The Fluffiest Yellow Cake Recipe + Chocolate Frosting

yellow cake recipe with chocolate buttercream

When you think of the most classic birthday cake ever, what comes to mind? For me, it’s always been yellow cake with chocolate frosting. All throughout my childhood, my momma used to mix up a box yellow cake, bake it in a casserole dish, smear canned chocolate frosting on top, and write Happy Birthday on it with those little tubes of icing colors you can still find at the grocery store to this day. I loved those birthday cakes. And I’m really surprised that after all my years of caking, it’s taken me this long to nail down the perfect yellow cake recipe. Well, wait no more! 

yellow cake with chocolate buttercream birthday cake recipe

There are a couple reasons why I decided to focus my energy on developing this fluffy yellow cake this past week. The first was I got a DM on Instagram requesting it, which made me realize I’ve never actually even tasted a from-scratch yellow cake. So I went on a wild Google spree figuring out what makes it different than a vanilla cake, what makes it yellow, etc (all things I will get to in a minute). The second was I know that most of the world is stranded at home right now due to this crazy pandemic, still celebrating birthdays in quarantine. I wanted to provide an easy, amazingly tasty birthday cake to help you guys celebrate! 

yellow cake with chocolate buttercream recipe by sugar and sparrow
yellow cake recipe by sugar and sparrow

So back to the recipe. This yellow cake is the definition of light and fluffy – It is SO incredibly soft! I kept poking it over and over in disbelief because I swear it’s as close to box mix (but from scratch) as you’re gonna get. I tried something new with this one and basically took my favorite vanilla cake recipe, added an extra egg yolk, and substituted some of the butter with vegetable oil. The results were perfect: the softest texture ever, ultra moist, rich vanilla flavor, and pairs perfectly with my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe. In other words, birthday cake heaven!

yellow cake recipe with chocolate frosting by sugar and sparrow

So what makes it a yellow cake, exactly? In all my Googling I learned that yellow cakes are basically vanilla cakes made with whole eggs, whereas white cakes are vanilla cakes made with egg whites. The yolk is where the yellow color comes from, but honestly, if you want it as yellow as a box cake mix you’ll have to add a drop or two of yellow food coloring (which is definitely in the ingredients section on a box yellow cake). The all-natural version just isn’t as saturated, but I can promise you it tastes just as classic. 

classic birthday cake recipe
yellow cake recipe by sugar and sparrow

I filled and frosted this fluffy yellow cake with my decadent chocolate buttercream recipe and ran a Wilton Icing Comb over it to get the lined finish. Then, I used Wilton Tip 1M to pipe a rope border around the top edge and added some Sprinkle Pop Unicorn Rainbow Jimmies to give it a pop of color. You can decorate it any way you want, so feel free to go simple, over-the-top, or anywhere in between. 

how to use a cake comb

A great thing about this recipe is that it’s extremely versatile. You bake it in a casserole dish if you don’t have round cake pans, bake cupcakes with it, or half the recipe to make a mini version. If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can make a DIY version using all-purpose flour with this homemade cake flour recipe.  

yellow cake with chocolate buttercream recipe by sugar and sparrow
4.6 from 5 votes
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Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

A soft and fluffy from-scratch yellow cake that's packed with vanilla flavor and ultra-nostalgic. Filled and frosted with decadent chocolate buttercream for the most classic birthday cake ever.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

Yellow Cake

  • 2 1/2 Cups (265g) cake flour, sifted before measuring*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 Cup (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 Cup (60ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 Cup (340g) white granulated sugar
  • 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1/3 Cup (75g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 2 Cups (452g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 7 Cups (840g) powdered sugar
  • 1 Cup (84g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 Cup (120ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • 4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

Make the Yellow Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 6-inch cake pans or two 9-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with a cooking spray (Baker's Joy is my favorite) and a wax paper circle fitted to the bottom of the pan. Alternatively, you can grease and lightly flour the pans. 

  2. Sift the cake flour and then measure by spooning and leveling it in your measuring cup. Add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. 

  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer (a handheld mixer works fine too!), cream the butter for on high for two minutes until it's light and fluffy. Add vegetable oil and sugar, then continue to mix on med-high for another two minutes. Add the whole eggs and egg yolk one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix for one minute on high, scraping down the bowl and paddle once more. 

