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.
This cake has many fans!
My family makes this cake so often— one of a kind!! So simple and delicious & ADDICTING!- Elizabeth
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 measure it 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 your baking powder is fresh. If it has been hiding in the back of your pantry for a few months, it might not sufficiently help the cake to rise.
- 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.
- Sour Cream - Keeps the cake moist and gives it a tender crumb.
How to Make Vanilla Cake
- Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl – flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
- Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl - egg, vanilla, 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 evenly combined (don't overmix, but make sure no dry spots remain).
- 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, 30 to 33 minutes.
- Cool, slice, and serve!
- Don't overmix. Stir the batter just until smooth. Overmixing 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 than the times listed below. (The cake was tested in an aluminum baking pan.)
Yes. Many reviewers have tried this and doubled the recipe to bake in a 9x13 pan. The cake may take a few 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!
- 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)
- 1 cup sugar (1 cup = 200 g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup milk, any type
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ½ cup vegetable oil (see note)
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8x8 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In one medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- In a larger mixing bowl whisk together the egg and vanilla until smooth. Add the milk, sour cream, and vegetable oil and mix again until smooth.
- Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and stir until just combined (stop mixing as soon as no dry spots remain so that you don't overmix the batter).
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake sis golden on top, 30 to 33 minutes.
- Let the cake cool before slicing and serving. (Note: If adding frosting, be sure that the cake is completely cool before adding frosting.)
Excellent recipe! A dense cake with just the right amount of vanilla. I only used 1 cup of sugar and it was just sweet enough for us. My son said it was like cornbread! Thank you for sharing, your applesauce cake is the next one I’m baking!
Thanks so much Monica! Glad you liked it! We've done the same thing and reduced the sugar too and had the same thought!
Made the vanilla snack cake with the creamy chocolate frosting and it was a hit for my niece's birthday dinner. I measured the flour and the sugar per your suggestion. Will keep this recipe on hand. The best part is the size is perfect to eat only enough to satisfy the sweet tooth without feeling guilty for over indulging.
Love the way you describe. Its really amazing.Thanks for
sharing your knowledge.
Snacks Near Me
Great cake unique and easy to make...thank you🌈😊
Love this cake! I use it for strawberry shortcake. I can’t believe I can bake cakes from scratch. Keep sharing your recipes!!
Absolutely - that will work great!
My family makes this cake so often— one of a kind!! So simple and delicious & ADDICTING!
That's so great to hear! I'm so glad you like it!
Recipe was awesome, my wife really loved it I'm not much of a Baker but it turned out perfectly!!!!!
Can you use cake flour for this recipe instead of all purpose?
Absolutely! Cake flour works well in this recipe.
Can I put chopped fresh strawberries in the cake? If so, how many cups and how will that effect the bake time?
Should I grease or flour the pan before adding the batter?
Yes - do grease the pan (no need to flour). Thanks so much for your note - I've updated the recipe to include that.
I made this cake twice last month for 2 celebrations. They were delicious and I love the smaller size. It's perfect for a smaller crowd. No need to spend big money on a bakery cake because this is just as good. I made a simple glaze for the topping instead of icing and served with strawberries. It was a hit with everyone.
That's wonderful! Thanks so much for the note Joanna - so glad you've liked it! (And love the idea of simple glaze + strawberries - yum.)
Hi Jess I tried this recipe for the first time 5 days ago and my husband loved it but a little too dense for me. So I tried it again today and measured flour more carefully, sifted the dry ingredients. Whisked the wet ingredients in separate bowl Very well added to dry and folded all together gently with rubber spatula then baked. And voila! Much better. I used coconut and vanilla flavoring, cream cheese frosting and coconut on top. Delish. Thanx for this quickie snack. 😋
I'm so glad you both liked it! Those additions / toppings sound absolutely delicious!
So easy and delicious and "sociable ".......and we love it. Thank you.
Added some Nesquick and only did 2/3 cup of sugarto make it a chocolate cake yummy 😋😋 thanks for the recipe 😋😋😋😋
What a great idea! Yum!
This is awesome, thank you! The recipe I have been searching for. My family cheered!
So glad you all enjoyed it Kate. Thank you for the note!
did not care for it
Loved it! It was perfect for what I was craving. Not overly sweet. Loved the texture and weight of it. Thank you!!
So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for the note!
Best cake ever.
So glad you liked it Kate!!!
I’m making 3 of these for different homes for Mother’s Day! I doubled the recipe in my mixing bowl and then allowed my 5 year old to follow with the third batter in her own bowl. It was easy and a lot of fun! Even with a 2 year old trying to take swipes at the bowls. They are in the oven right now, I’ll update with how they turn out! My daughter insisted they needed to be pink though, so we added a small amount of food coloring. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi Denise! We get all of the nutrition information from the USDA Database of Food, but there may be variations. We always recommend that you use your own preferred nutrition calculator if you are looking for more detailed or accurate information.
I love the cake and the easy prep method. I don't like frosting. especially when shoveled on. Would a lemon glaze work for this cake?
Thanks // Nancy B
A lemon glaze would be fantastic on this! Great idea
Delicious, quick, and easy! Perfect for a quiet Valentine’s night in:)
So glad you enjoyed it!
do you think i could use this recipe as a base for a poke cake with jello?? thanks in advance
I think that would be wonderful! I'm not exactly sure what adjustments I'd recommend, but this cake would be a great base to play with if you wanted to add the jello poke-cake style.
it ended up being wonderful! i didn’t even make any adjustments really, except maybe a little less sugar & added a small amount of almond extract, but i LOVED it for a small poke cake!
My hubby and I enjoyed this delicious snack cake! It was very easy to make and I liked the fact that I had all of the ingredients in my pantry. It was great not having to get the mixer out to make it. I found a homemade buttercream icing recipe that was perfect with it. The cake was a little bit dense, as another reviewer stated, but we loved the taste of it, so it didn’t matter. Thank you for this great recipe!
You'll need something in its place. Buttermilk would probably work or a plant-based yogurt.
I make a struesal topping, take the cake out about 7 min. early and put the topping on and return to oven for maybe 5-7 more min. Makes a great coffee cake.
The streusel topping is such a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing Pat!
Would there be any reason coconut oil wouldn’t work as a substitute for vegetable oil?
I will add sprinkles for my granddaughter- funfetti cake 🙂
Looking forward to trying it!
I haven't tried it, but I don't see why that wouldn't work!
Second time making this, Love It!! So easy and quick in 1 bowl!! Topped it with chocolate ice cream instead of frosting. Wonderful!!!
Yay! I'm so glad to hear it! Thanks for the great note!
terrible. The batter took 50 minutes to cook fully and even then it was so under cooked, only thing good about this recipie is the taste
Oh my goodness - I've never had anyone else say this! Are you sure that your baking soda was fresh? It sounds like it might not have leavened your cake properly.
Did you use a metal or aluminum pan? Glass worked great when I made it 3x, using aluminum this time and taking longer to cook.
I tend to use an aluminum pan, but as you can see in the photos, I've made it with glass as well. I always think it takes a few minutes longer in glass, but baking times can definitely vary a lot based on the type and thickness of the pan.
Really confused. Is there supposed to be sour cream in this recipe?
Hi Christine! No sour cream needed.