The Best Yellow Cake Recipe

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This easy Yellow Cake Recipe is made from scratch is way better than cake mix. It’s a light, fluffy and moist homemade cake topped with my favorite chocolate fudge frosting. This is the perfect birthday cake that can also be made into cupcakes or a layer cake!

Looking for more cake recipes? Try love my classic vanilla cake or this moist chocolate cake!

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

At last! Time for a new cake recipe!! This one, you guys – this is the perfect yellow cake with a fudgy chocolate frosting made completely from scratch.

This homemade cake resembles what you’d get with a box of cake mix – but better. I know that’s a big claim. There’s so much nostalgia with boxed cake mixes. I mean, how many birthdays parties did you go to when you were a kid that had a yellow cake? I wanted to capture that fluffy, moist cake texture and also recreate the flavor. I think I did it!

What Makes this Yellow Cake So Good?

  • Easy to make. There’s no creaming butter and sugar together, or waiting for ingredients to come to room temperature.
  • Quick. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare the batter, which means you’ll be diving into that first slice even sooner than you thought. 
  • Flexible. I’ve made it as a sheet cake in these photos for an easy, classic birthday cake. But you can also use this recipe to make cupcakes or a layer cake!
  • Recreates that nostalgic childhood birthday cake. I tested 7 different versions of this recipe before finalizing this one, which was also tested so many times! I love this recipe. If you want to make a classic yellow birthday cake from scratch, this is what you are looking for.

What’s the Difference Between Vanilla Cake and 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.

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

What You’ll Need

One of the best things about this classic cake recipe is how simple the ingredients are. Here’s what you’ll need. Be sure to check out the recipe card for specific amounts.

  • Granulated Sugar
  • Vegetable oil – Helps make this cake super moist and tender.
  • Melted butter – Adds flavor
  • Eggs and egg yolks – These add a perfect crumb to the cake and also give it that classic yellow color without using artificial food dyes.
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Sour Cream – Adds moisture to the cake.
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Buttermilk – Adds a slight tang to the cake and contributes to the tenderness of the crumb.

Ingredient Substitutions:

Buttermilk: I personally feel that cake is way better with buttermilk as it contributes to the flavor and texture of this cake. However, if you don’t have buttermilk you can substitute it with regular milk or make homemade buttermilk.  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. 

Sour cream: This is essential for keeping the cupcakes moist. If you don’t have sour cream. I recommend substituting with non-fat Greek yogurt. 

An overhead shot of a vanilla cake bake in a 9x13 inch pan

How to Make a Yellow Cake from Scratch

Making this cake only requires four steps! If you have kids who enjoy baking, this easy yellow cake recipe is a great one for them to try.

  • Prep: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Combine wet ingredients and sugar: In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, with all the dry ingredients except the buttermilk and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  • Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk: Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Add remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk and beat until all of the ingredients are well combined. Use a spatula to stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  • Bake: Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely prior to frosting. 

A chocolate buttercream swirl piped onto a white counter top

What Chocolate Frosting to Use

I love this chocolate fudge frosting on yellow cake. It uses a combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder for a rich chocolate flavor. This frosting is so fudgy, a little goes a long way here. 

It’s important that you use high quality chocolate, because it will impact the taste of your frosting. This recipe calls for melted chocolate. I 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. A chocolate bar will melt more smoothly. You can use something like Ghirardelli or Lindt. I prefer dark chocolate myself, but if you prefer milk chocolate, than go for it!

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. Be sure to finish this cake off with some sprinkles!

How to Store a Frosted Cake

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.

Can I make this recipe into cupcakes?

Absolutely! This yellow cake recipe is super flexible. If you make the recipe as is, it should produce 24 cupcakes. To make 12 cupcakes, halve the ingredients. 

Can I make this recipe into a layer cake? 

Yes, this will be a 3-layer 8-inch cake, you’ll just need to make adjustments for the frosting. See recipe card notes. 

 

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

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

The Best Yellow Cake Recipe

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

Description

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.

