This homemade yellow layer cake recipe is ultra-soft and buttery with a moist, tender crumb. Covered in fudgy chocolate frosting and showered with sprinkles, it’s the ultimate birthday cake! 

A slice of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting.

The Best Yellow Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Who’s ready to ditch the boxed cake mix? This homemade yellow layer cake is extra moist and filled with all the sweet, buttery flavors we love in a classic birthday cake. Frosted with creamy chocolate frosting and decorated with rainbow sprinkles, it’s the perfect dessert for your next celebration. The cake and the frosting are SO easy to make with simple ingredients. Prepare to be amazed by your baking skills!

What’s to Love

  • Perfectly moist. Yellow cake is different from other white cake or vanilla cake recipes thanks to the extra eggs. This yellow layer cake has all the softness you crave, with the ultimate buttery, rich flavor.
  • Fudgy chocolate frosting. There’s no better match than a fluffy yellow layer cake filled and frosted with chocolate buttercream frosting. I share my favorite recipe that comes together in minutes!
  • Versatile. This yellow cake recipe is easy to adapt as a 9×13-inch sheet cake, or even as cupcakes. See further down in the post.
  • Better than a boxed cake mix. I’ve tried and tested a lot of cake mixes over the years. And while it’s a handy shortcut for some recipes, no boxed mix compares to this homemade yellow cake! I can’t wait for you to taste the difference.
A slice of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting being lifted from the rest of the cake.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

These are a couple of key ingredients that work together to make this an ultra-moist yellow layer cake. Scroll down to the recipe card for a printable list of ingredients. 

  • Eggs – Yellow cake gets its signature richness and tender crumb from the extra fat that comes with eggs and egg yolks. The addition of egg yolks also sets this apart from a vanilla cake.
  • Sour Cream – Keeps the cake moist. Plain Greek yogurt is a good substitute for sour cream in a pinch.
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk does wonders for yellow cake. It brings a tangy depth of flavor and a light, fluffy texture. If you don’t have buttermilk, make a homemade buttermilk substitute (below).
  • Frosting – For this layer cake, I use my easy chocolate buttercream frosting made from butter, dark cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and heavy cream. I recommend Rodelle Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder or Hershey’s Special Dark, but any high-quality cocoa powder works fine.

Don’t have buttermilk? Make it at home.

It’s super easy to make a homemade substitute using regular milk. Simply add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup, and fill the rest with enough milk to make 1 cup. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then stir before adding it to the cake batter. Check out my homemade buttermilk substitute for more details.

Ingredients for homemade yellow cake in white and clear bowls with text overlay

Layer Cake Tips and Tools

A lot of cakes come out of my kitchen. These are my top 3 tips for perfect layer cakes:

  • Prep the pans well. Generously grease and flour your cake pans to prevent sticking. Even better, line them with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. No one wants to wrestle cakes out of pans!
  • Fill the pans evenly. Measure out the cake batter with a measuring cup for the most consistent results. There should be about 1 ⅔ cups of batter per pan. This way, the cake layers will bake evenly.
  • Avoid high domes. Wrapping the pans in bake-even strips helps to prevent the cakes from baking too quickly at the edges and rising too high in the middle. This means less cake wastage when torting (trimming) the layers.
A slice of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting on a plate, next to the rest of the cake in the background.

For a Perfect Frosting, Properly Beat The Butter

This recipe uses cold butter, which is my signature recipe. It’s important that you whip the butter first before adding any ingredients. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes until it reaches a whipped, fluffy and spreadable consistency. You need to scrape the bowl down frequently. Cube the butter before adding to the mixer.

Close up of yellow layer cake frosted with chocolate frosting and decorated wth rainbow sprinkles.

