Easy Vanilla Sour Cream Cake with Cake Mix (+ Vanilla Frosting)

This easy vanilla sour cream cake uses a cake mix as the base and a few extra ingredients to make it super moist, and to give it that from scratch, homemade taste but in much less time.

The cake is really easy and quick to mix up because you’ll be starting with a cake mix and it only takes just one bowl.

Doctoring a vanilla cake mix is the fastest and easiest way to make a homemade cake without spending tons of time in the kitchen.

Topping this cake with homemade vanilla buttercream frosting is the perfect way to finish it off and it’ll taste like you actually made it from scratch.

This vanilla cake recipe makes the perfect layer cake for birthdays as it comes together quickly and easily but still tastes amazing. It’s predictable and always turns out perfectly.

Close up of vanilla cake on a plate with text overlay.

Hey there! Before you scroll, there are lots of helpful things in this post…including an FAQ section, which may answer any questions you might have about this recipe. Enjoy!

Table of Contents:

Ingredient Notes:

Now let’s talk about just some of the ingredients that are in this cake and buttercream. (The list of all ingredients are in the recipe card below.)

Vanilla cake mix: You’ll need a good vanilla cake mix for this recipe. I prefer Betty Crocker’s vanilla cake mix, but you can use whatever brand you prefer. Just make sure to use the 15-ounce sized box.

The reason we’re starting off with a cake mix is that it just makes everything so much easier. You’ll be adding a few other ingredients to it though to make it taste homemade.

Instant vanilla pudding: Adding in a dry vanilla pudding mix will pump up the moistness and the vanilla flavor.

Sour cream: Sour cream makes cakes so much better and makes the texture soft and moist. It also helps bring out all the other flavors.

Oil, milk and eggs: This cake turns out moist partly because of the sour cream and partly because of the oil, milk and eggs that are added.

Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract: Adding vanilla bean paste is the best option here as it will give the most flavor, but if you don’t have it, don’t worry, vanilla extract will work as well. Yes, we’re really amping up the vanilla flavor, but all of these additions are what make this cake taste like it’s from scratch.

Here’s a link to vanilla paste: Vanilla Bean Paste

Butter, vanilla, confectioners sugar and milk: These ingredients will be used to make the homemade vanilla buttercream frosting. Adding scratch frosting to the doctored cake mix cake will just take it to the next level and people will absolutely love it.

Now, if you want to go an even easier route, you could always use canned vanilla frosting, although I really think homemade vanilla buttercream is worth the time because it’s really good.

Tall piece of sour cream cake with frosting on a white plate.

How to Make this Cake:

Let’s talk about how to make this sour cream vanilla cake. (The exact instructions are also in the printable recipe card below.)

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make sure to grease or spray two, 8-inch round cake pans very well. This cake is very moist and will stick if the pans aren’t prepared well.

Two cake greased and floured cake pans.

Step 2:

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and mix on medium to medium-high speed for about two minutes. The batter will be thick.

Cake batter mixed in a large white bowl.

Step 3:

Now spread the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. The cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.

Cake batter in two round cake pans.

Step 4:

Once baked, set the warm cake layers onto a cooling rack to cool for about ten minutes.

Baked vanilla cake in pans on a rack.

Step 5:

After ten minutes, turn the cake layers out onto the cooling racks to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Two cake layers cooling on a rack.

Step 6:

While the cake layers are cooling, make the frosting. Add the butter, salt and vanilla extract to a large bowl and mix well with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high until very smooth.

Add three cups of the confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk and mix well. Add in the last two cups of the confectioner’s sugar and mix well.

Now just check the consistency and if it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk, or if it’s too thin, add another 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix well. Once you get the consistency you want, mix it all on medium-high speed for about a minute, so that the icing becomes fluffy.

Vanilla buttercream mixed in a bowl.

Step 7:

Set one cake layer onto the cake plate and add frosting to the top of it.

Frosting added to cake layer.

Step 8:

Add the second cake layer, then add frosting to the top and sides of the cake.

Frosted vanilla cake on a cake plate.

Tips & FAQs:

Can I add sour cream to a cake mix?

Yes! Adding sour cream to a cake mix cake is a great way to amp up a boring box mix. There’s a method to it though, so make sure to head to the recipe card below to see the other ingredients that are needed to make this sour cream vanilla cake.

What does adding sour cream to a vanilla cake mix do?

Adding sour cream to a vanilla cake mix helps to make the cake super moist, it helps to bring out the vanilla flavor and makes the texture of the cake mix cake, taste more like it’s made from scratch.

