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 consumed 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 like making layer cakes more.
What Makes A Cake A Yellow Cake?
But 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.
Yellow cake recipes always call for butter as the fat. This gives the cake it’s 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, either based on the diet of the cows producing the milk (cows eating a lot of grass will produce yellower butter due to the beta carotene in the grass), or if a brand adds in coloring (always check the ingredients).
I’ve found that artisanal and/or organic butter usually have a deeper color.
Another defining factor in a yellow cake recipe? Lots of eggs! A lot of white cake recipes 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.
The final component of a yellow cake is the frosting! To truly be a yellow cake recipe, it has to include chocolate frosting. The two go hand in hand!
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 chance of pace!
This is also a great decoration design if you struggle to get smooth sides on your cake.
Tips for Making The Best Yellow Cake Recipe:
- Be sure to mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated; this will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy
- Properly measure your flour! Spoon fluffed flour into a measuring cup, and level with knife. Or even better, use a kitchen scale
- Use a serrated knife to level your cake layers once they’re fully cooled, to make it easier to assemble and frost your cake
- You can make these cake layers in advance!
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!
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, 8 oz.)
- 1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa, sifted (100 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (115 grams)
For the Decoration
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted and cool
Yellow Cake Layers
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 4, 7-inch or 3, 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick baking spray.
- 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.
- 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
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder, and salt).
- Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix on a low speed.
- Mix in half of the buttermilk (1/2 cup) on a low speed.
- Repeat this process, finishing with the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
- Mix in the vanilla extract and oil, the pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Tap the pans on your counter to remove any air bubbles, then bake for 25-26 minutes.
- 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
- While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate buttercream frosting.
- Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
- Add in the sifted cocoa, and mix on low until the cocoa is fully incorporated, and no clumps remain.
- Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
- Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate.
- Once fully mixed, add in the salt.
- Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
- 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.
- Stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to get the frosting SUPER smooth.
To Assemble The Cake:
- 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.
- Add an even layer of chocolate buttercream between each cake layer.
- 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.
- Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper.
- 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.
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!
Amount Per Serving Calories 474 Total Fat 18g Saturated Fat 10g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 7g Cholesterol 76mg Sodium 243mg Carbohydrates 73g Net Carbohydrates 0g Fiber 2g Sugar 51g Sugar Alcohols 0g Protein 5g