It’s our one year blog-iversary and we are celebrating with cake, of course! This Velvety Vanilla Cake is the perfect celebration cake, with a soft and moist crumb, deep vanilla flavor, and smooth buttery frosting. It shines in its simplicity and can be the blank canvas you are looking for to decorate and flavor with your own creative touch.
Method for Mixing Velvety Vanilla Cake
Now for the cake. Like with our Lemon Bundt Cake recipe, we use the reverse creaming method here. It is a method championed by Rose Levy Beranbaum, queen of cakes, as a way to produce the softest, finest crumb. We agree and use this method for almost all of our cakes!
Bonus! It also makes it less likely that you will develop too much gluten by over-mixing. The protection is in starting with the dry ingredients then adding butter before any of the wet ingredients. The butter coats the flour, essentially getting in the way of the wet ingredients’ ability to cause gluten development when it hits the flour.
A Kitchen Scale is Your Friend!
We’ve said this before and we really really mean it. A kitchen scale is your baking best friend. It ensures that you are using the exact same amount of flour and other ingredients as us so that your cake will turn out exactly the same as ours.
We’re not messing around here. Cake baking is science and sometimes even small variations in measurements can make a huge difference in the final result. This is particularly true with flour.
Different people, using different ways of scooping and measuring flour, can end up with differences of two or more ounces. Even a single person using the same method can add different amounts (by weight) of flour every time they bake. The only way to ensure the exact right amount and the exact right result is to weigh your ingredients.
Here’s the scale we would buy if we didn’t already own one. If you bake a lot, you will be so glad to have it!
Building Your Layered Velvety Vanilla Cake
In the recipe, there are detailed instructions on how to trim, level, fill, crumb-coat, and frost your layered cake. Read carefully, especially if this is your first time working through these steps. Following them will give you bakery-quality results, or at least put you on the road towards those results. Practice really does help, too. In the end, we all know the most important thing about a cake is how it tastes, so have fun with decorating, but don’t stress out about the appearance.
Questions about technique, tools, or anything else?
Please ask! We’d love to walk you through it all!
Helpful Cake Tools and Equipment
Here are some things that will make your caking life a bit easier. These are our favorite versions, but feel free to seek out your own favorites.
- Kitchen Scale – Can’t recommend it enough for all of your baking, but especially for cakes!
- Cake Pans – Use pans with straight sides and sharp corners. Many pans have sides that are slanted slightly outward. These are fine for single cakes, but will cause you a headache when you try to stack. Magic Line is the best and a favorite of professional bakers.
- Large Serrated Knife – This is the perfect tool for trimming and leveling your cakes. You can buy tools specifically for that purpose, but a knife like this one works perfectly and can be used for other things as well. We love multi-use tools! If this one is out of budget, look for one that is long and not flexible. The serrated edge is a must, too.
- Cake Turntable – Heavy with a smooth turning mechanism, this Ateco turntable makes everything easier when you are trimming and decorating cakes. It doesn’t wobble or jump, thanks to the cast iron base. And the top is easy to remove and clean. Less expensive versions are out there but the plastic ones only let us down. You can use a lazy susan instead if it’s big enough to hold your cake, just be careful that it’s not too wobbly.
- Offset Spatulas – You will not regret adding both a small and a large offset spatula to your kitchen! It makes smoothing icing so much easier and you will use them for all sorts of other things. The smaller one is the one we reach for the most because it’s more comfortable to hold and maneuver, but the larger one comes in handy for bigger jobs.
Velvety Vanilla Cupcakes
This recipe makes amazing cupcakes, too! The mixing is the same but instead of pans, fill 25 cupcake liners halfway with your batter before baking them for 17-18 minutes in your preheated oven. Pipe or spread on the icing once the cupcakes are completely cool. They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.
More Amazing Desserts
Cake is definitely a favorite, particularly when celebrating. But we don’t discriminate – we love all desserts! Here are a few more options for you to try.
- Lemon Bundt Cake
- Simple Fresh Strawberry Pie
- Easy Whipped Chocolate Ganache Tart
- Apple Snacking Cake
- Gingerbread Blondies
- Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies
Velvety Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
- Kitchen Scale
- Cake Pans
- Large Serrated Knife
- Cake Turntable
- Offset Spatulas
For the Cake:
- 5-1/4 ounces (1-1/3 cups) cake flour
- 5-1/4 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or scant 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 10-1/2 ounces (1-1/2 cups) granulated sugar
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 5 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk at room temperature
- 2-3/4 ounces (1/4 cup) plain or vanilla yogurt at room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the Icing:
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 pound (4 cups) confectioner’s sugar sifted to remove any lumps
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 3-4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Prep for Your Cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans by greasing the bottoms and sides then lining the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.
- Mix the Batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix on low for 30 seconds.
