Vanilla Bean Cake

in Cakes & Cupcakes

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cake

Standing at the counter with two dozen ice creams in front of me, my mind whirled. Did I want pumpkin ice cream or maybe gingerbread? Oooh, blackberry cobbler ice cream – my favorite childhood dessert! Nope, wait – I can’t ignore the Estrogen combo: dark chocolate ice cream, served over a warm brownie, with fudgey chocolate sauce. There’s Fluffernutter! Mmmm, Cake Batter Swirl. Raspberry truffle [insert Homer Simpson girgly noise here]. The selection was dizzying.

In an effort to buy myself just a little more time before ordering dessert, I turned to my now-husband on one of our earlier dates and said, “You go first.”

“I’ll take Vanilla Bean,” he responded. Immediately. Well that back-fired on me. I’d only bought myself half a second. My next thought wasn’t of the flavor I would eventually decide upon, it was of his choice: There were more than 20 flavors of ice cream in front of us and he chose Vanilla. I was disappointed, not for his “lack of adventure,” but because who wants to steal a bite of their date’s vanilla ice cream?

[Hanging my head in shame]

I did. I internally pouted about my “second choice” ice cream being the very unexotic “plain vanilla” but I enjoyed every single stolen bite.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cake with Marshmallow Fondant

I’ve recently made several cakes, some for fun, some for experience, some for profit, but all for enjoyment. My favorite flavor by far has been a Tahitian Vanilla Bean cake. A moist “plain vanilla” cake studded with tiny flecks of vanilla bean – could “plain” get any better?

Vanilla Bean Cake/Cupcakes

Moist vanilla cake studded with pretty flecks of vanilla beans.


  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temp
  • 2 tsp-1 Tbsp vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line two 8-inch square pans or 9-inch round pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Split and scrape the vanilla pod into the butter, discard pod (or reserve for another use). Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.
  3. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an off-set spatula. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top a couple of times to burst any air bubbles and allowing the batter to settle. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.
  5. Cupcakes take ~18-20 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely in the pans before removing the cakes and frosting.


Yields: 2 layer cake or ~28 cupcakes

Adapted from Moist Yellow Cake

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes

90 comments… add one
  • I love vanilla. I just made a vanilla bean chiffon cake.
    Your cake looks very cute.

  • Um, freaking WOW!!! Vanilla bean is my FAVORITE flavor. Boo to people who think it’s plain. This certainly proves otherwise!

  • Using real vanilla beans make such a difference, beautiful cake!

  • Kate

    Tahitian vanilla bean is anything but “vanilla”

  • The cake is simply gorgeous. You are an amazing decorater. I love that you can actually see the specs in the cake. I must try this.

  • Nice cake! I can totally relate to deciding on a flavor when there’s soo much to choose from. All in the name of adventure I guess.

  • Bev

    wow that cake is amazing! you clever thing you!

  • Amanda

    What a beautiful cake! And it looks soooo yummy!

  • Amanda

    By the way, what kind of icing did you use?

  • Thanks!

    Amanda – I used vanilla buttercream to frost and fill the cake, and then covered the cake in Marshmallow Fondant.

  • oh my god, those specks of vanilla in the cake are incredible! i must be going nuts but i can almost smell it!

  • your cake looks beautiful! It looks delicious!

  • A really good vanilla is about the best there is! And it rarely disappoints like other, lesser flavors with bigger names often do. Sorry, I’m with the hubs on this one… Although it does pair well with a really good dark chocolate…..
    Gorgeous cake!

  • Now I actually know what to do with the vanilla beans that I bought. I was too afraid to use them in anything they wouldn’t be the star ingredient in, and this looks like a winner!

  • Okay, I looked at this post yesterday afternoon, took a nap and literally dreamed about it while I was asleep. I have since thought about it several more times. Looks like I’ll be making this soon! Now I just have to find vanilla beans! Your cake is truly gorgeous.

  • Oh, what a beautiful cake! If only I could get my hands on a Tahitian vanilla bean.

    *Sigh* Maybe someday.

    I never know what flavor to pick at the ice cream counter, either. I’m quite the fan of cookie dough. Same goes for Starbucks. I hate when the baristas are staring at me, and waiting. I just blurt out, “Tall coffee, please.” When what I really want is some elaborate latte.

  • Shannon

    Do you have a recipe for your fondant? I moved out of my house with a gorgeous marble slab, perfect for fondant work and now I’ve nothing to roll fondant out on. So sad 🙁


  • I’m making the cake for my best friend’s wedding later this year. Need to start practising as I’m no baker! Your beautiful cake has just inspired me to begin. 🙂

  • This is a beautiful cake! I have been wanting to practice with fondant – just haven’t gotten off my butt to do so. Like Wendy, you’ve inspired me. I with Shannon – do ou have a findant recipe you use? Glenna posted one a while back. I have to go pull up the bookmark.

