This is the best vegan vanilla cake! A simple sponge cake is layered with luxurious vegan buttercream frosting. It’s elegant, classic, and unbeatable for birthday celebrations.
With a birthday just behind me, I’ve had vegan cake on my mind more than usual! This vegan vanilla cake is perfect for birthdays. It’s also a classy, elegant layer cake that can be part of any celebration or special event.
With the exception of whatever decorations you’re into, this cake is frill and fuss-free. Three layers of simple vanilla sponge cake and sweet, rich vegan buttercream frosting. That’s it.
I love the scent and taste of vanilla and have never thought of vanilla desserts as being inferior or less memorable than chocolate or other flavors. True to its name, this vegan vanilla cake smells and tastes strongly of vanilla, in the best of ways.
Vegan vanilla cake is vanilla cake prepared without eggs, milk, or butter.
In place of milk, I use non-dairy milk in the recipe—soy, oat, almond, and cashew are my favorites for baking. There’s no butter in my vanilla sponge cake. Instead, I use avocado oil, which could be substituted with another neutral-flavored vegetable oil.
There’s plenty of vegan butter in the frosting—it’s the main ingredient! You can use any stick form of vegan butter. I usually use Earth Balance, which is relatively inexpensive and works well in the recipe.
And what about replacing egg?
Honestly, I often find that replacing egg is unnecessary in vegan baking. Flax egg and aquafaba work wonders in some recipes, but they’re not needed in others. I find this to be especially true of quick breads, muffins, and some cakes—including this one.
The cake in this vegan vanilla cake is a tried and true recipe. I use it in my strawberry shortcake, which is a favorite summer recipe. So I’ve made it many times, to the point where I almost have the proportions memorized.
To make the cake itself, you whisk together dry ingredients, mix and add wet ingredients, combine, and bake. It’s a loose batter, and it’ll smell wonderfully of vanilla even before it goes into the oven.
If you prefer, you can bake the cake in a 9 x 13-inch rectangular baking pan, turning it into a sheet cake instead of a layer cake.
Once the vegan vanilla cakes have baked and cooled, it’s time to decorate.
Speaking of, the “crumb coat” is the first, thin layer of frosting that goes on the cake. You apply it, then refrigerate the cake for about thirty minutes. Once the coat gets cold, it’s much easier to frost and decorate the rest of the cake.
You can make your cake decorations as simple or as complex as you like. I often frost layer cake and leave it just the way it is. It can also be fun to use a piping bag to make star shapes, flowers, swirls, or whatever you like.
Cake flour has less protein than all-purpose, which means that it develops less gluten in baking. It yields a tender, fluffy, moist crumb, which is perfect for cakes.
While I’ve had really good results making my vanilla cake with both all-purpose flour, I have to admit that cake flour really does yield a more delicate crumb! When I use it, I notice a difference—though it’s always hard for me to justify making space for yet another type of baking flour within my limited pantry space.
If you’d like to achieve the results you’d get from cake flour without actually purchasing cake flour, you can use a mixture of all-purpose flour + cornstarch.
The rule of thumb is to subtract two tablespoons of AP flour from each cup of flour called for in the recipe, replacing them with two tablespoons of cornstarch. For this recipe, I recommend three cups + two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and six tablespoons of cornstarch.
And if all of this sounds like too much to worry about, don’t worry 😉 All purpose flour will be fine.
This cake can be made gluten free. I recommend using a gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend, rather than a single type of gluten-free flour (such as almond or oat flour).
My favorite gluten-free, all-purpose flour for baking is King Arthur’s Measure for Measure. I use it in my cake recipes whenever I’m baking for a GF friend, and it works really well.
The trick to decorating the vegan vanilla cake is, of course, a good frosting. The frosting for this recipe is simple buttercream, made with vegan butter, powdered sugar, and non-dairy milk. I make it in my stand mixer, but you can also use a handheld mixer to whip the frosting into light, airy perfection.
One thing I did differently than usual when I made this cake was to sift the confectioners sugar before using it. It’s a step that I’ve skipped in the past, but it makes such a difference! I’ve always had little clumps in my frosting, because I’ve always been too lazy to sift the sugar beforehand. Now I know how worthwhile it is.
If you have the patience, I really recommend sifting as instructed in the recipe. You can use a sifter if you have one (I have this one), or you can just use a sieve.
I love both this buttercream frosting and my vegan cream cheese frosting. I use them to decorate a majority of the cakes and cupcakes that I make for birthdays and other special events. Some people find these kinds of traditional frosting a little too sweet, which I understand.
If you’d like an alternative to the buttercream in this vegan vanilla cake, you could try doubling my creamy cashew frosting. You can also make a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting instead, using a double batch of my chocolate avocado frosting. The chocolate pumpkin frosting that I use with these raw vegan brownies is also really good.
The buttercream frosting helps to keep the vanilla cake moist for about two days at room temperature if your home space is cool. If not, I recommend storing the cake in the fridge, as the frosting can easily get melty.
I store the cake with a light layer of Saran wrap over it. The wrap shouldn’t be tight enough to damage the decorations; just a loose, gentle layer to provide protection.
In my home, there’s only ever one of me and there’s often quite a lot of cake. I freeze leftover slices so that they stay fresher, longer. The texture of the vegan vanilla cake will be more tender if you freeze the cake after a few days, rather than letting it sit in the fridge for more than 3-4 days.
I usually freeze leftover cake one slice at a time, so that I don’t have to defrost more than I need.
In 2020, when quarantine was fully underway, I walked one of my carrot cakes to my mom’s apartment. I handed it to her in the lobby of her building, my hands clad in nitrile gloves. Later that evening we ate slices of cake together on Zoom.
It is such a joy to now be able to share cake, my all-time favorite dessert, with my loved ones again. This vegan vanilla cake was made to be sliced and shared and cherished on special days. But as I make my way through the leftovers in the wake of my birthday, I can also tell you that it’s a lovely treat to have around and enjoy solo.
No matter how you serve it, I hope you’ll love it.