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
  • 1/2 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 1/3 cup (315ml) buttermilk or milk

For the frosting:

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

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 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 in 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. 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 too cool.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. Top with sprinkles

Notes

  • Sour cream substitute: use a plain or Greek yogurt
  • Buttermilk substitute: You can use milk or make homemade buttermilk. 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.
  • 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.
  • Make-ahead: These are best served within 2 days of preparation but will proper storage they can stay fresh for several days.
  • You can make these as yellow cupcakes  or as a yellow layer cake
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
562
49g
299mg
30g
19g
69g
2g
6g
140mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: birthday cake, homemade, from scratch, sheet cake

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80 Responses
  1. Marie Houle

    I use this recipe all the time and I love it I even use it when making Boston cream pie cake but I do have a question… Can it be altered to make a butterscotch flavored cake by swapping out the sugar and using Brown sugar insread and adding a Box of Butterscotch pudding mix? I do realize you have a butterscotch cake recipe using a cake mix but I but I rather make the whole thing by scratch. Thank you so much I have also tried your lemon cake and love that as well❤🥰

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Sounds amazing Marie!! So I have no tried that option, but now that you mention it I totally want to try it LOL. Instead of all brown sugar, I would probably try to keep at least 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

      1. Marie Houle

        Thank you so much I will let you know how it turns out as I will make it next weekend for my daughter’s birthday! I will follow your recommendation for the Brown’s sugar and any other flavor options I should use? Thank you

  2. Debbie the NY Baker

    Looks delicious and easy! Could you please recommend a baking time for cupcakes? I’m thinking maybe 12-14 minutes… Thank you!

  3. Alisa Mason

    The title truly says it all… it is the best yellow cake recipe. I made it for a back yard movie night and everyone loved it! The adults commented how most it was and I couldn’t agree more. I even had a second piece later in the evening; it was so good! Julianne has created an amazing yellow cake recipe that I won’t use any other one.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Yes! Hand mixer is just fine. For the frosting, you may want to try making the frosting with slightly softened butter, because with the cold butter, you would need to beat it for a really long time to get the right consistency.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. Sharon Clements

    I made this cake for my birthday. It was amazing! One of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten! Thank you for this recipe!!!!!

  7. Lauren

    This recipe is amazing! Finally a yellow cake recipe that I love. The first time I made it I felt like it was a little dense as some other comments have said, but the second time around I cut the flour back to closer to 2- 2 and 1/4 cup of flour and it was perfect! It may help others to just cut back on the flour a little to get a slightly more “airy” cake. I also beat it at the end until I saw some air bubbles and made sure not to “tap” the pan. Thank you- I’ve been looking for years for a yellow cake that didn’t taste dry and this recipe is amazing!

  8. Kate

    Wth? No butter? I prefer my cakes a bit dense. I’m looking g for a good moist yellow cake recipe to make a pineapple upside down cake…

  9. Pamela Long

    I made this cake last night and baked into cupcakes. I loved the flavor of the cake. it was very good… however it was definitely dryer than expected. I think I will try your other yellow cake recipe.

  10. Katrena Fink

    This cake is so delicious! Very moist and I love that slight tang. It didn’t have that “light as air” box mix texture that I was hoping for but, reading through this again, I see that was addressed here. Losing that is a small price to pay for dropping those chemicals, and the flavor is far superior. My daughter, who doesn’t even like cake, says that she needs this one for her next birthday! Thank you! My only substitution was using full fat sour cream, because that is what I already had on hand. Lucky me that I happened to have buttermilk in my fridge because that definitely put this over the top!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Katrena, thank you so much for your comment! I in fact found the same challenge when I was developing the recipe. The light and fluffy cake mix texture is so drastically different from homemade cake.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      I have not personally, but I have baked my vanilla cake recipe with melted butter and it will work but I don’t prefer it that way.

