Making White Cake Layers

White layers are gorgeous — and very “spring-like” — especially when accompanied by a light-colored frosting and filling (I’m thinking especially of a citrus curd of some kind). Making them is no more difficult that making any other one-bowl-type cake layer. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and assembling your ingredients. Sift the cake flour into your mixer bowl:

Then add all the rest of the dry ingredients.

Stir them for about 30 seconds to blend, then add the very soft butter.

Stir that for 1-3 minutes on low until it’s totally incorporated. Those flour granules look greasy? Then we’re in business.

Now combine everything that’s wet in a medium bowl.

Give it a swizzle.

Then add half of it to the dry ingredients. Beat that all together on medium-high for a good 90 seconds.

See here? We’re incorporating air and developing gluten, which in this case is very necessary.

Scrape the whole mess, not forgetting the very bottom. Who knows? All your leavening might be down there. Crazier things have happened.

Add half of what remains and beat again for about 20 seconds.

Scrape!

Add the last of the liquid and beat another 20 seconds.

And guess what — scrape! Just one last time to make sure nothing’s left dry. If so, beat another 10 seconds or so. If not you’re good to go!

Why do I scrape by hand instead of using one of those rubber blade things? Because I don’t believe there’s any substitute for hand scraping. Yeah it’s a little messy, but it gets you well acquainted with batter colors and textures. Plus I just don’t trust those gizmos…made of cheap plastic and who knows how long until that nice flexible rubber turns brittle and starts to fall off? No thanks. I had a company rep after me for weeks to do an endorsement one time. I told him I planned to be buried with a rubber scraper in my hand. He quit with the emails.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pans. Yes, I weigh mine, it’s how I learned. You want just over 20 ounces per pan.

Even the batter a bit. Don’t go nuts.

Bake those for about 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let them cool 10-20 minutes in the pans, then turn them out and peel away the parchment.

Put another rack on top and gently flip everything over. Take away the top rack.

Why do this? Because the top crusts will be a little sticky and you don’t want them face-down on a rack. You can lose some large hunks of cake that way. Let them cool the rest of the way and use as you see fit!

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40 Responses to Making White Cake Layers

  1. Cynthia Carter says:

    Joe, when you prepare your cake pans, do you use those fabric cake strips soaked in water on the outside? I have them and use them, and they do make my cake layers rise more evenly, but then leveling the cake layer afterwards works, too.

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Cynthia!

      I confess I don’t use them. I’m a leveler, though sometimes I confess it would be nicer to have them just bake up flatter! The strips for me have always been just one more thing to worry about, but I should give them a try!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  2. Maria says:

    With you on the bowl scraper things: I have one and regret buying it: it’s “a snare and a delusion”, as my grandmother would say… Looking forward to seeing your finished cake!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Maria!

      Yes they really are one of those cheap gee-wiz items that I simply can’t get behind. By comparison, I know Rose Levy Beranbaum likes hers, so I guess it just comes down to personal preference. I just can’t be made to love them.

      Cheers and thanks for the comment!

      - Joe

  3. Alex says:

    Aww those white cake layers look done to perfection. I’m currently on a diet at the moment so I don’t know why I come around to tempt myself looking at delicious looking recipes – but these look scrumptious – good thing I can’t reach in a grab them! :)

    • joepastry says:

      Good thing for me too…they were due at a church fish fry! ;)

      Try them when the diet is over though. I promise you’ll like them!

      Cheerio,

      - Joe

  4. Sally says:

    I like my rubber blade beater for buttercreams, but not for cakes. Tried it once and dry ingredients went everywhere! Don’t do it!

  5. Rick says:

    Okay Joe so I confess, I confess … when reading one of your competitors’ blog sites for ‘the perfect sponge cake recipe’ the un-named blogger (who I greatly admire) talked about adding a teaspoon of gelatine to the dry ingredients to “act as an emulsifier”. Being classically trained in the baking arts and never having heard of such madness; it did make me wonder though. I understand that a true sponge is not exactly a white layer but given the similarities do you have any thoughts on the matter?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Rick!

      I have competitors? I thought I was inimitable! ;)

      I’d never considered that before for a sponge cake, Rick. It definitely isn’t an emulsifier, but it would help keep some of the bubbles from popping in a génoise or a joconde. Then again it would make the crumb a bit rubbery. Sounds like one of those great culinary school exam cheats that’s getting a little traction in the wider world. If you try it let me know what you think!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  6. charm says:

    Joe!
    Went on vacation to the wilds of California and have been gorging on your blog since returning.
    Silly question, but what does ‘white cake’ taste like? No taste, a la angel food cake? Not eggy or vanilla-ish like a yellow cake, I take it? What’s the advantage? Is it “just” a vessel for holding curd or mousse?
    Thanks.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Charm!

      Glad to hear from you again. Been a while! White cake is indeed a butter cake, just a different color and with a somewhat finer crumb. Try it you’ll like it! Cheers,

      - Joe

  7. OB says:

    Is there any reason why one shouldn’t just put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz the mixture until it comes together? That would work air into the mixture, would it not? Thinking of making a chocolate cake tomorrow and tempted to just blitz…Any thoughts?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey OB!

