Butter

Light, Fluffy Butter Cake

by:
October 17, 2013
6 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

If you love butter cake but wish the texture could be light and fluffy as a sponge cake, please try this delightful butter cake adapted from a recipe posted in wendyinkk.blogspot.com, called "Mrs. NgSK Vanilla ButterCake." Wendy, who is from Malaysia, says that she used to eat a really good butter cake that this lady called Mrs. NgSK from church used to bring, and one day she asked for the recipe which the lady surprisingly shared with her. Many other food bloggers have adopted her cake, and I think most if not all may be from Asia (which i think is known for their light cakes).

So now I am sharing it with you, my fellow Food52ers, but I have modified the recipe by replacing the self-rising flour it asks for with all purpose flour and baking powder, and converting from grams to cup. I sometimes do this recipe using my scale, and on other occasions I use the cup measurements. Both deliver an excellent cake. I don't think you will find a better butter cake than this one because it is buttery in your mouth yet light and fluffy. Please do use the exact size of pan that is required, an 8 inch square cake pan; and, ideally, of a light not dark color. —Regine

Test Kitchen Notes

Is this the most ethereally light, "rivals our favorite pillow"-level fluffy cake in our repertoire? It might just be—and we have superstar community member, Regine, to thank. The cake gets its lift from a few key components: 1) Whipped egg whites, which are beaten to soft peaks; 2) Perfectly aerated flour; 3) An uber-gentle folding process to incorporate all the batter's ingredients; and 4) A two-part baking technique that ensures sky-high puff, zero drying-out.

Because the recipe has so few ingredients, you'll want to make sure all of them are in tip-top shape: Good-quality butter is a must, as it's the flavor base. Then, room-temperature eggs and milk are necessary, too, since ingredients at a consistent temp play nicely together. And pure vanilla extract, plus organic citrus, if you go the zest route, will both accent the cake's deep butteriness wonderfully.

Last, we have to point out: A dump-and-bake cake this is not. It requires a few extra steps, but they're well worth it to achieve the fluffiest cake of your life. First, adding flour and milk to the batter in steps, instead of mixing everything together at once, will ensure a lump-free batter that's less likely to get overmixed. And the gentle folding-in of whipped eggs also a takes a second to master, but will yield a buoyant lightness like you've never seen. Cooling the cake before cutting and serving is the toughest step of them all, but also the most essential. In the meanwhile, walk the dog, call a pal, and brew some tea or coffee to enjoy with a freshly cut buttery slice of cake. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Light, Fluffy Butter Cake
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 52 minutes
  • Serves 10-12
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks (16 tbsp/8 oz/227g) good quality unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (200g) all purpose flour (my favorite is Pillsbury bleached all-purpose flour; do not use cake flour)
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon lime, lemon, or orange zest (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 335 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Spray an 8 inch metal square pan. Please use exactly what it says and preferably a light color pan. If you don't have one, invest in one. You will not regret it.
  3. Separate egg whites from yolk. Beat egg whites until soft peaks and gradually add the 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar and beat until stiff. Set aside and transfer to another bowl if you need the same bowl to cream the butter.
  4. Cream butter and the 3/4 cup (150g) sugar until and fluffy. Be patient. It may take 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the vanilla and zest if using. You can even add some cardamom or nutmeg if you so desire. Then add eggs yolks gradually beating for a few seconds after each addition. Put half the flour (which you mixed with the baking powder, and stirred with a fork for about 1 minute to aerate it) and mix on low speed. Do not overmix. 
  5. Add 1/2 the milk, mix for a few seconds, then the other half, mix for a few seconds, then the remaining flour.
  6. Put half the egg white and mix on low speed, then fold the rest into the cake batter using a spatula. Be patient. It may take you quite a few turns of the bowl to fold egg whites into flour so don't be discouraged. I've been there so I know. My trick is to turn the bowl as I fold. What I do is to do a "quarter turn" of the bowl (as if I am turning bowl from a zero minute position to a 15 minute position) and fold; then turn bowl to a 30 minute position and fold; turn bowl to a 45 minute position and fold; turn bowl to a zero minute position and fold. Repeat the turning of the bowl and folding until all egg white is well incorporated into bowl. Google the art of folding if needed.
  7. Pour batter into pan and level it with spatula. 
  8. Bake for 45 minutes at 335 degrees Fahrenheit and then 9 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Please do this exactly. A skewer inserted into middle of cake will/should come out clean. You will see that the cake has risen to the very top of the pan but the surface remains flat (don't worry if you see a few bubbles).  
  9. Let cool on rack for 15 to 30 minutes, then invert on a plate and turn it again onto rack or serving plate. I like to wait till the day after to eat it but you don't have to. But let it cool for a couple of hours before serving.
  10. You will find that the cake is so light that it almost melts in your mouth. Sprinkle the top with some powdered sugar if you want, and serve with coffee/tea, or as snack or dessert.  
  11. NOTE: When using measuring cups for flour and sugar, please do not dip the cup directly into the flour or sugar sack or container. Instead, spoon it into the measuring cup and then scrape off excess with a straight edge. Also, please note that my cup measurements are rounded but you should still have the same outcome than if you weigh the ingredients.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Regine
    Regine
  • Noelle Chua
    Noelle Chua
  • Phil McCaffrey
    Phil McCaffrey
  • Ann Ascalon Ledesma
    Ann Ascalon Ledesma
  • Frenchcreekbaker
    Frenchcreekbaker

