Moist Yellow Cake Recipe- Better than Cake Mix!

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This Yellow Cake Recipe from scratch is a better-than-cake-mix yellow cake. This recipe can be used to make a yellow cake or yellow cupcakes with a chocolate fudge frosting. This homemade cake recipe uses oil, sour cream and buttermilk to create the perfect moist, spongy, yellow cupcake.


A slice of yellow cake on a gold polka dot plate with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.

At last! Time for a new cake recipe!! This one, you guys, this is the perfect homemade yellow cake recipe with a chocolate fudge frosting. Just for you. This is a long post that talks all about all of the recipe testing I did and how I landed on my final yellow cake recipe. So follow along or just skip past all of this and go straight to the recipe.

After perfecting my moist vanilla cake recipe, I wanted to make a yellow cake recipe that resembled what you’d get with a box of cake mix, except better.

I wanted this yellow cake recipe to be less dense than my vanilla cake, with more air pockets, which would produce a more tender crumb. It needed to stay just as moist but be less like a sponge-cake.

An overhead view of a slice of yellow cake that's topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

What’s the difference between a vanilla cake and a yellow cake?

Flavor-wise, a yellow cake should have a less-strong vanilla flavor, but a buttery, “eggy” flavor, although I hate the term “eggy” myself.

Other than that, there isn’t really a whole lot of different between the two.

This set me off on a bake-a-thon where I baked 6 variations of the yellow cake and 2 boxed cakes just for taste comparison.

The one thing that stayed consistent through my test is that each cake contained 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. In each recipe, I adjusted the amount of sour cream and the liquid ingredients.

A gold fork sinking into a slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

From there, we went into the tasting phase. Lucky for me, my dad and sister-in-law were visiting that week, and each got to participate and provide their feedback on each recipe. Can you imagine if someone placed 8 slices of cake in front of you? #goals

We tasted each one and rated them for their taste, moistness, density and crumb structure.

Cake Testing

I also incorporated frosting into the test so that we were able to get the full effect of a finished cake. First, we tasted the sample cakes without frosting, to be sure we could focus on the cake flavor and structure. Once we landed on our top 2 cakes, we tasted them with chocolate frosting.

One thing became very evident during our cake tasting: wherever we landed, it certainly wouldn’t be quite as yellow or produce that lighter-than-air texture you get from the box mix.

Cake tasting

The boxed cake mixes stood out like a sore thumb in our taste test. One because of the color, which is achieved by using food dye. Two, they tasted blatantly artificial in comparison.

The more research I did on yellow and vanilla cakes, the more I read about the difficulty of achieving the same texture and consistency you’d get from a cake mix. I equate this to the chemicals used in cake mixes.

A giant bite taken out of this yellow cupcake covered with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

BETTER-than-cake-mix Yellow Cake Recipe.

I’ve always preached the convenience of a cake mix, and plenty of my recipes on my site call for cake mix. However, the more I bake from scratch, the less I am grabbing cake mixes from my cabinet. The taste of a homemade cake simply can’t be beat. There’s a time and place for cake mix for sure, especially if you’re in a pinch.

An overhead shot of a swirl of chocolate frosting with sprinkles on a teal cake plate.

Anyhow, back to the recipe testing.

After my first round of 6 different cakes, we landed on a favorite. I decided to do one more test and swap out one last ingredient that put this cake over the edge of good to great. Buttermilk. Cake #7 is the winner!

Buttermilk is the primary liquid ingredient in this cake. Not only does it help achieve the slight tang, but it helps achieve a certain tenderness to the crumb.

A gold fork with a big bite of cake on it.

Do I have to use buttermilk?

I know I’m going to get this question a lot, do I have to use buttermilk? Can I just use regular milk? The answer is yes, you can use regular milk. However, I personally feel that cake is way BETTER with buttermilk and it stays moist for a longer period of time.

To make homemade buttermilk use 1 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and then add enough milk to make 1 cup. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and then stir. You can substitute regular milk instead of buttermilk if absolutely necessary. I’ve also heard you can freeze leftover buttermilk.


An overhead view of a slice a cake on a gold polka dot plate. The cake has a few bites taken out of it and a fork with a bite of cake on it .,

Once I landed on cake #7, I baked it two more times to be sure I liked it, and then also tried another version altering the amount of buttermilk and sour cream just to be sure I had it the right way.

One noticeable difference in this recipe compared to my moist vanilla cake is that the batter is a lot thicker. It will be interesting to see if this works better for cakes that have berries or other items incorporated into them.

