A good slice of vanilla cake is one of the finer things in life. Check out these 11 recipes for the best vanilla cakes and you’ll forget that chocolate cake was ever an option. For birthdays or any special occasions, these vanilla cakes are delicate, moist, and versatile: you can doctor them up with different types and flavors of frosting, whipped cream, and sauces to customize a special dessert.
1. Vanilla Dream Cake
This recipe really is a dream cake. Vanilla extract and a whole vanilla bean make this intensely vanilla cake a great choice for an unusual frosting pairing. Try mocha, citrus-inspired, coconut – the sky’s the limit. Get the recipe here.
2. Vanilla Butter Cake
This is a versatile, extremely simple vanilla cake recipe that makes a great base for a rich buttercream frosting. For a special touch, use a strawberry or raspberry jam as the filling between the two layers of the cake. Get the recipe here.
3. One Bowl Vanilla Cake
The only thing better than homemade cake is a cake that you can make in only one bowl – no mess, and only one dish to clean. This is a very simple basic take adapted from the tried-and-true Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, with a half cup of vanilla custard powder mixed in the batter for extra richness. Get the recipe here.
4. Vegan Vanilla Birthday Cake
If you’re looking for a vegan cake recipe, this vanilla birthday cake substitutes apple sauce for eggs in the wet ingredients. It’s designed for two six-inch pans, so you may need to double the recipe for a larger cake pan. Get the recipe here.
5. Vanilla Cake with Meyer Lemon Buttercream
This recipe for triple vanilla cake contains vanilla sugar, vanilla bean paste, and vanilla extract. Paired with a delicate Meyer lemon buttercream and lemon curd, this cake is meant for a special occasion. Get the recipe here.
6. Vanilla Raspberry Cake
Three layers of vanilla cake, cream, and raspberry jelly, cut into elegant squares, makes for one fancy dessert. Garnish with fresh raspberries (or any fresh fruit) and top with a sprig of fresh mint. Get the recipe here.
7. Vanilla Layer Cake with Berries
Over two cups of buttermilk (or a combination of yogurt and milk if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand) makes for a tender crumb in this vanilla layer cake. An adaptation of a 1-2-3-4 cake, this is easy to put together and you can use any combination of sliced fresh berries with the vanilla buttercream frosting. Get the recipe here.
8. Vanilla Sponge Cake (Genoise)
A genoise is a type of French sponge cake that soaks up flavor and is the basis of many different kinds of desserts. You can freeze the layers of this cake individually if you want to make it in advance. Get the recipe here.
9. Vanilla Rum Cake
Chopped pecans, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla pudding mix, and rum are mixed together in this substantial cake that is baked in a Bundt pan. The rum glaze (butter, rum, and maple syrup) is what makes it so sweet and tasty. Get the recipe here.
10. Vanilla Bean Pound Cake
CHOW’s vanilla bean pound cake is moist, tender, and makes a perfect accompaniment to a good cup of tea. The two whole vanilla beans add a delicate flavor and any leftovers slices are delicious when toasted. Get our Vanilla Bean Pound Cake recipe.
11. Vanilla Ombre Cake
If you’re looking for a cake that will impress your guests, this four-layer pink ombre cake is a masterpiece. Each layer of the cake has a different amount of food coloring, creating a rainbow of pinks that grow darker toward the top of the cake. Be sure to make a significant amount of frosting to cover all the layers. Get the recipe here.
Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC's best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.