It’s time for The Great White Cake Recipe Bake Off! I’ll talk about a few different styles of white cake recipes, what separates a white cake from a yellow cake, and the results of a taste test!
Hello darlings! Today’s post is a little different than my usual recipe posts. It’s time to have a talk about white cake. About 3 years ago, a girl decided to spend a week baking different cakes looking for her perfect white cake recipe. She wanted to use easy ingredients, a simple process, and get a cake that was naturally white. After baking and baking, she thought she had a winner and posted it on her blog. Little did she realize how that cake would grow to be one of her top posts. If you haven’t figured it out, it’s me. 😉
I get a lot of comments on that post, a lot of emails and messages with questions, and I spend a good amount of time talking about white cake. Which I love! But my “internet skin” wasn’t quite as thick when the post went live, and after a few months, some of the comments made me question the recipe. So I started messing with it, and in changing things around, I ended up with variations that weren’t as good as the original, and still got me the mean comments.
I’m not talking about “this didn’t work, could you help troubleshoot” comments. Those are fine, this is a home recipe being made in other homes. Troubleshooting happens. I’m talking about the “you obviously have never baked a day in your life and you’re a horrible person. A pox on you and your family” comments. I moderate those. They’re mean. Today’s internet PSA, don’t be mean to your friendly neighborhood bloggers.
Anyway, I tried to replicate the issues, and then the “improvements” made everything a bit of a mess.
And this week I wanted to make a white cake, and so I baked NO LESS THAN 8! Because if there’s one thing this world needs, it’s more cake. 😉 And in doing so, I found my personal happy point in the Great White Cake Recipe search, and I have this fabulous guide to white cake for you. So we all win!
What is “white cake”?
For many, white cake is the generic name for any vanilla cake. You go to the grocery store to order a cake and there’s “chocolate” or “white”, i.e. vanilla. Which means that for some, the white cake category also includes yellow cake. But it really doesn’t because they’re different.
White cakes are a very specific category of cake that is naturally white. So typically they are oil or shortening based and only use egg whites in the batter. This can make them challenging to make because egg whites dry out cakes, and white cakes are prone to drying out if over-baked. You also have to rely on extracts for flavor because you remove all the deliciousness added by butter and egg yolks.
But white cakes are important because they are good for decorating. They’re a standard for American weddings, and there’s something inherently beautiful about cutting into a cake and seeing a beautiful white interior. They’re not usually your most memorable cakes, but white cake is a great canvas for decorating (and flavor modifications!).
So if a white cake includes butter or egg yolks, it’s not actually a white cake?
Technically, no. It falls under the “yellow cake” category. Both white cakes and yellow cakes are “vanilla cakes”, but if you have butter or egg yolks in a cake batter, your cake will have a yellow color. Hence making it “yellow cake” and not “white cake”. But for the purposes of this test, I included a cake that had butter and egg whites, and one that used oil and whole eggs. No shortening cakes were tested because I don’t make shortening cakes.
How did you test the white cake recipes?
I baked all 4 of the cakes, wrapped them in plastic wrap while still slightly warm, and chilled the layers. Each cake was labeled with a number. I asked a sample group of my family plus a few others to test the cakes and report back with their thoughts on flavor, texture, color, and crumb. I was mostly focusing on texture and crumb as all 4 cakes were flavored with the same 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Two of the cakes were white, and two were yellow because of the ingredients. But since not everyone is as picky about color, they were included as part of the “white cake” test to see if my testers were willing to sacrifice color for another feature in the cake.
So let’s get to the breakdown and results for the cakes, shall we?
Cake 1: The “original” Goodie Godmother White Cake Recipe
This cake is oil based and uses egg whites. The batter looks a little runny when done, and doesn’t rise too much in the oven.
“This cake is almost too dense and moist. If I were planning on cutting it into multiple thin layers it would be a great recipe to use”
“Soft, but dense”
“This is the texture I’d expect from a box cake.”
Overall, this one landed in the top spot because it’s white, and tasted good. As a cake, it’s good for cutting into very thin layers for a multi-layered cake, but some found it not “springy” enough and maybe slightly dense depending on preference.
Cake 2: A variation on the GG white cake recipe that is no longer with us
This cake is also oil based and uses egg whites. It rises a little higher than the original recipe.
“Way too dry, doesn’t stay on the fork well”
“A little fat would improve this recipe”
On its own, the cake was just too dry. It’s not something one would notice too much with frosting, but alone, this wasn’t anyone’s favorite. I’d like to apologize for having it on the blog for a season. I am not sure how I deemed it worthy of the blog, because it didn’t pass my quality control. But it’s gone now and we’ll just move on, with my apologies.
Cake 3: A butter cake with egg whites
The cake used butter and egg whites and was just a slight variation on my yellow cake from scratch (milk instead of buttermilk, no sour cream).
“Good texture, a little crumbly”
“My favorite, flavor-wise, was number three. My only problem with it was that it wasn’t actually white.”
“The texture feels a little more like what I’d expect from a homemade cake.”
This was a solid cake. It felt “homemade” according to one of the testers, but another said that for this, she’d just make a yellow cake recipe. It didn’t feel like “white cake”. Verdict: Bake a yellow cake instead.
Cake 4: An oil based cake with whole eggs
The cake also looked yellow, but had a nice moist texture and good spring.
“The texture was very smooth”
“Traditional cake texture”
This one will actually go on the blog at some point in the future, because I like it. This time I made it with milk for consistency in the test. When it goes on the blog, it will be a dairy-free yellow cake because this is what I would make when dairy free cakes (eggs okay, not paleo or gluten free) were requested way back when I had the home bakery. 😉
Everyone unanimously agreed that white cakes should be white. When the cakes were side by side, it was hard to justify a “white cake” that had a yellow tint. THIS IS TOTALLY PERSONAL PREFERENCE though, so please please bake what makes your heart happy.
I also realized that while I still love my original white cake, I love it more as cupcakes than a cake. So I made a few tweaks, baked 3 more cakes just to be sure, and updated the white cake recipe for the last time. There are loads of white cake recipes out there on the internet, I’m grateful that in the search for your favorite, you came across mine.
I hope that this white cake bake-off post can serve as a resource to help you evaluate the white cake recipes you read to help you narrow your search. If you haven’t checked out mine just yet, you can find it here!
Happy baking, darlings!