The Perfect Vanilla Cake

I have been looking forward to posting up this recipe all week. I have a mini mountain of cleaning in front of me today but I needed to take 5 minutes to share this recipe. It is revolutionary. Light and fluffy like a sponge but with that yummy buttery flavour of a butter cake but without so much butter. In fact I use one 250g pack of butter for the cake and icing, as opposed to other recipes that require 500g in total.

It is one of those recipes where you throw all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixmaster and beat for several minutes and then bake. Then once cooled slightly, tip onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

The cake is perfect just like that but I like to trim the edges for a little more uniformity. Then you have a blank canvas to decorate. Kids like sprinkles or grated chocolate. I did raspberries as I was inspired by Bill Grangers ‘Cake For A Crowd’. This recipe is similar to Bills except this one has cornflour like a sponge and makes a bigger cake. So essentially this is a cake for a bigger crowd. If you have an even bigger crowd then I like Bill’s idea of baking 2 cakes and putting them side by side and icing them together as one big cake.

The cake recipe is a Women’s Weekly recipe and they suggest it be baked in a 23cm square cake pan. I bake this recipe in a 20 x 30cm brownie tin. The original name is Quick Mix Sand Cake. This name turned me off making it for several years so The Perfect Vanilla Cake is more fitting as I can’t think of a better vanilla cake I’d rather make or eat.

I have a collection of several cake recipes that have all the ingredients thrown in a bowl and mixed together and this is by far the yummiest and lightest. I have made 2 of these cakes this week for different get togethers and kids and adults alike love it. So file this recipe away for birthday cake ideas.

Vanilla paste is pricey so I use it sparingly but worth it for this cake and icing. You can see the black vanilla seeds throughout the cake and icing and when you taste it you remember how beautiful vanilla is. But vanilla extract can be used here too.

One final tip – have all the ingredients at room temperature before you start.

the perfect vanilla cake

(slightly adapted from The Women’s Weekly ‘All Time Favourite Cakes and Biscuits’)

185g unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste
1 1/4 cups (275g) caster sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
1 1/2 (225g) self-raising flour
1/3 (50g) cornflour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease and line the base of a 20cm x 30cm brownie tin.

In the bowl of a mixmaster add all the ingredients and beat on low until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for a further 3 minutes or until the batter is fluffy and pale in colour. Spread mixture into the pan and bake for about 35 minutes.

Stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Ice.

For the icing I just pop the remaining butter from the pack (if using a 250g pack of butter) which should be about 65g along with 300g icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste and 2 teaspoons of milk in the cleaned bowl of the mixmaster. Beat on low until combined and then increase speed to medium and mix for several minutes until the icing is light and fluffy, adding a little more milk if needed for a spreadable consistency.

This entry was posted in Afternoon Tea, Baking, Cakes, Feeding A Crowd. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to The Perfect Vanilla Cake

  1. tiel says:

    since discovering your blog I haven't been able to close this window…I'm keen to cook this weekend.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I adore your blog! It's my new favourite foodie blog. This cakes looks super.

  3. Natalie says:

    Lovely to know the recipes will be enjoyed by others!

  4. Julie says:

    Hi Natalie
    This cake was fantastic! I made it for my daughter's 13th birthday. It was great fun to ice and looked very flash by the time it was served up with sparklers and raspberries. I'm really enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing your passion.

  5. Natalie says:

    That is so nice to hear Julie. You have made my day! I really think that cake is brilliant as a birthday cake because it is quite light. I don't know many kids that like those heavy butter cakes that are in childrens birthday cake cookbooks.

  6. Gemma says:

    Hi Natalie,

    This cake is great! I’ve made it about four times in the last few weeks, everybody loves it. It lasts really well and might actually be better the day after baking. So thank you! I’m really enjoying your blog and looking forward to trying more of your recipes.


    • natalie says:

      Wonderful Gemma! Wow, four times over just a few weeks. You must love it! I think it really is the perfect vanilla cake.

  7. fiona macleod says:

    Hi jsut wondered can you use baking powder instead of cornflour?! (am in france, not easy to get hold of!)

    • natalie says:

      Sorry Fiona for the slow response. No I don’t think baking powder would be a good substitute. I’m not sure what would be though. Perhaps just plain flour when it comes to baking. The cake won’t be as light and fluffy but I think it might be the best substitute. All the best! Nat

  8. Wendy says:

    Have used this several times with excellent results every time. Used as a cup cake is very good too. Makes lots.
    Well done on your site.

  9. Lina Ibrahim says:

    Wow! just what I’ve been looking for!! will give it a go for sure 🙂

  10. Lina Ibrahim says:

    Hey, I’m making one today, do you mind if I post it on my blog? sure I’ll put a link to urs as well 😉

    • natalie says:

      Sure! It is worth sharing!

      • Faye says:

        Hi Natalie,
        I’v had this recipe for ages and have been waiting till I bought Vanilla bean paste (very expensive where I live) and was wondering if i could use a 9″ x 13″ cake tin ( as I’v just invested into buying one) to bake this gorgeous looking cake, it takes me ages to getting round to baking certain cakes because I never have the right size tin..


        • natalie says:

          I would give it a go Faye. It just means the cake won’t be so high. I’m never too strict about the tins I use. If I’m making a cake for the first time I will make the batter then think it the suggested tin is ideal. More often then not I go for a slightly larger tin with great success. Vanilla paste is pricey. I save it for special cakes and use vanilla extract the rest of the time. Most of the cakes I make go straight into the kids school lunch boxes and I know they don’t care if they can see the lovely little specks of vanilla bean seeds!