What brand of cake mix should I use?

You can most likely use any 15 oz. box of vanilla cake mix. I used Betty Crocker vanilla cake and personally prefer using either Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines.

Can I use any flavor of vanilla cake mix?

You most likely can, but it will change the flavor slightly depending on which vanilla flavored cake mix you use.

Should I add the ingredients listed on the back of the cake mix box?

No, just add the cake mix dry and add in the other ingredients called for in the recipe card, but not from the back of the box.

Should I add the ingredients listed on the box for the pudding?

No, don’t prepare the pudding. It needs to be added dry.

Can I substitute the sour cream?

Sour cream is best in this recipe as it helps make a very moist cake, gives a little flavor and helps with the cake’s texture to make it closer to a scratch cake texture. If you don’t have access to sour cream though, you can use plain yogurt, but use the full-fat yogurt instead of the low fat or fat-free type.

Can I use canola oil instead of vegetable oil?

Yes, you can use canola oil instead of vegetable oil.

Tip for mixing the batter:

Note that the batter will be somewhat thick. Don’t add any liquid to it. A thick batter doesn’t mean it won’t be moist. It will be moist, but adding more liquid may throw off the ingredient ratios.

How can I tell when this cake is done baking?

This cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.

Can I use salted butter instead of unsalted butter for the frosting?

Unsalted is really best, but if you can’t get it, use salted, but omit the salt that’s called for in the recipe.

Do I need to sift the confectioner’s sugar?

No, not unless it’s super lumpy.

Can this cake be frozen?

This cake can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil and place in the freezer for up to a month.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, add the frosting.

How do I store this cake and how long does it last?

This cake can be stored, well covered, at room temperature for approximately 4 days, then stored in the refrigerator for another 2 days to prolong freshness. This cake can last up to 6 days when stored properly.

Can this cake be made into cupcakes?

I have not tested this recipe out as cupcakes, but it should work just fine. Fill 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) with cupcake liners and fill with batter about 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees F and start checking for doneness at around 20-25 minutes.

What’s the best way to serve/eat this cake?

This cake is best served at room temperature. If cold, allow it to come to room temperature before serving. or pop a slice in the microwave and warm for about 10 seconds.

Slice of layered sour cream vanilla cake on a white plate.

Supplies used for this recipe:

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Slice of vanilla layer cake on a white plate with a fork.

Easy Vanilla Sour Cream Cake with Cake Mix (+ Vanilla Frosting)

This easy vanilla sour cream cake uses a cake mix as the base and a few more ingredients to make it extra moist, and to give it that from scratch, homemade taste but in much less time.
No ratings yet
Print Pin Save Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vanilla sour cream cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 617kcal
Author: Kara @ Quick and Easy Baking

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 (15.24 ounce) box vanilla cake mix, dry (I used Betty Crocker's vanilla cake mix)
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) box Jello instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (4 sticks)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk

Instructions

For the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray two, 8 inch round cake pans very well.
  • In a large bowl, mix all the cake ingredients on medium to medium-high speed for about two minutes. The batter will be thick.
  • Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. Cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
  • Once baked, set the warm cake layers onto a cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the cooling racks to cool completely before adding the frosting.

For the frosting:

  • Mix the butter, salt and vanilla extract well with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high until very smooth.
  • Add three cups of the confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.
  • Add the other two cups of the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until well mixed.
  • Check the consistency. If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk. If it's too thin, add another 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar and mix well.
  • Once the desired consistency is reached, mix on medium-high speed for about a minute, so that the icing becomes fluffy.
  • Add frosting to cooled cake.

Notes

This cake can be stored, well covered, at room temperature for approximately 4 days, then stored in the refrigerator for another 2 days to prolong freshness. This cake can last up to 6 days when stored properly.
This cake is best served at room temperature. If cold, allow it to come to room temperature before serving or pop a slice in the microwave and warm for about 10 seconds.
For an even easier frosting, you could use pre-made canned frosting.
Nutritional values are an estimate. Make sure to check out the TIPS & FAQs for this recipe in the blog post, which may answer questions you may have.
*This recipe card may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 617kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 149mg | Sodium: 41mg | Potassium: 75mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 51g | Vitamin A: 1165IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 1mg

How to Share

I’d love for you to share this recipe link or tag it, but please do not share screenshots or copy/paste the recipe to social media as the content and photographs are copyright protected and we (bloggers) work really hard on our content. Sharing the link, tagging us on socials and pinning it is super appreciated though!

Collage of vanilla cake in a pan and a slice on a plate with text.

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating