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I have to admit that I overrode the popular vote in the Instagram poll this month because I’ve been dying to find my go-to vanilla cake recipe! (And I felt like everyone else needed this too.) It’s not that I make vanilla cake often, but it’s something that I take for granted until I need a nice plain cake base to stand up to whatever frosting/filling combination I’ve come up with. (My friend uses Milk Bar’s barely brown butter cake as her neutral base which I love, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood to brown butter!)
A huge round of applause for my tasters because this was a particularly difficult bake off to judge. While several of these cakes stood out in terms of flavor and texture, vanilla-on-vanilla gets pretty hard to judge after several samples. But, I’m happy to report that this bake off has given me a new go-to vanilla cake. Let’s get into it!
METHODOLOGY // RESULTS // FACTORS // ANALYSIS // RECOMMENDATIONS
- 31 total tasters
- All 9 cakes were baked the day of tasting; all frostings were made the day before
- All cakes were baked in greased 8″ cake pans lined with parchment
- All tasters ranked each cake and frosting on a scale from 0-10, and as a whole on a scale from 0-10
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- King Arthur unbleached cake flour
- Land O Lakes unsalted butter
- Crisco shortening
- Fage sour cream
- Kirkland vanilla extract
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated, brown and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
What is vanilla cake? And how did you choose the recipes?
Vanilla cake is technically an umbrella term to cover all cakes that are flavored with vanilla (obviously not counting other cakes like chocolate that contain vanilla, ok). Within vanilla cake, you can have:
- Yellow cake (typically made with additional egg yolks for the golden color)
- White cake (always made with all egg whites, no yolks, for the pristine white color)
Previously, I had done a yellow cake bake off with chocolate frosting. If you go by the above definition, some of these recipes were technically vanilla cakes as they didn’t contain extra egg yolks. However, I can’t seem to find sources that agree universally on what differentiates yellow cake from vanilla cake. So for this bake off, I drew the line at any “vanilla cakes” that used additional egg yolks (considering that a yellow cake) and I also omitted any white cake recipes (egg whites only).
Note: this bake off caused some philosophical musings among my tasters when it comes to vanilla cake. “It’s around this sample where I really start to wonder if maybe vanilla cake doesn’t ever taste like anything at all?,” said one taster. “Is it simply a cross between “baby angel food cake + pound cake?” wondered another. You be the judge!
Results of the Best Vanilla Cake Bake Off
As always, PLEASE take these rankings with a huge grain of salt! I am an enthusiastic home baker who could have very well made a misstep with any of these recipes, causing them to be ranked lower than they deserve. This feedback is also only a reflection of my specific pool of tasters. I think these are all fantastic recipes, winners in their own right. I encourage you to read through each description to find your personal ideal vanilla cake!
In an unusual turn of events, my personal pick was not even close to aligning with the top-ranked recipes here (though they’re fantastic)! You’ll find out which one it is below 😉
- Fat: Once again, our prized mixture of butter and oil prevailed for a superior flavor and texture. People loved Cupcake Project (butter + oil) for its delightfully fluffy texture, yet Ovenly (butter-based) was similarly prized. I was surprised that Baking Sense (oil-based) snagged third place among all the butter-based cakes! So, it’s hard to prove an actual pattern here of “which fat is best.” Fat certainly matters, but so does technique and the way fat interacts with other ingredients.
- Flour: To answer my constant question of “is cake flour really worth buying,” the answer here continues to point to yes as four of the top-ranked cakes use cake flours. cake vs. all-purpose. To be fair, only 2 of the 9 recipes use all all-purpose flour so the ratio is definitely biased (Baked uses a combination of both, a move that bewilders me.) However, I do think that cake flour is pretty crucial when it comes to a tender cake texture. I also think cake flour lends a specific flavor kind of the way boxed mix has a specific flavor and texture.
