White Layer Cake
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A perfectly moist and simple white cake paired with a light and fluffy whipped cream buttercream frosting.
Another month, another cake. Hop on in, folks– it’s about to get all sweet and heavenly up in here!
I’m back for March’s edition of Cake of The Month with a little elaboration on January’s yellow layer cake.
I mentioned in that post how yellow, white, and vanilla cake are often confused with each other and how they’re all different. I’ve also brought you vanilla cake in the past, so now we’re going to complete the trifecta with what I like to deem “wedding cake.”
WHAT FLAVOR IS WHITE CAKE?
I used this recipe to make many many cakes for customers back in my cake baking/decorating days, and it was often referred to as “that wedding cake flavor” when I would ask customers to be specific when asking for a “white” cake (spoiler alert: often times, they really wanted yellow).
Do you know the cake I’m talking about? Dense but not heavy, the perfect amount of moisture, a tight crumb that flows seamlessly into the filling and/or frosting surrounding it?
Hopefully you’ve tried the cake I’m describing, and you’re nodding your head in wedding cake delight. Are we on the same cake page now?
Good. So let’s make this “white wedding cake” recipe from scratch.
WHAT EXACTLY IS “WHITE” CAKE?
So white cake. It’s, well, white. It’s not quite angel food cake white, since it does use plenty of butter, but you won’t be adding any egg yolks to this cake batter, so the batter stays fairly white, especially in comparison to its cousin cake, the yellow cake.
Egg whites are the bulk of the glue that holds this whole cake business together, and you’ll need 6 of them for this two layer cake. I know, that’s a lot of wasted egg yolks, but save them! Or toss them in an egg casserole.
You’ll also do something a bit different for this white cake than you normally would for a cake batter.
HOW TO MAKE WHITE CAKE
Instead of creaming together butter and sugar, you’re actually going to mix together your flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and then add room temperature butter right there into the mix.
This is called “reverse creaming.”
You’ll wind up with a sand-like mixture. Here’s a visual for you:
To that sandy mixture, you’ll slowlyyyyy add your solution of heavy cream, egg whites, and a hefty dose of vanilla.
Much like we did with our orange creamsicle cake, you’ll add half of this wet mixture to the dry, allow it to fully incorporate, then add the remaining half of the liquid.
WHY ADD THE LIQUID TO THE DRY INGREDIENTS SLOWLY?
Your batter can only absorb so much liquid at one time. In order not to overload it with too much at once, adding it in two parts ensures there’s enough room for everyone to be happy and work together properly.
It may seem like an unnecessary step, but trust me, it is crucial in producing the perfect texture for this cake.
The cake will bake up nice and brown on the outside, but the inside will be a perfectly white color with a soft vanilla flavor perfect for pairing with just about any kind of frosting.
Side note: I actually used this white cake to make a berry cake, and it was a fabulous decision on my part. I hope you’ll try that cake, too!
Grab my classic white buttercream, go for some chocolate buttercream, or even try out some orange cream cheese frosting. OOOOOOOOH, or fill it with homemade lemon curd and lather it up with lemon buttercream!
YES. DO THAT.
Or. ORRRR, my friend… Cover this perfectly white cake with some out-of-this-world whipped cream buttercream. Ohhhh, yes. Yes, this is the stuff you’re going to want to douse every last crumb of cake with, because it. Is. Magical.
TOP WITH WHIPPED CREAM BUTTERCREAM
You’ll find that the recipe for this whipped cream buttercream is pretty similar to my classic buttercream frosting recipe.
That frosting is simply buttercream frosting with heavy cream as the liquid for thinning.
However, instead of just plain adding liquid to the butter/powdered sugar/vanilla extract business, you’re going to whip this buttercream with heavy whipping cream.
You’ll watch for the frosting to just start getting fluffy. Then, it’s perfectly whipped and ready to use.
GIVE THE BUTTERCREAM A TOUCH OF FLAVOR
Side note about the buttercream, you’ll add just a touch of almond extract to give the buttercream a bit of flavor flair. If you’re not into almond extract or you don’t have any on hand, that’s totally fine.
Just know that the tiniest bit of it can add a whole new dimension to your buttercream game. Just think about it.