How to make chocolate fudge frosting

Once I nailed the perfect yellow cake, it was time to take on the frosting. I could have made a batch of my best chocolate frosting, but for this recipe, I wanted something fudgier than that.

This chocolate fudge frosting uses a combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder for a rich chocolate flavor, a little goes a long way here.

A close up of a gorgeous cupcake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

It’s important that you have high quality chocolate, because it will impact the taste of your frosting. I always recommend using a chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips tend to have a coating on them which, when melted, produce a more oily melted chocolate.

I suggest melting the chocolate at 50% power so it doesn’t seize in the microwave.

Like most of my frosting recipes, this one starts with cold butter. Through the process of whipping the butter at various stages, we end up with an airy chocolate frosting that is great for spreading and piping.

The ratio of butter to powdered sugar is a little bit less than my standard 2 cups of powdered sugar to 1 stick of butter because I didn’t want a very dense frosting.

This chocolate fudge frosting will crust over a bit, so if you want to add sprinkles, it’s best to do it right away.

A close up shot of a perfect yellow cupcake with a big swirl of chocolate frosting and sprinkles

How to make homemade Yellow Cupcakes

The great thing about this yellow cake recipe is that it can also be made into cupcakes. If you make the recipe as is, it should produce 24 cupcakes.

However, I always like to provide the option for 12 cupcakes in case you don’t need quite as many.

To make 12 cupcakes, half all the dry ingredients and wet ingredients as well. You’ll need 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, 2/3 cups butter milk and 2 tablespoons of sour cream to make 12 cupcakes. You can still bake at 350° for about 15 minutes.

Moist Yellow Cake Recipe

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A Slice of Yellow Cake on a Gold Polka Dot Plate with Frosting and Sprinkles

Moist Yellow Cake Recipe

  • Author: Beyond Frosting
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 15 slices


This Yellow Cake Recipe from scratch is a better-than-cake-mix yellow cake. This recipe can be used to make a yellow cake or yellow cupcakes with a chocolate fudge frosting. This homemade cake recipe uses oil, sour cream and buttermilk to create the perfect moist, spongy, yellow cupcake.


For the cake:

  • 2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup (59g) light sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons (11.2 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (295ml) buttermilk

For the frosting:

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (390g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (28g) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)


  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, 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.
  2. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. Add half the flour followed by the baking powder and salt, and beat on low speed while pouring in half of the buttermilk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate.
  4. Finally add the remaining flour, mixing on low speed while pouring in the remaining buttermilk and beating until all of the ingredients are well combined.
  5. 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.
  6. Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 28-30 minutes, keeping a careful eye on the baking during the last few minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  7. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done. Cool completely.
  8. For the frosting: In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring each time until the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely smooth. Set aside to cool.
  9. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter look light in color. Next, beat the cocoa powder into the butter until well mixed.
  10. Alternate adding 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time with the liquid ingredients: vanilla extract & heavy cream. Ensure the powdered sugar is well combined, and whip for 1-2 minutes before adding more powdered sugar.
  11. Next, pour in the melted chocolate and beat on slow speed until incorporated. Then, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting. Spread over cooled cake.


  • To substitute the sour cream use a plain non Greek yogurt. Full fat sour cream will also work
  • To make homemade buttermilk use 1 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and then add enough milk to make 1 cup. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and then stir. You can substitute regular milk instead of buttermilk if absolutely necessary
  • If you prefer a more light and fluffy cake, then use only 2 cups of flour. However I only recommend doing this for the cake. For the cupcakes I do not recommend altering the recipe
  • Storage suggestions: If you live in a hot and humid environment then I would suggest that you refrigerate cupcakes that are frosted and allow them to come to room temperature before serving. Otherwise they can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.
  • Make-ahead: These are best served within 2 days of preparation but will proper storage they can stay fresh for several days.
  • Freezing: If needed, flash-freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet for 15 minutes than transfer them to an air-tight, freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator for several hours then bring to room temperature prior to serving. If possible, it’s best to store them unfrosted.
  • You can make these as yellow cupcakes  or as a yellow layer cake
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Yellow Cake, Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting, Yellow Birthday Cake, Yellow Cupcakes, Easy Cupcake Recipe

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68 Responses
  1. Rose

    I made this cake in two nine inch pans. Next time I’ll use two eight inch pans. This cake does not rise enough to make a nine cake look high. Have not tasted it yet. Just out of the oven.

  2. Kathleen Hillman

    Thanks so much for taking time to develop this recipe! It’s delicious and just the kind of yellow cake I was looking for. 🙂

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