Vegan Vanilla Cake (Mexican Mantecadas)

Vegan vanilla cake that’s moist and fluffy and actually tastes like vanilla cake. Easy to make in one bowl with simple ingredients.

During my time in Mexico, we would always be sure to get a bag of Bimbo brand mantecadas con nuez whenever we went to a local shop. There was nothing better than enjoying them before bed with friends and a hot cup of fresh coffee.

13x9 white casserole dish with vanilla cake topped with chopped pecans inside

What are Mantecadas?

Mantecadas are one of the 1,200 types of pan dulce, or sweet bread, in Mexico. They’re considered a muffin, but to me they’re much more like a vanilla cupcake.

The vanilla flavor is very prominent thanks to the Mexican vanilla which is more bold and a little spicy compared to what we normally use in the States. They are super soft and moist, and soak up coffee like a dream when dipped into it!

Depending on the region, the bakery, and the family where you get them handmade, they might have cinnamon, almond, or orange zest added. They’re also normally made with buttermilk or sour cream to give it a nice zing. Some versions are even made with yeast!

The commercial ones from Bimbo are plain comparatively, though – coming in either basic vanilla or with chopped pecans on top.

(I’ve heard legends of chocolate and chocolate chip versions, but I’ve never seen them with my own eyes.)

Why are you talking about mantecadas on a post for vegan vanilla cake?

Well, you see..

Mantecadas are vanilla cake. Lol. And they’re the most delicious vanilla cake I’ve ever had. They hold so much nostalgia for me, yes, but the flavor is out of this world.

I also had an “aha” moment in my 8-years-long quest for a vegan vanilla cake that I actually like (I’m super picky) when I published my Little Vegan Mayo Cookbook that the chocolate mayo cake could be turned vanilla pretty easily. I did it. It tasted amazing. JUST LIKE THESE LITTLE CUPCAKES I LOVED SO MUCH IN MEXICO!!

So mantecada vanilla cake ended up being the answer to my craving and the end of my tireless search.

What ingredients do I need to make this cake?

As usual, the ingredients for my recipe are super simple:

The ingredients for the cake, laid out on top of a grey slate tile with labels over them.

Flour: I use all purpose, but you could use cake flour for a lighter version if you’d like.

Sugar: I use Zulka brand cane sugar. It’s unrefined so no bone char and is 100% vegan. It’s also Mexican! If you’ve ever had a Mexican Coke, you know how good Mexican sugar is. šŸ˜‰ You can use any granulated sugar you’d like, though.

Baking powder AND baking soda: I figured out that one of the reasons I didn’t like my vanilla cake attempts before was that the baking soda taste was coming through too strong. I was left with a metallic taste and a chemical-ly, almost astringent feeling on my tongue. Cutting it with baking powder helps so much. So despite the fact that I like to only use soda, I compromised on that here.

Vanilla protein powder: In the original mayo cake recipe, there’s cocoa powder added. Rather than replacing it with flour, I wanted to punch up the vanilla and add a little binding at the same time. So I reached for my protein powder and it worked like a dream. I’m using Orgain, but use what you like.

Nutmeg: Not much, just a little fresh grated nutmeg. The flavor gives the illusion of eggy custard. It convinces folks there are eggs in the cake. If you can’t have nutmeg, it’s ok. The cake will still be great without it.

Milk: I use oat milk – extra creamy! Planet Oat is my brand, but use whatever milk you like! As long as it’s unsweetened it should work fine (especially if it’s vanilla!).

Vanilla: Like I mentioned above, Mexican vanilla. I use the Molina brand because it tastes and smells fantastic and doesn’t bake out. Yes, it’s made with some artificial vanilla but it’s done masterfully. It has the spicy cinnamony notes and the amped up vanilla tones that we want.

Mayo: Yup. Mayo. DO NOT ROLL YOUR EYES!! The mayo adds: creaminess, zinginess, acid to react with the baking soda, oil for moistness, air for fluffiness, and salt. The mayo is replacing our buttermilk/sourcream as well as the oil and salt in the recipe. I PROMISE IT WORKS. I use Hellmann’s vegan mayo, but use what you like!

OPTIONAL PECANS: Choose your own adventure here. Do you want plain vanilla, or with nuts? If you can’t do pecans but still want a nutty crunch, hazelnuts are lovely. And if you can’t do nuts at all, sunflower seeds make a great substitute.

Optional add-ins:

You can add in a variety of other delicious ingredients if you’d like:

  • Orange zest (about 1/2 an orange should be good)
  • Almond extract (about a teaspoon)
  • Cinnamon (I would do maybe 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Chocolate chips (about 3/4 cup – toss them in a tablespoon of flour before folding them into the batter at the just before baking)
  • Cocoa powder (1/4 cup sifted in with the dry ingredients)

Can I make this gluten free?

Yes you can! I’ve heard amazing things about Dove’s gluten free flour as well as the Better Batter cup for cup (it no longer has milk!) I also love Bob’s all purpose gluten free baking flour (the red bag, not the blue one!). The mayo in the recipe will help to keep the cake super moist, even using GF flour.

Can you turn this vanilla cake into cupcakes?

Absolutely!! Actually, if you want it to be super traditional mantecada, use a bright red liner. šŸ™‚ Bake them for around 18-22 minutes at 350F, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of one comes out clean.

Can I use this recipe for a stacked or carved cake?

You can definitely use this this for a stacked cake, but for carving it might be a tad too soft. As always, I recommend wrapping and freezing the cake for 24 hours before stacking it so it holds up better.

What buttercreams would go great with this vanilla cake?

Normally it isn’t served with buttercream at all, but if you want to I recommend going with my American Meringue Buttercream. It’s simple, it’s vanilla, and it’s silky smooth. It won’t overpower the flavors in the cake, and it won’t be cloyingly sweet like an American buttercream would.

However, if you want to know more about vegan butters and how to get them to work for you, check out my post on the easiest vegan buttercream.

Pin it for later!

the mantecada cake on a cooling rack with a single serving in front of it.


Yield: 13x9 cake or 24-30 cupcakes

Vegan Vanilla Cake (Mexican Mantecada)

13x9 white casserole dish with vanilla cake topped with chopped pecans inside

Vegan vanilla cake made with Mexican vanilla.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


Dry Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 6 tbsps vegan vanilla protein powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Wet Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups vegan milk (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/4 cups vegan mayo
  • 1.5 tbsps Mexican vanilla

Decoration (optional)

  • 1.5 cups chopped pecans


  1. Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and grease your cake pan or line your cupcake tin.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the wet ingredients, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour the batter into your pan and top with chopped pecans if using.
  5. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If making cupcakes, bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean.
  6. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting, if desired. Or feel free to eat warm with coffee. <3


Please see the blog post for suggestions for substitutions and additions.

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