Good Ol’ Plain Vanilla White Cake

Some days you just want cake, and for me, those days are plenty. In the wonderfully tasty and imaginative world of baked goods, nothing satisfies my sweet tooth cravings like two layers of vanilla white cake and whatever you want to throw on it. Well, maybe a third layer of delicious vanilla white cake with whatever you want to throw on it.  That could seem boring to some but to me it’s the perfect canvas for so many flavors and fillings, icings and toppings.

I’ve recently decided that its time that I step up my cake game.  To be honest, I’ve never been really good at making cakes and that’s disappointing to me considering how much I love it. Jane recently asked me what would be the one dish that I wish I could perfect and I simply answered cake.  I’m not sure she believed me.

It should be easy, right? It’s just a matter of mixing wet and dry ingredients, throwing them in a pan, and baking in the oven. Of course, you do have to walk away for 20-30 minutes while it bakes, and then you have to let it cool for a while too. Come to think of it, that’s where the problem has been. The waiting! I’m a busy body in the kitchen. I need to stir something. If I have to walk away, it’s very likely I’ll become a busy body somewhere else and let the thing bake too long or dry out. Well, it was time to change this sad state of deficiency and become a supporter of my own cake habit without the dependency on others. Sorry town bakers, I’m on my own now!

Luckily for me, there’s the internet.  Furthermore, there’s I Am Baker’s blog and appropriately titled post, “The Perfect White Cake”. How could I go wrong?

Originally I wanted to make a simple white cake with a basic mascarpone icing. I’ve always preferred that over buttercream because buttercream can sometimes come with that “this isn’t fresh butter” aroma. However, the plain vanilla icing plan changed once I noticed the giant display of fresh blackberries that arrived at the grocery. I figured mixing in some smashed berries into the icing would enhance both the flavor and color. Finally, I went further down the rabbit hole, and landed on an idea for a layer of blackberry tarragon jam to spread between the layers.

Fortunately, I Am Baker’s recipe did make the perfect white cake, and the blackberries and jam did add both flavor and color. Ultimately, I was able to finally make a proper vanilla cake that wasn’t dry or falling apart.  I don’t want to say it was perfect, but in comparison to all the cakes I’ve made previously, it was pretty darn close.


Vanilla White Cake

with Blackberry Mascarpone Frosting

& Blackberry-Tarragon Jam

8 servings

1.5 hours



2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup milk, room temperature
6 lg egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp pure almond extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

jam filling

12 oz of blackberries
1 tbsp of lemon lemon zest
1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tbsp of water
3 sprigs of fresh tarragon
4 tbsp of sugar (keep 1 tbsp to mix with pectin)
2 tbsp of sugarless fruit pectin


1 cup of heavy cream
8 oz of mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped for seeds
10 blackberries, smashed (approx – or until
you achieve the desire color and flavor)



Preheat over to 350 degrees F and prepare two 8 inch round cake pans with butter.

Add the milk, egg whites and extracts to a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk together lightly until blended.

Combine the dry ingredients together inside the bowl of an electric mixer and run at a slow speed while you dice up the butter, approximately 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the butter a few cubes at a time until all are added and combined.

Add all but a 1/2 cup of the wet mix to the dry mix and beat at a medium speed for approximately 2 minutes. Add the remaining amount of the wet mix and beat for 1 minute.

Pour the batter evenly into your prepared pans and place both into the oven,

Bake for 30-35 minutes checking with a toothpick around the 25 minute mark just in cake. (of the three times I’ve made this cake, one pan finishes a minute or two before the other on each occasion)

Allow cake to cool at room temperature before icing and filling.


Prepare the blackberries and tarragon by rinsing with cold water.

Place blackberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, water and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a saucepan and lightly mix. Turn the heat on medium heat for about 5 minutes to allow the berries to break down.

Once the berries have broken down and released their juices, set the heat to low and allow to lightly simmer for 15-20 minutes to reduce some of the water content.

Mix the remaining sugar and the whole amount of pectin in a small bowl and then mix into the pan. Remove the pan from heat and allow the sugar to dissolve for 1-2 minutes.

Pour the jam into a strainer over a bowl and start pushing through the jam with a spatula leaving behind the seeds and tarragon stems. However, you may also remove a few larger chunks and pieces to add to the jam for texture once strained.

Place strained jam into a small would and cover with plastic wrap.

Cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.


In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the cream, mascarpone, vanilla seeds and powdered sugar, and mix using a hand (or electric mixer) at medium speed until stiff peaks form.

Add smashed blackberries, juice and all, into the frosting and mix with a fork until blended.


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  • Reply
    gloria britton
    December 15, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    The picture of your Good Plain ol’ Vanilla cake appears as if the fronting on top is the same as the filling. They both look very white without a hint that there are blackberries in it. Is it because of a lighting issue or does the filling and frosting both look the same with very little color? Thanks

  • Reply
    January 28, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    There is only frosting on the top but both frosting and jam filling in the middle. The photo featuring the slice cut out of the cake gives a better view of the jam filling.

  • Reply
    Gloria Britton
    October 17, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Jeff
    I am finally going to make this fantastic looking cake for a birthday party this coming weekend. I wanted to know if its possible to make it a day ahead of time and place in the fridge overnight and make the filling and frosting the next day. And also how long can I keep it on the counter if I bake it the same day it will be served? Thanks so much!

    • Reply
      October 21, 2019 at 7:50 am

      Hello Gloria!

      You can definitely make the cake ahead of time, even just the batter, and store it overnight in the fridge. Just make sure it comes to room temp before baking or frosting.

      The frosted cake can sit on the counter for several hours just fine but I recommend storing in the fridge after 4-5 hours.

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