To all of the people out there who have been disappointed with vegan white cake recipes, this cake is for you. It’s light, it’s fluffy, and it’s tender. No bready texture, no brownish color, and ordinary ingredients too. What’s my secret? Two: 1) I tested this 14 times and 2) A new way of thinking about vegan cake, which I’m introducing you to today.
There are a few things about this vegan white cake I will discuss in more depth:
- The mixing method
- The flavor
- The ingredients
- The measuring method
- Variations and troubleshooting
This post is a long one. If you’re not interested in any of that stuff and willing to simply follow my recipe then go ahead and scroll down, or click/tap the “Jump to Recipe” button up at the top above the post. The best vegan vanilla cake around is in your future and you don’t have to read my rambling to get to it!
A new way of mixing vegan cakes: reverse creaming
For many of us, when we learn to make baked goods like cakes, we come to expect a certain sequence of events. Cream together the fats and sugars (and eggs, back in the day), then add the liquid. Mix together the dry ingredients, and then combine the whole thing and bake it.
In my many vegan cake trials I learned that without egg for moisture and tenderness, vegan cakes made the “traditional” way reliably had a dense, bready or gummy texture. In a white cake in particular, there’s no strong flavor like chocolate for a bad texture to hide behind.
I started doing my research and most of the internet told me I was over-mixing, but because of the inferior emulsion formed without butter or eggs, it was difficult to mix any less, otherwise the cake baked unevenly. (See my parade of cake fail Instagram stories for evidence of this).
Finally, I came across something that I’m now surprised isn’t more widespread. It’s called the reverse creaming method (and seems to also be known as the paste method). Known for resulting in uber-tender cakes, this method is favored by many of the would-be scientists doing official baking experiments and sharing their results.
How does this method work? It’s surprisingly simple and easy. You start by sifting together your dry ingredients and sugar. Then, you add your fat directly to the dry ingredients, and mix well. Only at that point do you add any type of liquid. This way, the fat molecules coat the flour and prevent the flour from coming in direct contact with liquid, which in turn, prevents gluten from forming. That pesky gluten is exactly what made your other vegan cakes so dense and bready!
My research didn’t end there. There was very little evidence of reverse creaming being used with predominantly oil-based cakes (of which my vegan white cake is one), and even less of this method being used without a mixer. I actually do own a mixer, but I don’t want to tell you to shell out for a new kitchen appliance to make my cake recipe, so I was pretty determined to make this recipe work with a spatula and a fork.
I had a little bit of trouble with the oil mixing in too quickly/unevenly with my dry ingredients, but as it turns out, cutting the oil with just a little bit of shortening gave me enough fat “real estate” to mix everything perfectly. The shortening also improves the mouthfeel of the baked cake, and makes it easier to slice, so it’s a win-win.
After that step, you can pretty much mix the crap out of your vegan cake batter so the batter will bake up nice and evenly. Batter made with this method will seem to be very liquidy and drippy compared to what you would expect. You’ll be pouring it into your cake pans. That’s the correct consistency, so don’t be alarmed!
The flavor: vegan white cake vs. vegan vanilla cake
I’m a vanilla lover. That’s why I’ve got all kinds of vanilla-forward recipes on the site here like my vanilla almond milk pudding, raspberry vanilla bean vegan scones, and vegan sugar cookies.
Bakery-style cakes have a very particular flavor, though. While this recipe can easily be a vanilla cake with some quick tweaks, as written it’s a vegan white cake and that means the vanilla isn’t too strong. I also wanted to preserve the cake’s color and keep the appearance as snow-white as possible, so instead of vanilla extract I used clear imitation vanilla flavor.
To further round out the flavor and make this lovely vegan cake taste like the dairy-based cakes of childhoods past, I also use imitation butter flavor in the batter. Now, I know at this point some folks may be thinking that this cake doesn’t sound very natural. To those people, I would point out that my goal wasn’t to make a healthy vegan cake, my goal was to make a delicious one that doesn’t taste funny.
Cake flour is made from a different type of wheat berry than regular all-purpose flour, and this also contributes to the familiar bakery, birthday cake esque flavor. And finally, in keeping with the theme, I frost my cake with some very basic, accidentally-vegan white frosting from the store. I don’t care for homemade icing made from vegan butter, as I find that most vegan butter products have a strong aftertaste that overpowers the cake.
Ingredients needed for vegan white cake
To make this cake you’ll need a little bit of everything. Where relevant, inside the recipe below I have linked to the specific products I used.
