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Buttery Vanilla Cake

September 29, 20212 min read

PREP TIME 15 mins | READY IN about 2 hours | SERVES 9

If I have a signature dessert, this is it. Every time I serve it, someone asks for the recipe.

Part of the cake’s appeal is its simplicity. The recipe calls for just 1/3 cup of butter and one egg, plus a few other pantry staples, and it doesn’t need to be made in a mixer.

It’s also a knockout in terms of flavour, and the edges get deeply caramelized and almost crunchy. It’s so versatile, too. Here it’s a humble single-layer square cake, but you can also bake this batter into a dozen cupcakes, or in a 9-inch round pan, or double the recipe, bake it in two pans and make it into a celebratory layer cake. It also keeps remarkably well just on the counter. But be warned: you might find yourself slicing off a thin piece every time you walk by the pan (okay, maybe that’s just me).

I love the tanginess of the chocolate cream cheese frosting, but feel free to use any frosting recipe here.

This recipe is from my first book, Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress Out of Home Cooking (2018). It's out of print, but I still have a few copies available to sell. Email me here to inquire

Buttery Vanilla Cake


  • 1/3 cup (85 g) butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup (205 g) granulated sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 1/3 cups (195g) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2/3 cup (150g) milk

  • Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting (optional, below)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-in. square baking dish well with baking spray.

  2. Beat the butter and sugar together, by hand or using an electric mixer on medium, until well-combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well-combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir gently until just combined, then add the milk and stir well. Scrape into the prepared pan.

  3. Bake 25 to 30 min or until golden and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool in the pan set on a rack for 10 min, then flip out onto a rack and cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat 125g (half a pkg) cream cheese, at room temperature, with ¼ cup (60g) butter, at room temperature, together until smooth and fluffy (by hand or in a mixer). Add 2 cups (360g) icing sugar all at once and stir until combined. Stir in ½ teaspoon vanilla. Scrape in 2 squares (60g) semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled, and beat until fluffy, scraping the sides down as needed. Spread over the cooled cake.

Click below for a printable version of this recipe.
Buttery Vanilla Cake

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© 2024 Claire Tansey's Kitchen

© 2024 Claire Tansey's Kitchen