Best Yellow Cake Recipe

Having a good yellow cake recipe up your sleeve is always a good idea.

A lot of people grew up eating yellow cake, and I feel like it has a special place in so many of our hearts.

While most of us enjoyed yellow cake in the form of a sheet cake, there’s nothing stopping us from transforming that delicious childhood favorite into an amazing yellow layer cake!

Sheet cakes are definitely easier, and quicker to decorate, but (as I’m sure you know by now) I just love making layer cakes.

What Makes A Cake A Yellow Cake?

When you ask someone what the defining characteristics of a yellow cake are, a lot of people don’t really know!

They know it has a tender crumb, and a buttery taste, but beyond that most people aren’t sure.

In my head, every yellow cake also has an amazing chocolate buttercream frosting 🙂

Butter

Yellow cake recipes always call for butter as the fat. This gives the cake its buttery taste, and tender crumb.

It also helps contribute to the yellow color of the cake layers.

I usually use butter that is pretty light in color, but this is one situation where I encourage you to use as yellow of a butter as you can find!

Some brands of butter are more yellow than others.

This can be based on the diet of the cows. Cows that eat a lot of grass make yellower butter due to the beta carotene in the grass. Some brands also add artificial coloring (always check the ingredients).

I’ve found that artisanal and/or organic butter usually have a deeper color.

image of yellow cake slice close up

Whole Eggs

Another defining factor in a yellow cake recipe? Lots of eggs!

A lot of white cake recipes (like my WASC cake)just use egg whites, so using whole eggs add to both the color and the flavor of the cake. The yolks add a richer taste to the cake.

Similar to my sentiments above, I recommend using brown eggs instead of white eggs. They have a darker colored yolk, which will also help make the batter actually look yellow!

One of my pet peeves is when a “yellow cake recipe” makes relatively white cake layers.

The recipe will still taste great if you use white eggs, but the color of the batter will be more yellow if you opt for brown eggs.

Chocolate Buttercream

The final component of a yellow cake is the frosting!

To truly be a yellow cake recipe, a cake has to have chocolate frosting. The two go hand in hand!

photo of easy yellow layer cake with chocolate buttercream

I use my chocolate buttercream in this yellow cake recipe, because it is my favorite!!

It uses both cocoa powder AND melted chocolate, which gives it a rich chocolate flavor.

I chose to use milk chocolate, but you can also use dark chocolate if you prefer.

Decorating This Cake

Sticking with theme of the simple, delicious cakes we remember eating as kids, I kept the decoration of this cake pretty simple.

In fact, I used a spoon to decorate it!!

I made some swooshes in my chocolate buttercream, them swirled in a bit of melted dark chocolate.

The look only took a few minutes to make, and was such a fun change of pace!

photo of decorating a cake with a spoon

This is also a great decoration design if you struggle to get smooth sides on your cake.

Tips for Making The Best Yellow Layer Cake:

  • Take the time to properly cream together your butter and sugar! This incorporates air into the butter, and gives your cake that perfectly fluffy texture
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake, to make it easier to stack and frost.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated; this will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy
  • If you want to make a yellow sheet cake, use my yellow sheet cake recipe to make a 9x13in cake.

Making These Cake Layers in Advance and Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them: It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
image of chelsey white with yellow cake

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make this yellow cake recipe, I’d love to hear how it goes! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment 🙂

Or if you share your creations on social media, be sure to tag me @chelsweets!

Yield: 24 servings

Best Yellow Cake Recipe

Best Yellow Cake Recipe

This is my go-to yellow layer cake recipe! It makes soft, tender, yellow cake layers that are frosted with irresistible chocolate buttercream!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

Yellow Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) – 2 sticks
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (12 grams)
  • 4 cups cake flour (480 grams)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder (18 grams)
  • 5 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature (305 grams)
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature (303 grams)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (56 grams)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups (or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (452 grams)
  • 6 cups powdered sugar (750 grams)
  • 1 1/3 cups of melted dark chocolate, cooled (232 grams)
  • 1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa, sifted (100 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (115 grams)

For the Decoration

  • spoon
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted and cool

Instructions

Yellow Cake Layers

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 4, 7-inch or 3, 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick baking spray.
    2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high speed using a whisk attachment for 2 minutes, to incorporate air into mixture.
    3. Mix in the eggs on a low speed, two at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula
    4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder, and salt).
    5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix on a low speed.
    6. Mix in half of the buttermilk (1/2 cup) on a low speed.
    7. Repeat this process, finishing with the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
    8. Mix in the vanilla extract and oil, the pour the batter into the prepared pan.
    9. Tap the pans on your counter to remove any air bubbles, then bake for 25-26 minutes.
    10. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then carefully flip it onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. 
  3. Add in the sifted cocoa, and mix on low until the cocoa is fully incorporated, and no clumps remain.
  4. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  5. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate.
  6. Once fully mixed, add in the salt.
  7. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
  8. If the frosting is too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
  9. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to get the frosting SUPER smooth.

To Assemble The Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of chocolate buttercream between each cake layer.
  3. Apply a thin coat of frosting around the the cake, to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (10 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  4. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper.
  5. Use a spoon to make swirls in the frosting, then dip the back of the spoon into the melted dark chocolate, and add some chocolate swoops.

Notes

These cake layers can be made in advance!! Learn more about how far in advance they can be made, and how to properly wrap them in my post on how to make cake layers ahead of time.

This buttercream can also be made in advance!! I highly recommend making it ahead of time to make the decoration of a cake less stressful and more fun. It keeps in the fridge for several weeks, if stored in an airtight container.

