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Classic Yellow Cake

This Classic Yellow Cake recipe is made completely from scratch, for a moist, fluffy cake that captures everything we love about boxed birthday cake mix, only better! This is an easy cake recipe topped with tangy homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting and lots of sprinkles (of course).

A slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles on a white plate.

My Favorite Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

You guys, today I’m sharing one of my all-time favorite cake recipes. It’s so simple, yet so perfect! This is the best, classic yellow cake, smothered with a rich and tangy chocolate cream cheese frosting. 

Nothing rivals this homemade yellow cake recipe. I’ve made so many versions for birthdays and holidays, from cupcakes to layer cakes, as well as this sheet cake. It’s made with all the nostalgic flavor and texture that comes from a boxed yellow cake mix. Only better, because this one is made completely from scratch!

Why You’ll Love This Cake Recipe

For this recipe, I wanted to capture and level up the fluffy, moist texture and classic flavor of the boxed birthday cakes I loved as a kid. I think I did it! Here’s why you’ll love it, too:

  • Easy to make. You can pretty much jump right in with this easy cake recipe. It takes just 10 minutes to prepare the batter, meaning you’ll be diving into that first slice even sooner than you thought. 
  • Versatile. I’ve made this yellow cake recipe as a sheet cake, as cupcakes, and even as a layer cake. It’s easy to adapt and never disappoints.
  • Recreates a classic childhood birthday cake. Remember digging into a slice of fluffy yellow cake at birthday parties as a child? Now you can relive the flavor and joy every time you make this cake recipe!

What’s the Difference Between White Cake and Yellow Cake?

Technically speaking, both white cake and yellow cake are vanilla cakes. The main difference is that a yellow cake is made with whole eggs and butter. These ingredients are what give the cake its distinctive “yellow” color and richer, more buttery flavor.

If you’re looking for another classic vanilla cake recipe, check out this one for Moist Vanilla Cake.

A slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles on a white plate.

Key Ingredients

One of the best things about this classic cake recipe is how simple the ingredients are. I’ve rounded up the key ingredients you’ll need below, but be sure to check the recipe card for the full recipe details.

  • Oil and Melted Butter – Vegetable oil (or another neutral oil) gives the cake a fluffy and spongy texture, while butter makes the flavor extra rich.
  • Eggs and Egg Yolks – Adding egg yolks enriches the crumb and also gives the cake its classic yellow color without artificial dyes.
  • Sour Cream – The added fat keeps this cake nice and moist.
  • Buttermilk – I love the slight tang that comes from including buttermilk in my yellow cake recipe. Buttermilk also contributes to the tenderness of the crumb.
  • Chocolate Frosting – I’ve included my recipe for homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting in the recipe card, for a classic frosted yellow birthday cake with sprinkles. See further on for more easy frosting variations!

How to Make a Yellow Cake from Scratch

Making this classic cake only requires four quick steps. If you have kids who enjoy baking, this easy yellow cake recipe is great for getting little hands involved.

Step 1: Making the Cake

Here’s how to whip up this homemade yellow cake:

  • Combine the wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar with the wet ingredients, apart from the buttermilk and sour cream. After about 2 minutes the mixture should be smooth and lighter in color, at which point you can beat in the sour cream.
  • Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Next, add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, along with half the buttermilk, and stir until just barely combined. Finally, stir in the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk.
  • Bake. Transfer the yellow cake batter to a 9”x13” baking pan. Bake the cake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, then take the cake out of the oven and let it cool completely before frosting.

Step 2: Frosting the Cake

Once your yellow cake is cooled, it’s time to get frosting! 

  • Make the Frosting: Beat cubes of butter until softened, then beat in the cream cheese until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the cocoa powder and vanilla, and lastly, alternate beating in the powdered sugar and heavy cream until well combined.
  • Frost the Cake: Spread a generous layer of frosting over top of the cooled cake. And of course, finish everything off with sprinkles for that classic celebration cake look!
A slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles on a white plate topped with a birthday candle.

Recipe Notes and Tips

I tested tons of recipe variations before landing on this perfect yellow cake, so you don’t have to! Here are some additional helpful tips when making this cake from scratch:

  • Substitute the sour cream. You can use plain or Greek yogurt (non-fat or full-fat) in place of sour cream in this cake recipe. 
  • Substitute the buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make this easy substitute with lemon juice or white vinegar. If you’re really in a pinch, regular whole milk or 2% milk will also work.
  • How do I know when the cake is done? The easiest way to tell if your yellow cake is ready is to use the toothpick test: Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, the cake is done! 

Variation Ideas

I love my chocolate cream cheese frosting on this classic yellow cake. The combination of fudgy cocoa and tangy cream cheese with buttery vanilla cake is just to die for!

However, if chocolate buttercream frosting isn’t your preferred combo, try any of your favorite frosting recipes. Here are some suggestions:

Can I Make Cupcakes Instead?

