slice cut from frosted white layer cake

You really can’t go wrong with cake. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or graduation or simply want to indulge in something sweet, cake is there for you. Sure, some people prefer fudgy chocolate layers, nostalgic ice cream cake, or intricately-decorated showstoppers covered in fruit and fondant, but sometimes it’s nice to go back to basics. This classic white cake recipe by Jessica Morone shows just how tasty simplicity can be, with two layers of soft vanilla cake that get covered in a sweet, creamy frosting that’s indulgent without being overly rich or cloying.

"This cake is very simple, but using only egg whites in it that have been whipped up gives the cake a delicate, airy, fluffy texture that really makes it special compared to other cakes," Morone says. Plus, a nicely-frosted layer cake is always a crowd-pleaser, and this treat’s vanilla flavor is sure to appeal to kids, adults, and picky eaters of all ages. Here’s how to make it.

Get your cake ingredients ready

ingredients for white cake

Don’t be intimidated by the number of bowls in this photo; the ingredients you need to make this cake (and its frosting) are kitchen staples you probably have on hand already. You’ll need several sticks of butter, the whites from five eggs (ideally room-temperature eggs), flour, baking powder, vanilla extract, powdered sugar and granulated sugar, whole milk, salt, and a neutral oil like canola or vegetable. You’ll also need two 8-inch round cake pans, cooking spray, and some parchment paper.

So, why egg whites? "Any ingredient you put in a cake it can alter the color of it," Morone explains. "Because this cake is supposed to be white, you only want to use the egg whites, because the egg yolks will make the cake more of a yellow color."

Prep your pans and make the batter

pouring cake batter into pan

Before you get started, preheat your oven to 350 F, coat two round cake pans with cooking spray, and line them with parchment paper. "Putting parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan will make the cake pop out of the pan much easier when it is done cooking, and the cake wont get stuck in the pan," Morone says. "If you don’t have parchment paper I recommend greasing and flouring the pan to prevent the cake getting stuck."

Making this cake batter requires three bowls, one being the bowl attached to your stand mixer. If you don’t have one, no worries — Morone says you can use an electric mixer or even mix everything by hand, though the latter method might take a bit more time and effort.

Start by creaming the butter in your stand mixer, then add the sugar, oil, and some vanilla. Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl. Run the stand mixer at medium speed and add some of the dry ingredients, then some milk, and repeat that process until everything is combined. In your third bowl, vigorously beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then add that to your stand mixer bowl. Your batter is done!

Bake the cake and whip up the frosting

half frosted white cake

Pour your cake batter into the two pans, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and fully-cooked. Let them cool in the pan for a bit, then turn them upside-down onto a wire rack. While you’re waiting for your cake to completely cool down, make your frosting. Use an electric mixer to cream butter in a bowl, then mix in the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt.

Once your cakes are cool, spread about ⅓ of the frosting on the top of one layer and place the second layer of cake on top. "For a layer cake you want to build the cake by adding a cake layer and then frosting it on top before adding the next layer so you get a stable cake," Morona says. Add the same amount of frosting to the top of the second layer, and then frost the sides.

Decorate and enjoy

sliced white cake with rainbow sprinkles

Now that you have a base layer of frosting on your white cake, add any other decorations you’d like, then pop it in the fridge to make sure everything sets nicely.

"I decorated this cake with rainbow sprinkles to give it a fun pop of color. You could just keep it simple with the white frosting, or add any kind of sprinkles or decorations you want," Morone notes.

This recipe makes a fairly substantial cake, so if you’re not planning on serving a big crowd, Morone suggests keeping any leftovers "covered and in the fridge" for three to four days. And hey, if you decide to have cake for breakfast one morning, we’ll never judge.

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk, divided
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat ½ cup of butter on medium speed until creamy. Add in the granulated sugar, oil, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Continue beating until combined, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  4. With the stand mixer on medium speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and 1 cup of milk into the bowl of the stand mixer, until everything is well-incorporated.
  5. In another bowl, add the egg whites and use an electric mixer on high speed to beat them until stiff peaks form.
  6. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the cake batter until combined.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
  8. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes, then invert them onto a cooling rack and let them cool completely.
  9. While the cakes are cooling, add the remaining 1 cup of butter to a large bowl. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until the butter is creamy. Add in the powdered sugar until combined, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ cup whole milk, and beat until the frosting is creamy.
  10. Once the cakes are cool, spread ⅓ of the frosting evenly on top of one of the cakes. Add the second cake on top. Spread another ⅓ of the frosting evenly on top of the second cake, then spread the remaining frosting around the sides of the cake. Decorate as desired.
  11. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is set, then cut and serve.