100 Reviews

Author Comment
Regine October 31, 2020
Hello Devaki, what a wonderful twist/idea to add 3 tsp each instant coffee and condensed milk to the milk. Now, I will have to try it.
 
Devaki October 31, 2020
Hey Regina,
I tried out a coffee cake with your super soft butter cake recipe, All the ingredients were the same except that I added 3 teaspoons of coffee (instant) and 3 Teaspoons of condensed milk (I took this measurements from my old coffee cake recipe) dissolved in the 1/4 cup of milk called for in the recipe!
I have now discarded my old coffee cake recipe and I will be stickI guess to this!
 
Author Comment
Regine October 31, 2020
Thanks for idea. Can’t wait to try your version.
 
SashaY July 23, 2020
Hello,
I just had a question about the butter. Did it have to be softened/ room temperature or refrigerated?
 
Author Comment
Regine July 24, 2020
Room temperature so it can cream
well. But you don’t want it too
soft or melted either. A good test I think is if pressing butter causes a slight dent.
 
Author Comment
Regine June 10, 2020
Hello Georgia. Easy answer. 🤓
You never want to eat a butter based cake straight out of refrigerator, unlike oil based cakes. Butter that has been refrigerated hardens so so do butter based cakes. You want it to get to room temperature, otherwise when you slice the cake it, it will be harder and not as soft and fluffy. Let me know if this helps.
 
Georgia G. June 10, 2020
Hello there 😊 Actually I already knew the reason why this happens 🤓 but because your recipe calls for milk and beating of the egg whites I thought both could make the difference 🤷 As i wrote in my previous comment I use the Victoria sponge cake as the base for all my cakes. I bake it the night before, put it in the fridge and the next day i slice it fill it with pastry cream and usually cover it with whipped cream or some type of ganache. All that steps require refrigerating. That is also the reason I can't leave it at room temperature for long time as you suggest , especially now that's summer ( I live in Greece ) . There are plenty of sponge cakes out there without the butter , that remain fluffy and light even straight out from the fridge. In my opinion, these are tasteless. I just don't want to give up on the taste for the sake of texture.. My family and friends however who taste my cakes have a different opinion.. In a few weeks it's my father's birthday and I will try it then and find out.. 😏
 
Author Comment
Regine June 10, 2020
Hello dear, I too sometimes feel something I baked is not as good as my tasters. Have you tried to just take it out of the refrigerator 1 hour prior to serving. By then cake might recover its fluffiness. I agree with you oil based cakes are not as flavorful but try this recipe I think I would use for your cake. It is oil based but to heighten flavor I add more vanilla and sometimes also some grated orange, lime or lemon zest.
I got it from fine cooking but I made some changes.
See link below. It is really good but I add 2 tsp vanilla instead of 1/4 tsp.

https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/great-yellow-cake
 
Author Comment
Regine June 10, 2020
One more thing Georgia. The 2 reviews in the link I sent you were written by me. You will see where I said this is a wonderful cake for refrigerated desserts. Recipe says to use two 8 inch round pans but I have also used 9 inch round pans. If you use an 8 inch square pan as in the butter cake, you cannot put all the batter in one pan. Cake will end up being heavy. You would have to use 2 pans.
 