  • Marci

    Did you buy or make the icing and fondant? That cake looks amazing. I think I will try making it, but I have never made fondant, so some tips would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Thanks, guys!

    Marci – I made the frosting and fondant. The frosting is a vanilla buttercream.

    Shannon/Chris/Marci – I’ll post the recipe for marshmallow fondant soon. I have to make another batch this week and wanted to add some procedural pictures.

  • Simply. Gorgeous.
    I have cake decorating envy right now.

  • That is absolutely beautiful! You’re so talented. Vanilla is my favorite cake!

  • ruhama

    I made this cake with ‘regular’ vanilla bean and frosted it with chocolate (which did diminish the vanillaness of the cake, but it was still very yummy) for a friend’s birthday. Everyone raved about it, and apparently my friend’s 2 year old licked his plate clean–literally licked it! 😀

    Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  • Ruhama – Glad your friends liked it! It really is some good cake 🙂

  • kellypea

    What an absolutely gorgeous cake. And I think little specks of vanilla are a reminder that I’m going to love the flavor of what I’m about to eat!

  • Super cute cake…and I’ve been wondering how to use up my vanilla beans. Thanks!

  • Vanilla is never, ever “plain.” It’s a deep, rich and complex marvel which I adore. Try baking anything “plain” without it and you’ll see what plain “really” is. BREAD! Not that bread isn’t delicious of course. I agree — your now husband knew the pure taste of pleasure with vanilla bean ice cream. That’s what I order, as well, and honestly — I often judge an ice cream vendor by their vanilla. If they can’t do that right, I don’t care about any of the other flavors.

  • Well it looks like it’s vanilla bean week on the food blogs 😉 that cake is gorgeous. DId you take a class? Please tell me you took a class and that you didn’t just inherently know how to decorate a cake like that.

  • Wow, that’s pretty!! Looks delicious too 🙂

  • I’m so in love with vanilla beans–you’re cake is beautiful! It’s all about those gorgeous little specks…

  • Morgan

    I made this today for my dad’s birthday, as he requested just a nice “plain” vanilla cake. Well this did not disapoint and packs quite the vanilla punch- but in a good way. I paired it with vanilla butter icing and blackberry sorbetto. The sorbetto overpowered the nice flavour of the cake a bit so I ended up eating most of mine plain but it was still a nice pairing when had together.

    I’ll make this again for sure!

  • Karen

    What is the texture of the cake? Here is my question: I am considering making this cake using one of those 3-D, standup pans from Wilton. (Long story involving my daughter’s upcoming fifth birthday party.) Does it have enough structure to be a lamb cake decorated as a cheetah? Thanks!

  • Karen – it’s a “light and fluffy” cake. Very light and fluffy. I noticed some settling in a cake (torted, 4 layers) covered in fondant and decorated pretty heavily with fondant accents. I wouldn’t use this recipe for a cake under a similar amount of weight.

  • Anne

    I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to tell you I made this cake a few days ago for a birthday and it was wonderful! I paired it with a lemon buttercream frosting and lavender filling. Everyone loved it!

  • Thank you for sharing this recipe, I made this and it was a hit!

  • Yvette

    I just have to tell you, I tried this recipe for my son and daughter-in-laws baby shower cake and it was a huge hit! I love vanilla. I love the simplicity of it. I altered your recipe slightly by adding 2 Tahitian vanilla beans instead of 1. Fantastic! I also covered it in an Italian Buttercream frosting, flavored with tahitian vanilla. This is my favorite recipe for frosting because it is light and fluffy and not too sweet. Oh my goodness, it put the cake over the top! And just to add a little color, I put a thin layer of raspberry filling between the layers along with a layer of the the frosting. I have to say, this cake was to die for. Thanks for the great recipe. I will be making this again. Oh and by the way, I also tried your strawberry cake recipe (my daughter-in-law loves strawberry cake). I used this for the top layer of the baby shower cake and it too was fantastic. You rock!

  • Kari

    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday. He loves VANILLA! So I was happy to find the recipe. It came out great, but I felt that the cooking time was too long, I kept it in 38 minutes and I should have pulled it out around 34 minutes or so. Other than that great recipe and the best tasting cake batter I have EVER had!