- Cake flour: It’s important to use this instead of all-purpose flour for the most tender vegan cake. Cake flour has a protein (gluten) percentage of 7 to 8.5%, and it is bleached. The lower protein content is necessary for a tender cake that isn’t tough. The bleaching helps make your cake whiter. Regular all-purpose flour has a protein content of 10 to 12%. If you use it, your cake will not rise as much, and it will feel greasier and heavier.
- Vegetable oil and vegetable shortening: Lighter colored oils like soybean oil or canola oil will give you the whitest cake, but you could also use avocado or grapeseed oil if desired. Please use shortening, not coconut oil. Coconut oil is not as creamy and will make your cake more greasy and heavy.
- Plain sugar: I endorse the use of regular, plain white sugar. I often bake with “crunchy” organic unbleached cane sugar but not only will it result in a darker color, the granules are larger and they will cause issues with the cake baking up correctly. Many common brands of white sugar are vegan nowadays. It’s a good time to be alive!
- Potato starch: Another weapon in my arsenal for a fluffy cake. Without eggs, the vegan cake doesn’t get quite fluffy enough with flour alone. You can try substituting arrowroot starch or tapioca starch if needed, although potato is best. I don’t recommend cornstarch; it doesn’t have as fluffy of a result.
- Soy milk: Soy milk has the highest protein content and will provide the best moisture and lift to your vegan white cake, so it’s my only tested and recommended milk for this. However, I’m eager to hear your results if you try something else like almond milk, cashew milk or oat milk.
- Aquafaba: To complete the trifecta of fluff-inducing ingredients, a little bit of whipped up aquafaba (the cooking liquid from beans; you can drain it from a can of white beans for the lightest color) is folded into the batter just before baking.
- Flavoring: See above for why I use imitation vanilla and imitation butter. Make sure your imitation butter flavor is vegan. I use Wilton brand, which can be ordered online. We buy it in person at Michaels.
Measure this way for the best vegan cake
Normally, with my baking recipes I include both weight and volumetric measurements. However, with this vegan white cake I have not even included volume measurements at all. It is crucially important to measure the ingredients by weight for a consistent, successful result. I use a basic, cheap baking scale. It has been well worth the $10.
Why is it so important to bake by weight, especially when doing vegan baking? So much of the success of this cake batter comes down to the precise quantities of leavening, flour and starch. Measuring dry ingredients by volume is not exact. The actual amount measured can depend heavily on the amount the flour has settled; the scooping method used; or even the ambient humidity. This vegan white cake is incredibly delicate and will easily be thrown off by a bad flour measurement.
Vegan cake variations and troubleshooting
Want to make this cake lemon flavored? You can do that too, simply swap the imitation butter flavor with lemon extract, and add lemon juice instead of vinegar. This white vegan sponge cake doesn’t convert easily to chocolate, but I’m working on that recipe too so stay tuned.
I’ve been fiddling around with making a gluten-free version of this recipe and I came pretty close by substituting the cake flour with a blend of rice flour and cornstarch. Then, I added sorghum flour to the mix to reduce the “ricey” flavor and it was an utter disaster. So, experimentation is ongoing, but I can tell you that AP gluten-free flour is not a good idea, neither is sorghum.
This recipe makes two 9-inch layers. It is easily halved (I’ve tested and verified this) to make a single layer, so it ought to work well at 1.5x to make a three-layer cake if you’d like.
I haven’t gotten a clue how to make this cake at high altitude. I’m close to sea level here in Baltimore. If anyone modifies the recipe to work at altitude, do let us know in the comments!
Finally, it’s natural to wonder about making cupcakes from this cake recipe. I haven’t tried it, but one of the advantages of this vegan cake is that it rises somewhat flatly, so I suspect it might not result in nicely domed cupcakes, but I’d definitely be interested to hear about it if anyone gives that a try.
Vegan white cake troubleshooting
Despite my detailed instructions, things can (and will go wrong). Here are a few possible reasons for this particular cake. Some of them would not apply if you are making a cake with traditional (not reverse) creaming, as over-mixing can be an issue in that case.
Why is my vegan cake crumbly? This is likely because it was cold when sliced or because the batter was not mixed fully after adding the liquids.
Why did my cake sink after baking? It’s normal for the cake to sink a little bit, but if it collapses in the middle, possible contributors are a very humid kitchen, under-baking the cake, hot spots or temperature inconsistencies in your oven (check it using a thermometer), or under-mixing the batter.
Why is there a gummy layer at the bottom of my vegan cake? This can be caused by using cold ingredients (instead of room temperature) to mix the cake, under-mixing the batter, the aquafaba being liquidy rather than foamy, or not whisking in the aquafaba fully.
