A classic homemade Yellow Cake recipe with chocolate frosting and step-by-step photos and directions for how to make the cake and frosting from scratch! 

This easy cake recipe is made from scratch just like all my favorite cake recipes. My most popular cake recipes include: Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake, Coconut Cake with Pineapple Frosting, and German Chocolate Cake.

A slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting served on a white plate.

Yellow Cake

Everyone needs an easy homemade Yellow Cake recipe in their cookbook arsenal, and this recipe is moist, tender and  overall fantastic! There is something so yummy about a simple yellow cake, especially when it’s coated in the BEST homemade chocolate frosting.  This recipe is really easy and perfect for any baking skill level (including those of you who have never made a cake from scratch in your life)!

Yellow Cake, White Cake and Vanilla Cake; What’s the difference?

This may seem like a silly question, but many people get confused on the difference between a yellow cake, white cake and vanilla cake. Each of these types of cake are a homemade pastry cake made from simple pantry staples (flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, buttermilk, etc.).

Yellow cakes (often called yellow butter cake) are called “yellow” cake because both the batter and cake take on a pale yellow color. The batter is made with whole eggs and real butter which both help to achieve the yellow coloring. Yellow cake is fluffy and light and has a very mild custardy flavor.

White cake is made with egg whites only, so that the cake color stays true “white”.  White cakes also sometimes use shortening, instead of or in combination with butter, to maintain the white coloring. Many people also use clear vanilla in the cake batter, as regular vanilla extract could tint the color of the batter.

When someone refers to a Vanilla Cake, they are actually talking about either a white cake or a yellow cake. If the cake batter contains egg yolks, then they are referring to a yellow cake. If it only contains egg whites, it’s a white cake. Both cake batters are very similar and both contain vanilla.

How to make homemade yellow cake:
  • Prepare your cake pans.  Place parchment paper in the bottom of two 9″ round cake pans.  Cut the paper so it fits well in the bottom circle of the pan (I use these handy parchment liners).  Spray the edges of the pan and parchment paper lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Combine wet ingredients. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter for several minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the oil and mix. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and mix.

Four overhead process photos for making yellow cake batter in a mixing bowl and then the batter in round cake pans.

  • Combine dry ingredients. Stir together baking powder, salt, and flour in a medium bowl.  Alternate adding in some of the flour mixture, stirring to combine and then some of the buttermilk, ending with the flour mixture until just combined. Divide the batter evenly in the pans.
  • Bake. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with few crumbs. Don’t over-bake or the cake will be dry.
How to make Chocolate Frosting from scratch:
  • Stir together the melted butter and cocoa powder.
  • Beat in the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

To frost the cake, place one baked and cooled cake layer on your serving plate or cake stand. Add a generous spoonful of chocolate frosting on top and smooth into an even layer.

Side by side process photos for frosting a two-layer cake with chocolate frosting.

Add the second cake layer on top. I like to place it so the bottom, flattest side, is facing up, so that the top of my cake is completely flat.

Frost the top and sides of the cake. Leave a little extra frosting in the bowl for piping an edge around the cake, if desired.

A two-layer cake with homemade chocolate frosting, served on a white plate.

Tips for making perfect Cakes from Scratch:
USE ROOM TEMPERATURE INGREDIENTS, PARTICULARLY EGGS.

Eggs at room temperature (as opposed to cold from the fridge) are fluffier and will emulsify in the batter better, which will also help the cake rise properly. A trick for bringing eggs to room temperature quickly is to run hot water over them for one minute, or let them sit in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes.

USE BUTTERMILK (OR EASILY MAKE YOUR OWN):

Buttermilk plays a vital role in helping this yellow cake stay extra moist.  If you don’t have buttermilk, use this simple trick to make your own!

LINE THE BOTTOM OF YOUR CAKE PAN, BEFORE ADDING THE BATTER.

I learned early on to never skip the step of lining the bottom of my cake pans with parchment or wax paper. Then you never have to stress about the cake sticking to the bottom of the pan! I use these awesome parchment paper rounds that are already pre-cut to the size of my cake pans! I also spray the bottom of the paper and the sides of the pan lightly with cooking spray.

HOW TO MAKE AHEAD AND STORE THE CAKE AND FROSTING:

The cakes and the chocolate frosting can both be made ahead of time and frozen. Allow the cakes to cool completely, and then wrap them really well in plastic wrap and stick each layer in a ziplock freezer bag. Freeze for up to one month. I like to frost the cakes when they are frozen because they’re easier to frost.

