Everyone needs a go-to, no fail White Cake Recipe! This amazing white cake will be your new favorite for birthdays, holidays, weddings or a simple Sunday evening dessert.
If you fail, try try again…
How many times have you tried to make a homemade cake and failed?? I have to say, cakes are my achilles heel in baking. I want my cakes to turn out light and fluffy with perfect tops (not puffy or sunken), just the right amount of golden color and cooked in the middle without being dry. It sounds easy, but time and time again, over the years I’ve failed in the cake making department! Baking with a doctored up cake mix is easy for me, I have a few recipes that I use which include cake mixes that are hugely popular such as Best German Chocolate Bundt Cake or Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake or even my Foolproof Chocolate Bundt Cake. But we all know a cake made from scratch is best. Baking a basic white cake should be a simple task. The words “should be” are key here. I’m happy to report, after too many experiments to count, I’ve come up with a white cake recipe that is moist and light, but not too airy and holds up to a sturdy buttercream frosting. It won’t crumble when you frost it and won’t dry out between the time it cools and is ready to decorate. Hallelujah. My life work is now complete. At least in the kitchen! Keep reading if you want to know the process in discovering the secret to the perfect white cake, or just scroll to the bottom for the White Cake Recipe…
High altitude presents huge problems
I live at about 5,000 feet above sea level which creates about 5,000 problem when baking cakes. Seriously. Probably not 5k but close to it! I’ve read countless articles online and in books about baking cakes from scratch at high altitudes. I’ve tried dozens of recipes over the years experimenting with every combination you can think of, to get the right texture in a simple white cake. Too many eggs can cause too much sponge in a cake, an almost chewy texture, which you definitely don’t want in a cake! Over beating after adding the eggs causes problems with texture too. In addition, too much leavening can cause a rise then a crash which results in a fallen cake or sunken middle. Sugar has to be reduced a bit and flour increased along with adjustments in liquid. Baking time and temperature also contribute to success or failure in cakes baked at high altitudes!
Trial and error and finally…
Over the course of my White Cake Recipe trials, I tried all of the following when making this cake: Adding sour cream and buttermilk, baking soda and baking powder, a combination of both, and powder alone. Butter- 2 cups, 1 1/2 cups, 1 1/4 cups. Variations in milk, cake flour, all purpose flour, more sugar, less sugar, vanilla, no vanilla, almond extract only, egg whites only, whole eggs, different brands of cake flour, and adjusting baking times. You name it, I tried it. Nothing seemed to work, until I tried whipping the egg whites alone and folding them into the batter. Perfection. I went back to what my instincts said would work best, increasing butter by 1/2 cup from the famous Cook’s Illustrated recipe, (which is the base for most white cake recipes you will find online) and reducing the sugar by 2 tablespoons, also increasing the flour by 1/4 cup. All standard adjustments for high altitude baking, with the addition of my beaten egg whites secret ingredient!
I love visuals, so to fully appreciate the difference in my “secret ingredient” or better stated, my method for producing the best white cake recipe; the cake on the left was made with egg whites not whipped, just beaten into batter (and most likely over beaten with all of the cake ingredients) . Cake on the right was made with egg whites, whipped and folded into batter. Same pans, same temperature same basic recipe. What a difference the egg whites whipped and folded make!
All the difference
After many tries and cakes that turned out too flat, too sugary, too dense, too everything… a thought came to mind. What about beating egg whites until stiff and then adding to the batter? I know how that one ingredient totally changes the texture in Buttermilk Aebleskivers I hoped it would be the difference in my White Cake Recipe. After too many tries to count, finally, perfection! I haven’t baked this cake at any other altitude, but would love to hear if you live at sea level and give it a try. I’m guessing it will still turn out perfect and maybe have a bit more lift than my cakes! I use 9 inch cake pans with 2 inch sides and the cake comes out almost level with the top of the pan. I highly recommend using professional style baking pans and parchment liners when making cakes. Your cakes will turn out more uniform and easier to frost with a level finish than if using cake pans from the grocery store.Pans from the grocery store will nest inside of each other, but will not produce straight up and down sides, which you want if you’re baking a cake and want to stack one layer on top of the other.
I also like to use this handy tool for creating a fun finish on the sides of the cake without any needed artistic ability. The tool came in a kit when I ordered a cake stand a while back. I’m sure it is also available at craft stores and for those living in SLC, at Orson Gygi. One last thing! All of the beautiful paper goods in this post are from My Mind’s Eye. Their products are found in many stores including Zurcher’s in SLC.
White Cake Recipe
6 egg whites, room temperature, beaten until stiff*
1 cup unsalted butter, softened*
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups cake flour (Bob's Red Mill)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder (or 4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 teaspoons clear (imitation) vanilla, or almond flavoring, or a combination of both
flour for dusting pans
cooking spray for pans
2- 9 inch x 2 inch high round baking pans
parchment liner for pans
For buttercream frosting:
5 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups butter or 20 tablespoons, room temperature
4-5 tablespoons milk, half and half or cream
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla, regular is okay or clear
2 drops red food coloring, optional
Spray two 9 inch baking pans generously with cooking oil (or grease with paper towel coated with oil). Place liner in pan and spray again with oil. Place a bit of flour (about 1 teaspoon) in each pan, tap and tilt the pan so the flour coats the bottom and then quickly turn over and tap to release any excess flour. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat with whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. The egg whites should not be dry, but hold their shape when the beater is removed. This takes about one minute if the eggs are at room temperature. Set aside or place in another bowl if using the same bowl to make the cake batter.
In a large bowl of a stand mixer, place the butter and turn the mixer on to high. Turn mixer off and scrape down sides of bowl. Turn mixer back on and add the sugar while the mixer is on medium speed. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl again. Mix for another minute.
Add cake flour, baking powder and salt. Mix on medium until all ingredients are incorporated. Turn off mixer and scrape down sides again. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the milk and vanilla or almond flavorings to the mixture. Mix on medium just until the mixture is smooth and no lumps appear (about 20-30 seconds).
Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides one more time, insuring all ingredients are mixed in. If needed, turn the mixer on for one more spin until all is mixed well. Do not over mix.
Fold the egg whites into the flour (by hand using a spatula or wood spoon) and sugar mixture. Be careful to not over mix. Fold until the streaks of egg whites no longer appear and the egg whites are evenly distributed in the batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Weigh on a food scale to insure the batter is evenly proportioned.
Bake on center rack of oven at 350 degrees for 20-27 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached and will spring back when touched lightly in center.
Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. When ready to invert, run a butter knife around edge of pan and turn over onto a cooling rack. Frost when cooled completely.
Place powdered sugar into bowl of stand mixer. Turn on low speed for about 30 seconds.
Add room temperature butter. Mix until smooth.
Add milk (3 tablespoons) or cream, pinch of salt and vanilla. Add more milk if needed, a tablespoon at a time.
Beat for about 3-5 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Make sure to follow this time for the fluffiest, smoothest buttercream!
When finished beating, use a spatula to fold together and remove any excess air bubbles from frosting.
Frost cake using about 1 cup of frosting for middle section, then frost sides and top.
-I beat the egg white in a clean bowl, with a whisk attachment. The eggs will beat up better if they are at room temperature. Make sure the bowl and beaters are free of any oil.
-Butter may be left on the counter for 1 hour before using or microwaved for a few seconds until barely soft.
-I like Bob's Red Mill brand Cake flour. I've used several different types but have had best success with Bob's for this recipe!
-The cake may be frozen for up to two months if wrapped tightly before frosting.