This homemade Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting is a fluffy yellow cake recipe from scratch topped with a rich and creamy chocolate buttercream frosting. It’s a classic cake recipe perfect for birthday cakes, holidays, or a midnight snack.
Sometimes a classic recipe is all you need. The classic recipes tend to bring about nostalgia, and are usually filled with sweet memories of simpler times. For me, yellow cake with chocolate frosting—with sprinkles, of course—is one of my favorite recipes that reminds me of younger days baking in the kitchen with my mom.
We didn’t bake cakes too often when I was younger, but we always, always did a cake or cupcakes for birthdays. Yellow cake was always a family favorite, and still to this day, despite it being a more basic flavor, it’s one of my all time favorite desserts.
It’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally perfected the perfect yellow cake recipe with chocolate buttercream frosting. It’s incredibly fluffy, moist with a tender crumb, and has that classic yellow cake flavor we all know and love.
Four Reasons To Bake This Cake Now:
- Simple Ingredients: While baking a cake from scratch can feel a bit daunting, this homemade yellow cake recipe could not be easier. It’s made with simple ingredients you might already have in your pantry.
- No Separating Eggs: There is a time and a place for separating eggs (separating the egg yolks from the egg whites) when it comes to cake (I even have a lot of cake recipes that require this), but for this cake, it is 100% not necessary. It’s one less step, less bowls to clean, and all around just plain easier.
- Light, Fluffy, and Moist: This cake is made with butter, oil, and sour cream, which gives it incredible texture. The butter yields flavor while the oil yields moisture, and the sour cream adds richness. It’s the perfect blend.
- Creamy Chocolate Frosting: I could eat this chocolate frosting with a spoon! It’s so rich and creamy, but it’s not too sweet.
- Unsalted Butter: I pretty much always use unsalted butter in my recipes because I prefer getting to control the salt content in recipes.
- Canola Oil: This adds moisture to the cake (butter adds flavor). You can substitute vegetable oil as well.
- Granulated Sugar
- Cake Flour: Cake flour is really important to making a cake’s texture light and tender. I will give details below about how to subtitute all purpose flour for cake flour, but I highly suggest using cake flour.
- Baking Powder
- Vanilla Extract
- Almond Extract: You can substitute more vanilla for almond extract, but the almond flavor truly enhances the overall flavor of this cake and really rounds out the yellow cake flavor we all know and love.
- Sour Cream
- Unsalted Butter
- Cocoa Powder
- Powdered Sugar
- Vanilla Extract
- Salt: This helps cut through the sweetness of the frosting. Plus, salt brings out the flavor of chocolate!
- Espresso Powder: This is an optional ingredient, but a little coffee flavor enhances the flavor of chocolate.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: This makes a very rich and creamy frosting, but you can substitute milk if you don’t have heavy whipping cream on hand.
How To Make A Yellow Cake From Scratch:
- Room Temperature Ingredients: Let the eggs, butter, buttermilk, and sour cream reach room temperature before you start this classic yellow cake recipe. Room temperature ingredients incorporate together better, which will yield a lighter and fluffier cake.
- Cream: Cream the butter and oil together. Once light and fluffy, add in granulated sugar. Then, add in the eggs, one at a time.
- Dry Ingredients: Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Alternate: Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the butter mixture. Why alternate? Because a little at a time means there is less chance the cake batter will be overmixed. Overmixing = Dry.
- Sour Cream & Extracts: Once everything is just combined, add in sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
- Bake: Divide cake batter evenly between three 9” round cake pans.
- Cool: Let the cakes cool about 5 minutes in the cake pan, then remove from the pan and allow them to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
- Frost: Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, salt, espresso powder, and heavy cream. If it’s too thick, add in more heavy cream. Too thin, add in more powdered sugar. Frost the layers, top with sprinkles, and serve.
Yellow Cake Storage Tips:
- This cake can be at room temperature for 3-4 days.
- Make sure to store it in an airtight container or seal it well with plastic wrap.
- If it’s very warm, I suggest storing it in the fridge, otherwise the chocolate frosting might melt. However, I suggest allowing the cake to reach room temperature before serving.
- Cold cake is often very dry and crumbly. Allowing it to reach room temperature will bring it back to its soft, fluffy texture.
Cake Flour: First and foremost, I suggest using cake flour for this recipe. It makes such a difference in the texture of the cake. But, if you don’t have cake flour, you can use an all-purpose flour/cornstarch mix. I will list the substitution measurements in the recipe card.
Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use 2% or whole milk + a splash of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes to curdle a bit.
Almond Extract: Almond extract is something I feel is 100% necessary to this cake tasting like the classic yellow cake recipe. The almond is not overpowering, but it just enhances the overall flavor of the cake. If you don’t have any on hand, you can sub vanilla extract (so in this case, instead of 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla, you would use 2 tsp).
Heavy Whipping Cream: No heavy whipping cream on hand for the frosting? You can use milk or half & half.
Why Is My Yellow Cake Dry?
There are a few reasons why a cake is dry and crumbly so let’s troubleshoot down below:
Overmixing Batter: Electric Mixers are a wonderful invention—an invention I use almost daily in my kitchen. However, it can be very easy to overmix your cake batter with one. Alternating adding the dry and wet ingredients will help prevent you from overmixing.
- Also, don’t walk away from the mixer while it’s mixing, because you might be gone longer than you think and now you’ve got a cake batter that’s been beaten to death.
- When the dry ingredients are added, mix until *just* combined.
