A slice of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting being lifted from the rest of the cake.

Yellow Layer Cake

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 24 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 9 minutes
  • Yield: 12 slices


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.


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 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons (11.2 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (295ml) buttermilk

For the frosting

  • 3 cups (680g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 ½ cup (167g) cocoa powder
  • 8 cups (1041g)) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons (60ml) heavy whipping cream
  • Pinch of salt


  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare 3 8-inch round baking pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the sides. Prepare your bake even stripes if desired.
  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 and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. Rotate your pans in the oven halfway through baking.
  8. 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.
  9. For the frosting: Cut the butter into pieces (about 1 tablespoon in size). Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter is really light and fluffy. Next, beat the cocoa powder into the butter until well mixed.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. To assemble this cake: level off your cakes by removing any domes. Place a dollop of frosting on your cake board and place the bottom layer of cake over that.
  13. 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.
  14. Use you 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 edge.
  15. Decorate the top with a 1M piping tip and sprinkles. You’ll need about 2 cups of frosting for the boarder on top of the cake.


For the Cake:

  • If you don’t have sour cream, you can use a nonfat Greek yogurt. This recipe calls for light sour cream, but you can also use reduced-fat or full-fat sour cream if that’s all you have on hand.
  • If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a 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 a two-layer 8-inch cake, bake for 33-35 minutes.
  • For two 9-inch cakes, bake for 28-32 minutes. Note the edges may have a little more “crust” and the centers may dome a bit more.
  • To make a 9-x13-inch cake, check out my moist yellow cake recipe.
  • To make this recipe as cupcakes, see my yellow cupcakes recipe.

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 eventually set to a fudge-like consistency.
  • The two primary cocoa powders I recommend are Rodelle Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder and Hershey’s Special Dark. However, any cocoa powder will work.
  • 8 cups of powdered sugar is equal to 1- 2lb bag.
  • If you don’t have heavy cream you can use milk.
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American