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.

Vegan vanilla cake squares

Check out our best plant-based dessert recipes!

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.

Vegan vanilla cake pieces with sprinkles

Ingredients

Vanilla cake ingredients

Flour

All-purpose flour works best.

We haven’t tested it with gluten-free flour, so not sure if it works.

Sugar

We use white sugar, but you can also use brown sugar.

Water

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.

Oil

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

Baking powder is our raising agent of choice. There’s no need for baking soda and vinegar.

Vanilla extract

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.

Salt

You won’t taste the salt, but it helps making the cake tastier.

Cream cheese frosting

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.

Equipment

We use an 8×8-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.

Vegan vanilla cake with frosting

Instructions

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.

baking pan lined with parchment paper

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.

white flour in a bowl

To second bowl, add the wet ingredients: water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk well.

Vanilla and water in a bowl

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.

cake batter with a whisk

Transfer the vanilla cake batter to the prepared baking pan.

cake batter in cake 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.

Vegan vanilla cake base

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.

Beat the butter and cream cheese

Add the cream cheese and beat for another 30 seconds or until combined. But, again, don’t overbeat it.

cream cheese and butter in a bowl

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.

vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting in a bowl

Apply the frosting

Cover the cake with the frosting and keep it in the fridge if you don’t eat it immediately.

cream cheese and blue spatula

Shortly before serving, you can add sprinkles on top, then cut it into squares and enjoy.

Vegan vanilla cake with cream cheese and sprinkle

Tips

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 inchesScaling Number
6.5 x 90.91
8 x 81
9 x 9 1.27
9 x 13 1.83
18 x 133.66
16 x 225.50
26 x 187.31
Pan sizes and how to scale the recipe.

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.

Vegan vanilla cake pieces and sprinkles

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:

More Vanilla Recipes

Want more easy desserts? Try these easy sweet ideas with few ingredients and vanillainfused flavor:

For many more easy dessert ideas, check out our desserts category page.

easy vanilla cake

Easy Vanilla Cake

By: Nico Pallotta
4.92 from 35 votes
This easy vanilla cake is effortless, wonderfully most, and delicious. 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 you can top it with your favorite frosting.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 16 small squares
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Equipment

  • 8×8-Inch baking pan or 9-Inch round cake pan

Ingredients

Cake's Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or beans from a vanilla pod

Cake's Dry Ingredients

  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 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

Instructions 

CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 340°F or 170°C. Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper and brush sides with butter.
    baking pan lined with parchment paper
  • To a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
    dry ingredients in a bowl
  • To a second bowl, add wet ingredients: water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
    wet ingredients in a bowl
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, without overmixing.
    cake batter with a whisk
  • Transfer cake batter to prepared baking pan.
    cake batter in cake 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.
    cake cooling down on wire rack
  • Spread frosting on top, keep in the fridge if not eating it immediately.
    frosting on vanilla cake
  • Cut into squares, then you can add sprinkles on top before eating.
    easy vanilla cake with frosting

FROSTING

  • 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.
    Beat the butter and cream cheese
  • 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.
    vegan cream cheese and lemon frosting in a bowl

Video

Easy Vanilla Cake with Frosting

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 small square of vanilla cake with frosting out of 16 squares.
TIPS
– Don’t overmix; overmixing develops the gluten in the batter making the cake heavier and gummy.
– Let cake cool down completely; it will taste better and have a more pleasant texture.
– Make sure your baking powder is active by pouring 1/2 cup of boiling water onto one teaspoon of baking powder. If it foams, it’s good.
– Scale this recipe and use any pan you like. Check the scaling table in the TIPS chapter in the body of this blog post.
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: it keeps well and moist for 4 days. You can keep it in the fridge with the frosting. 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: freeze 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 3 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.
MAKE IT VEGAN
To make this recipe vegan you can use white beet sugar, vegan sugar, or organic brown sugar, and use vegan cream cheese and vegan butter for the frosting.

Nutrition

Calories: 186kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Potassium: 66mg, Dietary Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 184IU, Vitamin B6: 0.01mg, Vitamin E: 1mg, Vitamin K: 3µg, Calcium: 27mg, Folate: 26µg, Iron: 1mg, Manganese: 0.1mg, Magnesium: 4mg, Zinc: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe? Leave a comment below or mention @theplantbasedschool on Instagram. We are also on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.

If you liked this easy vanilla cake you might also enjoy the following:


Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

Easy right?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




22 Comments

  1. i tried making this cake and it ended up kinda sad. The edges are hard and crispy the middle somehow seperates from the bottom and top? and it didnt rise either. It didnt taste as how i expected it wasnt fluffy or moist as in the video (probaly beacuse i used a bigger cake pan?) im not sure what i did wrong. Any tips would be nice!

  2. 5 stars
    Great easy recipe. I baked it in a 6 inch springform pan instead and it took about 55 minutes. No browning on the top and not much on the sides probably because there wasn’t baking soda, which was awesome. It did dome a bit but that’s not a big deal. Haven’t tasted it yet but I’m sure it’s amazing. It feels very bouncy and soft!

    1. Awesome Carrie, so happy you liked it 🙂
      Yep the baking soda does the browning bit…you can add a pinch next time if you like some browning 🙂
      Thanks for all the feedback you are giving us 🙂
      Have a great day!
      Nico