If you prefer your frosting a little thinner to make spreadability a bit easier, thin it out with some more heavy cream, but decrease the mixer speed to low at this point.
You definitely don’t want to over-whip your cream, otherwise you’re well on your way to butter all over again. Not what you want.
As always, allow your cake layers to cool completely before assembling, and remember that no cake is complete without sprinkles.
Lots and lots. And lots.
If you’re looking for a very easy, basic white cake, this is totally it. It is easily paired with many flavors and makes a great plain canvas for serving with your favorite ice cream or even fresh fruit.
There is no wrong way to eat white cake, wedding or no wedding, so definitely tuck this recipe away for safe-keeping.
And don’t forget, now you’re fully equipped with the cake trifecta (white, yellow, and vanilla), so while you’re at it, might as well make a weekend out of cake baking and eating!
White Layer Cake
- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour be sure to measure properly
- 2 Tablespoons (15g) cornstarch
- 1 and ¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 Tablespoons (171g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature1
- 1 cup (240mL) heavy cream room temperature1,2
- 6 large egg whites room temperature1
- 2 and ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
WHIPPED CREAM BUTTERCREAM
- 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- pinch of salt
- ¼ to ⅓ cup (60-80mL) heavy whipping cream
- Place oven rack on the middle setting and preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Grease and flour (or use homemade cake release) two 8" or 9" round cake pans.
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend ingredients together on low until completely combined, about 1 minute. Add the room temperature butter and beat mixture on low speed until it resembles sand (see photo in post text). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula and mix again on low for a few seconds until thoroughly combined.
- Combine the heavy cream, egg whites, and vanilla extract in a large container with a spout (like a 2-cup glass measuring cup) and mix gently with a fork until blended. With the mixer speed on medium-low, add half of the milk mixture (about 1 cup) to the crumb mixture and mix until blended. Add the remaining milk mixture to the batter and beat again on medium-low until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixer off, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula, and increase mixer speed to medium. Beat the batter for about 30 seconds until batter is smooth.
- Divide batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake cakes for about 26-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pans completely on a wire rack before removing and assembling.
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add in the powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Add the cream and continue to mix until everything starts to come together.
- Increase mixer speed to high and beat for 3-4 minutes until frosting is fluffy, pausing once or twice to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Be careful not to over-beat the frosting, as whipping cream may start to clump. Decrease mixer speed to low if you need to add more cream to thin to desired texture.
- For more buttercream troubleshooting tips, see my book, The Home Baker's Guide to Basic Buttercream.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
- Place one layer, bottom side up, on a plate or cake stand. Using a spatula or knife, spread an even layer of frosting over the entire surface. Place the second layer on top, bottom side down, and press down on the top lightly. Spread the rest of the frosting on the cake, beginning with the top and working your way down the sides. Decorate as desired.
- Cake stays fresh covered at room temperature for up to 4 days. Cake may be covered and refrigerated for up to 7 days.
- It is imperative to use room temperature ingredients in this recipe. Allow ingredients to sit out at room temperature at least 45 minutes before beginning.
- I strongly encourage using cream in this recipe. It keeps the crumb moist and dense and adds a creaminess to the overall texture of the cake.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.
hi Lynn…you have buttercream with whip cream but its same with italian buttercream? can buttercream whip cream to make korean flower or another else? thankyou
I had the same issue.
I made the cake twice I even read your instructions on measuring properly and switched to the spoon method with the flour.
The cake sank in the middle and failed both times.
It had a wonderful flavor.
I will add I used a 8in 3imch deep Wilton pan so I was using the entire batter as one level.
Not sure if the issue is too much moisture in the recipe or too much baking soda.
I understand you have made it multiple times so are the expert but I am not sure what would cause such failure.
I have made and decorated a lot of cakes and am an experienced baker and have never had something like this happen.
Do you think it has to do with not dividing it?
Hey, Jane! Thanks for your detailed troubleshooting. It sounds like not splitting the batter is the culprit. The cake is on the denser side of cakes with a very moist crumb, so that’s a lot of cake to put in one spot. If you try it again, I would definitely split it into two pans or just halve the recipe.
