This tender vanilla bean cake is moist and velvety. Paired with fluffy vanilla buttercream, this cake is perfect for all occasions.
This recipe is all about the cake - no fancy flavors or decorations. If you don’t already have a go-to vanilla, yellow, or butter cake, then THIS is the recipe for you. Even if you do, I implore you to test this Vanilla Bean Cake out.
It’s moist and tender while still being sturdy enough to withstand nearly any filling and able to be stacked sky-high into an impressive layer cake without toppling over. Best of all, its velvety crumb tastes like real vanilla!
I’ve been trying to make the perfect vanilla butter cake since the start of my career. And while I have been satisfied with different versions along the way, my latest recipe is a keeper.
Before we get to the actual recipe, I am sharing my top 5 tips for baking a vanilla bean cake. If you want to become a better cake maker, then I encourage you to try a few (or all) of these practices for the next birthday, celebration, or any other cake-eating day that rolls around:
5 TIPS FOR BAKING A VANILLA BEAN CAKE
Start with room temperature ingredients
The best way to create a smooth batter is to start with ingredients that are all the same temperature. In this case, that would be room temperature. One good indicator for what temperature your ingredients should be is to go off of the butter. In a butter cake, the butter must be soft enough to properly cream together with the sugar. So if the butter must soft (room temp), so should the eggs and milk.
But why should they all be the same? Using eggs or milk straight from the refrigerator may in fact be cold enough to firm up that beautifully creamed butter. Trying to incorporate cold eggs may cause the batter to appear curdled, as well.
The small amount of milk used in a cake recipe comes to room temperature fairly fast, so you don’t have to worry too much about spoilage. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place them in a bowl of luke-warm water as you prep and measure your remaining ingredients.
Can you bake a cake with cold milk? Have I forgotten to bring my eggs to room temperature and continued on anyways? You bet! It won’t totally ruin the experience (or your finished cake), but since we are learning about making better butter cakes, then it is best to practice these small habits when possible.
Properly cream butter and sugar
If I had only one piece of advice for beginner butter cake bakers, this would be it. Creaming together the butter and sugar is crucial step that can be easily overlooked.
To properly cream together butter and sugar, you must start with softened butter. Once it is mixed until smooth, add in the sugar and crank up the speed of the mixer.
While mixing on medium-high, the butter-sugar mixture will transition through a few different stages: At first, the sugar and butter will just casually dance around the bowl then start to incorporate together. As they get mixed, the two ingredients will start to clump together in the center of the bowl and around the paddle.
As you continue, more and more air is getting driven into the mixture as the sugar granules cut into the butter. Once creamed, the mixture will begin fall back off of the paddle and start to coat the inside on the bowl. It should be light, fluffy, and pale in color.
Not only do properly creamed butter and sugar make for a more homogenous batter, the air driven into the mixture helps leaven and lighten the cake. However, it is possible to over-cream, so be mindful of your mixing (and don’t mix on too high of a speed).
Be sure that the butter does not become too soft or that the fluffy mixture starts to deflate. Usually about 2 to 5 minutes of mixing at medium to medium-high will suffice. Do not over-cream the butter and sugar together or the mixture will lose its structure and collapse.
Consider using cake flour
We should really re-think the term “all-purpose” flour. While it may work best for baked goods like cookies and quick-breads, tender cakes can really benefit from something with less protein, like cake flour.
The protein in flour relates to gluten formation - giving everything from cakes to bread structure. For lighter, more delicate cake layers, try using cake flour, or even a mix of both cake and all-purpose (as I have done in the recipe below) for a sturdy yet tender cake that is great for layering.
When to use baking powder and baking soda
Baking powder and baking sodas are both are chemical leaveners, but whether or not a recipe calls for both comes down to the addition of acid.
Baking soda is used to neutralize the acids in a recipe (lemon juice, buttermilk, sour cream, chocolate), but using too much can leave an awful taste behind. When more “lift” is required beyond the neutralization of these acids, baking powder may also be called for.
