When it comes to birthdays and celebrations, this tried and true recipe for vegan vanilla cake with my easy vegan buttercream is hard to beat. Made with just 12 simple ingredients and only 20 minutes of active kitchen time, my plant-based basic vanilla cake is your gateway to dozens of delicious treats.
📖 Recipe Overview
- This basic vanilla cake recipe is easy enough for vegan baking novices to perfect.
- You only need 12 simple, easy-to-find ingredients, most of which are pantry staples.
- It’s extremely customizable — use it for layer cakes, sheet cakes, and more.
- Vanilla is the ideal canvas for your creativity. Feel free to add your own flair with the colors, cake fillings, and frostings that fit your mood. Read on below for tons of ideas!
🧾 Ingredients Needed
As promised, this straightforward vanilla vegan cake is made with just a handful of readily available ingredients. Here’s what to grab:
While you’ve probably encountered all the ingredients needed for this vanilla vegan cake recipe in the past, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Vegan Buttermilk - To make your own, you’ll need a high-protein vegan milk (like soy, pea, or hemp) and some apple cider vinegar.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda - You’ll need both types of leavener for the perfect, fluffy consistency. Please don’t make the mistake of trying to swap one for the other — it won’t turn out well if you do.
- Granulated Sugar - This neutral-flavored sweetener allows the full complexity of vanilla to shine through. Make sure to use organic cane sugar if you’re based in the US to ensure that it’s vegan-friendly.
- Vanilla Pod, Vanilla Extract & Almond Extract - This triple-whammy of flavor contributes to the complexity of this rich, deeply-flavored vegan cake. You’re welcome to omit the almond extract or replace it with extra vanilla if you prefer, but I love the slightly nutty flavor it adds. Feel free to use equal amounts of vanilla paste or half as much ground vanilla bean in place of the vanilla extract.
- Vegan Butter & Olive Oil - Using both types of fat gives you the perfect intersection of rich buttery flavor and a light, tender crumb.
- Vegan Greek-Style Yogurt or Skyr - For added moisture and a lovely bit of tang. You can also use plain soy or coconut yogurt.
- Vegan Buttercream Frosting - One batch will give you enough for a naked or lightly-frosted layer cake, but increasing it to a 1.5-batch serving will ensure you have plenty left over for decorating the top. Feel free to swap in the vegan frosting of your choice!
🥣 How To Make The Best Vegan Vanilla Cake
This easy vegan cake recipe comes together in just a few simple steps:
Prepare. Preheat your oven and lightly grease and line the base and sides of three 6" cake tins with oil and parchment paper. Make the vegan buttermilk. Whisk together the flour, leaveners, and salt, and set aside.
Step 1: Flavor the sugar. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add them to the sugar with the leftover vanilla pod. Rub the vanilla into the sugar, then remove the pod and any stringy residue from it (if there is any).
Step 2: Cream the sugar and butter for 3 minutes. Don't worry if the mixture isn't completely fluffy at this stage.
Step 3: Add in the olive oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, and almond extract and whisk for a minute until everything is combined and fluffy.
Step 4: Whisk in the dairy-free buttermilk until combined.
Step 5: Add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients in 2 increments. Fold them in with a spatula each time. Stop folding once there are no visible pockets of flour.
Step 6: Bake in the prepared cake pans in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes. To check they are done, insert a skewer or toothpick into the center. It should come out almost clean with a few crumbs. Chill the cakes, and make the vegan frosting.
Step 7: Place a tiny amount of frosting on a cake turntable and secure the first sponge layer on top of it.
Step 8: Decorate. Add half of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Reserve some frosting if you want to pipe a design on top of the cake. Add a swirl of frosting as the filling on top of your first layer. Add another cake layer on top of the frosting.
Step 9: Add the next layer of cake and repeat with another layer of frosting. Follow with the last cake round so you have a 3 layer cake.
Step 10: Pipe a rough set of swirls around the exterior of the cake.
Step 11: Run a cake scraper around the sides on top of the cake to smooth out the surface.
Step 12: Use the remaining frosting to pipe decorations on the top or outside of the cake. Here I used a star tip to make rosettes of varying heights, but feel free to use your own imagination!
🍰 Optional Variations
As much as I love this easy vegan vanilla cake recipe just the way it is written, there is plenty of room for you to put your own spin on things with fillings and frostings.
Here are just a few fun variations to consider:
- Almond Vanilla Cake - While there is a *touch* of almond flavor in this vegan white cake recipe, feel free to slide the scale in favor of more almond goodness. Reduce the vanilla extract to just 1-1.5 teaspoons and increase to 1-1.5 teaspoons of almond extract. You are also welcome to decorate with toasted sliced almonds to increase the nuttiness.
- Different Fillings - There’s no law saying layer cakes have to be layered with frosting. Pipe a circle of your chosen frosting around the outer border of your cake layer (for neater decorations). Then fill it with pastry cream, jam, lemon curd, passion fruit curd, or orange curd, to name a few options. From there, feel free to layer on fresh berries, toasted nuts, or mini chocolate chips to add texture.
- Different Pan Sizes - While I designed this recipe for a 3-layer 6-inch round celebration cake, you can easily make it work for different pan sizes using a little math.
