Vanilla party cake


We’re celebrating two special family birthdays in October, my son’s and my dad’s, and in honour of that today I’m sharing my go-to vanilla party cake recipe. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made this cake, it’s THAT good. My favourite thing about it is that it keeps so well. I can make the cake a day ahead and quickly ice it on party day which saves so much time and stress on the day. Of course the vanilla flavour just wonderful too, it’s always a crowd pleaser.



In this recipe I’ve used the batter to make four thin-ish layers, but you could make two thicker layers or even cupcakes. Simply adjust your baking time accordingly. You can customise the colour of the batter or the icing to fit your party theme and simply finish it off with decorations, sprinkles or a chocolate ganache drip.



A few tips before you start: This cake is soft and tender so handle the layers with care. I would also recommend giving the cake a thin crumb coat when icing (as per the method below) as this will make icing the top layer much easier. You can also easily halve the recipe if you just need a small cake. And I’m not sure about you but I don’t own four 20cm tins! So I simply wipe out and reuse the same one between bakes.

Let’s celebrate… with cake!




For the cake:

  • 400g flour
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
  • 3.75ml (¾ tsp) bicarb
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 400g castor sugar
  • 250ml (1 cup) sunflower oil
  • 10ml (2 tsp) vanilla essence
  • 350ml buttermilk, room temperature

For the icing:

  • 375g butter, room temperature
  • 750g icing sugar
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) warm milk
  • 10ml (2 tsp) vanilla essence

1.) Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Grease and line the base of four 20cm cake tins.

2.) Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

3.) Pop the eggs and castor sugar into your mixer (or use a hand mixer) and whisk together on high speed for 4 minutes until thick, pale and creamy.

4.) Add the sunflower oil and vanilla essence and whisk again to combine.

5.) Whisk in half of the buttermilk. Then fold in half of the dry ingredients, followed by the other half of the buttermilk and then the remaining dry ingredients.

6.) Divide the batter equally between the tins and bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool completely.

7.) To make the icing beat the butter for a few minutes until smooth. Sift in half of the icing sugar and beat well. Sift in the remaining icing sugar and beat again until combined.

8.) Add the milk and vanilla essence and mix until smooth and the icing has a spreading consistency. Add a little extra milk if necessary.

9.) Place one of the cakes on a plate and spread a third of a cup (80ml) of icing on the top. Place a second cake on top of this and spread another third cup of icing on top. Repeat with a third cake.

10.) Place the last cake on top and use two thirds of a cup (160ml) of icing to spread a thin crumb coat over the top and sides of the cake. Place the cake in the fridge or freezer until the crumb coat has set – I usually find that popping the cake in the chest freezer for 20 minutes does the trick.

11.) Give the remaining icing a quick mix if it has started crusting and add another thin layer of icing over the crumb coat. Any extra icing can be used to pipe decorations on the cake or stored in the freezer.


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