  11. Jojo

    Hi. I’ve just come across your site and think it is amazing. I love the sound of your yellow cake and I’m wondering if it’s possible to put the ingredients in pound and ounces or grams? I’ve never had much luck when trying to convert US cup measures in to British measures.
    Thanks Jojo

  12. Maria B Rugolo

    What an excellent recipe. I did use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream (and also forgot about adding it until I was incorporating the buttermilk and flour mixture. I added it then and if it made any difference, it is not evident in how this yummy cake turned out. My husband is not a fan of chocolate so I didn’t use the frosting recipe but I will eventually – but will wait for company or I’ll devour it all on my own!

  13. Michelle

    I made this cake (9×13 Pan) and it was FABULOUS! I want to make it again as a layer cake. Will this recipe make two 9in rounds? If so, how long should I bake them for?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Michelle, that is awesome! Thank you for sharing! Yes it can be made in 2 9 inch layers. For my vanilla cake, the 9 inch layers bake for 28-32 minutes, but this recipe is a little bit different, so I would start with 25 minutes and then keep a close eye on it, checking every few minutes after that. Enjoy!

  14. Lydia

    Hi,
    I’m British and I’m astonished at how much Americans rely on boxed cake mix. I find lots of recipes on Pinterest that I want to make but they all start with “1 box of yellow cake mix”.
    Cake is so easy to make, my mum taught me the 4,4,4,2 recipe when I was a child and it makes a perfect cake every time (4oz of flour, sugar, butter and 2 eggs).
    The odd time I’ve used a box mix it has been nowhere near as good as this simple recipe.
    You don’t even have to cream the butter and sugar, just throw it all in together and mix. You can add any flavour you like. It never lets me down 🙂

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Thanks for sharing Lydia. I think boxed cake mix is a quick and easy go-to, especially if you’re intimidated by baking or just not great at it. But I love having from scratch alternatives as well.

  15. Jay

    I plan to bake this cake using only one 9 inch cake pan. Will cutting the recipe in half give me enough batter for the one pan? Thank you.

  16. Dena Dickinson

    Made this with butter (1 cup) instead of oil, 3 yolks instead of 2 and half cup sour cream. Used cake flour instead of all purpose, and got two thick layers in 9 inch rounds. At least 2 inches each.

    Used whipped dark chocolate ganache. Your recipe is amazing and thank you so much for posting. Love your site.

  17. Kasey Quiggins

    I made two of these yesterday, one for a step- daughters birthday and one for a son-in-law birthday. It made just enough icing to ice both 9×11 cakes. They were delicious. My only problem was the icing stayed so thick that was a little difficult to spread. Suggestions? My stand mixer did not like trying to whip cold butter.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Kasey, It is a thicker frosting but should definitely be spreadable. If your mixer won’t whip the cold butter then you’ll have to start with softened butter. Whipping the butter greatly effects the consistency of the frosting. I hope you love the cakes! I am so glad you loved the cakes!

  18. Sarah

    I made this cake for my and my daughter’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. I’m not usually a huge cake person, but my kids insist that it cannot be a birthday without cake! 🙂 So I decided to try this one and boy am I glad I did!!! This was the best cake I have ever made. I topped it with a chocolate cream cheese frosting and it was absolute perfection!! We had the whole thing eaten in just a couple of days. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe! I am making a birthday cake for my neighbor’s little girl today and I’m going to try your funfetti recipe! Thanks again!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      YEAH!!! This is so awesome Sarah! I am so glad you were the HERO for your daughter’s birthday!! And the chocolate cream cheese frosting was SUCH a good call!

  19. Janani Bandara

    Hi! These pictures are absolutely mouthwatering! I am hoping to make this cake this Sunday. I have a small problem because we don’t have good quality sour cream or greek yogurt available here. Can I just use plain yogurt? TIA.

  20. Shelly

    Thanks for that. Also I just made the cake today and will ice tomorrow. I used an airbake pan which required an additional 7 minutes of bake time.

  21. Shelly

    There was nothing mentioned about greasing and flouring the pan. Is that done for this recipe or does it not stick to the pan?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Shelly, for a 9×13 inch cake I used a non stick pan. If you are not using a nonstick pan, you can certainly grease and flour the pan

  22. Rachel Gurk

    I made this cake (recipe as written, no changes) for my daughter’s birthday party and it was a huge hit! Everyone loved both the cake and the frosting. Will definitely be making this one again. Thanks Julianne!

