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This is the best Vegan Vanilla Cake recipe you'll try! It's perfectly moist, made with easy-to-find ingredients, and topped with a simple buttercream frosting. It'll quickly become your go-to vegan birthday cake!
Oh my gosh, a vegan vanilla cake just for you! As much as I love my vegan chocolate cake recipe, sometimes I'm craving something a little less rich.
I love this cake for so many reasons--the texture, the flavor and the icing to name a few--and it never fails me. I've made this recipe at least 10 times, often times for birthdays, and it's always turns out perfectly.
I know vegan baking can sometimes seem overwhelming or scary, but I promise it's not! Let me walk you through everything you need to know in order to make the perfect vegan cake recipe.
- It can be made in either three 6" round cake pans or one 9" round cake pan
- The cake is perfectly moist but not too sweet
- A go-to birthday cake recipe that can be made with classic buttercream frosting or chai-spice if you're feeling fancy! (See "notes" section in the recipe card below).
- Butter- Salted, and of course dairy-free; I typically use either Earth Balance or Miyoko's. If you use unsalted butter, you'll just have to add a little extra salt into the dry ingredients.
- Milk - I used vanilla almond milk, but soy milk or oat milk would work great too.
- Applesauce - Unsweetened; this helps keep the texture soft and moist (no dry cake here!).
- Vanilla extract- Necessary for that delicious vanilla cake flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar- Vinegar is often needed in vegan baking since there isn't eggs or buttermilk. You can substitute regular white vinegar if you prefer.
- All purpose flour- I haven't tested this recipe with any other kind of flour; however, I'm sure you can substitute gluten free 1:1 all purpose flour and it would work just fine.
- Cane sugar - Every cake needs sugar! Use cane sugar or granulated sugar in this recipe.
- Baking powder and soda - A combination of both works wonders.
Step 1: Line your cake pans. Don't skip this step! I like to place the cake pans on parchment paper, then trace the bottom of them and cut out the rounds. Then, grease the pans with coconut oil or nonstick spray to ensure the cakes don't stick.
Step 2: Whisk the wet ingredients together. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, milk, applesauce, vinegar, and vanilla together.
Step 3: Stir the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Step 4: Combine wet and dry ingredients.Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, then use an electric mixer to stir the batter. It's ok if there are a few small lumps in the cake batter!
Step 5: Bake the cake. Transfer the batter to your prepared cake pans, then bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully invert them onto a wire rack. Wait for them to cool to room temperature before icing.
Step 6: Make the vegan buttercream frosting. This cake calls for a simple vegan buttercream, so start by whisking the softened butter, milk and vanilla together. Then, add in the powdered sugar and stir (I use a hand mixer, but a stand mixer would work well too) until the icing is smooth.
Step 7: Assemble. Last, assemble your layer cake! If you used one 9" cake pan, you can skip this step and simply ice the top and sides of your cake.
For the three layer cake, use a serrated knife to slice the "dome" off of the cakes (this is also a good opportunity to devour the tops of the cakes instead of throwing them away... just saying!). Place a dollop of icing on top and spread the icing around, then place the second cake on top, and repeat the process. Ice the sides of the cakes as well, then add sprinkles (optional).
Expert tips and FAQs
- Salted vs. unsalted vegan butter: The recipe calls for salted butter (the yellow box of Earth Balance); however, if you use unsalted butter, be sure to use ½ teaspoon of salt in the actual recipe.
- Wait until the cakes have completely cooled before adding the frosting otherwise, the icing will "melt".
- Want to take this vegan vanilla cake up a notch? Try adding chai spices to the icing: Make the buttercream as-is, but then add ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ginger, and a pinch of cloves, allspice and cardamom as well. Trust me, it's delicious!
How do you know when the cake is done?
There are two ways: 1) When the cake edges have set. 2) When a toothpick is inserted into the center and comes out clean. It's ok if there are a few crumbs on it, but it shouldn't be wet. If it is, place back into the oven for a few more minutes.
Is there a way to ensure the cake won't stick to the cake pan?
Yes! You want to line each round cake pan with parchment paper. You can actually buy pre-cut parchment rounds at many baking stores. However, I typically just make my own.
Tear a large piece of parchment paper off, then place one of the cake pans on top of it. Use a pencil to trace the outside of the pan, then use scissors to cut that circle out, placing it on the bottom of one of the cake pans. Repeat this process for all three pans. It might sound like a lot, but it only takes a couple minutes and is a HUGE help in preventing your cakes from sticking!
Want more tips and tricks? Baking a Moment has a whole post about how to line pans with parchment paper.
Can this be made in advance?
Yep! I almost always make this cake the day before serving it. Honestly, cakes are easier to ice (think: less crumbs) once they've cooled in the refrigerator.
Still cool the cakes on the cooling rack, then tightly wrap them in plastic wrap and place the in the fridge. Once you're ready to assemble, allow the cakes to come back to room temperature before icing them.
More vegan cakes
If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
Vegan Vanilla Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line three 6" or 1 9" round cake pan with parchment paper, and grease the whole pan with coconut oil; set aside.
- Whisk the melted butter, milk, applesauce, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar together.
- In a separate bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
- Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until everything is mixed together (I used a hand mixer to do this).
- Pour the batter evenly into your prepared cake pans, banging them on the countertop a few times so the batter evens out.
- Bake cakes for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Once cakes are done, leave them in the pans for 10 minutes before carefully inverting them onto a cooling rack. Wait until cakes are completely cool before icing them.
for the icing:
- Cream powdered sugar and butter together; add the milk and vanilla and mix together with an electric mixer until the buttercream is smooth.
- Once the cakes have cooled to room temperature, carefully remove the "dome" from each cake so that the tops of the cakes are flat. Next, ice the top of one of those cakes using a generous amount of icing and then place a second cake overtop, using the icing as glue to hold them together. Repeat this again for the third and final layer. Last, ice the top and sides of the cake.
- Add sprinkles, slice and enjoy!
UPDATE NOTE: This post was originally published in November 2018. It was updated with new text and photos in November 2021.