Gorgeously moist Vanilla Cake with white chocolate buttercream icing recipe

This cake  is a real winner(hence no photos taken without a big wedge taken out of it when it had set!), none of that sandy, breadcrumb like consistency here! Its basis is an American 1-2-3-4 cake, with a little taken from a vanilla cake on the bbc food website.

I have been practicing this cake for my youngest daughter’s birthday next week, and also making one with the five year old I look after, who is becoming quite the little cook, she wanted to make one for her Daddy as it is Father’s Day in Spain. It’s easy to bake, doesn’t need much levelling off and tastes wonderful! If I could give some advice it would be to bake the cakes and wrap for a day before icing, when freshly baked it can be a challenge to ice without breaking! Buttercream icing is a very good place to start if you’re a novice, if you want to adorn and make it pretty you can use a piping bag (a star tip is possibly the easiest to use), top with fruit as I did with my first attempt-

(hides any imperfections well, I had iced this too thick for our liking too which became obvious when we sliced it!)

Still good even when rustic looking though!

Or take a look at this birthday bug cake on the bbc website for inspiration.  I am a total beginner at icing, my second cake was far better and I found it much easier, so I think having a practice session first if you’re a beginner will gain skills and confidence.

This recipe largely comes from the Bakerella site and her Moist Yellow Cake (I have no idea if using butter flavouring adds anything to the recipe as it is not something I’ve ever come across), however I used half natural yogurt, half milk for the cup of liquid quantity, as I had seen a lot of people use buttermilk or yogurt in their vanilla cakes to add extra moisture. I have found her timings a little off in regards to my oven, but as most of us know, ovens can vary an awful lot in their temperatures, and I think as long as you check towards the end of the baking times(don’t open the oven door any more than is absolutely essential though!) a few minutes either side should be expected.  Bakerella uses three 8 inch cake pans, I used two 8 inch (20cm) loose bottomed Prestige tins. And even though they are non-stick I still lined the bottom and sides with baking paper, just to be sure!

Whether you choose to just fill your cake with buttercream icing or to add a thin layer of fruit filling is up to you, I had some amazing strawberry jam I made a couple of weeks ago using this recipe as a template which I blitzed down to a puree and it worked beautifully. Three to four tablespoons should be plenty.

Cake Ingredients

225g / 8oz/ 1 cup butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 2 cups white sugar
360g / 12oz / 3 cups self raising flour (or plain flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
4 eggs at room temperature
125g pot of natural yogurt and 115-120ml /4 fl oz milk -adding up to one cup total ( or 240 ml / 8 fl oz milk)
half a tablespoon(7 ml) vanilla extract

Sugar syrup

50g vanilla sugar, or caster sugar if you don’t have any, and 50ml water

Buttercream Icing

175g / 6 oz / 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
500g / 1 lb 2 oz  icing sugar (sorry I didn’t measure this in cups I just realised!)
up to 3 tablespoons of milk, or condensed milk if you happen to have any!
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Optional-100g white chocolate, melted


  • Grease (and line if you err on the side of caution like me!) your cake tins.
  • Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 180 degC, 350 deg F.
  • Cream the butter until smooth, add the sugar and cream until the sugar is really well incorporated for several minutes. This is best done with an electric mixer, unless you have immense arm muscles!
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the vanilla extract.
  • Bit by bit, alternately add the flour and milk and yogurt mixture, ending with flour.
  • Divide evenly into your tins, and knock gently on your worktop to even out the mixture.

  • Pop in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. These were the given times, mine took 35 minutes. Test with a cocktail stick through the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean they are ready to come out. They should be a light golden colour.
  • Cool for five to ten minutes, then remove from the tins and wrap, whilst still warm, in plenty of cling film, this helps keep in maximum moisture.
  • Make up the sugar syrup before you ice the cakes. Place the sugar and water in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until the sugar is completely melted.
  • When you are ready to ice, level off the tops of the cakes with a very sharp or serrated knife. Using a pastry brush, dip in the syrup and gently brush the surfaces of the cakes. This should help stop crumbs trying to invade your icing job!
  • Make up the buttercream- work the butter in a big bowl with a spoon or electric mixer on its lowest setting until it has softened, then mix in the icing sugar, one cup at a  time. Add the vanilla, the milk one spoonful at a time, and the melted white chocolate if you are using(definitely a worthy addition, the icing went on so much easier, and the taste-scrummy!), the consistency should be thick yet creamy, you want it to hold its form and stay put on the sides yet be soft enough to spread without breaking the cake.
  • Put one cake onto your cake stand. I don’t have a cake stand-I put some cling film over the cake tin base, and found something I could rest it onto that was sturdy and smaller in diameter (a small round oven dish!)than the cake bottom, it isn’t perfect but it works! Spread some jam if you are using it onto the top of the first cake on the stand. Don’t go all the way to the edge otherwise you will end up with jam in your icing, and don’t put any more than a thin layer on.
  • Spread a thin layer of icing onto one side of cake number two, and gently flip it icing side down onto the jammed cake.
  • Now to ice the top of the cake. Be fairly generous and use a firm spatula. (be ingenious here, use a clean plastic ruler or something similar rather than go buy something new).

  • When you have a layer roughly a few millimetres thick start with a fairly generous amount and apply bit by bit to the sides, smoothing it around gently. If you are too firm with it you will break cake crumbs off. Once the sides are covered return to the top and make sure it is smooth to the edges. Any leftover icing can be kept in a container in the fridge for two weeks.

Place the finished cake into the fridge for a couple of hours, or covered at room temperature for several hours to set hard. The cake will keep well for several days in an airtight container, until you slice into it(when I advise you eat it within 24-48 hours).

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