Absolutely! This cake recipe will produce 24 cupcakes. Or, you can make a dozen cupcakes by halving the recipe. Check out my post for Yellow Cupcakes for an easy how-to. 

This recipe also makes enough batter for a three-tier, 8” Yellow Layer Cake.

A slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles on a white plate with a forkful missing.

How to Store a Frosted Cake

Store your cooled and frosted yellow cake airtight at room temperature.

If you live in a particularly warm or humid environment, you may want to consider refrigerating your cake instead. I recommend taking the cake out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes before you serve it in order to take the chill off.

Can I Freeze Yellow Cake?

This cake can be frozen either frosted or unfrosted for up to 2 months. 

To freeze the frosted cake, place the cake in the fridge for an hour first to give the frosting a chance to harden. Then, wrap the cake in plastic wrap or store it in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Thaw the cake in the fridge, or on the counter at room temperature.

Print
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A slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles on a white plate.

Classic Yellow Cake Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 7 reviews
  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 15 slices
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Classic Yellow Cake is a moist, fluffy homemade cake recipe that captures everything we love about boxed birthday cake mix! This easy yellow cake recipe is topped with tangy homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (118ml) sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (7.5g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 ⅓ cup (315ml) buttermilk or milk

For the frosting and topping

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • ½ cup (55 g) cocoa powder
  • 4 ½ cups (585g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) milk or heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

For the cake: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, butter, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Alternate adding half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk at a time and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk and beat until well combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  3. Pour the batter into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. Cut the butter into 1-inch blocks. Beat the butter for 3-4  minutes until it’s softened.
  2. Then add the cream cheese and cream together for 2-3 minutes until they are fluffy and free of lumps, and scape down the bowl occasionally.
  3. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat until well combined,
  4. Next, add the confectionary sugar 2 cups at a time, followed by one tablespoon of heavy whipping cream, and beat for 60-90 seconds until completely smooth. Add the remaining powdered sugar and cream and beat until desired consistency, at least 2 minutes.
  5. Spread frosting over the cooled cake and then cover it with sprinkles.


Notes

  • Sour cream substitute: Use plain or Greek yogurt.
  • Buttermilk substitute: Use milk, or make a homemade buttermilk substitute
  • Storage suggestions: Whenever possible, cakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you live in a hot and humid environment, you may want to store this in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 562
  • Sugar: 49g
  • Sodium: 299mg
  • Fat: 30g
  • Saturated Fat: 19g
  • Carbohydrates: 69g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 140mg

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More Easy Cake Recipes to Try

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105 comments on “Classic Yellow Cake”

  1. This is a great recipe for yellow cake. I put it in 2 8 inch round pans. Cooked beautifully and so moist!! Did plain white cream cheese icing because some do not like chocolate. There loss!!






  2. This cake came out great! I left it in the oven for about 35 minutes which was too much and the top/edges browned a bit, but the cake still had a great flavor and kept moist and fluffy! Easy recipe highly recommend!






  3. Easy and forgiving cake! It was a little runnier than I was expecting, but it baked beautifully in my round pans. I definitely recommend using the chocolate frosting included in this recipe. It adds such a nice tang. This will be our go-to birthday cake now!






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Awesome Jackie! Thank you! The batter is on the thinner side but it bakes up so moist and fluffy!

  4. Worst recipe ever !!!! I have baked many many cakes and followed this recipe to the letter!!! It spilled out the pans ( yes I measured the batter) and it was runny after 30 mins of baking and they were sinking horrifically !! I’ve never had a recipe go this wrong ever !!!! The sugar and oil ratio was probably one of reasons in my opinion…

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Lori, I am not really sure how this could have spilled out over your pans unless they were maybe 1-inch high? What size pans did you use? There’s no way that after 30 minutes the batter would be runny and sinking unless you forgot an ingredient or the oven temperature was significantly off. This is a well tested recipe and many readers have baked this successfully, so I can tell that something isn’t right with whatever you did.

  5. I have been on the hunt for a delicious homemade yellow cake recipe. For years. This is the eighth recipe I’ve tried. All of the others, either taste, like poundcake, or cornbread. This is the only recipe that takes The most delicious yellow cake, has all the qualities of the ones out of the box. It’s light it’s tender, but it has the best parts of being homemade, it’s buttery and rich and fresh tasting . No chemical taste here.
    It’s going in my recipe box right now






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Cindy- the batter is thin because it’s a high ratio of wet to dry ingredients. If it got brown on top, there could be a couple of things, sometimes it’s the oven itself (hot spots or internal temp), sometimes it’s a bit of over baking. Both of those can also be effected by the type of pan being used, the edges cooking too quickly, forcing the middle to dome and take a bit longer to cook. This has happened to me at random times with this recipe, but it’s not the normal occurrence (at least in my oven).