This easy vanilla cake is effortless, wonderfully moist, and delicious, and you can make it with simple ingredients you already have in your pantry.
It's extraordinary for birthdays and special occasions; it's light, sweet, and with the perfect crumb and topped with a creamy cream cheese frosting.
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We get it; cakes can be intimidating, so we developed this vanilla cake recipe to be the easiest yet unbelievably tasty cake you'll ever make.
It's a one-layer sheet cake, and you can totally make it with one eye closed and one hand behind your back. I promise!
The ingredients are pantry staples; there are no eggs, cake flour, cake layers, or hard-to-find vegan ingredients.
All you have to do is whip together all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, water, oil, and vanilla extract.
Sometimes keeping things simple is best. The cake's crumb is unbelievably moist and yet with a light and delicate texture. It cuts perfectly, and it stays together wonderfully.
This is a life-changing recipe because you can now make vanilla cake whenever you feel like it with zero effort and without running to the store.
Ps. you can easily turn this into a vegan vanilla cake by choosing a vegan sugar and dairy-free cream cheese and butter for the frosting.
All-purpose flour works best.
We haven't tested it with gluten-free flour, so not sure if it works.
We use white sugar, but you can also use brown sugar.
We prefer water to milk because it keeps the cake moist, light, and fluffy. You can substitute almond milk or any other milk of your liking for water.
Pick a neutral-flavored oil such as canola oil, sunflower oil, or vegetable oil. Avoid flavorful oils like olive oil or coconut oil.
Also, we prefer oil to butter because oil makes a moister and lighter cake.
Baking powder is our raising agent of choice. There's no need for baking soda and vinegar.
We recommend a high-quality vanilla extract to infuse this vanilla cake with the most beautiful vanilla aroma.
You can substitute the beans in a vanilla pod for vanilla extract.
You won't taste the salt, but it helps making the cake tastier.
Cream cheese frosting
We have finger-licking good cream cheese frosting made with cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Use vegan cream cheese and vegan butter to make it vegan.
Optionally you can add grated lemon zest for a beautiful lemon aroma.
Note: you can use any frosting for this cake, including vanilla buttercream frosting.
We use an 8x8-Inch squared pan. You can also use a 9-Inch round cake pan. To use other pans, check out the "TIPS" chapter below.
You can whip up the cake batter with a manual whisk, hand mixer, or stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
Make the cake batter
Preheat the oven to 340°F or 170°C. Line the bottom of an 8-Inch baking pan with parchment paper and butter the sides.
To a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk well.
Tip: we recommend sifting the flour to break off possible lumps and to make the cake lighter and airier.
To second bowl, add the wet ingredients: water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined without overmixing. You can use a whisk or an electric hand mixer, but make sure not to overmix.
Tip: overmixing will develop the gluten in the flour, making the cake heavy and gummy.
Transfer the vanilla cake batter to the prepared baking pan.
Bake the vanilla cake
Bake immediately at 340°F or 170°C for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly dry.
Let the vanilla cake cool down for 15 minutes in the pan, then remove it from the pan and let it cool down completely on a wire rack.
Tip: the cake must cool down before you eat it. The crumb will get firmer, less chewy, and more flavorful.
Make the frosting
Take the butter out of the fridge and let it soften at room temperature for 15 minutes.
To a mixing bowl, add softened butter and vanilla and beat with a hand mixer for 30 seconds or until creamy. Don't overbeat it, or it'll melt.
Tip: Optionally, you can add the grated zest of an organic lemon.
Add the cream cheese and beat for another 30 seconds or until combined. But, again, don't overbeat it.
Add the powdered sugar to the mixture. Sift it in if it's lumpy. Beat on low speed first, scrape down the sides, then beat on medium-high speed for 30 seconds or until perfectly smooth.
Let it firm up in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or in the freezer for 15 before applying it to the vanilla cake.
Apply the frosting
Cover the cake with the frosting and keep it in the fridge if you don't eat it immediately.
Shortly before serving, you can add sprinkles on top, then cut it into squares and enjoy.
Make sure your baking powder is still active
Baking powder can get stale and inactive if kept for too long in your pantry. To check if it's still active add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to a small bowl and pour half a cup of hot, almost boiling water over it.