  23. Tiffany Morris

    I don’t have the big mixer you used to mix the frosting ingredients I only have the handheld mixer can use that’s mixer to mix the frosting?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Tiffany, yes you can use a hand mixer. I would be sure to cut the butter into cubes, about 1 tablespoon in size and microwave for 10 seconds. You may have to mix the frosting a little bit longer with the hand mixer.

  24. Traci

    Have you ever tried baking the cupcakes with the half recipe? I just made these and they are awfully gummy and the texture is really off. Can you check the recipe for mistakes ? Baking soda vs powder etc.
    thanks

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Traci, the cupcake recipe here is for 12 cupcakes. Are you asking about baking only 6 cupcakes? I always bake the 12. There are no errors in the recipe, it’s been tested not only by myself but others as well. I am not certain what would be causing the gummy texture but it could perhaps be just a difference in your preferred cupcake texture.

      1. Traci

        No I meant half of the cake recipe to yield 12 cupcakes. But you’re probably right. I am accustomed to having cupcakes made with butter. Thus a different taste and texture. Thanks

  25. Becca

    I just made these cupcakes and they are delicious but about to 1/2 of mine sunk in the middle ? any suggestions on what I can do differently next time? I do live in Colorado so would it have to do with high elevation? Thanks!

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Becca, I think that’s likely the cake. I am not too familiar with baking in elevation, but this batter is a bit thicker and heavier. How badly did they sink? Were they fully baked in the middle?

  26. Gene C

    Hi there! I’ve been looking for a yellow cake recipe that will produce a moist, flavorful and light cake even when eaten straight out of the refrigerator. It’s like a Holy Grail for bakers. I never liked baking using a cake mix so your recipe looks very good on paper. I like the idea of combining sour cream and buttermilk and using oil as oil-based cakes tend to be moist even when cold. I have yet to try your recipe and I’m excited to do so. Just one question though: does it have to be light sour cream? I never get anything that is light or reduced-fat (I’d rather do portion control than compromise on flavor). Would you be able to use regular sour cream instead? Would it not alter the chemistry in the cake?

    Thanks a lot. I will be trying your recipe very soon.

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Gene, I know others have baked with full fat sour cream. All I can say is that it probably makes the cake more dense due to the extra fat in the sour cream. If you can buy a small 8 ounce container, you’ll use about half of it for this cake.

      1. Gene C

        Hi Julianne! I have tried your recipe and it is wonderful. Like you, I also tested two other recipes for yellow cake aside from yours to make a side by side comparison. Compared to the other two, I love the flavor and texture of your cake, even when it is straight out of the refrigerator. It stayed moist and tender even when eaten cold.

        I did use full fat sour cream. I also used two 9-inch round pans instead of the 9- by 13-inch rectangular pan. It took the same amount of time as what you indicated for the rectangular pan. This will be my go-to recipe for yellow cake from now on.

        Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  27. Taryn

    I made this cake last night, and it’s absolutely incredible! Brought it to the office today, and got rave reviews. For anyone trying it- the cake is moist, yet holds up perfectly to the frosting. It really brings out the flavor of the dark chocolate. I would make this 1000 times!!!

  28. Susan

    hi! can’t wait to try this recipe. One question, can i make it into a layer cake or do I need to make adjustments? I know there are different versions of the vanilla cake recipe.. My daughter’s birthday is the end of August and a yellow layer cake with that delicious fudge frosting would be a big hit!! thanks for all your delicious recipes 🙂

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Susan! Happy birthday to your daughter! So I have no made this specific recipe in a layer cake yet, however the recipe is similar to my Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe. so I should think that you can make it into a layer cake. I would suggest maybe doubling the frosting recipe though, you may need even more than that for a 3 layer cake.

  29. Joanne

    You did a lot of testing, and thank you! I always prefer to bake cakes from scratch, and rarely rely on a box cake mix.

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