How To Make the Best White Cake from Scratch

updated Dec 14, 2020
How to Make The Best White Cake From Scratch

A step-by-step recipe for making the best white cake from scratch.

Serves8 to 12

Prep15 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 40 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Slices of white cake on plates.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

A white cake with white frosting is nothing short of stunning. It’s the cake of choice for weddings and formal parties, prized for its bright white layers and light-as-a-feather texture. It’s practically impossible to dislike, with a rich vanilla flavor that goes well with anything.

This step-by-step recipe will guide you through making a perfect white cake from scratch. Think of it as a blank canvas for creating the cake of your dreams: Use the recipe as the base of a Funfetti cake, or layer it with fresh fruit. Or, keep it classic and frost it in vanilla buttercream. You really can’t go wrong.

What’s the Difference Between Vanilla Cake and White Cake?

White cakes are most commonly served at weddings or used as the base of Funfetti cake to help the colorful sprinkles pop. Unlike most standard vanilla cake recipes, white cake is made with just the egg whites and not the egg yolks. This helps keep the cake pure white, because you’ve omitted the orange hue of the yolks. Some recipes also use shortening in place of or in addition to butter for an even whiter color, although our recipe sticks to butter to give the cake a richer flavor.

Read more: What’s the Difference Between White, Yellow, and Vanilla Cake?

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Use Clear Vanilla Extract for the Whitest Cake

Pure vanilla extract (the stuff you likely keep on hand for baking) has a brown hue that will give your cake a slight beige color. If you’re okay with that, go ahead and use it here. But if you want the whitest cake possible, we recommend using clear vanilla extract. Clear vanilla extract is a synthetic type of vanilla flavoring that gives the cake a rich vanilla flavor without any color. The flavor is a bit different than pure vanilla extract, tasting a bit like boxed vanilla cake mix versus real vanilla.

Buy: Watkins Clear Vanilla Flavor Extract, $8.02

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

3 Tips for the Best White Cake

Before you head into the kitchen, keep these tips in mind.

1. Make sure your butter is completely softened. Unlike most cakes, the butter here gets combined with sugar and vegetable oil, so you want to make sure it’s soft enough to be able to thoroughly combine with the oil. We recommend letting your butter sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using it for the best results.

2. Don’t over-whip your egg whites. You want to whip your egg whites just until they hold stiff peaks. This usually takes three to five minutes depending on the mixer you use. If you over-whip your egg whites you run the risk of them deflating, getting grainy, and separating. As soon as your egg whites are stiff, turn the mixer off and stop.

3. Don’t worry if the outside of your cakes look a bit golden-brown. It’s perfectly normal for the cakes to brown on the outside, so don’t be nervous if they look a bit golden when they come out of the oven. The inside will still be perfectly white and you won’t be able to tell once the cake is frosted.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell
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Here's how to make the best white cake from scratch.

How to Make The Best White Cake From Scratch

A step-by-step recipe for making the best white cake from scratch.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 8 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 6

    large egg whites

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 2/3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 2/3 cup

    canola or vegetable oil

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract, preferably clear

  • 1 cup

    whole milk, divided

  • 1 batch

    basic buttercream frosting (about 2 1/2 cups)

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Parchment paper

  • 2

    (8- or 9-inch) round cake pans

  • Mixing bowls

  • Rubber spatula

  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer

  • Cooling rack

  • Offset spatula

Instructions

  1. Soften the butter. Place 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. (Alternatively, place in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer.) Place 6 large egg whites in a medium bowl. Let both sit out at room temperature until the butter is softened.

  2. Heat the oven and prepare the pans. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat 2 (8- or 9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray, then line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds.

  3. Mix the dry ingredients. Place 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  4. Mix the wet ingredients. Add 2 cups granulated sugar, 2/3 cup canola oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the bowl of butter and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture will look somewhat grainy at this point.

  5. Add the dry ingredients. Add half of the flour mixture and 1/2 cup of the whole milk. Mix on medium speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour mixture and remaining 1/2 cup whole milk, and mix on medium speed until completely smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. If using a stand mixer, transfer the batter to a large bowl and wash and dry the stand mixer bowl.

  6. Whip the egg whites. Place 6 large egg whites in the clean bowl of the stand mixer. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and a second large bowl.) Whip with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

  7. Fold the egg whites in. Add the egg whites to the bowl of cake batter and gently fold with a rubber spatula by hand until fully incorporated with no visible streaks of egg whites left.

  8. Bake the cakes. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared baking pans. Bake until the cakes are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes for 9-inch pans, or 35 to 40 minutes for 8-inch pans. Place the pans on a wire rack and let cool completely.

  9. Assemble the cake. Run a thin knife around the outside of the cakes. Invert and remove them from the pans. Discard the parchment. If the tops of the cakes have domed, use a serrated knife to trim them.

  10. Place one cake layer, cut-side down, onto a serving platter or cake stand. Dollop 1 cup of the frosting onto the cake and smooth into a thin, even layer with an offset spatula, going all the way to the edges. Top with the remaining cake layer, cut-side down. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The baked cake layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated 1 day in advance, or frozen up to 1 month. To thaw, unwrap cakes and let sit out at room temperature until completely thawed, 2 to 3 hours.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers loosely covered in plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from Sugar Spun Run