  • I made this cake last night. UNBELIEVABLE!!! I had plain vanilla beans (I got like 10 from Costco for $6!) and plain old pure vanilla extract, and it still turned out amazing. I also didn’t make any frosting, just didn’t have the time last night. I can only imagine how it would taste using tahitian vanilla AND icing! It was extremely moist, even after it sat out on my counter all night. The vanilla was gentle and yet intoxicating. I went to the website you recommend for organic vanilla and they appear to be out of everything right now, but I will check back. Thanks for the recipe and the vanilla info. This was my first time here, and I think I will be baking up a lot of your recipes!

  • Vanilla anything is my secret weapon to giving ordinary cakes an extra little something. Your vanilla cake looks and sounds delicious. Must try this recipe asap!

  • Constance

    Hello, I am assuming I can use 2 9-inch round cakepans and then I would have some extra batter? So then I guess I would cook it for a shorter time? or a different temp?

  • Constance – nope, I wouldn’t change the temp. Just divide the batter between your two pans. I always start checking my cakes earlier than stated time since the recipe authors probably don’t have my exact oven.

  • omnislash

    I made this for my daughters 8th birthday, it was wonderful! Now that I have made the leap, I can never go back to store bought cake mixes. It was so much better, thank you for sharing the recipe.

  • Shannon

    Delicious. Made these as cupcakes for a graduation party- did the trial run tonight and they came out perfect. The cake is so light and airy- almost like a homemade angel food cake. They don’t even need icing! Thank you!

  • carrie

    I’d love to make this cake for my wedding in 2 weeks (eek)Rather than 2 pans, can I use one large springform? What would you recommend the baking time be? Thanks so much. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Carrie – Congrats! Since it’s a standard yield recipe, you could double the recipe and bake it in a 10-inch pan. You’ll want to use a heating core or something similar (I always use a greased flower nail, point end up). I’d bake at 350 and check on it after 45-50 minutes. Likely, you’ll need at least another 20 minutes or so but you’ll be able to adjust the remaining baking time by how it’s baking in your oven at that point.

  • Tara

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I couldn’t find Tahitian Vanilla Bean, so I used vanilla bean paste instead (still has those black flecks that I love!) and halving the recipe is perfect for 18 cupcakes. I used a Swiss Buttercream icing (also with vanilla bean paste, I’m addicted to it!) and my Mom (who I baked the cupcakes for) actually swooned and said it was the best cake she had ever tasted! I love this recipe, so moist, so vanilla-y – just to die for! I’m making these cupcakes again today for a potluck, I hope they turn out as amazing as they did last time. Thank you a zillion times, this recipe is fantastic!

  • Juliana

    Hi! I made this cake two days ago, I couldn’t find Tahitian Vanilla Bean but did find one for Uganda (it said that it had sweet flavor) and Madagascar Vanilla extract. I followed all of the instructions exept that I only left it 30 min on the oven. I let it cool and then frosted with vanilla buttercream icing, however when I tried the cake it was a bit dry, what can I do to make it moist again next time I make it? ( Also I left a piece outside on the counter and when I tried it next morning it tasted bitter, how can I stored it so that it the cake it’s not too cold and hard to cut for being in the fridge? (I also made a strawberry filling so I thought it was necessary to keep it in a cool place))
    Thank you!

  • @Juliana – I found it to be a bit dry as well. I suggest reducing the beating time for how long you cream the sugar with the butter. Other than that – not much other air gets beat into the batter and making that adjustment worked well for me!

  • The batter was so good. I’m on a special diet due to my sons allergies (i’m nursing) so while I’m cooking and baking, I’m only allowed tiny tiny tiny tastes to make sure I’ve got it right…I couldn’t stop “tasting” this is so good.

  • Erin H.

    Can you Do this as a 9 x 13 cake? If so, what would be baking time. Call me lazy, but I am not creative with doing the layers. LOL! I usually adjust all my cakes to a 9 x 13. What are your thoughts?
    And can you put the recipe to the frosting you used, on here?

  • Erin H.

    Thanks so much! Can’t wait to try it!

  • Demitra

    Hi, I am thinking about using this recipe for a wedding cake too. (1) how did your cakes turn out for the wedding Carrie and Wendy (2) did using the spring form pans with the heated core work and (3) is it sturdy enough to hold fondant, mousse filling and buttercream, but still moist and fluffy?

    I can’t wait to try it!!!!!!!!!

    • It’s perfectly sturdy enough to hold filling+frosting+fondant, I’ve made it that way several times. It’s a very, very good cake 🙂

  • Leslie

    This recipe looks yummy, I can’t wait to try it!! It may just be my lack of experience, but what is the exact measurement for the vanilla extract? I read it as being any where from 2 tsp – 1 Tbsp. Is that based on preference or does using less or more alter the flavor in any way? Thanks!