Baking powder and baking soda are not interchangeable, so be sure to read your recipe carefully.
Read the directions thoroughly
Before even getting started, read the directions in their entirety. This will alert you to any steps that need to be completed in advance while also getting you comfortable with what is to come. Often recipes move quickly, so reading the whole recipe first will help prevent any big surprises down the road.
Nest, measure out all of the ingredients and start pre-heating the oven, when called for. This also gets us into the habit of pulling cold ingredients out to bring to room temperature before you start mixing (see tip 1).
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl often.
- Check for doneness instead of relying only on the clock. A toothpick inserted into the center of a cake should come out clean or with few crumbs when done.
- Prepare the cake pan according to recipe. When in doubt, line the bottom with parchment.
- Allow cakes to cool slightly, but not fully, on a wire rack before taking them out of their pans
- Chilling cakes in the refrigerator (wrapped well in a double-layer of plastic to prevent them from drying out) will make them easier to cut and frost. A chilled cake tends to crack and crumble less.
- If making in advance, a well-wrapped cake will typically stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer up to about two months.
- To evenly distribute the batter between multiple cake pans, use a kitchen scale. Using a scale is much easier and cleaner than trying to measure out the batter in measuring cups then transferring it to the cake pans.
- Sift together the dry ingredients either with a sifter, mesh sieve, or even just a whisk. This not only ensures that there are no lumps in your flour, but that everything (particularly the baking powder and soda) gets evenly distributed.
- If your vanilla bean is not soft and flexible, soak in hot tap water until pliable. Place bean on a cutting board and slice lengthwise, using a sharp knife or razor. Open bean and scrape seeds out using the tip of a knife.
But first, learn how to stack and fill a cake.
Vanilla Bean Cake
For the Vanilla Bean Cake
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- ¾ teas salt
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste)
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 whole eggs
For the Vanilla Buttercream
- 1 ¾ cups unsalted butter, softened
- 5 to 6 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (or 2 teas vanilla bean paste)
- 3 to 5 tablespoon milk
To Make the Vanilla Bean Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two, 8-inch round cake pans; set aside.
- Combine dry ingredients together; set aside. Combine sour cream and milk; set aside.
- Beat butter on medium-low speed of electric mixer until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla bean seeds; mix on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and pale in colour, about 2 to 4 minutes. Scrape sides of bowl.
- Add eggs and eggs yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until blended. Add vanilla extract; beat on low speed until blended.
- Add in half of the fflour mixture. Once this is incorporated, pour in the milk mixture while the mixer is running on low speed. Once the milk is absorbed, add in the remaining fflour mixture. After the last streaks of flour are incorporated, mix the batter on medium-low speed for about 20 seconds until smooth.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.
- Cool cakes on a wire rack for about 15 minutes or until pans are cool enough to handle; remove cakes from pans. Continue to cool on wire rack until cakes are at room temperature.
- Wrap each layer in a double layer of plastic wrap; chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days before cutting and frosting. (Chilling makes the cakes easy to cut.)When ready to frost, cut each layer horizontally in half; frost with Vanilla Buttercream Icing.
To Make the Vanilla Buttercream
- Beat butter at medium-low speed of electric mixer until smooth and creamy (1 to 2 minutes.)
- Gradually add 5 cups powdered sugar, vanilla bean seeds,and vanilla extract with mixer at low speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Mix until blended.
- Beat at medium-high speed 3 to 5 minutes, until buttercream is light and airy and nearly white. If needed, add the additional powered sugar or milk until desired consistency.
- Once the cakes are completely cool, cut them in half (horizontally) with a long serrated knife to create four layers of cake.
- Place the bottom layer of cake on a cake stand or serving dish. Spread on about 1 cup of the buttercream with an off-set spatula or the back of a spoon. Top the buttercream with the next layer of cake and repeat
- Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of buttercream and chill until set (about 15 to 20 minutes).
- Tint the remaining buttercream (if desired) and frost the outside of the cake with a large off-set spatula.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by ACH Foods. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow Style Sweet CA to exist!