Assembly Tips

Assembling a layer cake is way easier than you think. If you’re new to the idea, I have a helpful guide on how to make a layer cake. Follow these quick steps to stack and frost this moist yellow layer cake:

  • Level the cakes. If needed, trim the cake layers using a cake leveler or serrated knife to make them nice and flat for stacking.
  • Creating the layers. Place the first cake layer over a dollop of frosting. This helps to hold it in place. Use a piping bag to evenly distribute the frosting, working from the outer edge to the middle and spreading evenly.  It’s about 1/2 to 3/4 cups for each layer.
  • Crumb coat. Spread any excess frosting over the outside edges of the cake to create a crumb coat. Chill for 10-20 minutes.
  • Decorate.If you’d like to add sprinkles to the bottom of the cake like I did, it’s best to do it when the frosting is freshly applied. Get creative! If you need extra guidance, check out my tutorials on how to use a piping bag and how to use piping tips.
A slice of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting.

Alternative Cake Sizes

  • For 2 layer cakes. To make a two-layer 8-inch yellow layer cake, bake the individual cakes at 350ºF for 33-35 minutes.
  • Only have 9-inch pans? For 9-inch cakes, you can still make 2 or 3 layers, but you’ll need to adjust the baking time accordingly. Just note that the centers may dome a bit more. In both cases, you’ll need to reduce the frosting by ½ if you don’t want a ton left over.
  • Sheet cake (9×13 inch). The recipe for the cake can also be baked in a 9×13 inch pan, but you’ll only need a fraction of the frosting, about 1/3 of it, so you’ll need to reduce accordingly.
  • 6-inch cake. A full recipe will make four 6-inch layers. Or you can easily cut the recipe in half for two 6-inch layers to make a mini cake.
  • Cupcakes. The batter will make 24 cupcakes. See my blog post for yellow cupcakes for additional details.

Customizations and Frosting Options

  • Different frosting. For a fudgier frosting, you can try the chocolate fudge frosting that I use for my classic yellow sheet cake and cupcakes. Since it’s made with melted chocolate, however, it’s a little thicker and not as easy to spread. I’ve also done this cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting and it’s to-die-for! Alternatively, a Rainbow Chip frosting would be perfect!
  • Add a filling. Opt for less frosting and instead use chocolate ganache in between the layers.
  • Add a drip. If you’re looking for more ways to decorate a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, try adding a drip of pourable chocolate ganache as I do in my chocolate drip cake.
A partially eaten slice of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting on a plate, with the rest of the cake in the background.

Preparing in Advance and Storing Suggestions

  • Cake layers: The cakes can be baked and double-wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, with parchment paper between the layers. They’ll keep in the for 1-2 days, or you can freeze them and thaw the cakes in the fridge before frosting. 
  • Frosting: The chocolate frosting can also be made ahead and stored airtight in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 1 month. When you’re ready, bring the frosting back to room temperature, give it a fresh whip, and assemble your cake as directed.
  • Storing Frosted Cakes: Store in an airtight container, either in a cake box or a cake carrier. This cake is fine to store at room temperature for 1-3 days, or you can keep it in the fridge and take it out to let it come back to room temperature for serving.
  • Freezing: Once frosted, place the cake into a cake box and double-wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for up to one month: Defrost the cake in the fridge and serve at room temperature.
Print
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A slice of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting on a gold spatula

Yellow Layer Cake

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  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 24 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 9 minutes
  • Yield: 12 slices
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Skip the boxed cake mix, this homemade yellow layer cake is easy to make from scratch! It’s a classic birthday cake recipe decorated with fudgy chocolate frosting and showered with sprinkles.


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, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure anilla extract
  • ½ cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons (7.5g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 1/3 cup (315ml) buttermilk, at room temperature 

For the frosting

  • 3 cups (680g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 ½ cup (130g) cocoa powder
  • 8 cups (1041g)) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons (60ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

For the cake: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch round baking pans, line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the sides. 
  2. 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. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and sift together. Alternate adding half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk at a time mixing at a low speed 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.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, about 1 2/3 cups of batter per pan. Bake at 350°F for 23-25 minutes. 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. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting: 

  1. Cut the butter into pieces (about 1 tablespoon in size). Using the paddle attachment, whip  the butter at a high speed for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until the butter is light, fluffy and easily spreadable. Next, beat the cocoa powder into the butter until well-mixed.
  2. Alternate adding 2 cups 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. Finally, add the pinch of salt, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting.

