Welcome to our exclusive guide on how to create the perfect butter cake, a classic dessert that has delighted taste buds for generations. This comprehensive article will walk you through every step, tip, and trick to ensure your butter cake turns out moist, fluffy, and absolutely delicious. We aim to provide you with an engaging and informative experience that will not only teach you how to bake this classic cake but also inspire you to make it a regular feature in your baking repertoire.

What is a Butter Cake?

Table of Contents

Butter cake is a simple yet elegant dessert known for its rich, buttery flavor and soft, tender crumb. It is the foundation for many other cakes and can be enjoyed plain or dressed up with various frostings, fillings, and toppings. Originating from the kitchens of European bakers, this cake has become a beloved staple worldwide, appreciated for its versatility and delightful taste.

The Ingredients

Creating the perfect butter cake begins with selecting high-quality ingredients. Here’s a detailed list of what you’ll need:

For the Cake:

  • All-Purpose Flour (315g / 2 1/2 cups): Provides structure to the cake. Ensure you sift the flour to remove lumps and aerate it.
  • Baking Powder (2 1/2 tsp): Helps the cake rise and gives it a light texture.
  • Salt (1/2 tsp): Enhances the flavors and balances the sweetness.
  • Unsalted Butter (230g / 1 cup): The star ingredient, giving the cake its rich flavor. It should be at room temperature for easy creaming.
  • Granulated Sugar (350g / 1 3/4 cups): Adds sweetness and helps create a tender crumb.
  • Large Eggs (4, room temperature): Provide structure and stability. Room temperature eggs blend more easily into the batter.
  • Vanilla Extract (2 tsp): Adds a depth of flavor.
  • Whole Milk (240ml / 1 cup): Moistens the batter, making the cake tender. It should also be at room temperature for best results.

For the Frosting (Optional):

  • Unsalted Butter (230g / 1 cup): The base of the frosting, which should be at room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar (500g / 4 cups, sifted): Sweetens and thickens the frosting.
  • Heavy Cream (60ml / 1/4 cup): Adds richness and helps achieve the desired frosting consistency.
  • Vanilla Extract (2 tsp): Enhances the flavor of the frosting.
  • Salt (Pinch): Balances the sweetness.

Equipment You’ll Need

  • Mixing Bowls: Various sizes for mixing ingredients.
  • Electric Mixer: Stand mixer or hand mixer for creaming butter and sugar.
  • Spatula: For scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accurate measurements are crucial for baking.
  • Sifter: To aerate flour and powdered sugar.
  • Cake Pans: Two 9-inch round pans or one 9×13-inch rectangular pan, greased and floured.
  • Cooling Rack: To cool the cakes evenly.
  • Offset Spatula (Optional): For frosting the cake.
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Step-by-Step Instructions

Preparing the Oven and Pans

  1. Preheat the Oven: Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F (175°C). Proper preheating is essential for even baking.
  2. Prepare the Cake Pans: Grease and flour your cake pans to prevent the cake from sticking. You can use butter or non-stick spray followed by a light dusting of flour. Tap out any excess flour.

Mixing the Dry Ingredients

  1. Sift the Dry Ingredients: In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking

powder, and salt. Sifting not only removes any lumps but also incorporates air into the flour, making the cake lighter. Set this mixture aside.

Creaming the Butter and Sugar

  1. Cream the Butter: In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the room temperature unsalted butter until it’s creamy and smooth. This should take about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the Sugar: Gradually add the granulated sugar to the butter, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. This process should take around 3-5 minutes and is crucial for incorporating air into the batter, which contributes to the cake’s light texture. The mixture should become pale and fluffy.

Incorporating the Eggs

  1. Add the Eggs One at a Time: With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition to ensure they are fully incorporated. If the mixture begins to look curdled, don’t worry; it will come together when the flour is added.
  2. Add the Vanilla Extract: Mix in the vanilla extract. This adds a warm, rich flavor to the cake.

Combining Wet and Dry Ingredients

  1. Alternate Adding Dry Ingredients and Milk: With the mixer on low speed, add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Then add half of the milk and mix until just combined. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, the remaining milk, and finally the last third of the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix at this stage; overmixing can result in a dense cake.

