What makes this classic white cake a classic? Its stellar line up of ingredients: flour, eggs, butter, buttermilk, sugar, vanilla. Simple, elegant, basic.
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 so many ways to dress up this classic 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! 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.
Classic White Cake Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 45 M
- Makes 2 (9 x 2-inch) cakes
- 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 (either low-fat or full-fat), or 1 cup whole milk mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 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.)