Georgia G. June 11, 2020
Thank you very much for taking the time to reply and I would like to congratulate you for your lovely work.
I will definitely give your recipe a try on my father's upcoming birthday and let you know. Thank you for the other recipe you suggested as well. I'll keep it in mind.
Greetings from sunny Greece 🌞😀
 
Author Comment
Regine June 11, 2020
You are welcome Georgia. May cake for your dad’s birthday be perfect. My dad’s is coming too on Monday 6/15. Greetings from sunny Maryland USA but Greece is certainly much more picturesque. 😎
 
Georgia G. June 9, 2020
Whenever i find a FLUFFY butter cake recipe I immediately get triggered to make it.😁 However, I would like to ask a question beforehand ( as you didn't mention anything about refrigerating it ) . What about after it's been refrigerated? I've made several times the classic Victoria sponge cake and it's all great as long as it is fresh out of the oven or even at room temperature. Super light super fluffy. After refrigerating it though to use it as layers in a cake ,as i do, it gets dense and quite hard. Very contrasting with my silky smooth pastry cream..😒Sooo...what about that?? 🤔
 
Devaki June 8, 2020
I love this recipe and have been sharing it with family and friends because it worked so well for me.

However the last 2 times, even though I did it the exact same way, my cake did not rise to the top of the pan... and was not so fluffy!!!! I am so disappointed!!! The only difference is that I used the self raising flour, which was all what was available in the store!! Could it be the cause???
 
Author Comment
Regine June 9, 2020
Hello Devaki, here are reasons why I think cake did not rise enough and (as a resilr) was less fluffy:
1) Egg whites not beaten properly
2) Egg whites got deflated as they were being folded into batter

I don’t think it was because you used self rising flour although a combination of the flour choice (unlikely but maybe flour was defective) plus how egg whites might have been handled might have contributed to your issue.

I have on occasion made a less fluffy cake as well due to how I might have the egg whites. Folding requires patience.

I hope you try again and thanks so much for liking and making this recipe.
 
Author Comment
Regine June 9, 2020
Corrected response:

Hello Devaki, here are reasons why I think cake did not rise enough and (as a result) was less fluffy:
1) Egg whites not beaten properly.
2) Egg whites got deflated as they were being folded into batter.

I don’t think it was because you used self rising flour although a combination of the flour choice (unlikely but maybe flour was defective) plus how egg whites might have been handled might have contributed to your issue.

I have on occasion made a less fluffy cake as well due to how I might have handled the egg whites. Folding requires patience.

I hope you try again and thanks so much for liking and making this recipe.
 
Devaki June 21, 2020
Thank you Regine, for taking the time to respond.. Appreciate it very much.
Your comments noted and of course I will be making this cake again because this is the best butter cake recipe I have tried out!
Just a quick question, will any cake (chocolate, coffee etc.) be as light If the egg white is beaten stuff and folded?
 
Author Comment
Regine June 21, 2020
You are welcome Devaki. Yes, any cake that separates the egg white, and is then beaten till meringue-y and then properly folded into cake batter will usually yield a « relatively » lignter textured cake.
 
Author Comment
Regine June 21, 2020
Next time you make a cake like a pound cake, use the egg white
trick. It will make cake
not only lighter but also taller
than if you had not separated the egg white.
 
Author Comment
Regine May 10, 2020
Hello Noelle. I am happy you enjoyed cake. If the bottom part is denser and yellower than the bottom part, it is because you somehow did not thoroughly folded the beaten egg whites into the rest of the cake batter so when the cake was baking some sort of separation occurred causing 2 different structures. This used to happen to me too when I first started baking cakes thar required folding beaten egg whites/meringue into a cake. This
folding thing can be « finicky. » I read somewhere « when folding egg whites into any batter, the key is to bring both the batter and the whites to some sort of consistency equilibrium. » If part of the batter has less of the meringue incorporated into it than other parts, the finished cake may have 2 different textures for lack of a better expression.
 