When it comes to icing this vegan white cake, you have TONS of options. I love my basic buttercream (which you can zhuzh up with your choice of natural food dyes like ground butterfly pea flower or beetroot powder).
But that’s barely scratching the surface of possibilities:
- Chocolate lovers, try my Vegan Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, or Vegan Ganache.
- For variations on the vanilla theme, Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Italian Meringue Buttercream, or Vegan Whipped Cream are all solid options. (Note that whipped cream-frosted cakes have a shorter shelf-life and are not good options for warm outdoor events.
- For celebrations (e.g. engagement parties, weddings, 50th birthdays, golden anniversaries, etc), try my beautifully bougie Champagne Buttercream.
- Latte lovers, try my Vegan Coffee Buttercream.
- Berry buffs, try my Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Strawberry Italian Buttercream.
- For people who eat bagels just for the schmear, try my tantalizingly tangy Cream Cheese Frosting.
Not if you chill the cakes in advance. This helps to mimimize crumbs, so you can just go straight in with one thicker layer of frosting, saving you time and effort!
Again, you have LOTS of options here. You’re welcome to use whatever type of frosting you are using to decorate the cake, or you can swap in vegan pastry cream, different types of jams or fruit preserves, a different flavor of frosting, mousse, fruit curd, fresh berries, and more.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no wrong way to serve this rich, vanilla-flavored vegan cake. It’s perfect for any sort of celebration like birthdays, anniversaries, or graduations. It’s also simple enough to make just because you’re craving something sweet and special.
Frosted cake is delightful on its own, but you can also pair it with some fresh fruit, a pretty drizzle of strawberry or berry coulis, or a dollop of curd if you want a little bit of tart flavor to cut through the sweetness. Alternatively, double down on the sweetness but add a touch of salt with my favorite caramel sauce.
I also find that it pairs beautifully with any of your preferred after-dinner beverages including coffee, tea, dessert wine, or champagne.
🎂 More Vegan Cakes
- 200 ml (¾ cup + 5 tsp) vegan buttermilk
- 300 g (2 ⅓ cups + 1 tbsp) all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 250 g (1 ¼ cups) granulated sugar, use organic if based in US
- 1 vanilla pod
- 100 g (0.44 cups) vegan butter, room temperature
- 75 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil
- 180 g (¾ cup) vegan Greek-style yogurt or Skyr, or plain soy or coconut yogurt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract, optional
- 1 batch vegan buttercream frosting (lightly frost), or 1 ½ batches to generously frost *see notes for alternatives
- Prepare: Preheat your oven to 175°C (347°F). Lighty grease the base and sides of three 6" cake tins with oil. Line each base with a circle of parchment and the sides with a strip of parchment.To make the vegan buttermilk add 200ml soy milk and 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar to a small bowl, stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes.In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
- Flavor the sugar: Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add them to a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer jug) along with the sugar and the leftover vanilla pod. Use your fingertips to rub the vanilla into the sugar, then remove the pod and any stringy residue from it (if there is any).
- Cream the sugar and butter: Add the butter to the vanilla sugar and whisk for 3 minutes. Don't worry if the mixture isn't completely fluffy at this stage.
- Combine the wet ingredients: Add in the olive oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, and almond extract and whisk for a minute until everything is combined and fluffy. Then add the vegan buttermilk mixture, and whisk again.
- Make the batter: Add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients in 2 increments, folding them in with a spatula each time. Stop folding once there are no visible pockets of flour - don't be tempted to overmix!
- Bake: Transfer the cake batter to the lined cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes. To check they are done, insert a skewer or toothpick into the center, it should come out almost clean with a few crumbs.
- Cool the cakes: Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 15-20 minutes and then carefully turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool further. Carefully peel away the parchment that will stick to the base of the cakes. Refrigerate the cakes in an airtight container until ready to use. Chilling the cakes for a few hours (or overnight) makes them easier to work with and decorate.
- Make the frosting: Prepare a batch of vegan frosting according to the recipe. One batch will lightly frost the cake, or 1.5 batches will generously frost it and leave enough to pipe additional frosting to decorate the top of the cake.Add half of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Reserve some frosting if you want to pipe a design on top of the cake.
- Assembly: Place a tiny amount of frosting on a cake turntable and secure the first sponge layer on top of it. Pipe a layer of frosting on top of the first cake layer, and use an offset spatula/pallet knife to spread it in an even layer.Add the next layer of cake and repeat with another layer of frosting. Top with the final layer of cake. Use the remaining frosting to coat around the sides on top of the cake and smooth everything out with a cake scraper. Add any leftover frosting to a piping bag fitted with an open or closed star nozzle and frost the top of the cake.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving to allow the cake and frosting to soften a little.
- To freeze the cake layers let them cool, then wrap them well in several layers of plastic wrap before storing them in a freezer-safe bag or container.
- Save your used vanilla pod to add to your next batch of homemade vanilla extract, add flavor to sugar or salt.
- Alternative Frostings: Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate SMBC, Ganache, Champagne Buttercream, Raspberry SMBC, Strawberry IMBC, or Cream Cheese Frosting.
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