This birthday cake recipe is made with vanilla cake batter that you can pipe, so you don’t need a cake pan to make a layer cake! The cake is incredibly moist, rich, and buttery – and you can pair it with any frosting. It really puts the “happy” in happy birthday!
I’m a firm believer that the key to a happy birthday is a rocking dessert to go along with it!
A few years back, I didn’t have any pans other than your standard 9×13 inch baking sheets. And while you can always make a sheet pan cake (yum!), sometimes, you crave a layer cake!
Which is how this recipe came about! I created a cake batter that can be made on a standard baking sheet and can be piped into a rounded cake. And once you layer it, no one will be able to tell it was made without a cake pan!
Vanilla cake ingredients:
• baking powder
• vegetable oil: I like to use both butter and vegetable oil for a better flavor and texture for the cake. Butter adds richness while vegetable oil makes the cake super moist!
• sour cream: Since we’re making this cake without a cake pan, it’s important to use sour cream. It doesn’t cause as much leaking or expansion as milk
• vanilla extract
• frosting: You can use any frosting you like. I used a double batch of my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting
How to make vanilla cake without a cake pan:
1. Combine dry ingredients. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, and set aside.
2. Combine sugar, butter, and oil. In a large bowl, cream together sugar, butter, and oil until combined.
3. Add eggs in. Add the eggs in one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
4. Whisk in sour cream and vanilla.
5. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Some lumps are fine!
6. Pipe batter. Fill a large piping bag or plastic bag with the cake batter. Pipe 3 (9 inch) cake rounds on parchment lined baking sheets, then smoothen the tops. Make sure to leave a good amount of room between each cake round because they will expand quite a bit as they bake! If needed, you can bake 2 to 3 batches. The batter can sit out for up to 30 minutes at room temperature.
7. Cool & frost! I find the cakes are easiest to assemble if you freeze them for 20 to 30 minutes to let them firm up (otherwise they are quite soft and fragile).
Vanilla cake frosting ideas:
You can use any frosting you love with this cake. A few of my favorite pairings include caramel frosting, whipped chocolate ganache, ermine frosting, vanilla buttercream or chocolate buttercream frosting, cream cheese frosting, or a simple whipped cream!
Just do note that the cake itself is quite rich! So if you choose to go with a sweeter and more butter heavy frosting (like vanilla buttercream), I’d recommend sticking to a thin layer. But if you go with something a little lighter in sugar and butter (like a simple whipped cream or ermine frosting) then go to town!
Check out these other recipes!
Vanilla Birthday Cake Recipe
- 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2/3 cups vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- your choice of frosting * see notes
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 2 or 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to incorporate, and set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, cream together your sugar, butter, and oil until it's relatively smooth (some graininess is fine).
- Add your eggs to the sugar mixture, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add your sour cream and vanilla extract, and whisk to combine.
- Combine the dry ingredients and wet ingredients. Mix everything together until you no longer see any dry spots of flour. Take care not to over mix – some lumps are fine!
- Fill some of your batter into a large piping bag or plastic bag. Pipe 3 rounds of batter onto your parchment lined baking sheets, each about 9 inches large. Smoothen the tops to fill in any gaps and even out the tops. The cakes will expand as they bake, so make sure they have plenty of space if you plan on baking more than one round on the same baking sheet. If needed, you can bake 2 to 3 batches. The batter can sit out for up to 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Bake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the edges turn lightly golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer the cakes (still on the parchment paper) onto a wire rack to cool completely to room temperature. Before frosting, stick the cakes into your freezer for about 20 or 30 minutes to firm up. It'll make them easier to take off the parchment paper and easier to handle! Frost with your favorite frosting (I used vanilla buttercream)!