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Classic Yellow Cake

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This simple Yellow Cake is made completely from scratch! A classic birthday party cake that’s moist, fluffy, and topped with a fudgy homemade chocolate frosting.

Two slices of yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

My Favorite Yellow Cake Recipe

At last! Time for a new cake recipe!! This one – you guys – this is the perfect yellow cake with a fudgy chocolate frosting. It’s made completely from scratch, but with flavor and texture that 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? For this recipe, I wanted to capture that fluffy, moist cake texture and also recreate the flavor. I think I did it!

Why Do I Love This Cake So Much?

  • 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. Instead, yellow cake has a buttery, slightly “eggy” flavor, although I hate the term “eggy” myself. Other than that, there isn’t really a whole lot of difference between the two!

Two slices of yellow cake with chocolate frosting, a bite taken out of one slice.

Key Ingredients for Yellow Cake

One of the best things about this classic cake recipe is how simple the ingredients are.

  • Vegetable oil & Melted Butter – Using this combination gives you both a fluffy and spongy texture from the oil but with the flavor from the butter.
  • Eggs and egg yolks – The added fat from the extra egg yolks provides a perfect crumb to the cake and also give it that classic yellow color without using artificial food dyes.
  • Sour Cream – Keeps this cake nice and moist. I recommend substituting with non-fat Greek yogurt. 
  • Buttermilk – Adds a slight tang to the cake and contributes to the tenderness of the crumb. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make this easy substitute with lemon juice or white vinegar.

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.

  1. Prep: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
An overhead shot of a vanilla cake bake in a 9x13 inch pan

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. 

If chocolate buttercream frosting isn’t your preferred combo, I have many other frosting recipes that go perfectly with yellow cake! Some suggestions:

And of course, definitely finish your cake with some sprinkles for that classic celebration cake look!

Piping tip with a swirl of chocolate frosting, and chocolate frosting in a jar.

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.

Close up of one slice of yellow cake topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

Baking Options

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. Here’s is my yellow cupcake recipe.

Can I make this recipe into a layer cake? 

Yes, this will be a 3-layer 8-inch cake, and you can find the step-by-step instructions on that post.

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Close up of one slice of yellow cake topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

The Best Yellow Cake Recipe

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • 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 and topping

  • 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)
  • 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 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 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.
  • Make-ahead: These are best served within 2 days of preparation but will proper storage they can stay fresh for several days.
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
562
49g
299mg
30g
19g
69g
2g
6g
140mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: birthday cake, vanilla cake, simple cake, school cake

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating

88 Responses
    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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!

  4. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      No, you would need to adjust the recipe depending on how large your cake rounds are and how many layers you’re building.

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