Preheat oven to 350F and line two 8 inch pans with parchment paper and butter the sides. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl, then whisk together and set aside.
Cream the butter in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or an electric hand mixer. Add the sugar and beat on high for 3-4 minutes, scraping the bowl down as needed. Add the vanilla, then eggs one at a time while mixing on medium speed, then scrape the bowl down and mix in high for a minute.
Reduce speed to low and add the flour in three batches alternating with the buttermilk. Once almost combined, remove the whisk attachment and fold in any remaining butter/flour using a spatula. Do not over-mix the batter.
Divide batter equally between the two pans, then bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until the edges pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool in pan for about two minutes, then invert layers onto a cooling rack, remove the paper, and set aside to cool completely.
For the Frosting
Cream the butter and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer. Add the sugar a few cups at a time while mixing on low. Drizzle in the cream and vanilla, then scrape the bowl down and increase speed to high. Mix for about three minutes, then reduce the speed to low and mix an additional minute.
Use a spatula to press some of the larger bubbles out of the buttercream, then spread over the first layer of your cake, add the second and cover the top and edge in buttercream. Smooth or finish with rustic swoops or a spiral pattern.
I highly recommend using a scale to measure your flour. However, if you don’t have a scale, be sure to fluff your flour with a spoon and then spoon it into your cups before leveling it off with a knife. This method is the best way to measure flour without overpacking the measuring cup.
Listen to your cake. The cake layers have finished baking when they are quiet. If it makes a crackling sound when you put your ear close, it needs another minute or two.
Be sure to check the expiry date of the baking powder. If the layers come out dense, this is usually the culprit.
Always preheat your oven and prepare the pans before starting the batter. Once your baking powder has combined with liquid in your batter, it is activated. So when you let your batter sit around, you risk the baking powder losing its leavening abilities.
If you find decorating to be a bit intimidating, do not worry! I have a How to Decorate a Cake post containing lots of helpful tips and a how-to video to help you out.
You can use cake strips to help your layers come out evenly. Cake strips work by keeping the outside edge of the pan cooler to ensure that the entire cake rises at the same rate, preventing a dome from forming in the middle. If you don’t want to purchase a set, check out my post on How to Get Perfect Flat Cake Layers to learn how to DIY the strips.
To ensure that there are no large air bubbles in the batter, you can bang the pans on the countertops as you do with macarons to burst them.