white buttercake

John said, is this cake made with white butter? I said no, it’s a white buttercake, as in This is not a yellow buttercake. But in this light, it sure looks yellow, doesn’t it? From the first mouthful, this cake was heavenly. It’s so moist, tender, and has that wonderful smell of vanilla. So get a good vanilla, like a Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract.

This cake is good enough to eat without frosting. It’s also versatile enough to be the tiers in a wedding cake covered with an elegant fondant or a decadent buttercream. If it is going to be decorated, it should be made three days before serving. If wrapped well and refrigerated, it will stay fresh. To add moisture and flavor, you can brush the layers with a simple syrup. To make a simple syrup, boil a cup of sugar with a cup of water. I’m not sure if the cake recipe can be doubled for a tier wedding cake. I should think it could. As promised, here is Martha Stewart’s excellent recipe.

Yield Makes 6 cups batter

Martha Stewart’s White Buttercake


  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 3 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the cake pans with butter (see below for pan sizes and batter amounts). Line with parchment paper; butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir the milk and vanilla to combine; set aside. Beat the butter in a mixer bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream; mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  1. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, and beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined.

Cook’s Tip: I know that’s confusing. Think of it this way: flour-milk-flour-milk-flour.

  1. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites just until stiff peaks form.  Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whites in two batches. Divide the batter among the prepared pans; smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Firmly tap the pans on a work surface to release any air bubbles.

Cook’s Tip: Instead of under-mixing the egg whites, I had a problem with over-mixing. I would say, stop whipping the egg whites when the whites start to look glossy and the tips bend over when the beaters are slowly raised.

  1. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch (see below for baking times). Let cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks. Remove the parchment; re-invert and cool completely.

Cook’s Note: I used an 8 inch springform pan. The sides were too high so the cake fell a bit in the middle. It took 50 minutes at 300˚F to bake. I reduced the temperature 50˚ because the pan was so deep.

Cook’s Note from Martha Stewart:

Approximate batter amounts and baking times for 3-inch-deep round pans: 6-inch layer: 3 cups batter, 30 minutes; 8-inch: 5 cups, 40 minutes; 10-inch: 8 cups, 1 hour 5 minutes; 12-inch: 11 cups, 1 hour 15 minutes.

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