the best - vanilla cake

There is nothing fancy about this cake. This is the kind of dessert you make when you need to feed a lot of people and you don't want to go to a huge effort. Chances are, you will have most of the ingredients you need in your pantry already which makes it that much more convenient. The best thing, is that when you walk into the room with the cake in your hands your guests will ooh and ahh. It's that pretty!

I first made this cake about a year ago, when I was assisting food stylist Ruth Gangbar on a Chatelaine photoshoot. I think we made about 3 or 4 of these cakes in total and by the end of the shoot day all of them were gone. If I remember the story rightly, the recipe comes from Chatelaine food editor, Claire Tansey's next door neighbour growing up. I think this was the cake she made for every child's birthday party and any other celebration that was taking place.

Vanilla Cake as it ran in Chatelaine magazine, August 2010.

Here's the recipe.

Vanilla Cake with Summer Fruit (adapted from Chatelaine magazine)


For Cake:

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups milk

For Icing:

3 tbsp milk
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp almond or coconut extract (I used vanilla extract)
Summer fruit to top


Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9x13-in. glass baking dish with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper. Spray again.

Stir flour with baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until butter is creamy. Add sugar. Cream together until fluffy.

Mix in eggs and vanilla. Beat well to incorporate. On low speed, add a third of the flour mixture followed by half of the milk. Repeat additions, ending with flour

Scrape into prepared pan. Smooth top gently. Bake in centre of oven until it is deep golden and a cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean, 65 to 75 min. If cake becomes deep golden before it is done baking, cover very loosely with foil. Cool on a rack 20-30 minutes. Flip cake onto serving tray so that the bottom is on top. The bottom of the cake will be the surface you ice.

Whisk milk into icing sugar until smooth. Whisk in extract. Spread over cooled cake. Top cake with summer fruit and enjoy!

{Note: I found I had to play with the proportions of the icing sugar and milk a bit. You want the icing to coat the back of a spoon and slowly drip off. I think the cake looks best when the icing drips down the sides a little bit. Add icing sugar or milk as you need until you attain the right consistency.}

Do you have a basic cake recipe you fall back on again and again? I'm sure there are a thousand ways you could modify this cake as well from adding different fruit toppings to switching up the basic icing. My husband suggested adding lemon zest to the cake and lemon juice to the icing as one example. I'd love to hear how you'd make this cake your own.

Images Credits:

All images The Marion House Book except #2 (Photo: John Cullen)