Why does my cake look lopsided? Believe it or not, many people’s ovens are not level and they don’t realize it. If you’re making things like cookies you might not notice the difference, but if you’re making a cake you surely will. We added some screws below one side of our oven to straighten it out. You can test this by filling a measuring beaker with a cup of water, then setting it on your (cold) oven rack and seeing if the water remains level on all sides.
So, there you have it… my vegan cake manifesto. If you give this recipe a try, please do let me know how it goes, either here in the comments, or by tagging me on Instagram (@yupitsvegan). Your feedback and support help me keep this site going!
NEW in March 2019 – I’ve now included a video to show you the mixing method for this vegan cake in even more detail! Check it out below and enjoy.
Bakery-Style Vegan White Cake
- 78 grams aquafaba room temperature (6 tbsp) (see note)
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 cups plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk room temperature (soy recommended)
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp clear imitation vanilla extract
- 2 tsp clear imitation butter flavor
- 324 grams cake flour (This can NOT be substituted with regular flour. Seriously, don't waste your time)
- 36 grams potato starch
- 324 grams white sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 138 grams vegetable oil (not coconut oil)
- 48 grams vegetable shortening
- Before starting, make sure all of your ingredients for this vegan white cake are at room temperature, otherwise your cake will bake up weird. Warm the soy milk and aquafaba in the microwave for a few seconds if you need to.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (make sure you are not using convection mode, this will cause the cake to bake unevenly). Line two 9-inch cake pans with circles of parchment paper on the bottom. Do not flour or grease the pans.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the aquafaba and cream of tartar vigorously until the aquafaba is fluffy and foamy, and set aside. No need to whip it to stiff peaks, just get it foamy.
- In another small bowl, stir together the soy milk, 2 tsp vinegar, vanilla and butter flavors, and set aside. The soy milk will curdle a little bit; this is normal.
- Sift all of the dry ingredients (including the sugar) into a mixing bowl and stir well, sifting a second time if the mixture still appears lumpy. Don't skip this step - sifting is important!
- Add the vegetable oil and shortening into the bowl. Use a strong fork to break up the shortening and then mix everything together well. The mixture will first turn crumbly like a shortbread dough and then as you continue to mix, will start to resemble wet sand (see photos in blog post). This will take some elbow grease. Make sure to scrape around the bottom of your mixing bowl to get any flour pockets hiding out there. Don't continue until the mixture is fully smooth.
- Add 1/3 of the wet ingredients to the bowl and mix until combined. Add another 2/3 and repeat. Finally, add the remaining 1/3 and mix until the batter is very smooth and runny, which will take a minute or two (see photos in blog post).
- Give the aquafaba mixture another whisk to get it foamy again, as it may have deflated a bit while you were mixing the rest of the cake. If it's still partially liquidy, take only the foamy part and not the part that is liquid. Then, whisk it into the cake batter until mixed in evenly (if you only fold it in, you might get streaks or a gummy layer - mix well if needed). Divide the cake batter between your two cake pans.
- Bake the vegan white cake layers for approximately 24-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and dry. Be sure not to open the oven until it has been at least 15 minutes (preferably longer), otherwise you will risk your cakes deflating when you open the oven door.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans on top of a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. You can then run a sharp knife around the edges of the pans before very gently inverting the cakes to cool completely. I recommend lightly flouring or spraying your cooling rack before flipping the cakes onto it; they are very moist and have a tendency to stick. After flipping them over, gently peel off the parchment paper.
- These cakes can be layered and frosted once completely cooled (and the layers can be gently evened out if needed, although they tend to bake pretty flat). Take care in handling them; they are rather delicate. Leftover cake can be stored covered in the fridge for a couple of days. If your layer cake is fully frosted it can also be stored covered at room temperature. If stored in the fridge, it's recommended to bring it to room temperature before slicing, to reduce crumbliness.
NOTES 2/21/2019: So many of you have already made this cake and shared your results with me! So glad everyone is loving it. It seems that differences in aquafaba consistency and some aquafaba not staying foamy is causing wet streaks in some people’s cakes. Please use ONLY the foamy part of the aquafaba and be sure to mix it in thoroughly with your whisk. Secondly, several people have tested out using all-purpose flour instead of cake flour and it does NOT seem to work well.
My sources consulted are too many to name, but particular thanks go out to Isa Chandra’s cupcakes, from which I adapted my initial base ingredient quantities (although the recipe has since changed dramatically, as you can see); and to Sugar Geek Show’s recipe which taught me many helpful things about reverse mixing.
