Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Browned Butter Glaze

Vanilla Cake From Scratch — Move over chocolate, because vanilla has arrived. This no mixer, easy vanilla cake is topped with a browned butter glaze that’s impossible to resist!

Vanilla Cake From Scratch

Moist Vanilla Cake From Scratch

Some of my fondest birthday cake memories growing up are of white sheet cakes with inch-thick pink frosting and big frosting roses that my mom had made for me from a local bakery. Some people avoid thick, abundant frosting, but those are the pieces I seek out.

In honor of its 125th birthday on September 28, McCormick has released a new vanilla extract, Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract, to help celebrate. McCormick marks its 125th anniversary by celebrating the role flavor plays in all of our lives, inspiring flavorful conversation, and giving back to communities around the world.

The new vanilla is 25% stronger than classic vanilla, and it’s a perfect balance between sweet caramel and bourbon-rummy flavors. For a vanilla, caramel, bourbon, and rum fanatic, it’s absolutely perfect and made this easy vanilla cake taste extra vanilla-ey.

Coupled with the same vanilla bean browned butter glaze I recently made for my Banana Bread Bars, I was in vanilla happy-land. I didn’t miss chocolate one bit as I was going to town on this moist vanilla cake.

This no mixer, easy vanilla cake recipe is adapted from my favorite buttermilk cake base that I’ve used for so many cakes. I love the cake base because it’s fast and easy to make, and the cakes always turn out supremely moist, springy, and fluffy thanks to buttermilk, sour cream, and oil. That trifecta of moisturizing and tenderizing ingredients makes it impossible to have a dry cake.

The vanilla glaze really helps make this from scratch vanilla cake recipe out-of-this-world amazing. The secrets are browned butter and glorious specks of vanilla beans. If you’ve never browned butter, don’t panic — it’s so easy! The 5 minutes it takes is the best 5 minutes you’ll spend all month.

Between the browned butter and vanilla beans seeds, the flavor just explodes from the glaze and helps boost the overall vanilla flavor profile to the next level. The glaze seeps down and soaks into the vanilla bean cake, making it even moister, softer, and richer tasting.

slice of moist vanilla cake with vanilla glaze with bite missing on a plate

Homemade Vanilla Cake Ingredients

For this vanilla cake recipe from scratch, you’ll need the following: 

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Egg
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vanilla extract

And for the browned butter vanilla glaze, you’ll need: 

  • Unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla bean paste
  • Salt
  • Cream or milk 

homemade vanilla cake slice on a white plate

How to Make Vanilla Cake From Scratch

To make the moist vanilla cake, combine the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another. Using a spatula, gently stir the wet mixture into the dry. Turn the batter into a greased 8×8-inch baking pan and bake until the center is set and a tooth pick inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Once the cake is done baking, let it cool most of the way before adding the vanilla glaze on top. 

To make the browned butter glaze, you’ll first need to cook the butter over medium-high heat until it’s amber in color. Transfer the browned butter to a large mixing bowl and add in the rest of the glaze ingredients. 

Using an electric mixer, whisk until the glaze is smooth and thick, but easily pourable. Pour the glaze onto the homemade vanilla cake and use a spatula to smooth it out, if needed. 

slices of Vanilla Cake From Scratch on white platter

Tips for the Best Vanilla Cake From Scratch

When making the vanilla cake batter, it is so important that you don’t over mix the batter. Stir the wet and dry ingredients until just combined, and no more. If you over work the batter, the cake will be dense rather than fluffy. 

Note that you should watch the butter very carefully as it browns. The only hard part about browning butter is that is goes from perfectly browned to burnt quickly. So once you begin cooking the butter do NOT move away from the stove. 

You’ll know when the butter is ready to come off the stove once it smells nutty and is amber in color. It’ll go through stages of hissing and spitting as it cooks, so don’t let that scare you! 

Lastly, the glaze recipe calls for vanilla bean paste. If you don’t have vanilla bean paste, you can use the seeds from a vanilla bean pod instead or extra vanilla extract. Just use whatever you have! 

Vanilla Cake From Scratch — Move over chocolate, because vanilla has arrived. This no mixer, easy vanilla cake is topped with a browned butter glaze that's impossible to resist!

