Light, fluffy, moist, one-bowl, quick-mix - there are so many great adjectives I can use to describe this quintessential Easy Vanilla Sheet Cake! With a classic vanilla flavor and light yet wonderfully moist texture, I promise this one-bowl cake will quickly become a family staple for occasions big and small!
- A truly easy vanilla sheet cake recipe...finally!
- Why are there so many easy chocolate cakes, but not vanilla?
- What ingredients you'll need to make this recipe…
- Tools you'll need to make this quick-mix recipe…
- How to make a sheet cake from scratch…
- So what makes cake moist and fluffy?
- Frostings and more.
- Can you make these ahead of time?
- How do you store the leftovers?
- Top tip for making the best sheet cake...
- So how do you tell if your cake is done?
- Other recipes that fans of this sheet cake will love…
- ~The Sweet Recipe Card~
When I worked in box mix development (essentially formulating a high-end Betty Crocker cake mix for sale at grocery stores), a quick-mix vanilla cake always evaded me and my team. So needless to say, I've sort of been on a mission to develop a go-to, super easy vanilla cake recipe ever since.
A truly easy vanilla sheet cake recipe...finally!
Well…I've finally done it! You know I always keep my recipes as simple as possible here at M+M Kitchen, and this vanilla sheet cake is no exception. With buttermilk tang to balance out the classically sweet vanilla flavor, this simple cake is ready in only two steps and only dirties one bowl (…now that's my kind of recipe!).
(Just between you and me, you can do it in one step, but if your butter is a little cold, or you don't mix the batter quite enough, your cake may suffer a bit. So splitting this batter into a 2-step process seemed a worthwhile sacrifice to fool-proof this recipe.)
Why are there so many easy chocolate cakes, but not vanilla?
An interesting little side-note you might have noticed is that chocolate quick-mix cakes are much more common, because they tend to use oil instead of butter.
They avoid the dilemma I just mentioned above regarding chilly butter, but I promise you that a vanilla cake with oil is just not very appetizing when it comes to scratch made recipe. (But I'll never turn down a good, add-in the oil and eggs Betty Crocker box cake if anyone feels like whipping me up one - hehe).
You can top this sheet pan cake with any frosting you like, and I'd definitely recommend my Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting for a quick and delicious pairing.
What ingredients you'll need to make this recipe…
(Pssst…if you're ready to just get baking, get all the details in the recipe card below!)
- Butter: as I mentioned above, vanilla cakes taste best with the clean and rich flavor of butter instead of oil; the fat helps to keep this cake nice and moist too
- Sugar: there's a good deal of sugar in here too which adds moisture and of course, sweetness! (as well as forming a lovely golden-brown crust on our cake top)
- Vanilla Extract: you definitely want to use high quality vanilla as there's a lot of it in this recipe and some of the cheaper varieties may provide an unpleasant alcohol flavor
- All-Purpose Flour: help to give structure to the vat o' batter we're cooking up all at once
- Baking Powder: this little guy is responsible for the lovely dome and light texture you'll find in this cake
- Salt: blends and amplifies all the flavors together
- Eggs: these add both moisture and structure to our batter (check out Eggs 101 and Eggs 102 for more on this!)
- Buttermilk: this helps to lighted up the batter and the final cake; the acidity is a nice note to offset the natural sweetness of vanilla and it also helps to tenderize our cake as well
Tools you'll need to make this quick-mix recipe…
- sheet cake pan (9" x 13" pan)
- hand or electric mixer (you just can't quite blend everything together well by hand with these butter-based cakes unfortunately)
How to make a sheet cake from scratch…
(Pssst…if you're ready to just get baking, get all the details in the recipe card below!)
- Prep your pan and preheat you oven.
- Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. (Wondering why we're adding the vanilla here? Check out this lesson for all the details!)
- Beat in all the other ingredients.
- Pour your batter into the pan and bake.
- Cool, frost, and enjoy! (Pssst…this cake and our Easy Vanilla Buttercream are a match made in heaven!)
So what makes cake moist and fluffy?
As you'll know if you've read thorough just about any of the lessons in The Baker's Pantry tutorials, even the simplest recipes are complicated under the surface.
