Moist & buttery yellow cake recipe from scratch! A true classic with chocolate buttercream, this easy recipe is made from basic pantry staples.

Yellow cake recipe, baked in 3 layers, frosted with chocolate buttercream, and served on a pale green plate.

*This post originally published on June 12, 2014. I thought it was due for an update. So the photos you see here now are new and improved, and I’ve added a step-by-step picture tutorial and answers to some frequently asked questions. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this yellow cake recipe as much as my family and I do.*

Today I’m sharing a true classic: yellow cake with chocolate frosting!

I bet at some point in your life you’ve had something like this for a birthday cake, and I have no doubt it was devoured. And enjoyed immensely.

It’s one of the most iconic of all layer cakes, and it’s definitely one of my top favorites! Along with chocolate cake, marble cake, and red velvet cake, of course!

And I think you are going to love it too. The cake is moist and downy, with a fine, delicate crumb and a buttery vanilla flavor that will make you swoon. The easy chocolate frosting is the perfect fudgy compliment.

The recipe is so simple to make, in just one bowl, with ingredients you probably already have on hand. You can make it as a tall layer cake like you see here, as a 9×13 sheet cake, or even as cupcakes.

This yellow cake recipe will surely become a favorite for you and the ones you love!

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting being served off a white pedestal, with a pink cloth and green plates nearby.

WHAT FLAVOR IS YELLOW CAKE?

The most predominant flavor in this cake is vanilla. It’s got a very fragrant, aromatic vanilla taste, with a buttery back note and an indulgent richness from the egg yolks.

A cake like this would be a perfect base for all sorts of fillings and frostings (more on that below), but I especially love it with chocolate frosting. It’s a classic combination and the simplicity of the yellow cake plays beautifully against the rich, bittersweet taste of chocolate.

INGREDIENTS FOR YELLOW CAKE FROM SCRATCH

It only takes a handful of basic ingredients to make this yellow cake recipe, and everything happens in just one bowl!

Here is what you’ll need:

  • Cake Flour
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Sour Cream
  • Milk
  • Vanilla Extract

FLOUR

I like to use a combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour for this recipe. The cake flour yields an incredibly soft, delicate texture, and the all-purpose flour provides a little more structure.

You can read more about cake flour here: Why Use Cake Flour?

SALT

I use kosher salt for almost all my baking because there are no additives (so the flavor is pure), and also because it’s a very inexpensive product to buy.

If you’d prefer to use another type of salt, just google “kosher salt to [your preferred type of salt] conversion” to find out how much more or less of it you should use for this recipe.

BUTTER

The butter should be softened before it goes into the mixing bowl. You want it soft enough to squish if you press on it firmly, but not so soft that it’s melting.

I usually soften butter in my microwave. Every machine is different but for mine, 10 seconds on 30% power, then flip it over, and 10 seconds more on 30% is perfect.

Be sure to use unsalted butter when you make this recipe- that way you can control the amount of salt in your final result. I’d love to be able to tell you how much salt to cut back to if you want to use regular, salted butter instead, but the fact is, different brands use different amounts of salt in their product, so it’s really inconsistent and impossible for me to say.

SOUR CREAM

If you don’t have sour cream, you can substitute with plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt, or regular plain yogurt, or buttermilk.

Or you could sour your own milk by stirring 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice into 2/3 cup of regular milk. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, or until thickened and slightly curdled.

Just be aware that while using any of these substitutes will work, I much prefer the result you get with sour cream. It gives the richest flavor and the nicest texture, so if you can get your hands on it, I really think it’s the best way to go.

MILK

Use whatever kind of milk you typically have on hand. For the cake you see here, I used 2%, but anything will work, even plant-based milk.

But keep in mind that a higher-fat milk product will produce a richer tasting result.

HOW TO MAKE YELLOW CAKE FROM SCRATCH

This recipe utilizes the reverse creaming method, which really makes it easy, and practically foolproof. To learn more about this method, click here: Reverse Creaming Method for Cakes.

Start by placing all the dry ingredients (both kinds of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a big bowl.

Dry ingredients for making yellow cake in a large glass mixing bowl.