- Dairy (sour cream, buttermilk, heavy cream): We learned from the pound cake bake off that an acidic ingredient like sour cream or buttermilk can help tenderize the gluten (and therefore cake crumb) more effectively than using an ingredient like cake flour. My hunch was that cakes with these ingredients would do better–and I also guessed that Ovenly (with its double whammy of butter, sour cream AND heavy cream) would do well. Indeed, the top three recipes used either sour cream or buttermilk. While I don’t think you HAVE to have an acidic or high-fat dairy ingredient to make a great vanilla cake, it certainly helps create a soft crumb and more flavorful cake.
- Eggs: By now, you’re probably sick of hearing about how I hate whipping egg whites–but I do. And I feel justified in this bake off that I don’t think you need to whip egg whites to make a great vanilla cake. In fact, the fluffiest cake of them all (Recipe Tin Eats, akin to a chiffon cake), doesn’t require folding in any stiff egg whites (though it does call for whipped whole eggs.) Note that Baked and Sally’s Baking Addiction called for several extra whites in addition to whole eggs (Baked whips them, Sally does not). These cakes were somewhat lighter than denser cakes like Ovenly or Foodess, but I still don’t think egg whites are necessary if you want a lighter cake. (See Recipe Tin Eat’s technique for a super light cake.)
Analysis of the Best Vanilla Cakes
Baked: a light-crumbed, soft but slightly dry and very subtly sweet vanilla cake
I originally found this recipe via Sweetapolita, which offers an abundance of vanilla cakes. While it was hard to choose just one to test, I ultimately picked this cake by Baked because of a few unusual qualities. It uses a combination of butter (for flavor) and shortening (for longer shelf life and a tender crumb), 3 whipped egg whites in addition to a whole egg and a mix of all-purpose and cake flour. Most notably, it uses ice water as the main liquid. All other recipes used milk or sour cream as additional liquid, and I was curious to see what this less rich liquid addition would mean. Lastly, this was the only recipe to use an ermine frosting (i.e. a cooked flour + milk-based frosting) laced with white chocolate.
The good: this cake had a soft, light-crumbed texture. However, it erred slightly on the drier side and felt almost bready thanks to a lack of sweetness and thick, almost coarse crumb. Overall, the flavor felt quite bland and almost a little stale. I personally am not an ermine frosting lover and also found the flavor of the frosting to be a little bland (just a hint of white chocolate). However, for those who love a soft, fluffy, glossy frosting that’s not so in-your-face sweet as a buttercream, this is an excellent choice–it almost reminds me of a swiss meringue.
- The cake was super soft, fluffy and light; frosting texture almost like whipped cream– super airy and yum; this was a sleeper favorite that I came back to after I’d tasted all of them
- This cake is super soft and springy, and though I really like the texture and moisture level, though it isn’t very flavorful. The frosting kind of coated my mouth in a weird way. It seemed almost waxy at first.
- Both the cake/frosting were light – the cake tender, the frosting fluffy. Not super vanilla-y, but also not super sweet, which is a good thing in my book.
- Loved the frosting! Is it…ermine? Super creamy, light, fluffy and not too sweet.
- Cake itself didn’t stand out. While it wasn’t dry, it was very airy, not a lot of bite or texture and flavor was somewhat bland, not sweet enough. Frosting tasted pretty generic, and altogether nothing stood out.
- The cake was a good simple base. I think it would go well with really strong icings and frostings, like a dark chocolate or lemon meringue. It would use this if I wanted a cake with good texture, but the flavor isn’t a stand out. The cake and frosting together were not my favorite pair. I didn’t like the texture of the cake with the lightened texture of the frosting
Foodess: a dense, moist, plush cake that almost melts in your mouth
This recipe was somewhat similar to Cupcake Project in that it uses both butter and oil, but Foodess uses a 2:1 ratio of butter to oil whereas Cupcake Project uses a 1:1 ratio. Foodess also differs in calling for whipped egg whites that get folded into the batter, as well as using about half the amount of sour cream that Cupcake Project uses. (Note: although this cake is pictured with chocolate frosting in the blog post, I paired it with Jenn’s 5-minute fluffy vanilla frosting.)
