best birthday cake

Some people find out they’re going to be parents and — you know, after the whole “yay babies!” cheer has simmered down a bit — freak out because they haven’t yet a) traveled the world, b) made their first million, paid off all of their debt and saved up enough for $200 toys for their little snowflake or c) well, grown up yet. But me, I actually had a moment of panic because I hadn’t yet found the perfect yellow layer cake recipe. And apparently — and yes, probably ridiculously — central to my image of the kind of mom I want to be is not to have to turn to a box of Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden (anyone else ever been perplexed by this wording?) cake mix to get a reliably perfect two-layer celebration cake. It’s the Smitten Kitchen, afterall: People have expectations!

siftingegg shellsmm, batteryellow layer cake

But I’m not knocking on Duncan Hines, or anyone else who — like me — thinks they do a frighteningly good job of making a consistently perfect, moist and plush yellow layer cake. It’s just that it has always been on my agenda to crack the code at home, using the kind of ingredients I’m a little more proud to put my efforts behind. And although I’ve made my share of vanilla layer cakes, such as this delicious one for that wedding cake or this one that everyone needs in their repertoire because it is infinitely memorize-able, I hadn’t yet found The One.

yellow cake layers, coolingmaking chocolate sour cream frostingchocolate sour cream frostingfilling the cake

I also hadn’t found The One in the chocolate frosting department. I wanted something not aggressively buttery or saccharine. Plus easy and drama-free — no tempered egg whites and no praying that the KitchenAid Gods will whiz a sloshy, curdled mess into a smooth and shiny frosting after 20-plus minutes. Those other frostings have their place, but my go-to chocolate frosting needn’t be so complicated.

best birthday cakeeee, best birthday cakebest birthday cake, confetti-edbest birthday cake

Well, I’m pleased to announce that with a mere 10 weeks left, I’m finally ready to be a mom. Phew, I mean, because we ordered a crib this weekend and everything — I’d hate to cut it much closer! But this is It, this is what I consider the Best Birthday Cake out there: two moist and flavorful vanilla cake layers swathed in a shiny, simple chocolate frosting. The cake has no weird preservatives or unnatural flavorings in it. The frosting has no butter or eggs, and barely any added sweetener. Neither take long to make. The cake doesn’t require a syrup-basting to stay moist and the frosting doesn’t even demand an electric mixer. Just maybe some confetti sprinkles. Er, who am I kidding? Definitely the confetti sprinkles.


Layer Cake Tips: I’ve got lots of them, over here.
Celebration Cakes, previously: More layers, frostings and fillings over here. Tons of ’em.

[Updated suggestion 12/09: Some of you have responded that you find the Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting a bit too sour for your tastes. And it is sour, of course, as sour cream is the base. However, for a more classic (but better than classic, in my opinion) chocolate buttercream, I highly recommend this one. For the size cake here (2 9-inch layers), you’ll want to use 2 to 2 1/2 times the recipe.

[Updated 5/3/11: With weights added!]

One year ago: Chocolate Sorbet
Two years ago: Ratatouille-Style Ratatouille

Best Yellow Layer Cake

Everyone needs a killer yellow cake recipe. This is mine, and dare I say, it should be yours too. It just works. Every time. And if you’ve ever tried a yellow cake mix and wondered why yours didn’t come out that consistently plush (but not freakishly unnatural) at home, dare I say it’s because you hadn’t made this one yet?

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 to 530 grams due to variance between brands) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from The Dessert Bible

Yes, it’s true: A chocolate frosting recipe without any butter, whipped eggs and barely a modicum of added sugar. Oh, and you don’t even need an electric mixer to make it. What are you waiting for?

Only cooking note: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting. I did not (the original recipe does not warn of this) and just as I poured in the melted chocolate, my super buzzed on my apartment door to check on my always-malfunctioning oven and when I’d returned minutes later, the chocolate had seized a little, leaving little bits (like chocolate chips!) throughout my frosting. These could have been strained out but I decided they made the cake more rustic. Nevertheless, room temperature sour cream — a temperature closer to the tepid chocolate — should allow you to avoid this, ringing doorbells or not.

[Concerned about the sourness? Perhaps you might enjoy some Instant Fudge Frosting instead.]

Makes 5 cups of frosting, or enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.

