Shortly after the first optimized recipe post, I’m back with yet another. Except for this time, it’s not just optimized – it’s the world’s best.
If you had asked me last week, I’d have said that I would never choose vanilla cake when chocolate cake was also available. It seems, however, that I had simply never had good vanilla cake before. I promise that if you feel the same way, this vanilla cake will change your mind.
Compared to chocolate, vanilla is a much better and more adaptable base for a wide range of cakes. You can flavor it easily with almond extract, amaretto, coconut, lavender, loose tea, citrus, or nearly anything else you can think of. You can dye it fun colors, making it useful for rainbow cakes. Plus, since vanilla is a much more neutral flavor than chocolate, it can pair better with elaborate frostings, fillings, or decorations.
I won’t go as in-depth about the optimization process in this post as I did in the last one because it was exactly the same. Refer to that post if you’d like a more thorough explanation. For this recipe, I drew inspiration from Yolanda Gampp (How to Cake It), the Food Network, Sally’s Baking Addiction, John Kanell (Preppy Kitchen), Tessa Arias (Handle the Heat), Rachel Farnsworth (The Stay at Home Chef), and a random recipe that came up first when I googled “best vanilla cake recipe.” I figure that Google’s algorithm is credible enough.
By adding the average proportions of unsalted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and buttermilk, I was able to come pretty close to my goal of 1430 g of batter. To reach 1430 (actually 1426, but don’t tell) I increased the amounts of a few ingredients, particularly butter, sugar, flour, and vanilla. Simple. At least, simpler than optimizing chocolate cake.
It worked so fucking well. This is, hands-down, the BEST vanilla cake I’ve ever had. As I said before, I’ve never been much of a vanilla fan, but this cake is so good that I’d be tempted to choose it over chocolate. Seriously. You have to try it.
It’s light, flavorful, and incredibly moist. Unlike grocery store vanilla cake, it’s not at all dry or crumbly; even after several days, it remains moist and tender. There’s a strong vanilla flavor throughout, as well as rich and tangy notes from the buttermilk. It’s so good that it barely requires any frosting – and I say this as someone who has been known to eat frosting from the container. This cake is that good.
The recipe makes 9″ round cake layers, but you could make 8″ round layers if you want; just increase the bake time by about 5 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. You can also use 8″ square pans without changing the bake time. I made a simple two-layer cake with a thin coating of plain vanilla buttercream, but I recommend being a little extra with the recipe! To test adding additional flavors to the batter, I made a version with the zest of 2 lemons and the contents of 2 earl grey tea bags. It was incredible and I’d highly recommend this version if you’re a fan of earl grey.
I’m slowly converting my recipes to the metric system, which I think makes more sense when baking (and in all other contexts as well). I’m also holding out hope that my blog will blow up one day and a bunch of non-American subscribers will be really grateful. The upshot, though, is that I’d really recommend using a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients in grams instead of using measuring cups. It’s much more accurate to measure powdered ingredients by weight than volume.
IMPORTANT: while it’s always good to be aware of food safety, it’s especially important for this recipe and any other that requires perishable ingredients to be at room temperature. Don’t leave eggs and dairy at room temperature for more than 2 hours, but try to cap it at one hour at most. It’s better to have slightly cool ingredients than to have harmful bacteria in your cake. Also, I can’t condone eating cake batter (wink, wink) but it’s even more important not to eat it when there are room temperature eggs and dairy in it. Your digestive system will thank you.
Cheers, friends! Let’s make some cake!
World’s Best Vanilla Cake
- 227 g (2 sticks) unsalted butter room temperature
- 347 g (1 ¾ cups) granulated sugar
- 15 g (1 tbsp) real vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 330 g (2 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 2 ¼ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk room temperature
Earl Grey Lemon Version
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 2 earl grey tea bags
- Preheat the oven to 350º F/180º C. Using a stand or handheld mixer, cream the butter for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and cream for another 5 minutes. With the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each one completely before adding the next.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.
- With the mixer running, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in four additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Turn off the mixer. If using, stir in the lemon zest and the contents of the earl grey tea bags.
- Grease (2) 9″ round or 8″ square cake pans. Pour the batter evenly into the pans (about 3 cups per pan) and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool to room temperature in the pans, then remove from the pans and chill until completely cold, about 2 hours. Trim and frost the cakes however you wish.