This cake is astonishingly moist, rich, soft and plush. It’s dense in a kind of pound cake-esque way–it kind of melts away in the mouth with a very dense and tight yet extremely soft crumb. However, you can clearly see from rankings that this cake was unfortunately dinged on its overall rating because of the extraordinarily greasy frosting. (This cake alone took third place!!) The frosting recipe calls for a ratio of a little over 1 cup of powdered sugar to 1 stick of butter (vs. I typically use a 2-3:1 ratio). Nearly all tasters agreed that the frosting was WAY! TOO! BUTTERY! Putting the frosting aside, the flavor of the cake is kind of buttery but not as vanilla-forward as I’d like. However, the texture is the star here–I’d happily make this again with a lighter, fluffier buttercream.
- I liked the texture of this one: denser, moist, sponge-like. Not as tender as I would have hoped. The frosting was awesome. very creamy and not too sugary.
- Cake was pretty dense and buttery, closer to pound cake almost? Very smooth frosting with less flavor (Crisco??)
- The cake was delicate, fine, really moist, butter crumb and kind of dense, but in a nice way. The frosting seemed more buttery and not very sweet. Frosting and cake were both too buttery and didn’t balance each other out
- The cake itself has a really nice vanilla taste and the frosting wasn’t too thick. But everything about this cake was dense: for vanilla cake, I prefer a crumb that’s more airy and light. And the frosting – almost felt like I was eating a stick of butter.
- The cake was great, very similar tasting to a pound-cake and was really well balanced. The frosting I did not like at all. It tasted like straight softened butter.
- Cake is ok not super flavorful but not bland. Texture is a little dense but not bad. Frosting tastes and feels like straight butter and kind of grossed me out. Frosting + cake together was ok, balanced out the texture of the frosting a little
Preppy Kitchen: a soft, plush, finely-crumbed cake that virtually melts in your mouth with good vanilla flavor
John’s recipe was the benchmark of the group. With a butter-based cake that uses whole eggs, buttermilk, and a regular creaming method, this was an easy and straightforward recipe. It was paired with an equally standard and easy buttercream frosting.
I was surprised this cake didn’t rank higher as this was my personal favorite. With a fluffy, tight crumb, I felt this cake struck the right texture of the soft yet plush quintessential vanilla cake I want to eat (rather than a dense vanilla pound cake). Flavor-wise, this cake was soft and vanilla-perfumed without being cloying, and the crumb pretty much melts in your mouth. I found the frosting a tad too buttery, but that’s an easy fix. Given how easy this cake is to make, I would happily make this my go-to vanilla cake in the future!
- If angel food and pound cake had a baby–is that just vanilla cake? Frosting tastes exactly like frosting from a can (which I love), but slightly grainy? Overall vibe was a good classic vanilla cake
- Very plush soft airy cake but not a ton of flavor (but also not too sweet). Frosting is a good level of sweet and balances cake–good texture and doesn’t leave my mouth feeling greasy.
- A really nice, fluffy crumb but not as moist as I prefer. Really nice vanilla flavor. The frosting was a good balance of creamy and sweet but not gritty. This seems like a very standard, reliable recipe, but nothing out of this world.
- Unimpressive cake; the frosting carries the weight here with a nice rich flavor.
- Cake is eggy and crumbly, slightly off flavor. Frosting very grainy and cloyingly sweet.
- I really didn’t like the texture or flavor of this cake. The texture just mushed in my mouth. The frosting was also extremely sweet and a little granular.
Sally’s Baking Addiction: a beautifully fluffy, airy cake with moderate moisture and a slightly bland flavor
A standard top result for any Google search for “cake,” I had to try Sally’s tried and true formula! Like Baked, this recipe uses a mixture of whole eggs in addition to extra egg whites to keep the cake light and airy. (Happily, the whites don’t call for being whipped; they’re simply stirred into the batter). Sally’s recipe also calls for cake flour, buttermilk for an extra moist cake crumb, had a slightly higher ratio of fat compared to others, and uses a regular creaming method.