More Cake Recipes From Scratch: 

  • Homemade Funfetti Cake with Funfetti Frosting — The recipe is as close to cake mix Funfetti that I’ve been able to replicate at home. I love that stuff, but it’s nice to be able to pronounce all the ingredients and make a scratch cake in literally 5 minutes.
  • Triple Chocolate Layer Cake — This is the chocolate layer cake to beat all and the best. It’s rich, decadent, and everything you want in a chocolate cake.
  • Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake — The cake is coated with cinnamon-sugar and there’s a cinnamon-sugar filling that runs through the center of the cake that turns crunchy while the cake bakes.
  • Caramelized Banana Upside Down Cake — While baking, the bananas caramelize in a butter and brown sugar bath giving the cake it’s signature glistening top. There’s so much rich browed butter and alluring caramel flavor, making the cake irresistible! 
  • Sweet Cream Vanilla Coffee Cake — The trifecta of coffee creamer, vanilla Greek yogurt, and splash of oil moisturize and tenderize the cake, and also lend a creamy, rich flavor profile.
Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Browned Butter Glaze

Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Browned Butter Glaze

Move over chocolate, because vanilla has arrived. This no mixer, easy vanilla cake from scratch is topped with a browned butter glaze that's impossible to resist!

Yield: 8x8-inch pan
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream, lite is okay (plain Greek yogurt may be substituted)
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, browned*
  • 1 heaping cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste**
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste
  • about 1/4 cup cream or milk, or as necessary for consistency

Instructions

Make the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, optional salt; set aside.
  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, sour cream, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry, mixing lightly with a spoon or folding with a spatula until just combined. Small lumps will be present, don’t overmix or try to stir them smooth.
  5. Turn batter out into prepared pan and bake for about 29 to 32 minutes, or until center is set and not jiggly, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.
  6. Place pan on a wire rack and allow cake to cool. While cake cools, make the glaze.

Make the Glaze

  1. Brown the butter. Cook butter over medium-high heat in a small saucepan until it’s amber to brown in color, about 5 minutes depending on pan size, but watch it closely so you don’t burn it. I swirl the pan in the last minute or so to make sure I can really see the color changes. Butter will go through stages of hissing, sputtering, and making noise until the water cooks off at which point the browning occurs. Butter will smell nutty and aromatic.
  2. Transfer butter, including brown bits at the bottom of the pan (they’re flavor powerhouses, keep them) from pan to large mixing bowl which stops any carryover cooking.
  3. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla bean paste, optional salt, and slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth or beat with a handheld electric mixer. As necessary, add additional cream (or confectioners’ sugar) to reach desired glaze consistency. Glaze should be of medium thickness and easily pourable.

Assemble the Cake

  1. Evenly pour glaze over cake (doesn’t have to be fully cooled), smoothing it lightly with a spatula if necessary, but glaze will likely just slide into place.
  2. Allow cake to cool in pan uncovered for at least 2 hours (or overnight and cover with a sheet of foil) before slicing and serving so glaze can set up.
  3. Cake will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Notes

*For more info on how to brown butter, check out this tutorial.

**Seeds from 1 large vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon McCormick Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract extract may be substituted.

Cake base adapted from my Blueberry Muffins and Buttermilk Pancakes Cake; Glaze adapted from my Fudgy Banana Bars

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 246 Total Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 38mg Sodium: 149mg Carbohydrates: 32g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 23g Protein: 4g

Even More Easy Cake Recipes: 

The Best Pineapple Upside-Down Cake — A cheery, happy cake that’s sure to put a smile on anyone’s face! This 100% from-scratch cake is an EASY reader favorite you’re going to love!!

Easy Yellow Cake with Buttercream Frosting — This is the easiest, from-scratch yellow cake and it tastes like a million bucks. This yellow cake recipe always turns out supremely moist, springy, soft and fluffy cake thanks to buttermilk, sour cream, and oil.

Easy Glazed Pound Cake — This EASY, buttery, velvety pound cake will be the star of your next party or celebration! If you’re looking for that PERFECT pound cake recipe, this is the one!

120 comments on “Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Browned Butter Glaze”

  1. Pinned and tried this cake last night and it was so easy and tastes awesome! I didn’t make the glaze but will definitely try it next time, thanks for this amazing recipe!

    • Thanks for pinning and trying the cake and glad it came out great for you and the glaze is just so good! Hope you can make that next time but glad you liked the cake even without it!

  2. Hi there! I love this cake recipe, and have also made the lemon version. Yum! I am wondering if you have a chocolate version because my house is full of chocophiles and it seems like it would make a delicious chocolate cake!

  3. Hi there. I want to try and triple the recipe for the vanilla cake and make a layer cake with it. Do you think it is sturdy enough for stacking?

    Thanks!

  4. Wonderful recipe again! Too bad we can’t find this excuisite vanilla extract in the Netherlands, as I would love to use it. I’ll stick with my regular vanilla extract for now.

  5. Hi! Your cake looks really delicious. I really want to try it. Can I substitute sour cream or greek yogurt with just regular plain yogurt? Thanks!

    • No because it’s too thin and runny and the batter will become overly thin and runny.

