Basic Vanilla Cake

Total Time:
1 hr
30 min
30 min

two 9-inch cakes


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch-round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper; butter the parchment and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

Whisk 3 cups flour, the baking powder and salt in a bowl until combined. Beat 2 sticks butter and the sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium; beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. (The mixture may look separated at this point.)

Mix 1/2 cup water with the cream in a liquid measuring cup or bowl. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour, until just smooth.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until the cakes are lightly golden on top and the centers spring back when pressed, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pans and turn the cakes out onto the racks to cool completely. Remove the parchment. Trim the tops of the cakes with a long serrated knife to make them level, if desired.

Photograph by Levi Brown

Although Food Network Kitchens tests all our recipes multiple times, users thought we could make this one better. We've adjusted the recipe in response to valuable feedback. Thanks!

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    I tried this recipe because it was named 'basic' and I just needed a cake for my son to experiment frosting. I was FAR surprised by how great it was. This is one of the best cakes I have tasted. I cannot stand the taste of box cakes. More than that, this cake - while yes, more dense than box cake - was moist for days and received compliments from people who got 2-day old leftovers. I agree that it is something like a pound cake. I don't quite see how so many complain of it being dry, not sure what went wrong. I will say, based on another recipe I'd heard of, I added 1/2 box of instant french vanilla pudding mix (dry) to the batter. Maybe that gave it a soft kick.
    Haven't baked it, but after just reviewing the ingredients I think FN needs to rename this recipe as a pound cake, not a basic vanilla cake. Take out the leavening and this is my go to pound cake recipe. I'm thinking that's why it was rejected by reviewers the first time it was printed. They were expecting a light moist vanilla cake and got a dense pound cake with vanilla flavor.
    I made this cake for Easter it was very dense and moist. It reminded me of a pound cake. I did like the taste. But I was looking for something more springy and light.
    this cakes turned out great, all I can say is yummmmm
    This was the best cake I ever made.I made it for my friend who makes cakes for a living and she loved it .My whole family loved it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Afte looking and try many recipes of vanilla cake, I finally found "THE VANILLA CAKE".... no more search.... this recipe is the better.
    I made this for my dads birthday and every one thought it was delicious. 100%
    At first, I wasn't impressed with the recipe because I am so use to box cake mixes. The cake was heavier and wasn't as sweet. But, after eating on the cake for a while, I've come to like the taste. There is still plenty of room for improvements. First starting with adding at another 1/2 cup of sugar to the mix to make the cake sweeter. I will also switch the heavy cream for 1 cup of milk as the former is actually hard to find in my area. 
    During my first bake, I used self-rising flour as it was already available and skipped the salt and baking powder. I also Egg Beaters Egg Whites as I desired a white cake for an upcoming recipe. I also got confused with the directions and added the flour at the beginning instead of mixing the other ingredients first before adding the flour and cream. 
    I wonder if the poor scores are do to the quality of the ingredients, especially the butter. I would recommend that you use real butter instead of substituting with margarine.
    I really did not like this recipe. It was very dry and not very tasty. Disappointed indeed!
    I was really surprised to see the negative reviews of this cake. I have made it several times after it was published in the magazine and loved it each time. Two elements I think are important in baking from scratch are adequately creaming the butter and sugar and using good baking powder. Be sure to really beat the butter and sugar for a good amount of time until it is pale and fluffy to allow a good amount of air to be cut in. Second, be sure your baking powder is not expired or too old! I have made this mistake before and been disappointed with cookies, cakes or cupcakes that did not come out right. This recipe uses a lot, so be sure yours is fresh! 
    This is a from scratch cake so it does not have the same consistency as one from a box. I like from scratch baked goods and therefore love this cake!
    I think that those of you who rated this very low must like cakes that are light and airy. I prefer them dense and heavy, and I loved this one. Heavy cream is not a staple in my house, so i substituted half and half, and used a bit more vanilla. We had it with strawberries and whipped cream, peaches and whipped cream, and plain, and we both loved it. 
    By the way---did you remember to add the water to the cream? It is in the directions, but not listed in the ingredients.
    I love a challenge and despite the slew of one-star reviews saying it tasted like cornbread, I decided to try this. The only thing I did differently was to weigh the flour using 4.5 ounces/cup for a total of 13.5 ounces. I baked the layers at 350 for 25 minutes and they were done. They came out moist. The cake is not 'brick-like" and it does not taste like cornbread. I'm going to freeze one layer and the other will be used with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream for a July 4th dessert.
    This was my first time making a cake from scratch. The consistency was a little scary after the batter was mixed, it was very thick. The only reference I have to go by is the store bought cake mix though and that is extremely runny. However, the cake ended up being very moist and the vanilla flavor was really nice.