Give them a quick whisk, just to get them combined, then add the softened butter.

Adding softened butter to dry ingredients for yellow cake.

Mix the butter in until the mixture resembles damp sand, then add the eggs.

Adding eggs to dry ingredients and butter make yellow cake.

Once these are mixed in, you’ll have what looks a lot like stiff cookie dough. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, then stir in the sour cream, milk, and vanilla.

Adding sour cream, milk, and vanilla to yellow cake batter.

When the liquid ingredients are all incorporated, give the bowl one more scrape with the spatula, then turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat it for about 2 to 3 minutes. This will smooth out any lumps, aerate the batter, and build the cake’s structure.

Yellow cake batter in a large glass mixing bowl with the paddle attachment.

Transfer the batter to your greased and lined cake pans, then pop into the oven to bake!

Yellow cake batter in three round pans with a pink checked kitchen towel.

No two ovens are exactly alike. You’ll know your cake is done baking when it looks golden brown around the edges, feels springy to the touch, and when a toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.

WHAT KIND OF FROSTING TO USE

For what you see in these pics, I used my favorite easy chocolate frosting. I’ve included the recipe in the recipe card below, but you can find lots more info on how to make it here: Easy Chocolate Frosting.

Some other great options would include my all-time favorite: Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This frosting recipe will really blow you away- it’s so silky smooth and rich.

Or a simple whipped ganache would be incredible: Whipped Chocolate Ganache. This option will give you the deepest, darkest chocolate flavor.

You could also do a chocolate (or vanilla) whipped cream frosting. There are instructions for how to make both here: Whipped Cream Frosting.

Overhead image of yellow cake from scratch frosted with chocolate buttercream and garnished with rainbow sprinkles.

CAN THIS BE MADE IN A DIFFERENT SIZED PAN?

For what you see here, I baked this yellow cake recipe in three 8-inch diameter round pans. I really love the look of a tall cake!

But you could also make it in three 6-inch pans or two 9-inch pans. Your layers might just be slightly thicker or thinner, depending.

This can also be made in a 9×13 rectangular pan, or as cupcakes. You should get 24 standard sized cupcakes from one batch.

Whichever size pan you choose, be aware that the bake time may need to be adjusted. You’ll know your cake is done baking when it looks golden brown around the edges, feels springy to the touch, and when a toothpick inserted in the thickest part comes out clean.

Close-up image of a slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

CAN THIS BE MADE AHEAD?

I actually prefer to make my layer cakes ahead. The cake needs a good bit of time to cool completely, and I find it much easier to frost after it’s been chilled.

After the cake layers come out of the oven, allow them to cool completely, remove them from their pans, and then wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. Chill them in the fridge or freezer for a few hours (or up to several days) before filling and frosting.

A frosted cake will keep in the fridge for several more days. The frosting almost “seals” it and prevents it from becoming dry or stale.

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

Once the cake has been cut, keep it covered to prevent the cut side from drying out. It will keep at room temperature for a few days.

After that, it’s probably best to keep it in the fridge. It should last there for a week or two.

CAN YOU FREEZE IT?

This cake will freeze beautifully.

Wrap it tightly so that it doesn’t pick up any funky freezer odors, and thaw it in the fridge or at room temperature before serving.

Slices of yellow cake with chocolate frosting, served on pale green plates with vintage silver forks.

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5 from 1 vote
Yellow cake recipe, baked in 3 layers, frosted with chocolate buttercream, and served on a pale green plate.
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
40 mins
 

Moist & buttery yellow cake recipe from scratch! A true classic with chocolate buttercream, this easy recipe is made from basic pantry staples.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to make yellow cake, what flavor is yellow cake, yellow cake, yellow cake from scratch, yellow cake recipe
Servings: 10
Calories: 745 kcal
Ingredients
For the Yellow Cake Layers:
For the Easy Chocolate Frosting:
Instructions
To Make the Yellow Cake Layers:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, mist three 8-inch cake pans* with non-stick spray, and line them with circles cut from parchment paper.

