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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

86 Responses
  1. G

    Hi. Thank you for the recipe and I’m excited to try it. Can you please tell me what the difference is between the 2 versions of this recipe. I noticed the sugar and flour amounts are different. If this has been asked before I apologize. I am always looking to try recipes that are made at the same altitude as where I live as I feel many recipes don’t work for me that are baked at sea level. I will definitely be trying more of your recipes as well.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Which two versions are you asking about? I am not understanding, are you comparing it to another cake on my site?

      1. G

        Sorry for the confusion. I was hoping you could explain differences in taste and texture between this yellow cake recipe and the 3 layer, 8 inch yellow cake recipe you have listed on your site.
        Thank you.

      2. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
        Beyond Frosting

        I would say the sheet cake is lighter and fluffier and I am in the process of updating the layer cake to have the same ingredients.

  2. Chris

    I am trying this for the first time but do have a question. I’m wanting to make a layered cake. Would I need to make two batters or would one batter fit into two 9 inch round cake pans?

  3. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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

  4. 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!

  5. 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. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      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.

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