Despite all the factors that would seem to set this cake up for success (buttermilk for flavor, cake flour for a softer texture, egg whites for extra airiness), I was a little disappointed in the flavor of this cake (not much flavor at all). I did like the soft texture–it’s looser-crumbed and airier than Foodess, but not as moist. All in all, this texture felt very standard, not standout. I think the flavor could use some improvement, but I loved Sally’s frosting–the ratio she uses of nearly 2 cups of powdered sugar to 1/2 cup of butter is my go-to. Interestingly, the rankings reflect that most tasters enjoyed the frosting more than the cake (justifying the fact that this is generally my go-to vanilla frosting).
- Cake was plain but simple. Most frostings tasted similar to me and all too sweet, but I actually liked this frosting. Overall, the frosting and cake together were nothing unique, but simple and classic in a good way!
- Cake had nice mouthfeel, not oily, not dry, just right, though not as flavorful as some others. Frosting tastes really good! When eaten together it tastes great since the frosting outshines the cake
- Cake is extremely bland but I like the lightly spongy, airy texture. I like the very sweet frosting though 🙂 kind of tastes like frosting in a can?
- This cake was a little dry for me but had more of the nostalgic vanilla flavor I think of when I think of supermarket/boxed vanilla cake. The frosting was really sweet and seems the thickest/sturdiest of them all, and I loved it.
- Cake was somewhat dry. Frosting was great with that slightly coarse sugar texture (it was also very sweet). The frosting balanced out the dryness of the cake and ended up tasting pretty good.
- The frosting just tasted like sugar. The cake itself felt generic–it didn’t really have any depth of flavor and I didn’t particularly enjoy the texture.
Recipe Tin Eats: a tight-crumbed, light and airy sponge cake that is reminiscent of chiffon cake
Nagi’s cake came highly recommended and I was intrigued by the “Japanese techniques” she applies to her vanilla cake. She likens it to “hot milk” cakes and insists that you don’t need cake flour, buttermilk or sour cream–she makes hers with all-purpose flour and milk. Technique-wise, this recipe relies on beating whole eggs with sugar for 7 minutes (borrowed from Japanese sponge cake techniques) for a soft, fluffy crumb combined with hot milk and butter, which helps with rise and aeration of the crumb. Nagi includes very precise directions in terms of beating times, which I greatly appreciate for foolproof baking.
Given all of the technique and precise instruction, I had high hopes for this cake, and it was definitely a crowd favorite. Nagi promises this cake will have a beautifully even crumb, and it definitely did have one of the finest, tightest, most even crumb of the bunch. However, I wouldn’t describe the crumb as “velvety”–more airy, a little spongy, and more akin to a sponge or chiffon cake rather than what I think of when it comes to a tender and fluffy vanilla layer cake. There was a beautifully sweet vanilla flavor to this cake. This would be a great choice if you’re looking for a light and airy cake that’s not too sweet or rich. The buttercream was a standard sugary buttercream that I enjoyed!
- Best one so far. Sugary classic frosting and spongy, light, good cake
- Close to the platonic ideal of a vanilla cake. Good frosting, great small and delicate crumb on the cake, evenly distributed air bubbles and a nice texture, this one restored my faith in vanilla cake
- The cake was drier than the others but it kind of worked! The frosting was very rich so it complemented it well. Very soft bite, very vanilla-y.
- This feels like the airiest cake yet. I wonder how this would hold up as a three-layer cake under the weight of buttercream? This seems like the sweetest frosting of them all.
- This cake seemed a little drier than the others and the vanilla flavor wasn’t as pronounced. The frosting was the sugary sweet one I’m just not partial too. And together…I think I was missing moistness all around.
- The cake is more spongy and a little dry, not as sweet as others. Icing is very sweet and kind of grainy. Not my favorite. Too sweet and texture is off putting. Eggy cake, like eating foam, starchy texture
Sugar Geek Show: a moist and sweet vanilla cake with a rich, slightly coarse crumb
Liz’s photos never fail to make my knees weak! She applies cake flour, a combination of oil and butter and the reverse creaming method in order to create what she calls a “cloud-like crumb” that is “incredibly moist.” She also diverts from the typical American buttercream for a buttercream that uses whipped egg whites in addition to butter and powdered sugar.