    • I actually did just this recently. I didn’t have sour cream or greek yogurt, but i had trader joes whole milk european yogurt and it turned out great! in fact, I won the baking competition at a class with that cake! I didn’t have the buttermilk either btw, and used milk + vinegar. all was well!

  6. I pinned this so long ago and finally found the perfect occasion to make it. I’m wondering how you think this would turn out cooked in a bundt pan? The pourable glaze gave me the idea. Any thoughts on whether it would work/cooking time if so?

    • If you do make it as a Bundt, it will be a ‘short’ Bundt if your Bundt is standard sized, usually about 9-10 cups, because there’s just not that much batter to make a big, tall Bundt. Baking time will probably be reduced but I haven’t tried so can’t speak to results for sure.

  7. Hi there Averie!
    this has been a favorite recipe for a while now and i’m making a layer cake for a party tomorrow. Tonight I made 4x the frosting and had the odd experience of the butter kind of separating from the frosting. I’ve never had this problem the other times I’ve made the frosting… I used unsalted butter and forgot to add a pinch of salt, and I’m wondering if that might have something to do with it? I’m so bummed bc it was a whole cup of butter and I really need to have a nice frosting for the cake tomorrow. I’m just wondering if you might have any explanation for this? thank you!

    • Sometimes you can actually overwhip butter and sugar and it can separate and become a bit loose and runny. I haven’t had it happen often but over the years, yes, it’s happened. I think you were maybe just a bit too zealous in your whipping and next time make sure to stop before it gets to that point.

  8. Hi Averie! 

    I want to make this cake for my boyfriend’s birthday this weekend. I’m planning on using the vinegar + milk combination for the buttermilk, but do you know whether using skim milk would change anything? 

    • Since it’s a birthday cake and you have time to run to the store, buy the buttermilk. It will give you a better overall result. The vinegar and milk trick is great in a pinch but nothing can replace buttermilk in my opinion. And skim milk…meh…not really the best milk to bake with as it’s so thin. Again, go pick up that buttermilk :)

  9. “1 tablespoon McCormick Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract extract may be substituted”

    That sounds like a lot of vanilla extract! I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than one or two teaspoons in a recipe before. I guess if we add that much liquid extract, it’s probably better to go easy on the milk?

    Anyway, I’m really excited to try this recipe! I remembered this light brown glaze from cakes my grandmother used to make, but I had no idea what it was called or how it was made. And then I stumble on this recipe: this is it! Browned butter!

    You can be sure I’ll be baking this cake very, very soon!

    • 1 tbsp = 3 tsp

      So if you feel like adding 1, 2, or 3 tsp go with what sounds best to you. The point is that it’s a VANILLA cake so I want it really vanilla-ey but do what you think is best. Enjoy!

  10. Yum! This looks amazing. For the glaze, will salted butter work fine ?

  11. Hi. I have a question for you. Does the glaze seep through the cake or did mine come out too thin? Either way, the taste of the cake & glaze is amazing!

  12. Made this cake for my husband’s birthday this week and it was a big hit. SO good. I may make it for my book group next week… Just one question. What is the purpose of lining the pan with foil before spraying with cooking spray?

  13. I made this vanilla cake and glaze recipe today for my birthday cake! It really was lovely and we all enjoyed it. I love white cake and this was so much better than all those recipes creaming butter and sugar in the Kitchen Aid and separating all those eggs. This cake was delicious and so so simple to bake. I also appreciate that this makes a small cake, rather than a big layer cake. We got 6 good size servings and no leftovers, which is what I wanted.

    • Glad you loved this cake and I totally agree…so much simpler than creaming butter and sugar and separating eggs! I am glad you enjoyed the smaller size, too. Happy birthday!

  14. I really want to try this for my husband’s birthday next week, but I need it doubled it for a crowd. Does it double easily? Do I adjust the baking time?

    Thank you!

  15. Averie!!! Do you think I can use this recipe for cupcakes? Going to top off with some fluffy, piped buttercream. Thanks!

  16. Is there a reason for using AP flour vs. cake flour? I can’t wait to try this recipe, but I’m wondering if cake flour would make it even better or just not work as well with the glaze. I checked the replies & your FAQ’s but I didn’t see this addressed. Thank you :)

    • I have only made it with AP flour so cannot say how cake flour would work and if you’d have to change the amount or anything else. Many people do not have cake flour on hand so I try to use ingredients that are the most common, for the most amount of people.

  17. I’ve made this cake many times. I sometimes leave the glaze off and serve with fresh fruit and and homemade whipped cream. It’s a no fail recipe. Simply delish! Just the right size as it is always gone the evening it’s baked. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    Rating: 5

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