      I got back late to answer. If you tried it, how did it work? My feeling is that you can use the blitz method for this, but it won’t be as tender. Let me know what happened!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

      • OB says:

        No worries, Joe. Made RLB’s “Black Chocolate Party Cake” from RHC and used the food processor instead. Started with butter and sugar then remaining wet, then dry. Had to finish the job with a hand-held because my food processor, although very powerful, is medium-capacity. Batter turned out like fluffy clouds – never seen it so fluffy before. Ate the cake 1 hour after baking and it was very light with a great crumb. Had no complaints texture-wise. Unlike this lady here…
        http://knittybaker.blogspot.ae/2010/11/hcb-free-choice-black-chocolate-party.html
        Only changes I made were 4 medium eggs instead of 3 large (didn’t do any weighing) and used dark muscovado instead of turbinado. I think I may be blitzing more often if only for the sake of experimentation. Liked the whole cloud-like candy floss look of the batter…

  8. NancyB says:

    I, on the other hand, love my beater blade, which I bought early on during an Internet group project to bake every cake in RLB’s Heavenly Cakes. I do scrape manually–just at that last step. It’s rare that any dry ingredients turn up, though a little wet stuff on the blade itself may not be fully mixed and mostly on conventional “cream butter and sugar first” cakes.

    • joepastry says:

      Thanks, Nancy. As I mentioned, I know RLB love her beater blades. To each their own!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  9. Susan says:

    Can you baste white cakes with syrup, like you would a sponge cake, to keep it from drying out or are they too delicate?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Susan!

      You can indeed. As with any cake, however, you want to be judicious about how much syrup you apply. Too much produces a sweet swamp!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  10. Hi Joe! Your white cake looks wonderful! Can you give me an estimate of how tall each of these 2 layers are? I have a wonderful strawberry white chocolate mousse cake that uses 3 layers of white cake, so I’m wondering if I’d have to multiply this recipe by 1.5x to use it in that cake. Thanks! -Xiaolu

  11. Chana says:

    Hi Joe — what do you think of clear vanilla? Did you ever discuss this in your vanilla posts? I’ve never used it, but it seems that white cake is the perfect place for it. I’m wondering about the taste, and if it would make all that much difference in a white cake’s “whiteness.”

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Chana!

      Like you I’ve seen it but never used it. But you’re right, white cake is the application for it if there ever was one. I should taste test the stuff some time!

      Cheers,

      - joe

  12. Jo-Lee says:

    Joe!

    What is the perfect icing for a white cake? Swiss buttercream or German buttercream or?

    J

    • joepastry says:

      Hello Jo-Lee!

      You can use just about anything. I’d be inclined to do a thin layer of Swiss buttercream left to my own devices. In this case I used heritage frosting since I was sending it to a bake sale and knew it was going to stand out in a warm room. But you can really use anything you like!

      Thanks for the question,

      - Joe

  13. charm says:

    Would this cake be suitable for cupcakes? Is frosting necessary? Is this cake good for eating plain?
    Thanks.

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Charm!

      It would indeed make great cupcakes. And just like all butter cakes it really doesn’t need much in the way of frosting. A little is fine or none at all!

      - Joe

  14. Sally says:

    I tried the white cake a couple of days ago and it’s going into the file to be done again. Reading an earlier comment had me tasting carefully–it does remind me a bit of angel cake.

    We used my frosting recipe–a brown sugar buttercream with all the crunch of cookie dough, its inspiration. Maybe some strawberries and cream next time!

    • joepastry says:

      Woohoo! Glad you liked it, Sally!

      Your frosting sounds amazing. Call me next time!

      - Joe

  15. Joanna says:

    Now my ultimate go-to vanilla white cake! Its so perfect!

  16. celeste says:

    Hi Joe! In my country we love using Purple Yam for cakes. Can you please tell me how can i make variation of your White Cake recipe with Purple Yam which is 33% Carbohydrates content and 67% Water content. Thanks :)

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Celeste! Would that be the Phillipines?

      From what I can see, most Ube cake recipes are almost exactly like the butter cake recipes listed here (yellow or white), just with a cup of purple yam and food coloring added. My suggestion is to try that and see what you think of the results! Let me know how it goes and get back to me with any questions!

      Cheers and have fun,

      - Joe

  17. celeste says:

    What if i use 1 cup of purple yam? Do i have to change the amount of leavening too, the flour and the water? Or it’s okay if ill just add 1 cup of yam and don’t change anything? Sorry, so many questions :) Thanks

    • joepastry says:

      I should have looked at this one first! ;)

      That’s exactly what you should do, Celeste! Cheers,

      - Joe

  18. celeste says:

    Thanks for the reply. Yes it’s Ube Cake from Philippines. Glad to know that you heard of it. Most of the Ube cake recipes are using Chiffon Cake, it’s just to dry for my taste and off for Cream Cheese frosting (Just for me :) ) I tried both of your White & Yellow Cake and it turn out great and thats how i came up to the idea of using Ube, which i think will be a very good variation.

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