This cake was definitely moist with a markedly sweet flavor. I almost wonder if I made a misstep in the recipe (despite my best attempts to double check every step) because I found the crumb to be on the slightly heavier/coarser side and it felt almost greasy (vs. the beautifully fine crumb in the photos). Still, the overall effect of this cake is very light and fairly fluffy in spite of the slightly granular crumb. The frosting was extremely airy and light thanks to all the whipping–it tasted a tad too buttery for me, but a solid buttercream overall. I probably wouldn’t bother with the egg white frosting in the future, but I could see this cake being a great choice if you’re looking for a moist, fluffy yet hearty vanilla cake that could stand up to a flavorful frosting.
- Nice light and fluffy cake, frosting was perfect sweetness
- Nice crumb, I like the texture of the frosting, light and airy, almost too light with texture of cake. Somehow frosting makes cake feel grainy, vanilla comes through, maybe a drop too sweet for me.
- Cake was good balanced texture – moist and light and not gummy. Not super flavorful but pretty good overall. Frosting texture was ok, a tiny bit too buttery for me but tasted pretty good.
- Cake tastes very buttery and almost cornbread like. Kind of a coarse but moist crumb. Frosting is very light and whipped and slight sugar granules, very sweet, not my ideal texture. Good chew to the outside of the cake and tender crumb. A little denser than I prefer but addictive as cornbread
- The cake was very moist, and the frosting was creamy/rich but not too sweet. Both had a nice vanilla flavor. It feels like the ideal vanilla cake for grown-ups, but I think kids would want something sweeter.
- Cake was sweeter and moist, frosting was light and fluffy but very sweet. I overall preferred a drier cake to balance the sweetness of the frosting when eaten room temp on day 1- but if I were to bake a cake knowing there’d be leftovers , I’d choose one of the moister cakes, like this one.
Baking Sense: a more open-crumbed cake verging on spongy with a sweet vanilla flavor
Eileen also has a wealth of vanilla cake options on her site–I ended up choosing this one as it was the only oil-based recipe among the popular butter-based cakes. With an eye towards the “super soft, very fine crumb” that you get from a cake mix, Eileen strove to recreate this texture with buttermilk (for flavor, moisture and acid to tenderize the cake) and oil (for moisture and a softer texture at room temperature than butter-based recipes). She also notes that this recipe doesn’t call for the typical creaming in a butter cake. Instead, emulsifying the batter along with leavening creates many tiny air bubbles which translate to a fine and even crumb. (Note: her recipe calls for the splitting the batter into 3 8″ pans. Instead, I baked half the recipe in 1 8″ pan for a more fair volume of batter comparison to the other recipes.)
This cake stood out to me as having one of the best sweet, vanilla-forward flavors. The flavor felt very reminiscent of Preppy Kitchen (though I like the slightly artificial flavor of cake flour, which gave Preppy the slight edge for me.) I did find the crumb to feel slightly more open-crumbed and airy rather than finely crumbed. While the slightly springy texture wasn’t exactly my ideal tender, melt-in-your-mouth cake, I do think this is a really easy cake to throw together, and it tastes great. And it was clearly a crowd-pleaser among the tasters!
- This cake is soft and springy and oh-so-tall compared to the others. It has the most flavor to me of all 9, but not in an overpowering way. The frosting seems the sweetest of all!
- Really really good, cake wasn’t super light but for some reason I liked the slight ‘chew’ it had—more structured texture. And the frosting was a sweet straightforward buttercream with good flavor/texture. The two work well together.
- A really interesting texture. Very spongy, airy and chewy at the same time. Moist, with a mild flavor–just a hint of butter, what I expect a vanilla cake to taste like.
- Soft, sweet, forgettable. Airier yet very moist crumb (surprisingly not bouncy or chewy). Love the buttercream, good balance of salt and sugar but still too buttery!