  2. Place the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer, and stir on low speed to combine.

  3. Add the butter, mixing on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles damp sand (about 1 minute).

  4. Mix in the eggs and the additional yolk until fully incorporated.

  5. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, then add the sour cream, milk, and vanilla.

  6. Mix on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, to aerate the batter and build the cake's structure.

  7. Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans, and bake until the edges are golden brown, the cake feels springy when pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the thickest partcomes out clean (approximately 35 to 45 minutes).

  8. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

To Make the Easy Chocolate Frosting:
  1. Place the butter, salt, and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl, and add about 1/3 of the powdered sugar.

  2. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until combined.

  3. Add the remaining powdered sugar (in 2 more additions), beating until combined.

  4. Stir in the cream** and vanilla, then turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and whip the frosting until light and fluffy.

Recipe Notes

*Can also be made in three 6-inch or two 9-inch pans, in one 9x13 baking pan, or as 24 cupcakes.  Adjust bake time as needed.

**The amount of cream needed can vary. Start with 3 tablespoons and add more if necessary. You just want it to have a nice spreadable consistency, without being too loose or runny.

For more info on the frosting recipe, click here: Easy Chocolate Frosting.

Nutrition Facts
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Amount Per Serving
Calories 745 Calories from Fat 360
% Daily Value*
Fat 40g62%
Saturated Fat 25g156%
Cholesterol 155mg52%
Sodium 414mg18%
Potassium 231mg7%
Carbohydrates 94g31%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 68g76%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 1269IU25%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 81mg8%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Yellow cake slice being removed from a cake frosted with chocolate buttercream, with a text overlay above that reads "Yellow Cake From Scratch."

Moist yellow cake slice being removed from a cake frosted with chocolate buttercream, with a text overlay above that reads "Yellow Cake From Scratch."

Easy yellow cake slice being removed from a cake frosted with chocolate buttercream, with a text overlay above that reads "Yellow Cake From Scratch."

Celebrating Baking a Moment’s first birthday with a classic yellow buttermilk layer cake with fudgy chocolate frosting, and a giveaway from KitchenAid.

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | Baking a Moment

Even though I’ve been thinking about this post for months, here I am, finally sitting down to write it, at the last possible minute.

There’s just so much on my heart, it’s hard to even know where to begin!

The thing is, Baking a Moment is something I’ve put my whole heart into.  On this day, and with pretty much every one of the 156 posts I’ve written, since starting this blog one year ago today.

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream | Baking a Moment

It’s like my third child, and I love it.  For so many reasons.  I love it because it gives me a reason to get into my kitchen and challenge myself.  I love it because it led me to photography, which is so fulfilling to me creatively.  I love it because it helped me to realize how much I enjoy writing, too.

But most of all, I love it because it brought me to you.  I hope that doesn’t come off sounding corny, because I mean it so sincerely.  Creating a post is fun and exciting, and I totally lose myself in the process of building it, but it doesn’t hold a candle to that warm, happy feeling that comes over me when I return to it later, to find such sweet and kind and encouraging words from you, my readers.

Every single word I read from you, every single “like,” or “follow,” or “pin,” even just looking at my stats and knowing that you’re there, without ever even hearing a peep from you, is just such a tremendous joy to me.

So thank you.  Thank you for reading.  And thank you to the other bloggers who have welcomed me into this community so graciously.  I feel so immensely proud and blessed to be a part of it!

Now.  Enough of the mushy stuff!  Let’s talk cake 😀

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | Baking a Moment

This is a straight-up, good old-fashioned yellow buttermilk cake with chocolate buttercream.  Just like grandma used to make.  Vintage.  Diner-style.  What could be better for a birthday celebration?!  Am I right?

I based it off of my Even Simpler, More Perfect Vanilla Cupcake recipe, but used buttermilk instead of Greek yogurt.  It bakes up incredibly moist.  It’s got a beautifully fine crumb, and a gloriously buttery vanilla flavor.  This will be your go-to yellow cake recipe, for sure.  It really doesn’t get any better than this, my friends!

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | Baking a Moment

You can bake it in two 8-inch pans (double the recipe), or do like I did and get a smaller 6-inch diameter cake with thicker layers.  I just love the look of a 6-inch cake.