- The more flour is mixed, the more the glutens in the flour are developed, which is what makes dry cake.
Too Much Flour: Too much flour can make a cake dense and dry so you really want to make sure you’re measuring your ingredients properly.
- *My Best Tip Maybe Ever: Before you measure your flour, scoop the flour in a measuring cup and dump it back into the bag. Do this a few times. It lightens the flour a lot, which will make your cake lighter. After doing that, spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level it off with your finger once it reaches the top.
Not Sifting Dry Ingredients: I used to be the queen of skipping the ‘sift your dry ingredients’ step, because really, how much of a difference can it make?! Spoiler alert: it makes a huge difference. Sifting lightens the flour considerably. The lighter the flour, the lighter the cake.
Over Baking: When it comes to making a cake from scratch or cupcakes from scratch, there is a narrow window between not being done in the center and over baking your cake. Once the cake is *just* done in the center, pull it out.
- Then, let it cool in the pans for a few minutes (about 5-10 minutes), then remove the cakes from the pans and let the cake continue cooling on cooling rack. Why do this? Because the pans are so hot from the oven, if you let the cakes cool in them, they will continue to cook.
Pro Tip: If you’re worried your cake might be overbaked or for some reason dry, make a simple syrup and brush it over the top and sides of the cake.
- *A simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, which is boiled on the stove until the sugar is dissolved. (You don’t need much for each cake so save the leftovers in the fridge for a drink later or another cake.)
- *Using a toothpick or cake tester, poke small holes in the top of the cake and then brush the tops of the cakes with a little simple syrup (a little goes a long way).
What Is The Difference Between Yellow Cake And White Cake?
There are a few differences between yellow and white cake, but one of the main differences is that a yellow cake uses egg yolks whereas a white cake uses only egg whites.
The pale yellow color is from the egg yolks, while a white cake is white due to only having whipped egg whites in the batter.
What Is The Flavor Of Yellow Cake?
A perfect yellow cake, in my opinion, has subtle notes of butter, vanilla extract, and just a hint of almond.
Yellow cake is made with whole eggs and butter, which not only give it it’s ‘yellow’ color, but also give it a buttery, slightly custardy flavor.
Final Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Yellow Cake Every Single Time:
- Why We Use Butter and Oil: If you want a moist yellow cake recipe, make it with oil. If you want a tasty yellow cake recipe, make it with butter. If you want both, it’s got to be a moist yellow cake recipe with oil and butter. Butter = flavor and oil = moisture.
- Sift Ingredients: Remember to sift the dry ingredients! It makes a very light and fluffy cake.
- Room Temperature Ingredients: This will ensure all of the ingredients incorporate together better (cold ingredients, or ingredients at different temperatures, won’t mix together well).
- Serve Room Temperature: Cold cake is typically dry and crumbly (the cold temperature sucks up all of the moisture) so if you store your cake in the fridge instead of at room temperature, I suggest letting the cake reach room temperature before serving. It will be much lighter and fluffier (not to mention more moist).
Other Cake Recipes To Try Next:
- Strawberry Funfetti Cake: Made with a homemade strawberry frosting, this cake is so fun for the summer season!
- Berry Vanilla Naked Cake: This has a whipped cream frosting that is to die for! It’s so light and fluffy, and it pairs perfectly with the fresh berries.
- Oreo Cookies and Cream Cake: This monstrosity of a cake is a slice of chocolate heaven (or a slice of chocolate death 🤪). A layer of vanilla cake is sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cake (see, it’s like a giant oreo) and has oreo buttercream frosting and chocolate ganache.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup vegetable, or canola oil
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 2 1/2 Tbsp sour cream
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 2/3 - 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp espresso powder, optional
- 4-5 Tbsp heavy whipping cream.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 (9”) circular cake pans well. Set aside.
- Beat unsalted butter and oil together, until light and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes).
- Add in granulated sugar, and beat again until light and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until *just* combined after each addition (I add 1/3 flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix until *just* combined. Next I add 1/2 of the buttermilk, and mix until just combined, etc.).
- Add in vanilla extract, almond extract, and sour cream. Mix until just combined (overmixing the ingredients can lead to a dry cake).
- Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. Spread batter in an even layer, then tap the cake pans on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool for about 5-10 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.
- With a mixer, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes).
- Next, add in cocoa powder and 2 2/3 cups of powdered sugar, and mix until well combined.
- Add in salt and espresso powder, and mix until combined.
- Add in 4 Tbsp of heavy whipping cream, and mix until the frosting is light and fluffy.
- If the frosting feels too thin, add in the remaining powdered sugar. If it feels too thick, add in the remaining heavy whipping cream.
- Place one of the cakes on a plate or cake stand and top with 1/3 of the chocolate frosting. Spread the frosting in an even layer over the cake, spreading the frosting all the way to the edge of the cake (let some of the frosting spill over the sides of the cake).
- Top with the middle layer, and repeat with frosting.
- Finally, add the top layer and use the remaining frosting to top the cake and sides (the frosting from the bottom and middle layers that spilled out over the sides make it much easier to frost the sides of the cake).
- Top with sprinkles, if desired.
- Slice and serve. Store in an airtight container.
*You can make this with 2 (9”) cake pans, but it will bake a little longer.
*If you don’t have cake flour, you can use a combination of all purpose flour and cornstarch. For this recipe the measurements would be: 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour + 1/3 cup cornstarch. Sift the flour and cornstarch together.
Here are some other recipes to try next: