You’ll want to make this delicious and easy vanilla layer cake over and over again. Sweet, fluffy cake layers with silky swiss meringue buttercream, is perfect for celebrating birthdays, weddings or any other special occasion.
What’s the occasion?
Actually, do you even need an occasion for cake? I certainly don’t.
But if there is an occasion then it would be rude not to celebrate with cake, wouldn’t it?
So as I celebrated becoming another year older, it was time to comply with that unwritten rule of ‘birthday treats’ for the office! Sure I could have picked up something from the store, but that’s not my thing.
With everything that I’d made for the office, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made my favourite vanilla cake for them. Until now…
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my work buddies. It didn’t last long, someone complained that it had vanished by 10am!
How many times have you turned cake down because it’s ‘plain old vanilla’?
Vanilla gets a pretty bad deal in my opinion, and undeservedly so!
The thing is, a great vanilla cake is one of the happiest foods on the planet. It’s usually the first cake we learn to make, the first we taste, and the one that celebrates every occasion from birthdays to weddings. What’s not to like about it!
And whilst it’s so simple to make, it’s also so simple to get wrong too – and no one wants to celebrate with dense dry cake, do they?
The Fluffiest & Easiest Vanilla Layer Cake
Full measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card
What if I told you that I’ve got the easiest recipe, that will stop you reaching for boxed cake mix?
That’s going to give you the softest, most beautifully sweet cake layers?
Whether smothered in a silky swiss meringue buttercream or classically iced with sugar fondant, is one recipe you’ll want to make if you have something to celebrate or not!
What makes it the best recipe?
Apart from that it’s vanilla, and vanilla really is THE BEST flavour there is; there’s also…
- Self-Raising Flour – will give a soft, fluffy and light texture to your cake. Switch out the all-purpose or plain flour as these will usually result in a heavier, denser cake.
- Buttermilk – a superpower ingredient that works with the eggs to create a cake batter that produces perfectly moist cakes.
- Real Butter – creamed butter with a pinch of salt gives you the rich, buttery taste that just melts in your mouth. There’s no margarine or cake spread here.
- Vanilla Bean Paste – if you’re looking for a true vanilla flavour, then bean paste is the ultimate ingredient. If you can’t find vanilla bean paste, then a pure vanilla extract will work a treat. But avoid synthetic vanilla essence, it’s not a true flavour.
Top tips for making the softest cake
- Room temperature eggs – Adding cold eggs to your cake batter mix can cause it to curdle. Yes, we can fix that with dry ingredients, but also when baking, you’ll be working first to bring the eggs up to temperature. So make sure your eggs are at room temperature, and if not, you can warm them up by popping them in a bowl of warm tap water for 10 minutes.
- Softened butter – have you ever tried to cream fridge-cold butter? It’s a nightmare! To get that beautiful buttery taste and texture, make sure your butter is softened but not too soft. To test it, press a clean finger in the butter – it should leave an indent but not go all the way through.
- Make your own buttermilk – if you can’t find it in the chiller cabinet of the store, then add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 200ml (1 cup) of full-fat milk. Pop it to one side for 15 minutes, whilst sorting your ingredients out, by which time the milk will be ready to use.
- Let the cake cool down – I know it smells amazing when it comes out of the oven, but don’t be hasty and take shortcuts, trying to frost still-warm cakes always ends up a mess. Ideally, let the cake layers cool on a wire rack or you can refrigerate or freeze them if in a hurry. Remember to take them out of the cake pans first!
How long will the cake and buttercream last?
The cake will keep in an air-tight container for up to 3 days, or you can freeze it for up to 1 month, but make sure it is well wrapped before freezing.
If you have any leftover swiss meringue buttercream, pop it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or the freezer for 3 months.
Vanilla Layer Cake
For the Cake
- Make the cake: Preheat oven to 160C/325F and line a deep 6-inch cake tin with baking parchment. Alternatively, if you have three individual 6-inch cake tins, you can bake the layers separately.
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, salt and caster sugar together until soft and creamy. Alternatively, use an electric hand whisk and a large mixing bowl.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each egg until well combined. The mixture should be thick and runny. Then add the vanilla bean paste.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together, and gently fold half of the mixture into the cake batter. Add half of the buttermilk and mix in well. Repeat with the rest of the dry ingredients and the remaining buttermilk. The cake batter should be smooth and creamy.
- Split the cake batter between the cake pans, and smooth over.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Make the swiss meringue buttercream: In a large bowl or the stand mixer bowl, add the egg whites, vanilla bean paste and caster sugar, and whisk until combined.
- Add 1-2 inches of water into a pot or saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Then place the bowl over the pot and stir constantly with a balloon whisk until the mixture is hot and the sugar has dissolved, or until a sugar thermometer reads 71C/160F, about 3 minutes.
- Return the bowl to the stand mixer, and whisk the egg whites on medium-high with the balloon whisk attachment, until stiff and the bowl has cooled down. The bowl should feel cool to the touch, about 5-10 minutes.
- Cube the butter, and then switch the stand mixer attached to the paddle. On slow-medium, add the cubed butter a bit at a time with the salt, and mix until the buttercream is smooth.
- Assemble the cake: Using a large serrated knife, level the top of the cake layer and fix the ‘bottom’ layer to a 6-inch cake board with a little of the frosting.
- Using a palette knife or a piping bag and nozzle, spread or pipe buttercream across the bottom layer. Repeat for the next layer.
- Top the cake with the final layer, bottom-side up, and spread the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Use a palette knife or cake side scraper to take off the excess buttercream and give a smooth finish. Chill the frosted cake for 15 minutes in the fridge, to allow the layer of buttercream to firm up.
- Add another layer of buttercream to the top and sides of the cake, and remove the excess. Chill the frosted cake for another 15 minutes in the fridge.
- Using a star nozzle pipe swirls of buttercream around the top of the cake; then scatter with sprinkles.
- The cake will keep in an air-tight container for up to 3 days, or you can freeze it for up to 1 month, but make sure it is well wrapped before freezing.
- If you have any leftover swiss meringue buttercream, pop it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or the freezer for 3 months.
- Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, and if not, you can warm them up by popping them in a bowl of warm tap water for 10 minutes.
- Make sure your butter is softened but not too soft. To test it, press a clean finger in the butter – it should leave an indent but not go all the way through.
- If you can’t get buttermilk then add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 200ml (1 cup) of full-fat milk. Pop it to one side for 15 minutes, whilst sorting your ingredients out, by which time the milk will be ready to use.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.