To prevent the layers from puffing up too much in the oven and getting that big hump in the middle (that you’ll have to slice off and discard- nothing’s more sad than wasted cake!), bake it at a slightly lower temperature, and extend it’s time in the oven a bit to make up for it.

The frosting is an American-style buttercream, but with a slight twist.  My heart belongs to Swiss meringue buttercream, and it probably always will, but this one takes a close second.  There’s a little bit of cream cheese that just makes it so rich, and so fudgy.  It really is a delicious recipe, and I found it in The Brown Betty Cookbook, which was written by the two women who founded the legendary Philadelphia bakery.  Philly foodies, ftw!

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | Baking a Moment

And now it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is.  I told you I loved you!  I told you I appreciate you!  Now I’m showing you just how much:

KitchenAid Stand Mixer Giveaway | Baking a Moment

One very lucky reader will receive their very own, brand spankin’ new KitchenAid mixer, just like the one I use in my own kitchen.  Almost every day.  For close to fifteen years.  I’m telling you, this thing is a workhorse!  You will love having this beautiful, solidly built and powerful appliance in your kitchen.  It’s like my right hand!  HUGE thank you’s go to KitchenAid for providing this fabulous prize!

And huge thanks to the four other bloggers that you see there, that are also helping me to celebrate my first blog anniversary!  These women have become my support system, and I love each one of them so much!  We talk nearly every day and I feel so grateful that they have come into my life.  They are all so hardworking, talented, and inspiring!  Their blogs are fabulous!  You should definitely subscribe 😉  Or at the very least, follow them using the PromoSimple widget below.  It will get you extra entries for the giveaway if you do!

The giveaway:  Eligible to one (1) winner residing in one of the 48 contiguous states.  Must be 18 years of age to enter giveaway.  Starts 8 am 6/12/2014 (EST time) and ends 7:59 am 6/26/2014 (EST time).  To enter the giveaway, you must participate in at minimum, one of the listed entries in the Rafflecopter and an email address must be provided.  Winner will be announced via email and must respond to the subject line: “Congratulations You’ve Won Baking a Moment’s KitchenAid Giveaway” from [email protected] within 24 hours of deliverance.  Failure to respond will forfeit your chance in winning and a new winner will be chosen.  KitchenAid will ship the product directly to the winner.  Please be advised items may appear different from the photo shown.  Baking a Moment and its owner are not held responsible for missing/broken items received by the winner.  Good luck and thank you for your entries.  There will be more fun recipes, as well as giveaways coming soon!  See more at https://bakingamoment.com.

Good luck! And thank you so much for making Baking a Moment’s first year an amazing one!!! Here’s to year two 😉

*The Stand Mixer prize for this giveaway is being provided  free of charge, by KitchenAid.  All opinions stated here are straight from my heart.*

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | Baking a Moment

As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

5 from 1 vote
Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Prep Time
45 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Cooling Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hrs 25 mins
 

Celebrate the next birthday or special occasion with this classic yellow buttermilk cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: yellow cake, yellow cake with chocolate frosting
Servings: 10
Calories: 504 kcal
Ingredients
For the Yellow Cake:
For the Chocolate Frosting:
Instructions
To Make the Yellow Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly mist (2) 6-inch cake pans with non-stick spray and line with parchment.

  2. Place the first 6 (dry) ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and mix on low speed to combine.
  3. Add the butter, stirring on low speed until the mixture resembles damp sand (about a minute).
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to be sure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  5. Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Stir until fully combined.
  6. Divide the batter equally between the two pans, and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

  7. Cool completely before frosting.

To Make the Chocolate Frosting:
  1. Place the cream cheese and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and mix until smooth.
  2. Add the butter and beat until combined.
  3. Stir in the cocoa and corn syrup on low speed. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Add the milk, a little at a time, while whipping, until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.
Nutrition Facts
Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Amount Per Serving
Calories 504 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Cholesterol 93mg31%
Sodium 231mg10%
Potassium 169mg5%
Carbohydrates 71g24%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 54g60%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 749IU15%
Calcium 61mg6%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.