An Easy Vanilla Cake recipe makes a celebration possible any day of the week! Especially because this cake is made without butter or buttermilk. All you need is oil to give the cake a tender, moist crumb.
To know me is to know that I love baking, but do not love a big baking project. I love a cake that can be whisked up while dinner is in the oven and enjoyed immediately after. And once I started making this Easy Chocolate Cake (also made with oil and no butter), I knew I needed a similar vanilla version. And this no-butter easy vanilla cake is the best vanilla cake recipe if you want oil instead of butter or buttermilk to give it a delicious, moist crumb.
Perhaps best of all, this cake makes just enough to serve a small group - like our family of five and a few dinner guests. It makes nine generous servings. I've used it to make birthday cakes for family members and friends. It’s great with just a dusting of powdered sugar, but is extra fun with my whipped cream frosting and a few sprinkles.
Why Bake a Cake with Oil
Convenience is a great reason to make a cake with oil instead of butter. Oil is easy to measure and doesn't need to be softened first. And although oil doesn't have the same rich flavor as butter, it makes for a very moist cake.
- All-Purpose Flour - Just the regular all-purpose white flour that you likely already have in your pantry. To get the most accurate results (and minimize dishes!), I like to do this on a scale by weight.
- Sugar - Use granulated white sugar for this cake. Like the flour, I prefer to do this on a scale by weight, right inside the mixing bowl.
- Baking Powder - Double check that you use baking powder in this cake, NOT baking soda. Baking powder makes the cake rise and keeps it super light and fluffy.
- Sour Cream - The sour cream gives the cake added moisture and a very subtle, pleasant tangy flavor. I use full fat sour cream, but light sour cream or even plain Greek yogurt will work.
- Egg, Milk, Vegetable Oil, Pure Vanilla Extract, pinch of salt - You’ll also need these other common ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.
How to Make Vanilla Cake
- Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl – flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl - egg, vanilla, sugar, milk, sour cream, and vegetable oil. (Note: Don't worry if they are cold. The ingredients do not need to be at room temperature for this recipe to work.)
- Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir just until combined (don't overmix; the batter will be slightly lumpy).
- Pour batter into a greased 8x8 baking pan. (It's not necessary, but you can opt to line it with parchment paper for extra easy removal from the pan.)
- Bake at 350 degrees F until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the center of the cake springs back lightly when pressed, 33 to 36 minutes.
- Cool, slice, and serve!
- For the easiest removal from the pan, line it with a piece of parchment paper and also spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
- Use full fat sour cream - this will give you the most moist, flavorful result in this no-butter cake.
- Don't overmix. Keep in mind that the batter will have some small lumps. Don't overmix it because that can make your cake tough instead of light and fluffy.
- Let the cake cool completely before frosting. If you're going to add frosting (see below for ideas), be sure to let the cake cool completely. If the cake is still warm, your frosting will melt right off.
- Store the cake in the pantry (if not frosted) or in the refrigerator (if frosted) for up to 3 days.
Toppings for Easy Vanilla Cake
Any easy vanilla cake is great topped with any of the options below. Just be sure to let the cake cool completely before adding any frosting, or the frosting will melt right off.
- Powdered Sugar
- Light and Fluffy Vanilla Frosting and Sprinkles
- Creamy Chocolate Frosting (for an 8x8 cake)
- Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Olive oil will work fine, but keep in mind that olive oil does have a flavor that will be noticeable in the finished cake.
If the cake is unfrosted, you can store it at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 5 days. If it is frosted, it's best to keep it in the refrigerator. (Cold slices of this cake are delicious!)
The best way to make this cake ahead is to bake it up to 3 days ahead and store it, unfrosted, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature a few hours ahead of time and then frost right before serving.
Yes, but the cake will take 3 to 5 minutes longer to cook. I prefer to bake this cake in an aluminum baker.
I get this question a lot, and I've never actually tried it! But you should be able to double the recipe and bake the cake in a 9x13 pan. It will likely take about 10 minutes longer to cook.
I don't find that this cake needs cake flour. All-purpose flour yields a tender, light crumb. If you do try it with cake flour, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Yes. You can bake this cake in round cake pans. If using a 9-inch round pan, the baking time should be about the same as listed in the recipe card. If using an 8-inch round pan, it should take about 5 minutes more to bake.
Yes. These layers are sturdy enough to stack into layers. Just bake as many individual cakes as you would like in round pans as outlined above.
Other Easy Desserts
- One Bowl Chocolate Cake - This is my go-to weeknight cake because it can be made in one bowl!
- Easy Apple Crumble - Just a few minutes to prep and you can have this super easy not-too-sweet apple crumble for dessert. Top it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream!
- Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Bars - These peanut butter bars loaded with chocolate peanut butter cups are made in an 8x8 baking pan which is great for a weeknight dinner, packing in lunches, or freezing for later.
- Smash Cake for Baby's First Birthday - If you happen to have a baby in your life that is about to turn one (or just want a small cake to serve your family!), check out this sweet vanilla smash cake.
- Anchor 3-Piece Glass Mixing Bowls - My go-to mixing bowls for baking.
- 8x8 Metal Baking Pan - This nonstick pan is my absolute favorite for baking any small cakes, brownies, and other desserts.
Vanilla Cake Recipe (made with oil, not butter)
- Mixing Bowls
- 8x8 baking dish
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour (2 cups = 250 g)
- 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
- ⅛ teaspoon Salt
- 1 Egg
- 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup Sugar (1 cup = 200 g)
- ¾ cup Milk
- ¾ cup Sour Cream
- ½ cup Vegetable Oil (see note)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8x8 pan with nonstick cooking spray. (This cake bakes best in a metal pan. If using a glass pan, expect that it may take about 5 minutes longer to bake.)
- In one medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a larger mixing bowl whisk together the egg, vanilla, and sugar until smooth. Add milk, sour cream, and vegetable oil and mix again until smooth.
- Pour the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and stir until just combined (no dry spots should remain; but the batter will be lumpy).
- Pour cake batter into prepared pan.
- Bake until the center is firm and the cake is golden on top, 33 to 36 minutes.
- Let cake cool in the pan before slicing and serving. (Note: If adding frosting, be sure that the cake is completely cool before adding frosting.)