  11. KK says:

    Excellent!! Just completed baking this cake….baked to perfection!!! Thank you for this amazing blog Natalie!!!

    • natalie says:

      I’m happy to hear that KK. I just made a sponge cake the other night and it was a dismal failure and I was kicking myself I hadn’t stuck to this tried and successful recipe.

  12. Denise says:

    Hi Natalie, I am looking for a vanilla cake to make for my sons engagement cake. Do you think this cake is to light to cover with fondant?

    • natalie says:

      Oh Denise I feel I’m out of my depth with this question as I’ve never worked with fondant icing. I suspect the cake is too light as it is usually quite dense cakes that are used for fondant. I’m not sure where you live but in Mitchelton, Brisbane, there is a cake and icing shop on Stamford Road and the lady who works there will be sure to advice you. I’m sure there would be a similar shop in any big city so take the recipe along and ask for some advice. If fondant is what you want then I’d consider a chocolate mud cake, white chocolate mud cake or a almond orange cake. I’d be keen to hear what you decide to do. All the best with the engagement cake! Very exciting! Nat

      • Denise says:

        Thanks Nat, I will have a practice run. My future daughter in law has her heart set on a sponge so I may have to go with some sort of frosting. I live in Brissy so will visit the Mitchelton store.

  13. Kylie says:

    Hi Natalie, I just made this cake using a gluten free flour mix and it still turned out great – the kids all gave it the thumbs up! I used a round cake tin and just cooked it for a bit longer. Thanks for a great recipe 🙂

  14. Stacey says:

    I’ve made this recipe twice and think it is absolutely perfect, especially for a birthday cake. After following the recipe to the letter the first time around I decided I wanted to make a chocolate one. I substituted half the caster sugar with brown sugar, added a few tablespoons of good quality Dutch cocoa and a bit of golden syrup and it turned out perfect! I added a bit more milk at the end to get the same consistency as it seemed to be the first time but the consistency of the cake itself turned out identical to the vanilla one. I’m so glad I found this, I’m going to use it for my baby sons first birthday in a few days time! Thanks.

    • natalie says:

      I might have to give your chocolate version a go. I’ve had a recipe for chocolate sponge that I’ve been wanting to try for years. I love a chocolate sponge!

  15. Emma says:

    Do we have to make it with Baking power, as I didn’t have any baking powder and it turned out all wobbly

    • natalie says:

      You sure do! (Update – don’t know why I wrote that. I wasn’t thinking. There is no baking powder in the recipe. But of course, if you use plain flour instead of SR flour you will need to add baking powder).

  16. Lyn says:

    Could you make lamingtons from this recipe?

  17. Sara says:

    Do you know what the cooking time would be for cupcakes at all and would this freeze well?

    • natalie says:

      Cupcakes would be around 15-20 minutes. They should be lightly golden on top. It should bounce back when pressed lightly with your finger. It does freeze fine. I have leftovers of this cake in my freezer right now which I will most likely use in a trifle. But I think it is really best eaten the day it is made.

  18. Carol says:

    Hi Natalie,

    Thank you so much for sharing that recipe! I just made a batch of cupcakes for my son’s birthday, and they turned out beautifully! It IS the perfect vanilla cake and has such a nice light texture and not the heavy density of your normal butter cake recipes.
    I used a good quality SRF but will try just an ordinary SRF next time to see if it produces the same result.

    I’ve been looking for such a cake recipe for a long time, and I’m so glad I found yours!
    It’s a keeper for sure and I’ll only be making this version from now on. I can’t believe how easy it was to make too – just throw everything in and mix! Fantastic!!!

    Thanks again!!!

    • natalie says:

      Wonderful to hear Carol! It sounds like you are just as relieved and happy to finally find an alternate birthday cake recipe to the butter cake as I was. I don’t enjoy those really dense butter cakes and I don’t think kids do either.

  19. Misty says:

    As cupcakes, it dips in the middle- quite a lot! Suggestions?

    • natalie says:

      What a shame. I’m never that good with identifying problems with cakes but could it possibly be from overbeating? I’ve had many a failed cake and I think they have mostly been when I have left them to beat too long once the eggs were added. Don’t open the oven door whilst baking too. I am not sure if that helps.

  20. Tamara says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe – it is my favourite vanilla cake and every time I make it the cake is always perfect, tastes beautiful, is easy to work with and stands up to cake decorating, can be frozen, etc. The name is suitably accurate. Love this cake. Thank you again.

  21. Christina says:

    This really is the perfect vanilla cake. I made it yesterday for my dad’s birthday and everyone was asking me what the “secret ingredient” was that made it taste so good! Was it lemon rind? Something fancy?

    The texture is outstanding too. Light and fluffy.

    Can’t believe it’s a one bowl cake! My 3 year old made it with me which made it even more special.

    Thank you for sharing such a good recipe.

  22. CS says:

    Hi Natalie

    I just used this recipe and unfortunately mine is quite flat, it didn’t really rise. Maybe I did not beat it long enough? I did use two 21cm round tins and split the batter in half? Any thoughts?

    Does taste nice still, just flat 🙁

    • natalie says:

      Apologies for the late response. I suspect it is a flatter cake being divided between the 2 round tins.

  23. Stephanie says:

    Hi Natalie
    I have just made this and am eagerly waiting to take it out of the oven. I am a little nervous though as, in the recipe there is no mention of baking powder – so I used none, but in the comments you have said that it is a must. Can you clarify please?
    Many thanks

    • natalie says:

      I’m so sorry Stephanie for the very late reply. I made a mistake saying it is a must. I obviously wasn’t paying attention! No baking powder needed.

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