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Yellow Cake with Rich Chocolate Buttercream

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Tender, fluffy, and buttery, this old-fashioned yellow cake is what cake dreams are made of.

If you’re looking for a tried-and-true, old-fashioned yellow cake for birthday celebrations and other festivities, look no further – this is the one. Tender, fluffy, and buttery, with a nice hint of vanilla, it’s so much better than cake from a store-bought mix, and it’s hardly any more difficult to make (promise!). In contrast to white cake, which is a vanilla cake made with egg whites, yellow cake a vanilla-flavored cake made with whole eggs (and sometimes additional egg yolks). The fat from the yolks gives the cake its signature color and rich, custardy flavor. Yellow cake is good layered with any frosting, but it is especially delicious with my rich chocolate buttercream or cream cheese frosting, both of which can be whipped up in minutes while the cake cools.

If you’d rather make cupcakes or a sheet cake instead of a layer cake, go right ahead. The recipe makes 24 cupcakes (bake for 20 to 25 minutes) or a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake (bake for 30 to 35 minutes).

What You’ll Need To Make Yellow Cake

yellow cake ingredients

Mixing Method

This cake recipe uses a different mixing method than you may be accustomed to. Instead of the more common “creaming” method, where the butter and sugar are beaten together before the eggs, flour, and liquid are added, this recipe uses the “high-ratio” or “two-stage” mixing method.

First, all the dry ingredients, including the sugar, are mixed in the bowl of an electric mixer. Then all of the butter and half of the liquid ingredients are mixed in to coat and moisten the dry ingredients with fat. Finally, the remaining liquid ingredients are added and the batter is beaten for a few minutes until pale and creamy.

This method was made popular by pastry chef and cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum. It can be used for any cake where the weight of the sugar equals or exceeds the weight of the flour. It is not only faster and easier than the traditional creaming method, but it also yields incredibly tender, fine-textured, velvety cakes.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prep the Pans and Preheat the Oven

Preheat the oven to 350° and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Cut two 8-inch rounds of parchment paper and line the bottom of each pan; spray the paper with nonstick spray. (To measure the parchment paper, just trace the bottom of the pan.)

Step 2: Make the Cake Batter

In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.

eggs, buttermilk and vanilla in measuring cup

Whisk and set aside. (Note that the mixture may start to look curdled as it sits; that’s okay.)
whisked egg and buttermilk mixture

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt.

dry ingredients in mixer

Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine.

mixed dry ingredients

Add the soft butter and half of the buttermilk mixture.

adding butter and half of buttermilk-egg mixture

Mix on low speed until moistened but still a little crumbly, about 1 minute.

moistened batter

With the mixer running on low, gradually add the remaining buttermilk mixture.

adding remaining buttermilk mixture

Then increase the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should look pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, making sure the batter is evenly mixed.

yellow cake batter after beating

Step 3: Bake the Cake Layers

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans.

yellow cake batter in cake pans

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

baked yellow cake

Cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then unmold onto the rack to finish cooling right side up (keep the parchment paper underneath the cake layers so they don’t stick to the rack).

yellow cake layers cooling on rack

Step 4: Trim and Frost the Cake

When cake layers are completely cool, use a serrated knife to trim off the domed tops; this will ensure the cake is level.

trimming domed top off of cake

Place one cake layer on a serving plate, cut side down. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread about ¾ cup of the frosting over the first layer. Top with the second layer, cut side down, then spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, swirling decoratively.

The cake is best enjoyed fresh on the day it is made, but it will keep nicely for 2 to 3 days stored in a cake dome at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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Yellow Cake with Rich Chocolate Buttercream

Tender, fluffy, and buttery, this old-fashioned yellow cake is what cake dreams are made of.

Servings: 12 - 14
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour, plus time to cool

