Vanilla Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Tested & Perfected Recipes

The perfect dessert to feed a crowd, this vanilla sheet is easy to frost and decorate, easy to transport, and easy to serve.

Tis’ the season for graduation parties, potlucks, and summer BBQs. At my house alone this month, we are celebrating my son’s 18th birthday and high school graduation and my husband’s 50th (!!). These occasions scream for a sheet cake. Less fussy than a layer cake but just as festive, a sheet cake is easy to frost and decorate, easy to transport, and easy to cut and serve — plus, it feeds a crowd. This luscious vanilla sheet cake with cream cheese frosting is adapted from my favorite cake cookbook, Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri. It can also be made as cupcakes or topped with berries and turned into a flag cake.

What You’ll Need To Make Vanilla Sheet Cake

vanilla sheet cake ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

Bake the Cake

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

creamed butter and sugar

Beat in the vanilla.

adding vanilla

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

adding eggs one at a time

Don’t worry if the batter looks a little curdled at this point.

curdled batter

Reduce the speed to low, then beat in one-third of the flour mixture.

adding flour to vanilla sheet cake batter

Pour in half of the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add another third of the flour, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour.

adding buttermilk to vanilla sheet cake batter

Scrape down the bowl and beat again until the batter is evenly combined. Do not overmix.

vanilla sheet cake batter

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan.

batter in cake pan

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is set and lightly golden around the edges, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.

baked vanilla sheet cake

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes.

beating butter and cream cheese

Stop the mixer and add about half of the confectioners’ sugar; mix on low to combine. Gradually add the remaining sugar, keeping the speed on low.

adding sugar

Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

cream cheese frosting in bowl

When the cake is cool, use a butter knife or small offset spatula to top the cake with the frosting.

frosting the cake

Swirl the frosting lavishly.

frosted vanilla sheet cake

The cake is best enjoyed fresh on the day it is baked, but it will keep nicely for a few days. Store in an airtight container (or cover tightly with plastic wrap) at room temperature.

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Vanilla Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The perfect dessert to feed a crowd, this vanilla sheet is easy to frost and decorate, easy to transport, and easy to serve.

Servings: 18
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 35 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Butter and flour a 9x13-in pan, or use nonstick cooking spray with flour in it, such as Baker's Joy or Pam with Flour.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. (Don't worry if the batter looks a little curdled at this point.)
  4. Reduce the speed to low, then beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add another third of the flour, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour, then scrape down the bowl and beat again until the batter is evenly combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is set and lightly golden around the edges, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add about half of the confectioners' sugar; mix on low to combine. Gradually add the remaining sugar, keeping the speed on low. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. When the cake is cool, use a butter knife or small offset spatula to swirl the frosting lavishly over top. The cake is best enjoyed fresh on the day it is baked, but it will keep nicely for a few days. Store in an airtight container (or cover tightly with plastic wrap) at room temperature.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 piece of cake
  • Calories: 462
  • Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated fat: 13 g
  • Carbohydrates: 65 g
  • Sugar: 50 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 199 mg
  • Cholesterol: 96 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Really nice basic sheet cake. Super easy to make and perfect frosting.
    Thanks Jen!

    • — Lisa on June 23, 2021
    • Reply
  • Do you recommend cake flour as a substitute for all purpose in this recipe?

    • — Nan on June 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Nan, for the best results, I’d stick with all-purpose flour. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on June 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hello! I actually was going to search your site to see if you had sheet cake recipes today, et viola! Quick question: any reason why this wouldn’t work if I doubled this for an 18x12x2 sheet cake? Need something to feed a crowd at a graduation picnic next week 🙂

    (Also, just a separate note to say that I check your site first and foremost whenever I’m in search for a recipe… I’m obsessed with everything of yours that I have made so far, which is not a short list… THANK YOU!!).

    • — Laurka K on June 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! I do think you could get away with doubling this for an 8 x 12-inch baking dish. The cake may be a little thicker and take a few extra minutes in the oven so keep a close eye on it.

      • — Jenn on June 8, 2021
      • Reply
      • This worked marvelously! Barely took any extra time to cook, as well (less than +5 mins longer I believe). The whole cake got eaten, too… people had seconds at the event, and then others seemed to have made excuses to swing by in the days after to eat more of it. It’s completely gone, now… the entire 12×18 cake!

        Thank you again – so much – for the recipe and the advice!

        • — Laurka K on June 16, 2021
        • Reply
  • I look forward to making this with my 5 year old. she loves to bake 🙂

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE your website and your recipes! it’s become my go to for new recipes to add to our meal plans. Anytime I cook them I get rave reviews. Looking forward to your next cookbook in the fall!

    • — dees on June 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Thanks for the nice words!! Hope you and your daughter enjoy baking the cake. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2021
      • Reply
  • My daughter recently told me she loves the taste of white wedding cake, so I thought I’d try to make her one for her birthday. Do you think this recipe is similar in flavor?

    • — Kate on June 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Kate, this is more of a yellow cake. I’d suggest you use this recipe instead (and you could make it into a sheet cake if you’d like).

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2021
      • Reply
  • I look forward to your Thursday emails. Your photo of the cake is so luscious! Literally makes my mouth water. Oh my! I also so your photo of the Vanilla Birthday Cake and your beautiful Labrador Retriever.

    Your cookbook is now the one I turn to first, even before my 50 year old “Joy of Cooking”.

    My only request is for more vegetarian main dish recipes.

    Thank you.

    • — Beth G on June 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, the cookbook, and the pics! I will keep your request for more vegetarian main dishes in mind as I develop new recipes. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2021
      • Reply

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