The homemade chocolate frosting will keep well in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to three months.  Remove the frosting from the fridge about an hour before you’re ready to frost your cake to allow it to come to room temperature.

I’ve found that yellow and vanilla cakes tend to dry out easier than other cakes, so if you don’t plan on freezing it beforehand, I suggest making it fresh, the day you plan to eat it. Store leftovers at room temperature in an airtight container.

Can I use this Yellow Cake recipe to make cupcakes?

Yes. Bake cupcakes for about 17-22 minutes.

Can I bake this cake in a 9×13” pan instead of two round cake pans?

Yes. Bake time will be about 30-35 minutes.

CONSIDER TRYING THESE POPULAR CAKE RECIPES:

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Recipe

A slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting served on a white plate.
Prep 25 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 55 mins
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Ingredients
  

For the Yellow Cake:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter , at room temperature*
  • ¼ cup oil **
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs , at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks , at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk , at room temperature

For the Chocolate Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

For the Yellow Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Place parchment paper in the bottom of two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.  Cut the paper so it fits well in the bottom circle of the pan.  Spray the pan and parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter until smooth. Add oil and mix
  • Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and mix.
  • Stir together baking powder, salt, and flour in a medium bowl. 
  • Alternate adding in some of the flour mixture, stirring to combine and then some of the buttermilk, ending with the flour mixture until just combined. Divide the batter evenly in the pans. 
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with few moist crumbs, but not wet batter. Don't over-bake or the cake will be dry.
  • Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes before inverting onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. 

For the Chocolate Frosting:

  • Stir together the butter and cocoa powder. 
  • Use electric mixers or a stand mixer to beat in the powdered sugar, milk ,and vanilla until light and fluffy. I beat the frosting for several minutes.
  • Once the cake has cooled completely, frost with chocolate frosting. 
  • Tips for making ahead and freezing the cake are above in the post.

Notes

*You can use salted butter, just reduce the amount of salt added to the batter.
**You can substitute all butter if you want, instead of the oil, but I found the oil and butter combination yields a moister cake.
This cake recipe is adapted from The Domestic Rebel

Nutrition

Calories: 464kcalCarbohydrates: 66gProtein: 5gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 233mgPotassium: 186mgFiber: 1gSugar: 48gVitamin A: 565IUCalcium: 71mgIron: 1.8mg

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The cake and frosting tasted amazing however , my frosting keeps turning out grainy. What could be the reason for this? Thanks so much!

    1. Grainy frosting can happen for several reasons. Buttercream typically becomes grainy if your butter is too cold or with packed (unsifted) powdered sugar is used. The easiest fix is to let it rest and come to room temperature, remix it, or add a pinch of liquid to the buttercream.

  2. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe. I followed it exactly. I used whole milk instead of buttermilk. I had to cook my cake a little longer than the recipe suggested and I turned down the heat to 325 during the extra baking period to try to avoid overcooking. It worked.

  3. My cake fell. I’m a great baker this is the first time this has happened. What could have caused this

  4. Hey, I’m new to baking and was trying to find a good tasting chocolate icing recipe. This one is some of the best I’ve ever tasted (new to baking not eating lol!) I would highly recommend this to anyone who asks me. That is for the icing part I haven’t yet tried the yellow cake yet!

    1. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

      Quick tip, when using buttermilk, or any acidic ingredients, baking soda should be used instead of baking powder. The acid will hamper any rise in the cake and the baking soda will neutralize the acid so you can have rise.

      1. But the recipe calls for baking powder even though you’re using buttermilk I’m about to make this cake I hope it turns out all right

  5. 1 star
    Entirely too much flour. Cake is decent in texture and volume but it tastes like flour. Maybe it’s a little too thick and not fluffy enough.

  6. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe! I halved it and made cupcakes (it made 16) and also halved the chocolate frosting recipe and it was just the right amount of frosting needed for those 16 cupcakes. Gave one to a friend and she told me it was the best thing she had eaten in a long time!

  7. 3 stars
    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday, but like other reviews, mine fell as well. I’m an experienced baker, frequently cooking and baking from scratch and I know mine are not underbaked, I also do not live in a high altitude region. I feel like while delicious, there is definitely room for improvement. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a boxed mix would be better though.

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