- This cake has a weird texture and had a mouthfeel finish like milk. The frosting was salty and had a bit of a tang–it stood out which I think can be a challenge with vanilla frostings! I would use this frosting with a lighter cake for sure!
- Cake was tall and fluffy, with a medium sweetness and eggy with a larger crumb. It’s probably great the next day. The frosting was too sweet for me and more buttery than the others–too buttery for me. But, a good example of the importance of balance and how the sum is greater than the parts!
- Crumb way too coarse and noticeably greasy, slight bouncy texture I didn’t love. Frosting is good but not compatible with cake.
Ovenly: a loose-crumbed, moist and soft-textured cake with a slight cornbread-y crumb with a rich vanilla flavor accentuated by tang
This cake comes from the cookbook of Ovenly, an award-winning bakery located in NYC. The recipe: a 9″ 3-layer cake loaded with a full pound of butter in addition to whole eggs, sour cream and heavy cream. With so much fat and richness, I was pretty positive this cake would be incredibly decadent hit. This was the only other recipe besides Cupcake Project that called for whole vanilla beans for a robust vanilla flavor.
Thankfully, all the decadent ingredients did indeed combine for an excellent cake. I was surprised at how airy, loose and slightly coarse the crumb was while still managing to be soft and incredibly moist. In addition to the appealing vanilla bean flecks and vanilla flavor, there was also a slight tang from the sour cream that added dimension to the otherwise buttery, vanilla-y flavor. The 3 cups powdered sugar:1 stick of butter ratio made for a sugary buttercream that I loved. While I probably won’t turn to this recipe into my go-to (a bit too decadent for an “everyday cake”), I absolutely loved the flavor of this cake, and think it would be a showstopper for any celebration. (And yes, I do think you could use vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean and it would still be very good.)
- Cake alone is so much more flavorful than any of the other cakes, good vanilla and buttery flavor; liked the vanilla flecks in the cake visually
- Taste is SO good!!! Only criticism is that the cake is a little crumbly, but overall the flavor of both the cake and the frosting is SO good and so deep. The texture of the frosting is also so lovely since it’s whipped, and airier than the others
- The cake is texture is more like a pound cake—firmer and a little more crumbly and dry. The frosting is very sweet and slightly grainier than others; reminds me a bit of grocery store bakery cake frosting (in a good way).
- The crumb is out of this world, super moist, dense, tender. It tastes very rich and eggy, which I love. SO FLAVORFUL with the vanilla bean; I love that I can see the little specks in the crumb. Frosting is slightly too sugary but has a nice flavor.
- LOVED the cake – so light, airy, lovely and melt in your mouth crumb. Really nice subtle vanilla flavor but the frosting was soooo sweet and slightly grainy
- This cake was saltier than the others, but in a refreshing, interesting way compared to the rest–my favorite cake. Surprisingly, although this cake and frosting were my favorites, I found them over the top when paired together! I think they each need to be paired with something simpler to really shine.
Cupcake Project: a pillowy soft, fine-crumbed cake with a not-too-sweet flavor
Stef’s recipe (converted by Amanda of I Am Baker) came highly recommended from many of you on Instagram. Using a combination of butter and oil, sour cream, cake flour, and a whole vanilla bean in addition to vanilla extract, this recipe seemed like it was destined for success. As a bonus, it also uses the reverse creaming method (which I generally prefer for its finer crumb). (Note: this was the only other recipe where I baked the entire recipe in 1 8″ pan instead of 2 pans to get a similar volume for comparison to the other recipes.)
Oooh, I loved the fine, pillowy soft, melt-in-your-mouth crumb of this cake. To me, this was one of my ideal cake crumbs with a good level of moisture and a tight, even crumb that’s not chewy or bouncy. (I kept tasting it side by side with Preppy Kitchen and ultimately thought this crumb might be just a tad tad greasier/heavier. I found the flavor to be a bit lacking–I wanted more sweetness and vanilla flavors, but other tasters seemed to love the flavor. Overall, a fabulous cake if you’re looking for a perfectly tender, soft crumb and a base that’s not too sweet!
