Vanilla cake with butter frosting and golden vanilla

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Vanilla cake from scratch – Move over the chocolate, because the vanilla has arrived. This easy, mixer-less vanilla cake is topped with a golden butter frosting that's impossible to resist!

Vanilla cake from scratch

Wet vanilla cake from scratch

Some of my best memories of birthday cake growing up are white sheet cakes with pink icing a centimeter thick and large frosted roses that my mother had made for me at a local bakery. Some people avoid thick, thick frosting, but those are the pieces I'm looking for.

In honor of his 125th birthday on September 28, McCormick has released a new vanilla extract, Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract, to help celebrate. McCormick celebrates its 125th anniversary by celebrating the role flavor plays in all of our lives, inspiring flavorful conversation and giving back to communities around the world.

The new vanilla is 25% stronger than classic vanilla, and is a perfect balance between sweet caramel and bourbon-rummy flavors. For a fan of vanilla, caramel, bourbon, and rum, it's absolutely perfect and made this easy vanilla cake taste extra vanilla.

Along with the same golden vanilla butter frosting I recently made for my banana bread sticks, I was in happy vanilla land. I didn't miss the chocolate when I went to town with this moist vanilla cake.

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This easy no-mix vanilla cake recipe is adapted from my favorite buttermilk cake base I've used for so many cakes. I love the base of the cake because it's quick and easy to make, and the cakes are always extremely moist, stretchy, and fluffy thanks to buttermilk, sour cream, and oil. That trifecta of moisturizing and softening ingredients makes it impossible to have a dry cake.

Vanilla frosting really helps make this vanilla cake recipe from scratch out of this world amazing. The secrets are the golden butter and the glorious vanilla specks. If you've never browned the butter, don't panic, it's so easy! The 5 minutes it takes are the best 5 minutes you will spend the entire month.

Between golden butter and vanilla beans, the flavor just breaks out of the glaze and helps raise the overall profile of the vanilla flavor to the next level. The glaze filters and soaks the vanilla cake, making it even wetter, smoother, and richer in flavor.

slice of wet vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and missing a bite on a plate

Homemade vanilla cake ingredients

For this vanilla cake recipe from scratch, you will need the following:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • baking powder
  • Salt
  • Egg
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vanilla extract

And for the golden butter vanilla frosting, you will need:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla paste
  • Salt
  • Cream or milk

Homemade slice of vanilla cake on a white plate

How to make vanilla cake from scratch

To make the wet vanilla cake, combine the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. Using a spatula, gently stir the wet, dry mixture. Turn the dough into an 8 × 8 inch greased baking pan and bake until the center is firm and an inserted tooth is inserted into the middle.

Once the cake has baked, let it cool most of the way before adding the vanilla frosting on top.

To make the golden butter frosting, you must first cook the butter over medium-high heat until it is amber in color. Transfer the golden butter to a large bowl and add the rest of the icing ingredients.

Using an electric mixer, beat until the glaze is smooth and thick, but easily pourable. Pour the frosting over the homemade vanilla cake and use a spatula to smooth it out, if necessary.

zero vanilla cake slices on white tray

Tips for the best vanilla cake from scratch

When making vanilla cake batter, it is so important that you don't over mix the batter. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until combined, and no more. If you work the dough too much, the cake will be denser than fluffy.

Note that you should look at the butter very carefully while browning. The only difficult part of browning the butter is that it goes from perfectly browned to burned quickly. So once you start cooking the butter, DO NOT move away from the stove.

You will know when the butter is ready to leave the stove once it smells nutty and amber in color. It will go through stages of hissing and spitting as it cooks, so don't let that scare you off!

Lastly, the icing recipe calls for vanilla paste. If you don't have vanilla paste, you can use the seeds of a vanilla bean or an extra vanilla extract. Just use what you have!

Vanilla cake from scratch: move over the chocolate, because the vanilla has arrived. This easy, mixer-less vanilla cake is topped with a golden butter frosting that's impossible to resist!

More cake recipes from scratch:

  • Homemade Funfetti Cake with Funfetti Glaze: The recipe is the closest thing to the Funfetti cake mix I've been able to replicate at home. I love those things, but it's nice to be able to pronounce all the ingredients and make a scratch cake in literally 5 minutes.

  • Triple Layer Chocolate Cake – This is the chocolate layer cake to beat everyone and the best. It's rich, decadent, and everything you want in a chocolate cake.

  • Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake – The cake is topped with cinnamon sugar and there is a cinnamon sugar filling that runs down the center of the cake that turns crisp as it bakes.

  • Caramelized Banana Upside Down Cake: While baking, the bananas are caramelized in a butter and brown sugar bath, giving the cake its gleaming top. There is so much golden butter and a delicious caramel flavor that it makes the cake irresistible!

  • Sweet Cream Vanilla Coffee Cake: The trifecta of coffee cream, vanilla Greek yogurt and a little oil hydrate and soften the cake, and also give it a creamy profile and rich in flavors.

Yield: 8 × 8 inch skillet

Preparation time 15 minutes

Time to cook 30 minutes

Cooling time 2 hours

Total time 2 hours 45 minutes



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • pinch of salt, optional and to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream, lite is fine (plain Greek yogurt can be substituted)
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of McCormick extra rich pure vanilla extract


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, golden brown *
  • 1 heaped cup of icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste **
  • pinch of salt, optional and to taste
  • about 1/4 cup cream or milk, or as needed for consistency


Make the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In large bowl, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, optional salt; set aside.
  3. In a separate small bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, sour cream, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry, mix lightly with a spoon or double with a spatula until combined. There will be small lumps, do not over mix or try to shake them gently.
  5. Turn the dough into a prepared pan and bake for about 29 to 32 minutes, or until the center is fixed and does not move, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few wet crumbs, but no dough.
  6. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool. While the cake cools, prepare the frosting.

Make the frosting

  1. Brown the butter. Cook the butter over medium-high heat in a small saucepan until it is amber to brown in color, about 5 minutes depending on the size of the pan, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn. I rotate the pan at the last minute or so to make sure I can really see the color changes. The butter will go through stages of hissing, sizzling, and rattling until the water cooks, at which point browning occurs. Butter smells nutty and aromatic.

  2. Transfer the butter, including the brown chunks at the bottom of the pan (they are powerful flavors, save them) from the pan to a large bowl to stop any remaining cooking.
  3. Add icing sugar, vanilla paste, optional salt and slowly add milk, whisking until smooth or whisk with an electric hand mixer. As needed, add additional cream (or icing sugar) to achieve the desired consistency of the glaze. The enamel must be of medium thickness and easily pourable.

Assemble the cake

  1. Pour the frosting evenly over the cake (it doesn't need to be completely chilled), smoothing it lightly with a spatula if necessary, but the frosting is likely to just slide into place.
  2. Let the cake cool in an uncovered skillet for at least 2 hours (or overnight and cover with foil) before cutting and serving so that the frosting can form.
  3. The cake will remain airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Nutritional information:



Portion size:

one Amount per proportion: Calories: 246 Total Fat: 11 g Saturated Fat: 5 g Trans Fat: 0 g Unsaturated Fat: 6 g Cholesterol: 38 mg Sodium: 149 mg Carbohydrate: 32 g Fiber: 0 g Sugar: 23 g Protein: 4 g

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Easy Yellow Cake with Buttercream Frosting – This is the easiest yellow cake from scratch and tastes like a million bucks. This yellow cake recipe always turns out to be extremely moist, stretchy, soft and fluffy cake thanks to buttermilk, sour cream and oil.

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With golden glazed butter cake vanilla

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