Author Comment
Regine May 10, 2020
I hope you will try again. This exercise of folding beaten egg whites into a cake batter took me some practice. Thanks so much for making cake and your feedback. Regine
 
Noelle C. May 12, 2020
Thank you for your advice!! I will work on my mixing and try again. (:
 
Author Comment
Regine May 12, 2020
You are welcome. 😉
 
Noelle C. May 10, 2020
Thank you for this recipe. My family absolutely loves it and the whole house smells so fragrant. One thing I would like to ask - I realised that the bottom part of the cake looked slightly denser (darker yellow) than than the top part. Any reason / advice on that?
 
Author Comment
Regine April 18, 2020
Wow. What a beautiful surprise to see that Food52 Editor(s) Julia Gartland
featured the cake. I feel honored. I only found out when Foddie_3213 commented on the recipe and I got an email notification. Foodie_3213, I am
so happy you successfully made the cake.
Julia and Food52, thanks so much for
recreating cake. I also enjoyed
the video. I am super excited. Thanks again!!! Regine
 
Foddie_3213 April 18, 2020
Amazing Recipe
It worked first time (I’m not even a baker) ;)
 
Author Comment
Regine January 28, 2020
Yes, cake will fill to the top of an 8 inch square pan and will be flat. No doming.
 
Phil M. January 28, 2020
Hi I'm wanting this recipe to fill the pan to the very top without any doiming. Should this come out to a perfect square to the top of the pan?
 
Ellen R. November 15, 2019
Hi Regine. Cake is cooling as I write — it both looks and smells sublime! I’m wondering, however, how tall do your layers in the 8 inch pan typically rise?
 
Author Comment
Regine November 15, 2019
Hi Ellen. Happy cake looks like it was a success. It rises to the rim of the pan.
 
Author Comment
Regine November 15, 2019
if not a little bit more.
 
Author Comment
Regine September 13, 2019
Hello Ann. I usually skip the salt in my cake recipes. However, you are welcome to add it. Maybe 1/4 tsp. Thanks.
 
Ann A. September 12, 2019
i noticed there is no salt... no need of one?
 
Author Comment
Regine May 19, 2019
Hello French C. As per my “Author Notes,” if you want original recipe, go to wendyinkk.blogspot.com.
 
Author Comment
Regine May 19, 2019
Here is link to original recipe.

https://wendyinkk.blogspot.com/2012/05/mrs-ngsks-butter-cake-butter-cake-3.html?m=1
 
Frenchcreekbaker May 18, 2019
Does anyone have this recipe in grams and using self-rising flour like the original?
 
Author Comment
Regine May 19, 2019
https://wendyinkk.blogspot.com/2012/05/mrs-ngsks-butter-cake-butter-cake-3.html?m=1
 
Frenchcreekbaker October 31, 2020
Hello Regine,
Sorry for the long delay in thanking you for link. I had some self-rising flour, which I never usually use, and wanted to see how I could use it.

Thanks for sharing the recipe! It is handy to now know how to make it both ways. Delicious cake❣️
 
Jeanie K. May 7, 2019
Thank you so much for this recipe; I have been looking for it with US standard measures, and will adhere to your directions.
 
Author Comment
Regine January 26, 2019
Hello Khadeeja, I am happy you liked the cake and that it turned out well. I too sometimes use different size
and shape pans. Sometimes one has to adjust the temperature and/or time in oven. There are articles about that but sometimes I just used my intuition. Looks like you are like me. 😎 Thanks so much for your feedback.
 
Khadeeja January 26, 2019
I made this recipe for a family celebration and everyone LOVED it! The fluffiest butter cake I have baked! Thank you for sharing this recipe. I made a three layer 6 inch round cake and it turned out great! (I know, you have highly recommended an 8 inch square pan but I needed to make a round one and wanted to make a fluffy butter cake) I will definitely make it again, and in a square pan, next time. Promise!