This easy vanilla sour cream cake uses a cake mix as the base and a few extra ingredients to make it super moist, and to give it that from scratch, homemade taste but in much less time.
The cake is really easy and quick to mix up because you’ll be starting with a cake mix and it only takes just one bowl!
I feel like doctoring a vanilla cake mix is the fastest and easiest way to make a homemade cake without spending a ton of time in the kitchen. It saves time and you still get a vanilla cake that tastes like it’s made from scratch.
This vanilla cake recipe makes the perfect layer cake for birthdays as it comes together quickly and easily but still tastes amazing. It’s predictable and always turns out perfectly.
Now let’s talk about the main ingredients in this easy vanilla cake. (The printable list of all ingredients are in the recipe card below.)
Vanilla cake mix: You’ll need a good vanilla cake mix for this recipe. I prefer Betty Crocker’s vanilla cake mix, but you can use whatever brand you prefer. Just make sure to use the 15-ounce sized box.
The reason we’re starting off with a cake mix is that it just makes everything so much easier. You’ll be adding a few other ingredients to it though to make it taste homemade.
Instant vanilla pudding: Adding in a dry vanilla pudding mix will pump up the moistness and the vanilla flavor.
Sour cream: Sour cream makes cakes so much better and makes the texture soft and moist. It also helps bring out all the other flavors.
Oil, milk and eggs: This cake turns out moist partly because of the sour cream and partly because of the oil, milk and eggs that are added.
Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract: Adding vanilla bean paste is the best option here as it will give the most flavor, but if you don’t have it, don’t worry, vanilla extract will work as well.
Yes, we’re really amping up the vanilla flavor, but all of these additions are what make this cake taste like it’s from scratch.
Butter, vanilla, confectioners sugar and milk: These ingredients will be used to make the homemade vanilla buttercream frosting. Adding scratch frosting to the doctored cake mix cake will just take it to the next level and people will absolutely love it.
Now, if you want to go an even easier route, you could always use canned vanilla frosting, although I really think homemade vanilla buttercream is worth the time because it’s really good.
How to make this cake:
Let’s talk a little about how to make this sour cream vanilla cake. (The printable instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make sure to grease or spray two, 8-inch round cake pans very well. This cake is very moist and will stick if the pans aren’t prepared well.
Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix on medium to medium-high speed for about two minutes. The batter will be thick.
Now spread the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. The cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
Once baked, set the warm cake layers onto a cooling rack to cool for about ten minutes.
After ten minutes, turn the cake layers out onto the cooling racks to cool completely before adding the frosting.
While the cake layers are cooling, make the frosting.
Set one cake layer onto the cake plate and add frosting to the top of it.
Add the second cake layer, then add frosting to the top and sides of the cake.
Note About How I Write Recipes: I write recipes using volume (cups) measurements because here in the U.S., this is what people are more familiar with and I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated when baking. For metric measurements, click the ‘metric’ button under the ingredients in the recipe card below. The weights are converted by a program, not me, and it’s just a best guess. Please note that because I develop recipes using volume measurements, I can’t guarantee that weighing the ingredients will produce the exact same results.
Easy Vanilla Sour Cream Cake with Cake Mix (+ Vanilla Frosting)
For the cake:
- 1 (15.24 ounce) box Vanilla cake mix, dry (I used Betty Crocker's vanilla cake mix)
- 1 (3.9 ounce) box Jello instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup milk
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
For the frosting:
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (4 sticks)
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray two, 8 inch round cake pans very well.
- In a large bowl, mix all the cake ingredients on medium to medium-high speed for about two minutes. The batter will be thick.
- Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. Cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
- Once baked, set the warm cake layers onto a cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the cooling racks to cool completely before adding the frosting.
For the frosting:
- Mix the butter, salt and vanilla extract well with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high until very smooth.
- Add three cups of the confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.
- Add the other two cups of the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.
- Check the consistency. If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk. If it's too thin, add another ½ cup of confectioner's sugar and mix well.
- Once the desired consistency is reached, mix on medium-high speed for about a minute, so that the icing becomes fluffy.
- Add frosting to cooled cake.
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Tips & FAQS:
Yes! Adding sour cream to a cake mix cake is a great way to amp up a boring box mix. There’s a method to it though, so make sure to head to the recipe card below to see the other ingredients that are needed to make this sour cream vanilla cake.
Adding sour cream to a vanilla cake mix helps to make the cake super moist, it helps to bring out the vanilla flavor and makes the texture of the cake mix cake, taste more like it’s made from scratch.
You can most likely use any 15 oz. box of vanilla cake mix. I used Betty Crocker vanilla cake and personally prefer using either Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines.
You most likely can, but it will change the flavor slightly depending on which vanilla flavored cake mix you use.
No, just add the cake mix dry and add in the other ingredients called for in the recipe card, but not from the back of the box.
No, don’t prepare the pudding. It needs to be added dry.
Sour cream is best in this recipe as it helps make a very moist cake, gives a little flavor and helps with the cake’s texture to make it closer to a scratch cake texture. If you don’t have access to sour cream though, you can use plain yogurt, but use the full-fat yogurt instead of the low fat or fat-free type.
Unsalted is really best, but if you can’t get it, use salted, but omit the salt that’s called for in the recipe.
This cake can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil and place in the freezer for up to a month.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, add the frosting.
This cake can be stored, well covered, at room temperature for approximately 4 days, then stored in the refrigerator for another 2 days to prolong freshness. This cake can last up to 6 days when stored properly.
I have not tested this recipe out as cupcakes, but it should work just fine. Fill 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) with cupcake liners and fill with batter about ⅔ of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees F and start checking for doneness at around 20-25 minutes.
This cake is best served at room temperature. If cold, allow it to come to room temperature before serving. or pop a slice in the microwave and warm for about 10 seconds.
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