- Add the butter pieces and mix again on low until combined. The butter should be broken up into pea-sized pieces and coated with flour.
- Whisk the milk and yogurt together in a small bowl, then add to the flour/butter mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened, then turn the mixer to medium-high and mix for 1-1/2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary (at least once) during the mixing time and again at the end.
- Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a separate bowl (this can be the same bowl you used for the milk and yogurt). Turn the mixer back to low speed. Slowly pour half of the whisked eggs and vanilla in at the side of the mixing bowl, then turn the mixer to high for 20 seconds. Return the mixer to low and add the rest of the egg mixture before mixing on high for another 20 seconds.
- Bake Your Cake: Scrape down the sides of the bowl one more time to make sure everything is fully combined, then divide the batter between your two prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched with a finger and a toothpick inserted in the center comes back with moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Cool Your Cake: Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. When the cake is cool, carefully loosen the sides of the cake from the pan if necessary, then turn each cake out onto another rack or plate. Flip over so that the side that was in the pan is down and place on your wire cooling rack. If the bottom still feels warm, allow it to cool before stacking and frosting or wrapping tightly in plastic wrap.
- If you are not stacking and frosting your cake right away, you can store your cakes tightly wrapped at room temperature for a day or two. The cake is best when eaten within a couple of days.
- Make Your Icing: When you are ready to stack and build your cake, make your icing. Start by cutting the butter into chunks and placing the pieces into the bowl of a stand mixer or, if using a handheld mixer, into a large bowl. Mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until the butter has lightened in color and is fluffy.
- With the mixer off, add the sifted confectioners sugar, salt, 3 tablespoons of the heavy cream or milk, and the vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined, then turn the mixer to medium and mix for another 5 minutes. Add a little more cream or milk if needed for a smooth, thick consistency.
- Use right away or cover and store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. To use after refrigerating, allow to come to room temperature, then re-whip to a smooth consistency.
- This icing will form a “crust” when in contact with the air, so always keep it covered.
- Trim Your Cake Layers: Start by unwrapping and trimming your cake layers. If the cake has domed, you will want to remove the top so that the cake is level before stacking the layers. To do this, place your cake layer dome-side up on a flat plate or, ideally, a turntable. Hold a long, non-flexible serrated knife (like this bread knife) firmly in your hand and straight out along the side of the cake at the lowest part of the dome. While holding the knife against the cake, but without pressing into the cake, keep your arm locked so that the knife stays level while slowly rotating the cake. This will score the edge of the cake all the way around. Continue to rotate, keeping the knife still but always against the cake. The knife will begin to follow the scoring cut into the center of the cake until your dome is completely removed.
- If you have trouble keeping your knife level, use a ruler to measure the side of the cake to the lowest part of the dome. Mark it with a toothpick sticking straight out from the side of the cake. Using that same measurement, place toothpicks all the way around your cake, 2-3 inches apart. Use these toothpicks as a guide by keeping your knife on top of them while you rotate and cut the cake.
- Brush off any crumbs from all sides of your cake layer. Repeat the trimming process with your second layer.
- If desired, you can use this same method to cut each cake in half so that you have four thin layers instead of two thicker layers.
- Build Your Cake: You can build your cake directly onto a serving platter or stand, but it’s much easier to build and frost it on a cardboard round. You can find these rounds at any cake supply store, in the cake supply section at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s stores, or online.
- Start by spreading a small amount of icing on your cardboard round. Place the first cake layer trimmed-side-up and centered onto the round. Top with 2 cups of your frosting. Add cut strawberries or other fruit, if desired, making sure to not put them close to the edges.
- Add your second cake layer cut-side-down on top of the frosting. The side that was in the pan should be facing up. This gives you a better surface for your frosting and helps to keep the cake moist.
- Crumb Coat: Using an offset spatula, spread a very thin layer of frosting all around the sides of the cake. Don’t worry about crumbs showing here, but be careful to not get crumbs into your bowl of icing. (It’s helpful to have a smaller bowl nearby to wipe off your spatula before getting more frosting from the larger batch, to avoid transfer of crumbs.) Once all the sides and top are covered with this thin coat, allow the icing to set for 5 minutes. This “crumb coat” traps the crumbs close to the cake and allows you to create a smoother finish.
- Final Coat of Icing: Once your crumb coat has set, finish icing your cake by spreading out 2 cups over the top, smoothing it from the center out and over the edges. Holding your offset spatula vertically along the sides of the cake, smooth out the icing in an even layer. Add more icing as needed and continue smoothing until the entire cake is covered.
- Don’t let the icing sit untouched for too long or it will develop a crust and will be difficult to smooth with your spatula. Work as quickly as you are able and remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect!
- Pipe decorations along the bottom edge (to hide the cardboard round) or just for fun. Add sprinkles or other decorations as you like.