One Bowl Vanilla Cake (with oil!)

I absolutely adore this wonderfully old-fashioned Vanilla Cake. It's a breeze to make, with all the ingredients mixed in one bowl. The result is a light and fluffy cake, sturdy enough for transporting to picnics and parties. Topped with lavish amounts of buttercream, it's fantastic for birthday cakes too.

I love a good old-fashioned, no-frills kind of cake. Don’t get me wrong, there is always space in my heart (and stomach!) for extravagant, towering cakes and tortes on special occasions, but when I’m baking for myself, I like to keep it simple. 

My One-Bowl Vanilla Cake recipe is one of my favourite cakes. Simple, packed with vanilla flavour, light and fluffy, but sturdy enough to take to a party or a picnic, it is my go-to recipe when I need to make a delicious birthday cake. And it’s all mixed in one large bowl, so there’s less washing up. Hooray!

Slices of vanilla cake on a cake stand. One birthday candle with flame.
Ingredients for Vanilla Cake on a tiled surface.

Ingredients

To make my easy Vanilla Cake recipe, you’ll need the following simple ingredients:

  • Flour: To make this cake, you can use plain, all-purpose, or white spelt flour (type 630). 
  • Sugar: This cake requires white sugar for the best colour and texture. Powdered/icing sugar is also needed for the buttercream.
  • Oil: I use oil in the cake batter to give this cake a lovely moist texture and to keep it fresh for longer. Any vegetable oil, such as sunflower or canola oil, is suitable.
  • Milk: Full-fat milk gives this cake a soft crumb and a lovely, rich mouth feel.
  • Eggs: I use German size M eggs in this recipe, which are closer to size L eggs in most other countries.
  • Vanilla: I have written the recipe with vanilla extract, but I also bake this cake using vanilla sugar. If using vanilla sugar, replace around 20g / .75oz of the white sugar in the recipe with vanilla sugar.
  • Baking Powder: This recipe contains plenty of baking powder to give it a lot of lift. I prefer to weigh my ingredients and use 15g, which is roughly one tablespoon.
  • Butter: It wouldn’t be butter without buttercream! I use a good quality, European unsalted butter.
  • Salt: This is the real secret ingredient in baked goods. A pinch of salt in the cake batter and the buttercream will make your cake irresistibly delicious.
Ingredients for Vanilla Cake on a tiled surface.
A man pouring milk from a jug into a bowl of vanilla cake ingredients.

Instructions

This light and fluffy vanilla cake could not be easier to make! In fact, it’s as easy as a box mix from the supermarket (and tastes SO much better!)

You don’t need any fancy equipment or complicated techniques. Just a bowl and a hand mixer, and then it’s straight into the oven.

  1. First, prepare by heating the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and lining your cake pan with baking paper.
  2. Next, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. I use and always recommend a digital kitchen scale (link in recipe card), as you can weigh the ingredients directly into the bowl—less washing up!
  3. Add all of the wet ingredients as well as the eggs to the bowl, then beat with an electric hand mixer for 1-2 minutes until well combined. Be sure to scrape down the edges of the bowl to ensure no pockets of flour are left over.
  4. Pour the cake batter into your prepared pan, then bake in the lower third of the oven for 50-55 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack.
  5. When the cake is completely cool, you can decorate it with buttercream, made simply by beating butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, milk and a pinch of salt together until light and fluffy. I indulge my inner child here and always scatter cake sprinkles over the top!
  6. To make a layer cake, double the ingredients and divide between two cake pans.
Vanilla Buttercream frosting on top of a vanilla cake.

The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Vanilla cake slices on a cake stand seen from above with sprinkles on top.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I freeze vanilla cake?

Yes! The unfrosted cake will keep in the freezer for around 2 months. When the cake is cooled, I wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then put it into a freezer bag or an airtight container. If you are making in advance, the cake can be cooked 2-3 days before you need it, and is better on the second day.

Can I make the cake in different sizes?

You sure can! I like to bake this cake in a simple roasting pan from IKEA as that way, I can get lots of slices out of it, but it will work in a 20cm square pan and a 23cm (9 in) round pan as well. Depending on your pan and your oven, you’ll need to add or subtract a few minutes to be sure the cake is cooked, as the baking time may vary. This recipe will also make around 16-18 vanilla cupcakes, depending on the size of your muffin pans.

Can I make this cake gluten-free?

Modern gluten-free flour blends are excellent and can often be used as a 1-1 substitution in baking. I have yet to try with this cake, but if you do, leave a comment below!

Vanilla cake slices on a cake stand seen from above with sprinkles on top.

Vanilla Cake Recipe Card

One Bowl Vanilla Cake (with oil!)

Jay Wadams
My One-Bowl Vanilla Cake recipe is one of my favourite cakes. Simple, packed with vanilla flavour, light and fluffy, but sturdy enough to take to a party or a picnic, it is my go-to recipe when I need to make a delicious birthday cake. And it's all mixed in one large bowl, so there's less washing up. Hooray!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Serves 16 small slices

Ingredients
 

for the cake:

  • 350 g plain or all-purpose flour
  • 225 g white sugar
  • 15 g baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 200 g whole milk
  • 175 g vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

for the vanilla buttercream frosting:

  • 250 g powdered sugar
  • 100 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk
  • a good pinch of salt

to decorate:

  • sprinkles/nonpareils

Instructions
 

  • PREPARE: Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 with a rack in the bottom third. Line a 25x18cm (approx 8x10in.) rectangular baking dish with baking parchment paper. I like using a simple roasting pan from IKEA with straight sides. See notes for alternatives.
  • SIFT DRY INGREDIENTS: Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  • ADD WET INGREDIENTS: Add the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for one to two minutes until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all of the dry ingredients have been mixed in.
  • BAKE: Pour into the prepared baking dish, tap the baking dish on the counter once or twice to dislodge any air bubbles, then bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the baking dish for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Carefully remove the baking paper, then allow to cool completely.
  • MAKE FROSTING: Clean your mixing bowl, then measure in the powdered sugar, butter, vanilla extract and milk. Beat at low speed until the ingredients are combined, then beat at high speed for three minutes until light and fluffy.
  • DECORATE: Spread the buttercream thick over the cool cake, then decorate with sprinkles or other toppings of your choice.

Notes

VARIATIONS:
Size: This cake recipe is really quite flexible. It will also cook in a 20cm (8 in.) square pan, or a 23cm round pan. It may dome slightly and may need a few extra minutes to the bake time to ensure it is cooked through in the middle. You can also experiment with different frostings and toppings to suit the occasion.
Chocolate Frosting: If you prefer a chocolate frosting, use the chocolate ganache from this chocolate cake recipe.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 118mg | Potassium: 59mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 223IU | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Sweet Things
Cuisine | World
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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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