If the baking powder foams, it's still active, and you can use it. If not, it lost its raising magic.
How to scale this recipe?
This recipe is easy to scale. We calculated the scaling number for you. First, pick the pan size you want to use for your cake, then multiply all the ingredients in our recipe box by the scaling number in this table.
|Pan size in inches||Scaling Number|
|6.5 x 9||0.91|
|8 x 8||1|
|9 x 9||1.27|
|9 x 13||1.83|
|18 x 13||3.66|
|16 x 22||5.50|
|26 x 18||7.31|
How to scale cooking time?
Smaller pan: keep the same temperature but bake for a shorter time. It takes about 5 minutes less per inch. Always check with a toothpick if the cake is fully baked inside.
Bigger pan: keep the same temperature and increase baking time in increments of 5 minutes, checking with a toothpick to ensure the cake is fully baked. If you go over 50 minutes of baking time, lower the temperature to 320°F or 160°C.
Make Ahead & Storage
Make Ahead: this vanilla cake is an excellent recipe to make one day ahead as it gets more flavorful as it sits in the fridge, and the frosting sets perfectly on top.
Refrigerator: the cake keeps well and moist for four days. You can keep it in the fridge with the frosting on top. Best in a cake dome or some airtight container so that it doesn't absorb flavors from other foods in the refrigerator. Our advice when storing cakes is to remove onions, garlic, and other pungent foods from the fridge.
Freezer: you can freeze the vanilla cake for up to 6 months without frosting. To do so, let it cool down completely and wrap it in 3 layers of plastic wrap.
You can also freeze it with frosting for three months. In this case, keeping it in a freezer-friendly container is best.
Thaw: defrost the cake in the refrigerator over several hours or overnight. Do not thaw at room temperature.
More Easy Cakes
Here are some more wonderful, delicious, and jaw-droppingly easy cakes:
- Vegan carrot cake with 5-minute cream cheese frosting
- Easy chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, a single-layer easy chocolate cake
- Vegan lemon cake with a light and pillowy soft crumb and tangy flavor
- 8-ingredient apple cake with tender bits of apple inside
- Easy pear cake with cinnamon sugar coating and only 10-minute preparation
- Blueberry lemon cake: it takes just 5 minutes to throw together and about 30 minutes to bake!
- Easy orange cake with a simple orange curd filling, an Italian cake recipe
More Vanilla Recipes
Want more easy desserts? Try these easy sweet ideas with few ingredients and vanilla-infused flavor:
- 5-ingredient vanilla custard: ready in just 5 minutes, one of the easiest recipes on our site!
- Vegan vanilla Panna cotta with homemade strawberry compote, light, and happy dessert
- Vanilla cream cheese frosting: dairy-free, velvety smooth, and easy to make
- Easy vanilla pie crust is perfectly crusty and flaky; make this pie "crostata" with jam or fresh berries.
For many more easy dessert ideas, check out our desserts category page.
Easy Vanilla Cake
- 8x8-Inch baking pan or 9-Inch round cake pan
Cake's Wet Ingredients
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or beans from a vanilla pod
Cake's Dry Ingredients
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 ounces butter or dairy-free butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 ounces cream cheese or dairy-free cream cheese
- 1 - 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ lemon the grated zest optional
- Preheat oven to 340°F or 170°C. Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper and brush sides with butter.
- To a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- To a second bowl, add wet ingredients: water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, without overmixing.
- Transfer cake batter to prepared baking pan.
- Bake at 340°F or 170°C for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly dry.Let cake cool down 15 minutes in the pan, then take it out and let cool down completely on a wire rack.
- Spread frosting on top, keep in the fridge if not eating it immediately.
- Cut into squares, then you can add sprinkles on top before eating.
- Soften butter at room temp for 15 minutes, then add it to a mixing bowl with vanilla extract and beat with a hand mixer for 30 seconds.Optionally, you can add grated lemon zest for some tang.
- Add the cream cheese and beat for 30 more seconds.
- Add powdered sugar, beat on low speed first, scrape down sides, and finish beating on medium-high speed until perfectly smooth. Don't overbeat it.Let it firm up in the fridge for 30 minutes, or in the freezer for 15 minutes, before applying it on the cake.
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