Our vegan vanilla cake is easy to make, with simple ingredients, and perfect for birthdays, holidays, and even for Valentine's Day. It's soft, moist, light, sweet, and full of vanilla flavour. It's eggs-free, milk-free, and without butter, yet no-one will be able to tell. This cake will make you fall in love!
On this page:
The cake is made of 3 main components: vegan sponge cake, vegan pastry cream, and vegan syrup. We show you how easy it is to make these at home with simple ingredients. We tested our sponge at least 10 times with many variations of ingredients and ratios to make it easy for you to make at home.
For other delicious vegan Italian cakes, check out our:
- Chocolate and sour cherry cake
- Coffee cake with hazelnut filling
- Lemon and yogurt pound cake
- Chocolate pound cake
- Layered coconut birthday cake
- Orange curd cake
- Double-sheet chocolate strawberry cake
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Flour: all-purpose flour works best in our opinion. Make sure to sift it before you use it. For a healthier cake you can add ⅓ wholewheat flour, but the cake won't be as light.
- Sugar: we used plain white sugar. Mind that if you use a darker sugar, your cake will have a darker stronger flavour.
- Plant Milk: soy milk is our favourite for this preparation. You can replace it with almond milk. Both are best if organic and unsweetened.
- Vegetable oil: we used sunflower seed oil, but you can use any refined vegetable oil. Refined oils are better for cakes as they don't have any flavour. We do not recommend using coconut oil.
- Baking Powder: it's necessary to make the sponge cake rise.
- Aromas: use vanilla extract and the zest of an organic lemon for the sponge and the pastry cream.
- Vegan pastry cream: we have a full post dedicated to vegan custards and pastry cream. You can make it in 5 minutes with plant-milk, sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel, vanilla aroma, and turmeric for colour.
- Vegan whipping cream: we prefer to buy this and whip it up shortly before use. If you can't find it in your local grocery store, you can order it on amazon or you can sub it with regular full-fat coconut milk or with coconut cream. Refrigerate the coconut milk can before whipping it, add powdered sugar, and just use the solid fat part.
Our measurements are for a 7 inch (18 cm) round cake tin. You'll also need an electric whisk to whip the cream on top, a whisk, and a serrated knife to cut the sponge cake.
How to scale this recipe?
How to scale ingredients?
This recipe is easy to scale. We calculated the scaling number for you. Pick the tin size that you want to use for your cake, then multiply all the ingredients in our recipe box by the scaling number in this table.
|Tin size||Scaling Number|
|4 inch tin (10 cm)||0.31|
|5 inch tin (13 cm)||0.52|
|6 inch tin (15 cm)||0.7|
|7 inch tin (18 cm)||1|
|8 inch tin (20 cm)||1.23|
|9 inch tin (23 cm)||1.6|
|10 inch tin (25 cm)||1.93|
How to scale cooking time?
The cooking time suggested in this recipe is for a cake tin that is 7 inches (18 cm) in diameter. Depending on the size of your cake tin, you might need to adjust temperature and cooking time.
Smaller cake tin: if you use a smaller cake tin (less than 7 inches / 18 cm), keep the same temperature but bake for shorter time. About 5 minutes less per inch. Always check with a toothpick if the cake is fully baked inside.
Bigger cake tin: if you use a bigger cake tin (more than 7 inches / 18 cm), you need to reduce the temperature and increase the baking time. My advice is to bake at 170C / 338F for the first 50 minutes, then reduce temperature to 160C / 320F until your cake is fully baked inside. Always check with a toothpick if the cake is fully baked inside.
How do I know if my cake is fully baked?
Depending on the type of oven, type of milk, and type of flour, your cake will take more or less time to cook than our cake. For this reason, when baking ANY cake, you should always check the core of the cake with a clean toothpick or skewer before you take your cake out of the oven.
To do that, just insert the toothpick or the skewer in the centre of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean and dry it means that you cake is ready. If the toothpick comes out wet, then bake for a few minutes longer, then check again.
Mistakes I made
- I overcomplicated the ingredients. The first 4 times I baked this sponge cake I did it with cornstarch, coconut oil, vinegar, aquafaba, cake flour and unrefined sugar. In all cases I was not satisfied with the result, and so I had to start from scratch, only to discover the the best cake is made with the simplest of ingredients. So, keep it simple!
- I undercooked the sponge. For the lightest cake, it's important to fully cook it inside. Always do the toothpick test, it needs to come out completely dry.
- I did not let it set. For best flavour, but also to make it easier to cut, you should let your cake set for about 30 minutes in the freezer or 1 hour in the refrigerator before eating it.
- I did not use the syrup to wet the sponge. In fact most english speaking blogs don't do that. And that's wrong! In Italy that's a must. To boost flavour and moisture you should always wet each layer of the sponge cake with syrup (bagna per dolci in Italian).
- Use a scale to measure the ingredients. This is the most important tip I can give you to get the best vegan vanilla cake.
- Use a light vegetable oil. I love to use sunflower oil for cakes because it has a very mild flavour, it's affordable and is rich in omega 3 and 6. I do not recommend olive oil or coconut oil for this cake.
- Do not open the oven. At least during the first 30 minutes of baking or your cake might deflate.