When you're ready to use the chilled buttercream, remove it from the fridge a few hours in advance (or overnight) and allow it to come to room temperature. Give it a good stir with a rubber spatula or your kitchen aid, to get rid of any air bubbles that may have formed. Once the buttercream is smooth again, it's ready to use!

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 474Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 76mgSodium 243mgCarbohydrates 73gFiber 2gSugar 51gProtein 5g

30 thoughts on “Best Yellow Cake Recipe

  1. Good Morning, I Think That All Your Recipes Are The Best!!, I Love Your Vanilla Cake Recipe and Only Use Them For All My Cakes, So Thankful That You Have Shared A Yellow Cake Recipe With Us, Can We Substitute The Buttermilk For Sour Cream, Or You Will Be Sharing A Recipe Using Sour Cream With Us Soon.

    1. Hi Heidi,

      I’m so happy to hear that! I’ve never tested this recipe out as cupcakes, so thank you for sharing that it works!! 🙂

  2. Hey I love your recipes! I just made this and it still came out good. I left out the baking powder….instructions say mix in dry ingredients (cake flour and salt) and I never saw the baking powder lol. It was my own fault but someone else may make the same mistake. ?????

    1. Ah I am so sorry about that Shannon! It’s definitely not your fault!!!

      Thank you for letting me know, I just updated the recipe card to fix it <3

    1. I actually am sharing the sheet cake version of this recipe next month!! It’s 3/4 of this recipe, to bake a 9×13 inch sheet cake <3

    1. Hi Bonita,

      This recipe can be used to make 2, 9-inch cake layers! I’d recommend placing a flower nail in the center to help it bake more evenly and quickly though, since it’s a pretty large cake layer. Hope that helps, happy baking!!

  3. I noticed you use way more flour than most recipes. Most other yellow cake recipes call for anywhere from 2 to 2.5 cups of flour. How did you decide on the amount of flour to use? Thanks and love your stuff!

    1. Hi Betty,

      This is recipe makes a pretty big cake!! It makes 4, pretty thick 7 inch cake layers. The recipe just uses a lot of flour because it makes a lot of batter 🙂 Hope that makes sense, happy baking!!

  4. I made this yesterday for my sisters bday and it was paler and denser than I would have liked but I used ap flour and maybe I shouldn’t have done three 8 in layers ?? GREAT flavor though ! The buttercream was sooo good !

    1. Hi Japhia,

      I think the cake flour makes a huge difference in the texture of this cake! If it turned out dense, you might also be using too much flour (sometimes when you scoop out of a bag you end up packing a lot more flour into the cup than the recipe calls for (by weight), or you may be over mixing! Those are usually the two main culprits for dense cake layers.

      I’ve tested the recipe with 3 8-inch cake layers and 4 7-inch cake layers, and it turns out great both ways! So I don’t think you have to worry about that part 😛 I’d say try using cake flour next time, and maybe mix a little less. Hope that helps, happy baking!!

    1. Hi Kacie,

      I haven’t shared the recipe on here yet (I need to reshoot the recipe), but I just emailed it to you 🙂 Hope that helps!!

    1. Hi Jazmine,

      I like to use a digital scale to weigh each pan and make sure they’re all the same weight (give or take about 10 grams)! It’s the easiest way to know you have exactly the same of batter in each pan 🙂 Hope that helps, happy baking!

    1. Hi Karen,

      I haven’t tried it so, so sadly I’m not sure! In terms of volume, this recipe makes enough batter to bake up great in a 10 cup bundt pan. I’d suggest baking it at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes if you want to try it out.

      Please let me know how it turns out if you do bake this as a bundt cake, I’d love to know 🙂

  5. I’ve made and love your Chocolate Layer Cake. I’ve tried to make the Best Yellow Cake recipe twice, it did not rise at all either time!! Any idea what went wrong? Can you mix to much?

    1. Hi Laurie,

      I’m so sorry to hear that! It might be two things. The first is that your baking powder might be old! They lose their potency after 9 months. Testing it is super easy. Just stir about half a teaspoon of baking powder into a cup of hot water. It will immediately start to fizz and release carbon dioxide gas if it’s still fresh enough to use.

      The other is that you may have overmixed the batter? That can also cause cake layers to be more dense / not rise well. I’d first test your baking powder, and if that’s not it I’d suggest trying to mix the batter less next time. Hopefully one of those will help!

  6. I don’t know what I did wrong on this one, but it was definitely not yellow and it didn’t have much flavor. Kind of tasted like dense bread. I even checked to make sure I followed the instructions. Maybe it’s because I’m at high altitude? The good news is the frosting came out perfectly and it was amazing!!! Will have to try a different cake recipe next time for the chocolate buttercream.

    1. Hi Sara,

      So sorry to hear that! If your cake turns out dense it means you might be using too much flour (sometimes when you scoop out of a bag you end up packing a lot more flour into the cup than the recipe calls for (by weight), or you may be over mixing! Those are usually the two main culprits for dense cake layers <3 hope that helps, happy baking!!?

  7. Oops I think my comment was a little confusing! I meant the rest of your ingredients are on par with most of the other recipes I’ve tested, but you use significantly more flour (you call for 4 cups and most other call for 2-2.5 cups). I’m always interested in comparing recipes and ingredients so I when I noticed you used more flour in yours I was curious how you decided on this and what that does to the texture of the cake. I’m a spreadsheet nerd so I love comparing and testing different recipes! Thanks!

    1. No worries Betty! I found that the cake needs that much cake flour based on the amount of eggs and buttermilk included in the recipe!! I find the texture of this cake is perfect with the ratio of ingredients 🙂 It’s fluffy, super soft, and so tender!! It’s the same ratio of ingredients I use in my yellow sheet cake. This recipe is really just that recipe scaled up to make enough batter for a layer cake. Hope that helps, happy baking!

Let me know what you think!