mattress! Having tried many of Ms. Luchetti’s recipes before, I always stick to her recipes because of very good results. I’m not an experienced baker but a decent one. I’d like to make this as birthday cake for my little son. It is a party for around 100 people including adults and kids. How to scale up this recipe? Should I just go ahead and triple everything, making the batter all at once and splitting them between half-sheet pans?

    1. Hah. Love that, Clarice! In general I don’t increase ingredients for baking recipes exponentially; in general, I go the time-consuming route of making several individual batches. That has worked better for me. But I’m asking our recipe testing director, who has more experience baking than I, to weigh in, so kindly stay tuned…

      1. Hi Clarice, I generally have to agree with Renee. The problem in doubling and tripling a cake recipe can be the error introduced in scaling up the leaveners. The other issue is whether your mixer is large enough to properly mix the quantity of ingredients. If you decide to scale up, be sure you are super careful in measuring the baking soda and powder and keep an eye on the timing as this will vary with the pans used.

        1. Thank you, Renee and Beth. Beth, does that mean leaveners don’t scale up well? My KA mixer is 6 quarts. So, double batch should do right for a full sheet cake? Please advice.

          1. Hi Clarice, in your original note you mention tripling the recipe which depending on your mixer, could be difficult to properly incorporate all the ingredients. This particular recipe relies on measured as opposed to weighed ingredients, so measure carefully when doubling.

  5. I have been using this recipe for years now & it never fails to impress. Simple but delicious with any frosting. Due to a developed wheat intolerance, I have used a gluten free flour (cup4cup is my favorite for baking) with this recipe & no one knows the difference. Now that’s what I call having my cake & eating it too!

    1. Hah! Love everything you just shared, Lynn, including your sense of humor! We ALWAYS appreciate knowing about modifications for certain diets. So great to know you love this recipe as much as we do! Looking forward to hearing what you think of the next recipe you try from the site…

  6. Hello Beth. I made your cake this past weekend and it was a hit. The only downfall was it was not enough for seconds as it was that delicious. I was thinking of making it next time using a 9×13 pan. Would you recommend doubling the recipe for this and if so how long would I bake it?

    1. Hi Ana, we only tested it as a 2 layer 9 inch cake. I would hate to recommend something that we didn’t test as we can’t say that your results would be as wonderful as this layer cake. What if you made additional layers for a towering beauty?

      1. Hello, all. I found this site when I researched Portuguese food before my first trip to Portugal, and have been enjoying it ever since. Perhaps I can give back a bit. For extensive conversions been measurements- volume and weight, (calculations include many different ingredients, volumes and weights), check Traditional Oven.
        And if you’re interested in building your own oven check out the lively exchange of info for building your own, you got it, traditional oven.

  7. I would like to have the measurements if I should want to make it a quarter sheet (9×13) cake… I am going to make a birthday cake with chocolate pudding filling and whipped cream frosting…thank you in advance

    1. Hi Grace, I am always reluctant to suggest changing the proportions of a cake recipe since baking is such a precise science. Making this as a 9 x 13 will also impact the cook time. But we’re curious, if you do make it as a 9 x 13, we would love to know how it turns out.

    1. Hi Linda, the general rule of thumb is to replace 1 large egg with 2 large egg whites in a baking recipe. The yolks do serve an important function though as they add to the flavor and texture of the finished product. When all the eggs are swapped for egg whites, it is possible to end up with a dry and rubbery cake. I would suggest substituting a portion of the whole eggs.

  8. Hi — love the sound of this recipe and I’m going to use it for a wedding cake this weekend. Since I live in the Caribbean I have to buy whatever flour they have so I don’t have unbleached AP flour. I do have AP and bread flour – would you add a little bread flour to give it some strength? Do you think a little more vanilla or vanilla beans would offset the “eggy” flavour noted above? Thanks for any input you can provide.

    1. Hi Whitney, i would stick with the AP flour in this recipe. I’m worried that the bread flour would diminish the light, airy feel of this cake. As far as the “eggy” taste, that was not the general opinion of our testers. Are you going to do a trial run before the wedding? If you feel it is too eggy, you might look at Dawn’s comments as she reduced the egg yolks and had great success.

      1. Thanks Beth! I will just use AP flour for the cake. I hadn’t managed to scan through all the comments and just read the later one about the eggy taste. I think I will leave the recipe as is — I had already done a test cake but I like the sound of this one better. I will be baking tomorrow so have a little buffer. One of the three cakes is a rainbow cake and for that test cake I made one with just egg whites so the colours would be intense. The cake didn’t taste so great, in my humble opinion, although the couple getting married loved it. Would this cake show the gel colours well or would the yolk mute it a bit? I’m sure I’m just being fussy!

        1. Hey Whitney, we haven’t tried coloring the cake. Maybe some of our readers have? If so, please chime in!

  9. Hi, I am planning to use 9 x 13 cake pan. Is this recipe enough for the pan? I want to make at least 3 inch-thick cake. How long should I bake it? Thanks.

    1. Hi Riah, a recipe that calls for (2) 9 x 2 inch can pans will yield around 12 cups of batter. Most recipes using a 9×13 inch pan call for 15 cups. I don’t think that this recipe will yield enough for a 3 inch high 9×13 cake.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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?

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

  14. 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?]

  15. 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.

    1. 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….

  16. 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!

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

  17. 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!!

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

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

    1. 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?

  20. 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?

    1. 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!

  21. 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

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

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

      1. 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!)

  22. 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!

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

  23. 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,


    1. 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.

      1. 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!



        1. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

  24. 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!

    1. 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!

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

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