In this particular one, the eggs and baking powder are both helping to lighten our cake, making it rise and dome. The buttermilk, butterfat, and eggs are also all contributing to the moist crumb texture of this cake.
Even the flour plays an important role here, as we need enough to give our cake structure to support that risen dome, but not too much or we'd end up with a heavy texture and dry crumb.
So in short - everyone has a part to play, and nearly every ingredient contributes to this cake's light and fluffy texture. It also shouldn't be overlooked that since this is a 9" x 13" sheet cake, there's a lot of batter in just one pan, which means the balance of ingredients is even more important to prevent dome collapse.
Frostings and more.
You can pretty much top this cake with any frosting you want…
…vanilla sheet cake with chocolate frosting
…vanilla sheet cake with cream cheese frosting
…vanilla sheet cake with strawberry frosting
I mean...I would eat any and all of those any day of the week if I'm being honest! But my personal favorite is to keep things extra simple for both frosting and cake here with our Easy Vanilla Buttercream Recipe (and you only need to make a half batch to frost this whole cake!).
Of course, I highly recommend some sprinkles or even fresh fruit on top too. One of my favorite things about this cake is it really is blank canvas to tailor to any occasion, season, guest of honor, or "just because" excuse for cake!
Can you make these ahead of time?
I would recommend making your cake as close to service as possible.
But you can always speed things up by mixing up your frosting a day ahead. You can store it overnight in the fridge and then just pull it out 2-3 hours before you plan to frost your cake so it can soften up again to room temperature.
How do you store the leftovers?
While fresh cake is always best, this cake will keep for up to 5 days in an air-tight container at room temperature. You will notice the crumb start to dry out over time, so if you can leave the cake in it's original pan and just wrap it super well with plastic wrap, that will preserve it as well as possible.
It's also helpful to put a small piece of plastic wrap over any cut edges of the cake for extra protection.
Top tip for making the best sheet cake...
The main thing to be wary of with this recipe (which is honestly pretty fool-proof) is proper mixing and making sure your cake is fully baked before pulling it out of the oven.
Although you can beat the butter and sugar pretty vigorously, once you add the other ingredients, you should make sure to blend them together well, but you don't need to whip them on high speed again. This can both toughen your cake and cause the dome to fall during cooling.
Speaking of falling domes…one of the biggest problems with 9" x 13" sheet cakes is that they seem to take forever to bake. If you don't leave your cake in long enough, that beautiful dome it has when it comes out of the oven will slowly sink along with your domed-cake dreams.
So how do you tell if your cake is done?
Be sure to leave yours in the oven until…
- there is absolutely no wiggle in the middle when you gently shake the pan
- the center of the dome doesn't feel soft, but springs back when pressed
- the whole surface is a deep golden-brown
- a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
- and you'll likely see the edges of the cake starting to pull away from the pan as well
Other recipes that fans of this sheet cake will love…
Enough of the talking, I'm hungry for some cake…
~The Sweet Recipe Card~
Easy Vanilla Sheet Cake
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (see tips)
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 4 large eggs
- Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- ¼ cup sprinkles (optional, but highly recommended for extra cheer)
- Preheat and prep: preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottom (not the sides) of a 9" x 13" pan. On top of that, place a piece of parchment, cut to fit in the bottom of the pan, and again lightly grease the top of the parchment paper.
- Cream butter, sugar and vanilla: cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until well-blended, light and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed) (see tips).
- Beat in all other ingredients: add all the remaining ingredients and mix on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until all ingredients are fully combined and batter is smooth.
- Pour and bake: pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly throughout pan. Bake for 34-40 minutes until top is golden brown, fully set, and springs back when lightly touched.
- Cool, frost, and enjoy: allow cake to cool fully before frosting. Frost cake right in the pan using an offset spatula, dinner knife, or piping bag. Add some sprinkles and decorate to your heart's desire, share with your fellow cake-lovers and enjoy!
Test Kitchen Tips
I hope you and your loved ones enjoy this recipe and when you give these a try, please share (literally and electronically!) and tag me on Instagram or Facebook @mint.and.mallow.kitchen so I can see all your amazing sweets and help you with any baking conundrums that come up!
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