Baking the Cake

  1. Divide the Batter: Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Use a spatula to smooth the tops.
  2. Bake the Cakes: Place the pans in the preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If you’re using a 9×13-inch pan, bake for 35-40 minutes. The cakes should be golden brown and should spring back when lightly pressed.
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Cooling the Cakes

  1. Cool in the Pans: Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 10 minutes. This helps them set and makes them easier to remove from the pans.
  2. Transfer to a Cooling Rack: Run a knife around the edges of the pans to loosen the cakes. Carefully invert the cakes onto a cooling rack and let them cool completely before frosting. Cooling the cakes completely ensures the frosting won’t melt and slide off.

Making the Frosting (Optional)

  1. Beat the Butter: In a large bowl, beat the room temperature butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth.
  2. Add the Powdered Sugar: Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. This prevents lumps and ensures a smooth frosting.
  3. Add the Cream, Vanilla, and Salt: Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add a little more cream; if it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.

Assembling and Frosting the Cake

  1. Level the Cakes: If necessary, level the tops of the cakes with a serrated knife to create an even surface for frosting.
  2. Frost the First Layer: Place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread a layer of frosting over the top using an offset spatula or a regular spatula. Make sure the frosting is even and goes all the way to the edges.
  3. Add the Second Layer: Place the second cake layer on top of the first. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake to create a “crumb coat.” This seals in any loose crumbs and provides a smooth surface for the final layer of frosting. Refrigerate the cake for about 15-30 minutes to set the crumb coat.
  4. Frost the Entire Cake: Once the crumb coat is set, apply the final layer of frosting. Use your spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. For a smooth finish, run the spatula under hot water, dry it, and gently smooth the frosting.
  5. Decorate: Decorate the cake as desired. You can use sprinkles, fruit, or additional piping for a more elaborate presentation.

Tips for the Perfect Butter Cake

  • Room Temperature Ingredients: Ensure all your ingredients, especially butter, eggs, and milk, are at room temperature. This helps them blend more easily and evenly into the batter.
  • Proper Measuring: Measure your ingredients accurately. Use a kitchen scale for the best results, especially for the flour.
  • Don’t Overmix: Once you add the dry ingredients, mix until just combined. Overmixing can lead to a tough, dense cake.
  • Check for Doneness: Ovens can vary, so start checking your cake a few minutes before the end of the baking time. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
  • Cooling Time: Allow your cake to cool completely before frosting. A warm cake can cause the frosting to melt.

Variations and Additions

Butter cake is incredibly versatile. Here are some ideas to customize your cake:

  • Flavorings: Substitute the vanilla extract with almond, lemon, or orange extract for a different flavor profile.
  • Fillings: Add a layer of fruit preserves, lemon curd, or chocolate ganache between the cake layers for added flavor.
  • Frostings: Experiment with different types of frosting, such as cream cheese, chocolate, or Swiss meringue buttercream.
  • Add-Ins: Fold in chocolate chips, nuts, or dried fruit into the batter for added texture and flavor.

Storing and Serving

  • Storage: Store your butter cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If your kitchen is warm, you may want to refrigerate it. Bring the cake to room temperature before serving for the best flavor and texture.
  • Freezing: Butter cake freezes well. Wrap unfrosted cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and serving.
  • Serving: Serve your butter cake at room temperature for the best texture and flavor. Pair it with a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of milk for a delightful treat.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • Dry Cake: This can be caused by overbaking or using too much flour. Ensure you measure your flour correctly and check your cake for doneness a few minutes before the suggested baking time.
  • Dense Cake: Overmixing the batter or not creaming the butter and sugar long enough can cause a dense cake. Mix just until the ingredients are combined.
  • Cake Sticks to the Pan: Properly grease and flour your pans. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack.
  • Uneven Layers: Level your cake layers with a serrated knife for even stacking. You can also use cake strips around your pans to ensure even baking.


Baking the perfect butter cake requires attention to detail, patience, and high-quality ingredients. With this comprehensive guide, you’re well-equipped to create a cake that’s not only delicious but also impressive in appearance. Whether you’re baking for a special occasion or simply to satisfy a sweet craving, a homemade butter cake is always a delightful choice.

By following the steps outlined above and paying attention to the tips and tricks provided, you’ll be able to bake a butter cake that’s moist, flavorful, and beautifully presented. So, roll up your sleeves, preheat your oven, and get ready to enjoy the process of baking a classic butter cake from scratch. Happy baking!

Remember, baking is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Enjoy each step, and don’t be afraid to experiment and make the recipe your own. Your perfect butter cake awaits!