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk (see note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Heaping ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • Rich Chocolate Buttercream (or Cream Cheese Frosting)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Cut two 8-inch rounds of parchment paper and line the bottom of each pan; spray the paper with nonstick spray. (To measure the parchment paper, just trace the bottom of the pan.)
  2. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside. (Note that the mixture will start to look curdled as it sits; that's okay.)
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Add the soft butter and half of the buttermilk mixture and mix on low speed until moistened but still a little crumbly, about 1 minute. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the remaining buttermilk mixture, then increase the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should look pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, making sure the batter is evenly mixed.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then unmold onto rack to finish cooling right side up (keep the parchment paper underneath the cake layers so they don't stick to the rack). When cake layers are completely cool, use a serrated knife to trim off the domed tops; this will ensure the cake is level. Place one cake layer on a serving plate, cut side down. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread about ¾ cup of the frosting over the first layer. Top with the second layer, cut side down, then spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, swirling decoratively. The cake is best enjoyed fresh on the day it is made, but it will keep nicely for 2 to 3 days stored in a cake dome at room temperature.
  5. Note: If you’d like to make your own buttermilk, check out the easy method here.
  6. Note: The recipe can also make 24 cupcakes (bake for 20 to 25 minutes) or a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake (bake for 30 to 35 minutes).
  7. Note: Nutritional information includes the chocolate buttercream frosting.
  8. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen, without frosting, for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, double-wrap it securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw overnight on the countertop and then frost before serving.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (14 servings)
  • Calories: 669
  • Fat: 35 g
  • Saturated fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 86 g
  • Sugar: 54 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Sodium: 269 mg
  • Cholesterol: 132 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Hi Jenn! I’m actually pleased to find the comments saying this cake results in a denser crumb – I’m looking to do a multi-layer cake to cover with fondant and I had thought yellow cake would never be an option (i.e. too soft), so this is a win in my book. My question to you is about whether or not you think I’ll be able to crumb coat/freeze the cake? (in reference to your note re: best enjoyed day-of, or within a couple days, at room temp).

    Thank you again for always making me look much more talented than I am! 🙂

    • — Laurka Kobylanski on August 26, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Laurka, yes, I do think this will freeze nicely without the frosting. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 29, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    When I baked this cake it rose beautifully and looked just like the photo, but it was much denser than I had expected… more like the texture of a pound cake than a typical, tender layer cake. I am an experienced baker and I did follow the recipe precisely. I love your recipes and have always been delighted with the results, but this outcome surprised me. Is this the anticipated texture from this recipe, or did I do something wrong?

    • — Sherri Taxman on July 29, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sherri, I’ve gotten feedback from several people that the cake is more dense than they anticipated. If you were looking for a texture similar to a store-bought cake, using cake flour would be the key to getting that. I typically avoid recipes with cake flour when possible because many people don’t have it on hand. That said, based on the feedback, I may retest this recipe using cake flour so stay tuned!

      • — Jenn on August 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Can this cake’s ingredients be mixed by hand? I don’t own an electric mixer. Thanks!

    • — Mona on June 17, 2022
    • Reply
    • A mixer is ideal, but with some elbow grease, you could be able to mix it by hand. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2022
      • Reply
  • I had a definite 5-star experience with this! The texture of the cake was fluffy and had a great crumb. It was also perfectly flavored with a slightly buttery taste. And the frosting….oh my…I’m glad I had enough to cover the cake after sampling it over and over! I made this for my nephew’s birthday and several people went back for seconds (and asked for the recipe). I had a hard time staying away from it too! I’d definitely recommend — thanks Jenn!

    • — Alicia on June 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • I love all the recipes I have made from your site. This cake came out a bit dense, it wasn’t as fluffy as I thought it would have been. I didn’t get to make the icing (had a storm and ran out of power); However, it still made my son’s birthday and everybody did enjoy it. Thank you for all the fabulous recipes.

    • — Michele on May 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made cupcakes using this recipe, so had to search other recipes for baking time. Baked them for 22 minutes at 350 degrees. Although the toothpick test indicated they were baked sufficiently, they were actually slightly underbaked. Tasty but very dense.

    • — Sharon M on May 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • I give up, Jenn! I used to not pay attention to how long I was mixing batter, or delicately measuring my flour. I do that now and can’t seem to get a cake to bake light and fluffy. I baked this today and it turned out just ok. Tasty, but on the slightly dense side with a center that wasn’t fully cooked and quite dense, though knife came out clean. Am wondering if my pan is too heavy, am I using the wrong flour (KA)…help!! Seriously, all your other recipes are five stars in my book, as any person I talk to about cooking can attest to. Would love your expert advice…. Thank you, and please keep the recipes coming!

    • — Laura Lynn on May 21, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Laura, Happy to help troubleshoot. From what you’re describing, it sounds like the cake was a bit underbaked, which would definitely make it dense. How long did you bake it for? Did you bake it in the correct size pans? What type of pans are you using? With the mixing method used here, you don’t have to worry about over-mixing (it’s actually important to mix the batter for the full stated time for the texture to be right). I use King Arthur flour so I don’t think that’s the issue, unless you’re using a gluten-free or whole wheat variety?

      • — Jenn on May 23, 2022
      • Reply

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