  • Tanya

    Hi, I’m attempting to make this for my friends wedding & I am slightly confused with the directions. I get everything up to the addition of the eggs then ?? Will I have what’s in the mixer plus my dry ingredients plus another bowl for the buttermilk & vanilla? Thanks for your help!! 🙂

    • Yes – the butter-sugar-egg mixture in the mixer, the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the vanilla-buttermilk in another.

  • Sarah

    Hi, I am planning on making this tomorrow but I dont have time to go out and buy vanilla beans- is there an alternative for them? I have vanilla extract on hand but not sure if it will do the job.

    • You can use 1 Tbsp vanilla extract and eliminate the vanilla bean.

  • Leslie

    I’ve decided to make this for a birthday party, and I was reading your note to use 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and eliminate the vanilla bean – is it too much to do both? A whole Tbsp of vanilla and vanilla bean? And am I reading the amount for baking powder as 1 Tbsp? I’ve never used that much in a recipe before and just wanted to make sure. Thanks!

  • Kelli

    My family loves this cake. Do you think it will work for a 3 tier wedding cake covered in buttercream and fondant?

  • Simone

    firstly i love vanilla nothing plain there. secondly i tried the recipe, made some cupcakes with it and an 8″ cake but when the cakes came out and cooled they dropped and i was so disappointed cause the immense flavour was so there and the texture…amazing. i dont think i over beat it…could you help?

  • Janet

    Love your site and recipes, I am looking for a recipe for a peach cake. The bride can not have cinnamon and looking at your Vanilla cake and your Fresh Strawberry cake I was hoping I could adapt one for peaches. Do you think that would work or do you have a recipe for a Fresh Peach Cake from scratch?

    • What about the “Peach Queen” cake:
      You could choose to eliminate the pecans folded into the cake. I haven’t specifically made the strawberry cake with peaches – although I really want to now! – but I know the base recipe adapts to blackberry cake with no problems and a couple others have used it for a blueberry cake, too.

      • Janet

        Thanks, I will give both a try and see which one my taste testers like the best.

  • Jeri

    Sorry if I missed this in a earlier post or response, but will you share where you get Tahitian vanilla beans from? Is amazon a good place to purchase quality beans? Thank you!

    • Amazon! The sellers I use are Beanilla Vanilla and JR Mushrooms. Both have been excellent suppliers.

      • Jeri

        Thank you! You and your blog are awesome!

  • Tiffany Bass

    Most amazing cake ever!!! I tried out your recipe, and will from now on ALWAYS make this vanilla bean cake recipe. As a matter of fact, Im making it for my daughters 1st birthday party…. 🙂

  • Judy Beaudin

    using 2, 9 inch round cakes pans, the batter overflowed and made a mess!


  • Holly

    This recipe looks AMAZING! I’m planning on using it for my sisters bday cake. I had a question for you though…. the sizes I am going to make are a 9″ with a 5 ” stacked on top- both layers covered in fondant- I noticed you said that this cake is very light and fluffy and you noticed a bit of “settling” when you made a 4 layer. Do you think I will have that same issues with just stacking a 5″ on top of a 9″? Thanks so much! Cake looks gorgeous!

    • Definitely use the dowel-and-cardboard-circle method to support the top layer so you don’t get any settling or sinking.

  • Crystal

    Okay- I have made this cake exactly twice and BOTH times it was gobbled up. And the funny thing is, is I made it for my toddler daughter’s birthday, but I saw adults taking seconds and even thirds!!!
    I know I should leave GREAT ENOUGH alone, but wanted to ask you about a couple of different tweaks I’d like to try. First, I’d like to try Butter Vanilla instead of vanilla extract. And the second is I’d like to replace half the sugar with applesauce. I have replaced sugar with applesauce in other recipes under the guidance of: replace half and decrease other liquids by 1/4 cup. My question, though, is what step do I add the applesauce? Seems like if I treated the applesauce like the sugar, it would turn the butter funny- so maybe do the sugar, eggs, start the flour mixture and then add the applesauce with the wet mixture? Or am I totally off base??
    Thanks in advance!

    • Crystal

      First- I did two separate batches because I wanted to fill two 10 inch square pans. The first batch I added the applesauce when I added the sugar, and the second batch, I added the applesauce along with (well, before the buttermilk) so alternating with the dry mixture. It didn’t seem to affect the batter one way or another. It did, however, affect the overall cake 🙁 messed with the fluffiness- the cake was really dense and heavy. The taste was just okay. I didn’t have time to rebake, so we had leftovers this time around.

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