Re: the frosting ONLY
I usually use only 1 stick of butter in an amount of buttercream that would frost a 2-layer cake. You have 2 sticks of butter… have you ever used just 1? I’d like to try but wasn’t sure if you had and if there is a real reason for 2 sticks…
I’ve not tried that way– I just like the texture and flavor of 2 sticks.
Wonderful! Thanks so much for the feedback. Yes, I do use both extracts when I make it. The vanilla is the star, but I like the little secret something that a bit of almond extract adds.
Can you half this recipe if you are only looking for one layer cake? Being in quarantine and it being my birthday, I don’t want too much cake!
Absolutely! I hope you’re able to enjoy your birthday, Leah!
Would it be possible to divide the batter into 4 to make thinner layers? Would it still cook alright? I’m trying to make a rainbow cake, but 1 foot seems TALL and I’d rather not half all the cakes (and have to make a second) if I don’t have to. It would be easier to make thinner layers of each colour to begin with, if it’s possible.
I’m also curious, would it still work with egg yolks included?
Hey, Natalie– to answer your first question: you could definitely bake thinner layers, though I can’t guarantee on bake time. If you’re only making 4 layers, your cake would only be about 8″ tall IF you didn’t trim your layers at all. This batter just comes out nicely in my 6″ pans, so they don’t need to be trimmed. I do wind up trimming them in 8″ pans.
Second, if you add in yolks, you’re now on your way to a yellow cake, thus adding yellow to all of your colors. Using white cake as the base for a rainbow cake insures you don’t have any yellowing of colors. Hope this helps!
We have some aspiring bakers\cake decorators in our house and today we had a little cake bake-off between my husband and 5 year old daughter. My hubby made the full recipe made a 2 layer cake and I halved the recipe for my daughter and she made a single layer. My hubby made a double batch of the buttercream frosting for both cakes. Other then my daughter adding a little too much flour and having a drier cake, both cakes turned out very well. It was a denser cake then expected (despite Lynn saying it’s a dense cake) so my hubby thought maybe it was cooked a bit too long? Are there other reasons why it might have ended up denser? Also they had hoped to do more decorating \piping but didn’t have enough frosting, do you recommend making a certain\different amount of frosting if more then just covering it?
Hey, Kim– this is definitely a denser cake. Using the reverse creaming method gives a slightly tighter crumb. And if you want leftover buttercream for decorating, I usually 1.5x the recipe!
Is the cake batter any good if I filled it with stabilized whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries or would it get too doughy or soggy when eaten the next day??
Also could I use stabilized whipped cream to frost the cake ?
That sounds great! Enjoy!
The cake itself turned out just perfect, but make sure to not put too much almond extract in the buttercream or it will turn out extremely sweet 🙂 My family loved it though
Thanks so much!
This is a FABULOUS dessert. It has the perfect amount of moisture and the flavor of vanilla and almond are divine.
Thanks so much, Carnia!
This is absolutely the BEST cake recipe ever in my life!!! The cake when cooking glistens! When cooked it has a golden almost carmelized flavor with the vanilla white cake wonderfulness inside! I used fresh strawberries and real whipped cream on the inside and the whipped buttercream on the sides and top! I everyone raved how good this was!!!!!! Five stars or more for this.
Thank you so much, Phyllis! I appreciate you 🙂
Is there a way to make a chocolate frosting using your frosting recipe?
Hi, Pat! There is a chocolate frosting on my yellow cake that I love and recommend.
Love this white cake recipe. I’ve made some before with mediocre results and this one was just so wonderfully moist and yummy. The reverse creaming method was so simple and made quick work of making the batter! It was ideal for coloring cake layers with gel food coloring and I’ll definitely use this recipe again.
Thank you so much, Katja! I appreciate this review so much 🙂
I will be trying this recipe this weekend. I wondered whether I could add some frozen huckleberries to the batter before baking. The recipe looks wonderful and if I don’t get a response I will just add them to the mascarpone frosting I plan to make.
Hi, Kim! I would not add huckleberries to the batter. It is a pretty dense cake, so I imagine huckleberries would weigh it down even more and mess with the baking time. If you want to add huckleberries, I suggest making a compote (use this strawberry compote recipe as a guide) and putting it between the cake layers! Let me know how it goes!