Light, fluffy, moist, one-bowl, quick-mix, simply "the best" - there are so many great adjectives I could use to describe this 9"x13" Easy Vanilla Sheet Cake! With a classic vanilla flavor, golden yellow crumb, and a light yet wonderfully moist texture, I promise you this one-bowl cake will quickly become a favorite for birthdays and everyday occasions alike!
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A Really Easy Vanilla Cake...Finally
When I worked in box mix development (essentially formulating a high-end Betty Crocker cake mixes for sale at grocery stores), a quick-mix vanilla cake always evaded me and my team. Ever since, I’ve been on a mission to develop a go-to, super easy vanilla cake recipe.
And I am THRILLED to announce…I've finally done it!
You know I always keep my recipes as simple as possible here at M+M Kitchen. This vanilla sheet cake is no exception.
With a 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!).
Easy Chocolate Cakes vs. Easy Vanilla Cakes
Here’s an interesting little side note. You might have noticed that chocolate quick-mix cakes are much more common than vanilla because they tend to use oil instead of butter.
I admit, they do avoid the dilemma of chilly butter not fully mixing into your cake properly. But I promise you that a vanilla cake with oil is just not very appetizing when it comes to a scratch-made recipe (in either taste or texture).
(That said I'll never turn down a good, oil + egg Betty Crocker box cake if anyone feels like whipping me up one! hehe).
Ingredient Tips for Better Baking
(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 high fat content in this recipe helps keep this cake nice and moist too as an added bonus.
- Sugar: there's a good deal of sugar in here as well, which adds moisture and of course, sweetness. It also a very important ingredient to help our cake form a lovely golden-brown crust on top!
- Vanilla Extract: you’ll want to use high quality vanilla as there's a lot of it in this recipe. Some cheaper varieties may provide an unpleasant alcohol flavor.
- Baking Powder: this little guy is responsible for the lovely dome and light texture you'll find in this cake. And since we have a lot of thick batter in one pan to work with, there's more leavener in this recipe than your average cake to make sure we still get a great rise.
- Eggs: there are a lot of eggs in here as 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 the vanilla, and it also helps to tenderize our cake as well.
(p.s. for all the basic tips that no one ever taught you, that are super important to help you bake your best, check out my Baking 101 series!)
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 your oven.
- Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
- Beat in all the other ingredients until smooth.
- Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
- Bake until golden-brown and fully set.
- Cool fully, frost, slice it up, and enjoy!
And check out the full RECIPE WEB STORY for a click-through tutorial!
Frostings and More
You can top this cake with pretty much any frosting you want…
…vanilla sheet cake with vanilla frosting
…vanilla sheet cake with chocolate frosting
…vanilla sheet cake with cream cheese frosting
…vanilla sheet cake with raspberry frosting
I mean...I would eat any and all of those any day of the week!
The frosting pictured here is my Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting which is my personal favorite on this cake, but feel free to use whatever frosting sounds tastiest to you.
Of course, I highly recommend some sprinkles or even fresh fruit on top too. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that while it’s delicious on its own, it’s a great blank canvas to tailor to any occasion, season, guest of honor, or "just because" excuse for cake!
Test Kitchen Tips for Sweet Success
- Soft Butter: because of the quick mix method of this cake, it's important to have some nice, soft butter so it blends in well and you don't end up with little butter pockets in your final batter. So be sure to set it out at least a few hours ahead of time.
- Mix well at the start: the main thing to be wary of with this recipe (which is honestly pretty foolproof) is proper mixing. Although you can beat the butter and sugar vigorously, once you add the other ingredients, you should make sure to blend them together well, but avoid whipping them at high speed like you do when creaming the butter. This can both toughen your cake and cause the dome to fall during cooling.
- Bake it all. the. way. You also want to make sure your cake is fully baked before pulling it out of the oven (there are more tips on how long to bake your cake and checking for done-ness below!). It gets pretty dark on top well before it's finished baking so you'll want to use all the recommended tips to make sure your cake is fully set in the center.
More Tips + FAQs
Can you make this cake 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 the frosting a day ahead.