More vegan cakes from the blog:
- Vegan German chocolate cake
- Vegan tres leches cake
- Vegan sweet potato cake
- Vegan flourless chocolate cake
- Vegan carrot cake
THANK YOU to everyone who makes and shares this vegan white cake recipe. A significant amount of time, effort, and money went into this cake’s creation. If you want to post about the recipe on social media or your own site, please link back to me and do not copy/paste the recipe directly. This way, we can both benefit from it. Thank you! -Shannon
The recipe has promise for sure. I made it and while it was delicious, it was too moist/heavy. The crumb wasn’t as delicate/light/fluffy like I was hoping for. I used avacado oil but otherwise used the ingredients exactly. Is it possible that avacado oil is lighter than other oil and because the recipe specifies a gram measurement, I had too much of it? I think a volumetric measure for the oil would be better. I will try it again and will experiment with the oil quantity to see if that helps.
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
I would recommend sticking with the oil recommended in the recipe. I’ve never tried using avocado oil in this cake. Just double checking that you also used bleached cake flour and not all-purpose flour? This is a common thing that leads to heaviness as well
Thanks for your reply! Yes I always use either KA or Swans cake flour for making cakes. I’ll try it with a different oil and will let you know how it goes. I have another one to bake soon 🙂
Just wondering if you can use coconut milk instead of soy milk , or doe that make it more dense?
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Soy milk or pea protein based milk are the only types that work well.
Susan Purdy says
Hi Shannon – This recipe sounds very promising; definitely going to try it!
I’ve been requested to make a 2-tier, 4 layer vegan wedding cake, and I have two questions:
1). Have you tested freezing these cake layers? wondered if will change the consistency. would hope to freeze layers separately to ice later.
2). To add difficulty, they want a marble cake. So I wonder if once the batter is made, I try mixing 1/4 of the batter with an emulsion of 2 TBSP cocoa and 2 TBSP oil, and then marble that in the centre of the cake pans. (They want a naked cake, so I’d like to try to keep the chocolate part away from the outer edges as much as possible, so the chocolate doesn’t show on the outside where icing is scraped away.
Appreciate your thoughts.
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Wow. That sounds like quite the task. I recommend searching through the comments on here because I think several other people have tried freezing cake layers and reported back. I have never attempted to marble it so I have no idea what would happen there. I’m worried that emulsion would sink to the bottom though. It’s possible it would work better to mix the cocoa powder with hot water rather than oil. That’s just my theory but I really don’t know what will happen. This is probably obvious but you should test that on a single layer by whipping up 1/2 of this recipe in order to see if your technique works.
Made this into a 3 layer birthday cake covered with fondant and it was AMAZING!!!! The birthday girl and everyone who tasted it could not believe it was totally vegan.
I swapped the soy milk for almond milk and the shortening for crisco butter flavoured shortening and it worked well.
This receipe is definitely a keeper! Thank you so much!
This recipe was great!! Great structure/texture/flavor. I’ll have to try the reverse creaming method for other vegan baked goods.
I actually succeeded at converting it to gluten-free, and got a pretty usable result. What I did:
– Replaced the flour with a gluten-free flour blend (I mix my own, but it’s very similar to the King Arthur All Purpose gluten-free flour blend)
– Added 1 tablespoon of psyllium husk
The psyllium husk did add a bit of color to the cake, which meant it wasn’t quite as snowy white as this one, but I prefer it as my binder of choice when working with vegan and gluten-free baked goods, because you can increase the quantity much more until you start running into off textures.
Like other vegan + gluten-free goods, the texture isn’t perfect: the structure still sort of disappears into paste after being chewed a couple of times, but with this recipe + my modifications, the initial impression upon biting into it is fine, the flavor is fine, and it held together when assembled into a cake. A lot more than I can say about my previous vegan+GF spongecake attempts!
sara k says
Hi there, what a FANTASTIC recipe! We manage anaphylactic food allergy to eggs (and several others) and this is, bar none, the best egg-free white cake I have ever baked. Huge credit to yupitsvegan for sorting out a unique process and ingredients list. It’s brilliant! My daughter and I made it as cupcakes (no alterations to recipe whatsoever) for her bff’s bday and it was a huge hit! This is a new favorite and a keeper! THANK YOU!
Can I use Apple cider vinegar?
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
It adds a very very slight amount of color but yes
I had really high hopes for this cake but it came out really dense and gummy. I’ve tried a vegan cake before and had the same result. I used oat milk, because of a soya allergy… could it be this?
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Yes, oat milk does not work well for baking. It’s watery and gummy. The protein content from the soy milk is important. My partner is soy-free and I make this for him using Ripple pea protein milk. NotMilk can also work although I don’t like the taste as much. Also double check that you used bleached cake flour and not all-purpose flour.