  4. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the milk slowly and mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs to make sure there are no lumps (without over-mixing). The batter will be slightly thick, but pourable.

  5. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans (no more than 2/3 of the way full) and bake for 30-35 minutes. They're done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for five minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack for an additional few hours of cooling. Make sure they're entirely room temperature before applying any frosting. 

Make the Chocolate Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip butter on medium speed until creamy and light in color, about four minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle and turn the mixer to low, then add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, and vanilla extract. Increase the speed to medium and beat for two full minutes.

Assembly

  1. Once the cakes have cooled, torte them before filling and frosting with chocolate buttercream. To create the design pictured, use an icing scraper to smooth the sides and make them straight, then gently drag a cake comb through the buttercream to create lined texture. Use Wilton Tip 1M to create a rope border around the top edge by piping overlapping rosettes. Add rainbow sprinkles to finish the look!

Recipe Notes

*DIY Cake Flour Recipe: To make your own cake flour, spoon and level one cup of all-purpose flour and remove 2 Tbsp. Add 2 Tbsp of cornstarch. Repeat per the amount of cake flour you need, then sift the flour and cornstarch mixture 4 times (don’t skip that step!)After sifting, spoon and level to re-measure the amount of cake flour you need. 

Make Ahead Tips:

  1. The yellow cake layers can be baked, cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and left out at room temperature up to two days ahead of decorating. Unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to two months before thawing and frosting. 
  2. The chocolate buttercream can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. Alternatively, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and rewhip with your stand mixer to bring back to frosting consistency. 

To Make as a Sheet Cake: fill a sheet pan or casserole dish with the yellow cake batter no more than 1/2 full and bake at 350ºF for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

To Make as Cupcakes: fill cupcake tins no more than 2/3 full and bake at 350ºF for 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Did you make this cake recipe? I wanna know what you think! Let me know in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram to show me. I love to see what you’re caking! Stay safe and healthy out there, lovelies.

40 Comments

  1. Hi there.. I love your blog 🙂 i have 2 questions
    1) can i use cake flour substitute for this? The adding cornstarch kind?
    2) there’s no cake flour in my baking supplies shop but they do sell low protein flour, is that the same? Or if not, will that still work?

    Tqsomuch:):)

    • Hi Suraya! You can certainly substitute DIY cake flour in this recipe. I’ve never heard of “low protein flour” but after Googling it, it seems to be the same thing as cake flour so I’d say go for it! If you go with low protein flour you should be able to use it as-is without adding any cornstarch.

  2. Hi! What ingredients that I can substitute to replace the sourcream? Because there’s no sourcream in my country. Thank u 😀

    • Hi Shakira! The best substitutes for the sour cream in this recipe are full fat greek yogurt or Crème Fraîche, but you could also omit the sour cream completely and use buttermilk in place of the whole milk. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar into a measuring cup, then add whole milk over the top and fill to the 1 cup mark and give it a few stirs. It’ll transform into buttermilk in about 15 minutes but be sure to bring it to room temp before using it in the recipe.

  3. Hi
    The 265 grams of flour to be used in this recipe, is that before you sift the flour or after you sift the flour.

    • Hi Jackie! For the flour, sift it and then measure it out. Or do what I do: put a bowl on a kitchen scale, zero out the scale, and sift the flour into the bowl until the scale reads 265g 🙂

  4. Sydney Brown

    Hi!! I cannot find 6 inch pans ANYWHERE! I’ve checked Michael’s, Walmart, Target, or Amazon! Do you have a recommendation for where to get them?

  5. Hi so I made this cake but it was.pretty dense (not fluffy) and I went over the recipe but not sure what I did wrong. How do you make the cake more fluffy and light air ?

    • Hi Moomal! Sorry the cake didn’t turn out as fluffy for you as it does for me. If it’s coming out dense, it usually means that the batter is overmixed or the ingredients weren’t entirely room temperature, but it’s hard to say for sure.

  6. Hello – all the other wet ingredients are at room temperature, except the eggs. Is that correct?

    Also – this recipe will make 12 standard sized cupcakes?