You can store the frosting overnight in the fridge and then just pull it out 2-3 hours before you plan to frost your cake. This will allow it to soften up again to room temperature for easy use.
How do you store leftover sheet cake?
While fresh cake is always best, this cake will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature.
You will notice the crumb start to dry out over time, so if you can leave the cake in its 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.
How many pieces of cake in a sheet cake?
Just to be clear, our 9 x 13 cake is technically a ¼ sheet cake according to standard bakery definitions.
In terms of servings for a ¼ sheet cake, the answer to this questions is really baker's choice. I recommend cutting your cake in one of the following patters:
(long side x short side)
4 pieces x 3 pieces = 12 servings total
4 pieces x 4 pieces = 16 servings total
5 pieces x 4 pieces = 20 servings total
6 pieces x 4 pieces = 24 servings total
So in short, you can get anywhere from 12-24 servings our of this ¼ sheet cake, depending on how large you'd like each serving to be.
So what makes cake moist and fluffy?
As you'll know if you've read through just about any of the lessons in The Baker's Pantry tutorials, even the simplest recipes are complicated under the surface.
In this particular recipe, 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 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, I was also careful not to add 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 inch sheet cake, there's a lot of batter in just one pan. That means the balance of ingredients is even more important to prevent dome collapse.
How long do you bake a sheet cake?
Speaking of falling domes…one of the biggest problems with 9 x 13 inch sheet cakes is that they seem to take forever to bake. If you don't leave your cake in long enough, that beautiful dome that comes out of the oven will slowly sink along with your domed-cake dreams.
While it's important to have that nice golden color, you need to look for additional details to know if your cake is ready to come out of the oven or not.
So, 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.
Another great hint is that you'll likely see the edges of the cake starting to pull away from the pan as well when it's done.
If you check all these boxes, there’s no way your cake will be under-baked!
Other Cake + Frosting Recipes You'll Love
Craving more delicious treats? Here are a few of my other favorite cake and frosting recipes:
⭐ If you gave this recipe a try please give it a ⭐ rating and tag me on Instagram @mint.and.mallow.kitchen so I can see what you're baking up! ⭐
📖 Full Recipe
Easy Vanilla Sheet Cake (in a 9"x13" pan!)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (see tips)
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 4 large eggs
- 1 batch Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting (or your preferred 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 using a hand or stand mixer (about 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed).*1
- 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. (Please note: this is a pretty thick batter so don't worry if it seems stiffer than usual cake batter.)
- Pour and bake: pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly throughout pan. Bake for 36-40 minutes until the center of the 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, then share with your fellow cake-lovers and enjoy!
Test Kitchen Tips
- *1Soft Butter: make sure your butter is fully softened as this quick mix cake will need it to makes sure your don't end up with cold butter chunks in your batter.
- Storage: While fresh cake is always best, this cake will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature. You will notice the crumb start to dry out over time, so if you can leave the cake in its 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.
Georgia mrazkova says
Would this recipe work as cupcakes? How about two small round cakes?
Jocelyn at M+M says
Thanks so much for your question, Georgia! I haven't tested this recipe as cupcakes or smaller rounds. So while I would guess this batter will probably work fine in other pan sizes, those pans do technically have some different baking dynamics (for example cupcakes usually baker hotter and faster, where as bigger single pans like sheet cakes bake at lower temps and slower). Because of that, I can't guarantee they'd work in those other pan sizes and my recommendation would be to start with a recipe designed for those pans from the get go, but it you do choose to try this recipe in another plan, I would love to hear how it goes!
Debbie McCulloch says
Do I need to make two cakes if I want a filling?
Jocelyn at M+M says
That's totally up to you, Debbie! It would be a little bit tricky, but you could slice the single sheet in half horizontally for two thin layers that you could then add a filling between. That said, it would definitely be easier to bake a second cake if you want a filling in the middle. In that case, I would just make sure you leveled the dome off the bottom layer before adding the filling on top and stacking the cakes to make sure everything stacks up neatly for you. Let me know if you have any other questions and happy baking!