Has anyone reported success with a gluten-free flour blend, like King Arthur’s Measure for Measure?
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
I’ve tested this with a few different gluten-free flour blends and I wasn’t happy with the results.
Cake is 100% to recipe spec! Great job articulating this really special formulae. Brava!
This looks delicious! I’m going to make it for a wedding cake (one tier) and am trying to prep as much as possible. Could I freeze the unfrosted layers? Thanks!
After some very unsuccessful attempts at making eggless cakes, this one turned out surprisingly well. I didn’t need vegan cake recipe (just eggless), so used room temperature butter instead of vegetable shortening (I did use soy milk – given the caution from another commenter), and it didn’t pose a problem. The only difference was that it seemed like the cake needed a lot longer time to bake (about 15 min extra), but that could be just my oven having a lower temperature. I’ll use this again when needing an eggless cake recipe. Note: the cake tastes better if you wait a few hours after baking (once it absorbs the moisture from frosting / filling / cream).
JEAN NELSON says
Have you ever frozen this cake? Could it be used as a three layer tier for a wedding cake?
I made this cake for a vegan princess cake. I substituted almond extract instead of butter extract and the cake was perfect. My whole non-vegan family loved it. I don’t think my dad realized it was vegan.
Thanks for this awesome recipe, Shannon! I made a half recipe into cupcakes, and they were great — everyone loved them. (They did come out flat, as expected.)
I used tapioca starch instead of potato starch and a cultured cashew milk vegan butter (mostly coconut oil) in place of the shortening. They turned out very fluffy and moist, and not at all gummy. I will make this again.
Bonnie Ward says
This cake has become a trusted part of my baking arsenal. It turns out beautifully. I’m planning to make a cake top forward and this will be the base of the project.
Courtney R says
I’m a terrible baker but I still try. That’s my preface. Haha I was very nervous to make this because I was meticulous and bought all the exact ingredients, weighed everything out. Ect And so I kind of expected failure because hey, that’s my style. But not today! It was delicious!! So soft and light. I’m kind of obsessed. I am excited to make it again and experiment with different frostings. Thanks for this recipe!!
Susan Powers says
I am giving you 100% on this one. You nailed it. It is by far the best vegan white cake I have made and I have tried an amazing amount of recipes! Kudos to you.
The only sub I made was almond flavoring for the butter flavoring as I love wedding cake and they always have that taste. I am sure it would be perfect with the butter flavoring.
The texture and taste were excellent. I will be making this many times as white cake is my favorite and in 10 years of being vegan, I have never found a recipe that even comes close to how good this is! Thank you!
I made it with almond milk. It comes out a bit more dense .but tastes great!
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Good to know, thanks!
My daughter is allergic to eggs, and I’ve been trying various egg-free recipes for white/vanilla sponge with chewy, dense, or lumpy results. This one looks promising, but something went wrong in my first attempt today. I followed everything down to the letter (and the gram) EXCEPT for using cow’s milk 2% instead of soy milk. The cake hardly rose at all. Could the cow’s milk be the culprit, or are there other possible sources of un-risen cake in this recipe?
Thank you for your detailed explanations and the hard work to get to this stage!
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Hi Dana, sorry this happened. Obviously I haven’t tested this out with cow’s milk, but I would be surprised if that was the cause of the cake not rising. Just wanted to double check that you also used cake flour and not all-purpose flour, since AP flour will weigh it down. Other than that, I would suspect that maybe your baking powder or baking soda need to replaced – this issue is not a common one for this cake so that was my first thought. Sorry I can’t be of more help.
Dana Weinstein says
Thanks for your reply. I did use cake flour and did not swap the soda/powder. I just retried the recipe with soy milk instead of cow’s milk and it worked wonderfully! So this is a good datapoint on milk options…
This will be my go-to for vanilla sponge from now on. I love the reverse creaming process and not having to trade off between glutenous and lumpy cake.
My very satisfied taste testers thank you whole-heartedly for their treat today.
One question — is there a particular reason not to grease or flour the sides of the pan? I followed your instructions and didn’t do either of these. But I felt like the rise on the perimeter of the pan was stunted by the adhesion.
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
That’s really interesting about the milk! Yes I do that to prevent it from sinking back down too much since it tends to puff up and then settle. Being a bit gripped by the sides of the tin prevents too much settling in my experience.
I’ve made this cake about 4 times now and it’s the best cake I’ve had vegan or otherwise. I just made them into cupcake form. I just added a half a tsp more baking powder to help with the puff up. Will try with some different flavors and see what happens.
Can you replace shortening with vegan butter?
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
No that won’t work.