Vanilla Buttermilk Layer Cake

Every home cook needs a good vanilla cake in their repertoire. This one is ours. It has a classic vanilla flavor with a hint of tangy buttermilk, it bakes up beautifully, and it stacks easily. It's also versatile, perfect for birthdays, fancy dinner parties, or a simple summer cookout.

Vanilla Buttermilk Layer Cake on plate
Cindy Rahe

This vanilla cake is my absolute favorite for making fancy layer cakes. It bakes up with little-to-no dome and has a soft yet sturdy crumb, both of which make it ideal for stacking.

I also love the flavor of this cake—classic vanilla with the slight tang of buttermilk. (By the way, the acid in the buttermilk helps keep the cake tender by inhibiting gluten formation!)

Because the flavor is simple, cake is also incredibly versatile and pairs well with pretty much any frosting or filling combination.

4th of July Cake stack the layers
Cindy Rahe
Cindy Rahe

Use the Reverse Creaming Method

I use a reverse creaming method for this cake, which means the butter is blended into the dry mixture until it becomes sandy in texture, and then the liquid is added to create the batter. This is the opposite of the more conventional method, which involves creaming the butter and sugar together and then adding the dry mixture and liquid in alternating stages.

Reverse creaming coats the flour with butter, which (along with the buttermilk) helps make a tender cake with a fine crumb, but that's still dense enough to handle stacking. I also find that this results in a cake that remains moist and tender even if it’s baked ahead and not served for a few days.

Favorite Fillings for Vanilla Layer Cake

Favorite Frostings for Vanilla Layer Cake

Vanilla Buttermilk Layer Cake

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Servings 12 servings
Yield 3 layers

If you would like a cake with super tall layers, bake the cakes in 3 8x3-inch baking pans. If using the smaller pan, you may need to add an additional 5 to 8 minutes to the bake time.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (374g) all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups (397g) granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, softened

  • 5 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Special Equipment

  • 3 9x2-inch baking pans
  • Stand mixer

Method

  1. Heat the oven and prep the pans:

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray 3 9x2-inch baking pans with nonstick spray (or butter and flour) and line the bottoms with parchment rounds.

  2. Mix together the butter and dry ingredients (reverse cream):

    In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt on low speed with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer).

    Add the softened butter and mix on medium speed until the butter is incorporated and the mixture becomes sandy in texture, about 30 to 45 seconds.

    How to Make Vanilla Cake reverse cream
    Cindy Rahe
    Vanilla Buttermilk Layer Cake reverse cream the ingredients
    Cindy Rahe
  3. Mix in the liquid ingredients:

    Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together in a large measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the liquid mixture to the butter-flour mixture in two separate additions. Beat well after each addition and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Continue mixing until you get a smooth batter.

    Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe add the wet ingredients
    Cindy Rahe
    Vanilla Cake Recipe make the batter
    Cindy Rahe
  4. Bake the cakes:

    Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and smooth the tops. Tap the pans against the counters once or twice to force out any large air bubbles.

    Bake on a single rack in the center of the oven for 20 to 35 minutes -- begin checking at 20 minutes and continue baking until the cakes pull away from the sides, the top springs back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    How to Make Vanilla Layer Cake fill the pans
    Cindy Rahe
  5. Cool the cakes:

    Set the cakes in the pans on wire racks and cool for 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the pans and allow to cool completely.

    4th of July Cake stack the layers
    Cindy Rahe
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
421 Calories
18g Fat
59g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 421
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 10g 52%
Cholesterol 119mg 40%
Sodium 294mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 59g 21%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 35g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 96mg 7%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 108mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.