    I made this cake today and it was really good and moist. I added the soften butter to the flour, baking power, and salt mixture. While the dry ingredients were blending I dropped small pieces of soften butter and blended until it was small pea size. Then add the wet ingredients and mix another 2 minutes. This should help the cake from being dry. Hope this helps.
    Really?? Even the revised version is terrible. Does anyone actually TRY these recipes?? What a waste of ingredients and time. This is happening far too often and I for one, cannot afford to through away food. Time to start thinking if I am going to continue subscription to this mag. People, test and TASTE these recipes!!!
    I made this twice. Once from the magazine magazine print and now once from the update. It is terrible. Dry and dense. Sad I tried a second time.
    I made this cake as the base for the Honey-Apple-Almond cake from my FN magazine. I was worried when I pulled it out of the oven because it had not risen as much as I had expected. However, the entire assembled cake was delicious. Even had someone ask for the recipe. I do agree with the other reviews that this does not produce a super soft cake or a cake that is supermarket sweet. All the cakes from the year of cake have additional flavor layers so don't judge the cake without finishing the whole thing. 
    Awful! I cannot believe that FN put this in their magazine either!! Very embarrassing, I just served this at Easter. I would have thrown it away but the cream cheese icing saved it from the landfill thanks to my Dad. My cornbread recipe IS better than this...this cake was dry, crumbly, dense...I was so hopeful since it smelled amazing and the batter felt right. And I even let all my ingredients come to room temp! I agree FN please check this recipe, something is seriously off. Thankfully my kids loved making it and decorating the Easter Bunny so not all was lost.
    What on earth where you thinking when you put this in your magazine??? Was this not tested? Yes, it smells amazing. Yes, it looks amazing. Yes, it probably would stack perfectly. No, I won't be stacking it, or serving it, or eating it. This is like a brick and tastes thick and stale. Thank You to all the other posters that saved me from not tasting this before I served it at my sons birthday. I almost served this without trying it first! Thank You!
    I made this for company last night - it was awful - I agree with others - dry, flavorless and dense! I'm glad that my friend pointed these reviews out to me, because it was the first time that I had baked a cake from scratch and I thought that I just screwed it up - maybe I'm not a hopeless baker, after all! :-
    Food Network please double check this recipe - it is awful! Hoping there was an error in printing rather than the test kitchen thinking this was an acceptable cake recipe. Agree with other comments that it tastes like cornbread.
    This cake is very weak in flavor, if you have a strong frosting it won't overshadow it, which I COULD excuse, but the cake itself is very dry and dense, like everyone else has stated. I didn't even THINK to check the reviews before using the recipe, it's a basic vanilla cake, certainly Food Network would have that right.  
    We are sad at my work, as we were excited to try a new cake each month, but that section of January's magazine is being recycled. =(
    This recipe makes a terrible tasting cake. I thought that maybe I did something wrong like over mix it but after reading the other reviews- I realize that it's the recipe not me! Wish I had read the reviews first and saved the money. It won't happen again. Why in the world is this recipe in the magazine??
    I made this cake for my son's birthday and was totally disapointed. It was heavy and I should have used a cake mix.
    This recipe was VERY disappointing!! The cake was very thick while preparing it, but was hoping for the best. Once baked it was very dense and the taste was horrible! Do not waste your time or your ingredients. My cake went straight to the trash. It does not belong in the Food Network Magazine!
    I am an experienced baker. This cake was a total disappointment. I agree with the other reviews regarding the cornbread like taste/consistency. Don't waste your time and money. I will not be trying the other cakes from that section in the magazine as the this cake is the base for several of the recipes.
    Something was really wrong with the recipe. Followed the ingredients precisely, an it turned into something you would see in a 1950's sci-fi flick. I mixed it all up, in the oven it went, watched it rise, all along dreaming of how awesome my cake is going to taste. I pulled it out of the oven, and it fell flat on its face, turning into a hard 1.5" thick block of half gooey, half "cake-y corn bread". I could not convince my neighbor downstairs to take the entire thing, and he LOVES cake. Although it tasted like a dumpster dinner, the frosting helped it a bit. It sat on my kitchen counter for the past 3 days, even my dog wouldn't touch it. Don't waste your time or money, go buy a $1.50 box of Betty Crocker cake mix and get real results.
    Awful. Cake was extremely dense and tasted like flour that had been baked or something. We always make sure we have eggs and unsalted butter at room temp when we bake. My young daughter even thought it was a lot of flour and not enough sugar. Also agree that a TBSP of baking powder seemed like too much. Ended up in trash, along with the money it cost to buy the ingredients.
    This did NOT turn out well at all! The consistency is dense and not cake-like. DO NOT use this recipe. We did everything exactly as the recipe called for, and as another reviewer stated it does look and taste like cornbread. There is something very wrong with the ingredients/measurements. Too much baking powder perhaps?
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