Vanilla Birthday Cake

With a super-soft, extra-tender crumb and subtle almond flavor, this yellow cake promises to be a new birthday (or everyday) favorite. Rich chocolate frosting is just what the cake needs to turn it into a happy celebration. To make the blue-iced robin's egg cake shown in the photo at right see "tips," below.

25 mins
18 to 40 mins
1 hr 15 mins
two 8" or 9" round layers; one 9"x 13" cake, or 24 cupcakes
Vanilla Birthday Cake - select to zoom
Vanilla Birthday Cake - select to zoom
Vanilla Birthday Cake - select to zoom
Vanilla Birthday Cake – Robin's Egg Blue - select to zoom


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  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8" or 9" round pans. For extra protection against sticking, dust the pans with flour or line the bottoms with parchment and grease the parchment. Note: Make sure your 8" pans are at least 2" deep; if they're not, use 9" round pans or another of the pan options listed in "tips," below.

  2. Using a stand mixer set on low speed, mix all the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Add the soft butter and mix until evenly crumbly, like fine, damp sand.

  3. Beat in the egg whites one at a time then the whole eggs, beating for about 30 seconds and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. This process helps build the cake’s structure.

  4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk the milk with the vanilla and almond extracts. Add this milk mixture, one-third at a time, to the batter. Beat for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. The batter may look a little curdled; that’s OK.

  5. After you’ve scraped the bowl one final time, beat for an additional 30 seconds.

  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until set and starting to pull away from the edges of the pans. A toothpick or paring knife inserted into the center of a cake will come out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it when it’s done.

  7. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool for 15 minutes in the pans. Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool completely before frosting and serving.

  8. Storage instructions: Store leftover cake at room temperature, well-wrapped, for up to three days; in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week, or in the freezer, well wrapped, for up to a month.

Tips from our Bakers

  • You can also bake this cake in a 9" x 13" pan, in two standard muffin pans to make 24 cupcakes, or in three 6" round cake pans. Lightly grease the pan(s); for extra protection, dust the bottom of the 9" x 13" pan with flour, or line the muffin pans with paper liners and grease the liners. Pour the batter into the pan(s). Bake the 9" x 13" cake for 28 to 32 minutes; or the cupcakes for 18 to 22 minutes, and the 6" cakes for 35 to 40 minutes. A toothpick or paring knife inserted into the center will come out with a few moist crumbs when it’s done.

  • To make a robin's egg-inspired cake ideal for spring, see our blog post, How to make a robin's egg cake for Easter.