- Always check with a toothpick if the cake is fully cooked before taking it out of the oven.
A vegan cake is a baked sponge cake that does not contain eggs, dairy milk, butter, or any other product of animal origin. Instead, all ingredients used are from plants.
Compared to standard non-vegan cakes, vegan cakes are healthier as they do not contain animal based fats or protein such as in eggs, milk and butter. Also, they are free from the hormones and antibiotics that are found in dairy and eggs.
However, vegan cakes like this one are still made with mostly refined ingredients such as white flour, sugar, and oil, and have a high caloric density. So for this reason, vegan cakes should not be considered healthy and should be eaten in moderation.
We are not experts in gluten free baking so we would recommend checking a site that is specialised in that. However, a friend of ours made this with all-purpose gluten free flour and it came out great.
To make a vegan cake lighter you need to first get the oven evenly hot by turning it on at least 15 min before you bake.
Second, don't let your cake batter sit around before baking. Third, use a few simple ingredients and fold them together gently. If you whisk them too much, gluten will develop and your cake will be denser.
Store in the refrigerator, ideally covered, for up to 4 days. You can also freeze vanilla cake, and in fact, we recommend putting it in the freezer for 30 min before cutting it as you'll get much sharper slices. You can freeze it for up to a week. Let out of the freezer for about 45 minutes before eating it. I actually like to eat this cake slightly frozen.
Our favourite variation of this cake is to fill it up with jam instead of pastry cream. That's even easier to do! Follow the exact same recipe as this one, just swap the pastry cream for strawberry jam! You can even make the jam at home like we did.
Another great filling for this vegan cake is our vegan hazelnut-chocolate spread that tastes just like nutella. Follow the same recipe as here, but don't add the lemon in the sponge cake - just vanilla. Then follow our recipe for vegan nutella, and use that as filling instead of the pastry cream. You can top this variation with strawberries or with crushed hazelnuts.
This version is probably the most luxurious one. Check out our recipe for vegan pistachio custard and use it to fill this delicious sponge cake. Follow the exact same recipe as this one, just remove the lemon from the ingredients.
For a celebration-worthy and indulgent vanilla cake, serve with vegan meringue kisses. You can use a pastry piping bag to make the meringue small and bite/sized and top your cake with something special. Perfect for birthdays and parties!
For many more dessert ideas, check out our desserts category page.
Vegan Vanilla Cake
- 7 inch (18 cm) round cake tin
- electric whisk
For the vegan sponge cake
- 430 g all-purpose flour
- 250 g sugar
- 350 g plant milk soy or almond
- 75 g sunflower seed oil
- 25 g baking powder
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ lemon grated zest
For the vegan pastry cream
- 500 g plant milk soy or almond
- 90 g sugar
- 55 g cornstarch or potato starch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ lemon peel
- ⅓ teaspoon turmeric
For the syrup
- 130 g water
- 65 g sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping
- 200 g vegan whipped cream
- 300 g strawberries
For the vegan sponge cake
- Preheat the oven to 360˚F (180˚C). Brush a 7 inch (18 cm) round cake tin with a few drops of oil, then dust the tin with flour.
- In a large bowl add sunflower seed oil, sugar, plant-milk, grated lemon zest, vanilla extract and whisk well together.
- Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl with the liquids. Then with a whisk or spatula whisk all the ingredients together. Try to break some of the lumps.
- Pour the cake batter into the cake tin and bake for around 55 min at 360˚F (180˚C). Before taking it out of the oven, check with a toothpick if the cake is fully baked. Do not open the oven door for the first 30 minutes of baking. Let cool down completely before cutting it open. Cut it in 3 layers with a serrated knife.
For the vegan pastry cream
- In a pot off the heat, add all the ingredients for the vegan pastry cream and whisk them together till all the lumps are gone. Bring on to medium heat and whisk the liquid until it turns into a thick pastry cream. Take off the heat, set aside to cool down for 10 minutes, but keep whisking occasionally to prevent the pastry cream from drying out.
For the syrup
- In a pot, add water, sugar and vanilla flavouring. Bring to a gentle boil and whisk until the sugar has melted. Let cook for another 2 minutes, then set aside to cool down.
For the whipped cream
- For best results, we recommend purchasing a plant-based whipping cream. If you can't find it, then whip together 2 cans of very cold full fat coconut cream with ¼ cup of icing sugar. Use only the solid part of the coconut milk.
Build the cake
- On a cake stand, put the base layer of the sponge cake. Brush with ⅓ of the syrup. Then cover with ½ of the pastry cream. Spread the pastry cream across the sponge cake, then add some pieces of strawberries.
- Top with the middle layer of sponge cake. Brush it with ½ of the remaining syrup. Then cover with the remaining ½ of the pastry cream. Spread the pastry cream across the sponge cake, then add some pieces of strawberries.
- Add the top layer of the sponge cake - but upside down. Brush with the leftover syrup.With the help of a spatula, cover the whole cake in whipped cream and decorate with some strawberries on top. We like to keep the strawberries whole.To cut a perfect slice, let the cake cool in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for 1 hour and use a wet sharp knife.
Will you be cooking this recipe for your loved ones? Let us know in the comments below!