- SO delicious!! My favorite one! the cake is really moist and light and I loved the flavor. The frosting was very rich and buttery yet light. As a whole it was such a joy to eat, pretty much everything you look for in a vanilla vanilla cake!
- Probably best cake out of all of them. Moist, great texture and bite, great flavor. Frosting was just right, slight coarse sugar texture, not too sweet. Overall a great cake, but I’d prefer a slightly drier cake with this frosting for textural difference
- The crumb is very moist and dense. Not too sweet; I can taste the fat and eggs and those glorious specks of vanilla. Frosting is creamy and buttery with just the right amount of sweetness. This one and [Ovenly] were the runaway hits IMO.
- Cake had dense and buttery vibes without feeling heavy; liked seeing the vanilla flecks; really smooth sort of thick/sturdy frosting. Had sort of a refreshing finish (can cake be refreshing?)
- Most moist cake and feels like it falls in the middle in terms of density. I really like the flavor and again seeing the vanilla seeds. This buttercream seems like it has a little more depth in its flavor—it’s not just sweetness.
- I REALLY liked the cake—so moist and fluffy, perfect vanilla flavor. The frosting was too sugary sweet. I liked the texture, just not the sweetness level.
- Cake looked tall and fluffy with vanilla specks. Neither too moist nor too dry and had a more complex flavor with a good even crumb. The frosting was too sweet on its own, but together, there was a really nice flavor (grown up! sophisticated!) with an excellent balance between the frosting and cake.
Erika’s pick: Preppy Kitchen! Happy to report this is my new go-to (it’s what I used to make this cake)
Best classic vanilla cake: Cupcake Project, Preppy Kitchen, Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best for moist and dense cake lovers: Ovenly, Foodess
Best for fluffy cake lovers: Recipe Tin Eats, Sugar Geek Show
Best vanilla-forward cake: Cupcake Project, Ovenly
Best “not too sweet” cake: Recipe Tin Eats, Baked, Cupcake Project
Best flavor to effort ratio: Baking Sense, Preppy Kitchen
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Hi Erika, I love your bake-offs. Often venture here to narrow down what recipes to try.
I’ve made the Cupcake Project vanilla cake a couple times using her volume measurements, and it’s good but your pic looks a little better than mine. I’m wondering- did you use her provided weight measurements, or convert from her volume measurements based on the King Arthur site? Stef’s conversions are pretty different than theirs. Just wondering what you used as I’d like to try it!
Wow. It looks so yummy and flavorful. I really like the recipe and i will definitely try it
Here’s some other considerations…. if a cake is easy to make, the ingredients are in my pantry already, I’m more likely to make it on a whim. I made the Recipe Tin Eats vanilla cupcakes a few days ago and was amazed how easy it was to make and I had all the ingredients on hand. I thought it was the best vanilla cake I have ever made or had. It uses regular flour, no separating eggs, no scraping vanilla pods, no cake flour. Last night I found this blog, as soon as I looked at a couple of the higher rated cakes, right away I don’t have cake flour, I don’t have vanilla beans, or buttermilk etc. I guess it’s fine if you are planning ahead but often I don’t bake that way.
Thanks for the recipe, The purple cupcake had the best vanilla cake in my opinion.
Can’t wait to try Cupcake Project recipe. When the original calls for 2 pans? did you just half the recipe
What about a white cake bake-off?
The purple cupcake had the best vanilla cake in my opinion. Look her up on YouTube. You’re welcome 💜
I vote against “variety” and admire your encyclopedic dedication. You are the hero we deserve
Love this site and your effort
Olive oil cake
Can there be a bit more variety?
You should try Broma Bakery Vanilla Cake. It’s amazing.
Thank you for testing. Perhaps your photos could include pics of cake slices standing up, to better gauge the lift and aeration? Like a slice on a plate.
When you say Preppy Kitchen’s cake is your new go-to recipe, you’re considering the balance between effort and final result, probably. But removing the effort from the equation, do you consider it the best cake of all of them?
Same question. ☺️ My current go-to is Recipe Tin, flavorful and fluffy.