    Thanks!
    Lauren

    • Ooh good catch, Lauren! The eggs are supposed to be room temp along with the other wet ingredients. I’ll update that in the recipe. This will make about 24 cupcakes!

  7. Hi Whitney, this came out so well! Is it 350F Fan assisted or conventional? I used the conventional setting and at 350 it took close to an hour to bake. It could just be my oven but thought I would check as I plan to make this very often! Thanks!

    • Hi Shre! I use a conventional oven at 350F. You should consider getting an internal oven thermometer to see what your actual oven temp is. Unless you were baking in a really large pan, it should only take about 35 minutes to bake these cake layers. So happy that they came out well regardless though!

  8. 5 stars
    So, I screwed this recipe up last week–specifically with the cake flour. I tried to make my own, but missed the bit about sifting 6 times (oops). BUT, my sisters LOVED the cake. They’ve been raving about it ever since. They said it was like a dense pound cake but not too sweet, and the buttercream frosting was the perfect balance. Basically, even though I f-ed it up, 5 stars! Thank you Whitney!! This weekend, I plan on baking the correct version 🙂

    • Yay, Grace!! So happy it worked out even without sifting the DIY cake flour! Excited for you to make this again and happy it was a hit regardless 🙂

  9. Kaitlin Saggus

    Hi Whitney, I have loved your blog for years! Every recipe I’ve made has been a huge hit. I’m making this cake for my nephew’s birthday party and want to get the sprinkles around the bottom. What is the best way to go about doing this without messing up the cake?

    • Hi Kaitlin! Thanks so much for the kind words, I’m so happy to hear that 🙂 To get the sprinkles around the bottom of the cake, I add them while the frosting is still semi-wet, so right after frosting the cake smooth. I cup a handful of sprinkles in the palm of my hand and gently press them to the sides of the cake. I like to place a baking sheet underneath the cake turntable to catch any sprinkles that tumble down. I’m actually working on a video tutorial on this topic but until it’s live, you can see the technique at 1:39 in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXehjriom60&t=3s

  10. Hi Whitney, just finished making the layers, tasted some of the scraps after leveling them and they are AMAZING! I plan to make the icing and decorate tomorrow and serve on Tuesday. I put the layers in the freezer and will take them out tomorrow to decorate and then leave in the fridge decorated for a day, do you think thats okay?

    • Yay, Laura! So happy you love this recipe as much as I do! That timeline sounds totally perfect, the cake should be perfectly fresh for Tuesday.

  11. Kwaevyonn

    Hi Whitney, about how tall does this cake end up being? I’m trying to decide on a cake box and I want it to have enough depth. thank you in advance.

    • Hi Kwaevyonn, if you’re planning on making a triple layer 6-inch cake like the one pictured, it ends up being about 5 to 5.5 inches tall depending on the amount of filling/frosting you use. Hope that helps!

  12. Will it work to multiply all the amounts by 1.5 to make this into a three-layer 9″ pan cake? Thanks!

    • Hi Becca! For eggs, I count the yolk as .5 egg so the math would be 3.5 x 1.5, which equals 5.25. In which case I would round up and do 5 eggs + 1 egg yolk. Hope that helps!

  13. Tammy Perry-Smith

    5 stars
    This cake and frosting were fantastic. A little technical for a beginner but I got it done!!!

  14. Sara Shearman

    Hello, what do you suggest is the best vegetable oil to use.
    Im about to attempt this and really want to get it right!
    thanks
    Sara

    • Hi Sara! I just use generic store-brand vegetable oil (just says “vegetable oil” on the label), but you could also use canola oil!

  15. Rachel Mellema

    3 stars
    When I was making this cake it smelled so good! Unfortunately, even though I followed the recipe exactly the cake sunk in the middle when I took the cake out, and I don’t know how to fix it or what went wrong.

  16. Rosie Burton

    Hi, if you were to use buttermilk and omit the sour cream and whole milk, how much buttermilk do you have to use. Thank you

    • Hi Rosie! If you omit the sour cream, use an equal amount of buttermilk in place of the whole milk (so 1 Cup). Hope you love this recipe!

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