To assemble:

  1. Level the cake layers by removing any domes. Place a dollop of frosting on a cake board and place the bottom layer of cake over that.
  2. Using a large piping bag that is half filled, pipe the first layer of frosting. Pipe in circles working outside edge to the middle. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. Add the second layer of cake and repeat. Place the third layer of cake on top.
  3. Use an offset spatula to press any excess frosting onto the edges of the cake. To finish, pipe the frosting along the outside edge of the cake using a large open round tip or a cake icer tip. Then use an offset spatula or icing smoother to create a smooth the edges.
  4. Decorate the top with a 1M piping tip and sprinkles. You’ll need about 2 cups of frosting for the border on top of the cake. To press sprinkles into the sides of the cake, do this right away, and place a large baking sheet under the cake to catch extra sprinkles.


Notes

Substitutions

  • Sour cream, you can use a nonfat Greek yogurt. T
  • Buttermilk, you can make homemade buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a 1-cup measure and filling the rest of the cup with milk. Allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes until it starts to appear curdled. Then, stir it before adding it to the cake batter.

For the Frosting:

  • This is a large batch of chocolate frosting as you can see there are thick layers of frosting between each cake layer plus plenty to decorate the top. With a regular 5qt stand mixer, you might consider breaking it up into two batches. Leftover frosting can be refrigerated for 1 week or stored in the freezer for 1 month in an airtight container.
  • The frosting will set to a thicker, fudge-like consistency.
  • 8 cups of powdered sugar is equal to 1- 2lb bag.

Storing:

  • Storing Frosted Cakes: Store in an airtight container, either in a cake box or a cake carrier. This cake is fine to store at room temperature for 1-3 days, or you can keep it in the fridge and take it out to let it come back to room temperature for serving.
  • Freezing: Once frosted, place the cake into a cake box and double-wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for up to one month: Defrost the cake in the fridge and serve at room temperature.

Alternative cake sizes

  • For 2-layer cakes. To make a two-layer 8-inch yellow layer cake, bake the individual cakes at 350ºF for 33-35 minutes.
  • Only have 9-inch pans? For 9-inch cakes, you can still make 2 or 3 layers, but you’ll need to adjust the baking time accordingly. Just note that the centers may dome a bit more. In both cases, you’ll need to reduce the frosting by ½ if you don’t want a ton left over.

  • Sheet cake (9×13 inch). The recipe for the cake can also be baked in a 9×13 inch pan, but you’ll only need a fraction of the frosting, about 1/3 of it, so you’ll need to reduce accordingly.

  • 6-inch cake. A full recipe will make four 6-inch layers. Or you can easily cut the recipe in half for two 6-inch layers to make a mini cake.
  • Cupcakes. The batter will make 24 cupcakes. See my blog post for yellow cupcakes for additional details.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 1095
  • Sugar: 113.5g
  • Sodium: 251.5mg
  • Fat: 61.6g
  • Saturated Fat: 39.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 138.6g
  • Fiber: 3.8g
  • Protein: 7.4g
  • Cholesterol: 193.8mg

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5 thoughts on “Yellow Layer Cake”

  1. I have 3 9 inch cake pans. Is there anyway I can do 3 layers for those or would the cakes be too thin?

  2. Julianne, this cake looks amazing! For the most part, I’ve only ever used room-temperature butter for my frosting, and occasionally my frosting becomes to soft to pipe and it is impossible to fix too-warm frosting! SO maybe I’ll try your cold-butter recipe and see how it turns out!
    I’ve only ever made homemade cakes, and I love them! In my opinion, store-bought treats are either too dry, flavourless, or both!
    Thanks for sharing the great recipe! I’ll be sure to try it soon 🙂

    Also, how’s “Junior”? 🙂

  3. This cake looks delicious, Julianne! I love yellow cake with chocolate frosting; and I totally agree with you on the cake mix thing! Ever since I was a little girl helping my grandma in her kitchen, I’ve made homemade over cake-mix cakes, and they always taste so much better to me. Maybe the secret ingredient really is love? 🙂 I’ll definitely have to try this cake sometime! And, I hope your pregnancy is going well!