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1,543 comments on best birthday cake

  1. Congrats on ordering the crib! I know you and Alex must be really excited.

    This cake looks absolutely beautiful. I’ve looked FOREVER for a great recipe for a yellow cake. I really detest cakes that have to resort to being drenched in syrup, I much rather the moisture come from butter and buttermilk…is that wrong??? Thanks so much, as always, for rescuing the rest of us who’ve hunted high and low for a great recipe!

  2. Jackie

    What a pretty little cake! Hurray for moms that bake. It looks good enough to be my birthday cake (just two weeks away). Thanks!

  3. Just wanted to thank you a million times over again for your peanut butter chocolate cake recipe from before… it’s become my ‘go-to’ cake and everytime I make it, people swoon. So thank you again, for this simple one and for that one.

  4. I can’t wait to try this out….but I have a question (possibly dumb) about the frosting. Once the cake is frosted, should it be stored in the fridge since the frosting contains sour cream? (i.e. dairy product kept out of the fridge will go bad?) Thanks for your help!

    1. It definitely is a real treat. I made this for my birthday a month ago and after tasting it the whole family agreed that this is now everybody’s birthday cake!

  5. Robin

    Thank you thank you thank you! I will be making this for my son’s 1st birthday party this weekend! This is exactly what I was looking for!

  6. For whatever reason, I really don’t like yellow cake. I’m sure I would have nothing against it if you blind folded me and force fed me, but for some reason that yellow color just reminds me of the box mix, no matter how lovingly homemade

    My son’s second birthday is coming up next month and I’ve been doing in-depth birthday cake research. Last year I did the peanut butter chocolate for his first, which he wanted absolutely nothing to do with. Typical. I think he has it out for me–if I eat the whole cake myself, mama won’t find a boyfriend. Then he gets me alllll to himself.

  7. Jenny

    This looks great. Do you think there would be too much batter for an 8-inch cake? I was thinking about the Vanilla-Buttermilk Cake from sky-high (1/2 the recipe) for my mom’s 60th birthday in a week, but this one may win! I just made some wild black-raspberry curd that I plan to use as filling with a blackberry brandy simple syrup, and possible some lemon swiss buttercream or lemon 7-minute(marshmallow) frosting…mmm!

  8. Robin

    Without a doubt you have your priorities right where they should be! When your little one grows up to be the amazing neurosurgeon/research biologist/pastry chef/world hunger curer we all know he or she will be – the first page of his or her memoirs will read… “the sweet memories of my mother’s perfectly moist and flavorful vanilla cake frosted with chocolate love for my birthdays will be with me always… and made me who I am today.” No doubt.

  9. Jamie R

    Gah! If only you had posted this Saturday morning instead of Monday morning. I just made exacly that with Betty Crocker yellow cake mix and chocolate frosting. I always feel so weird using a box cake mix. I’m afraid my stand mixer will revolt on me. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Now I just have to wait for another birthday. It looks amazing, but all of your stuff does. Thanks!

  10. Deb, I’m so glad you posted this! Yellow butter cakes are definitely tricky with the moistness factor. I think I’m going to give this one a try for cupcakes!

  11. my little sister’s birthday is coming up next week- can’t wait to try this!! Not that I have anything against Duncan Hines, but homemade is just so much better. I made your Cream Cheese Pound cake for Sunday meal and it was soooo good! I got some pretty good compliments on it too. Thanks! :-)

  12. I grew up on that very cake mix (my mom used it to make “Sock it To Me” Cake for every special occasion) and I just gave it up myself a year ago! It is a little better than the average, but there’s nothing like a homemade cake!

  13. Ten more weeks to go…YAY!

    Your cake looks lovely. This past weekend I made a cake-to-order for my 8 year old. She wanted a rainbow on it, so I followed orders and did the best I could. The end result was a non-professional, food-coloring-drenched, delicious cake (I used your peanut butter frosting for in between the layers—that stuff is divine!) that delighted my little girl. Which was, after all, what I was hoping to do.

    Mothering is a big job; good cake recipes make it easier. Now, go put your feet up and rest—you accomplished your goal.

  14. interesting with the buttermilk…

    I am partial to the martha stewart yellow butter cake that I used for a wedding cake. It is SO fluffy and perfect right out of the oven. I love the distinct flavor of egg yolks in it.

    On another note, they are now making yellow cake flavored soft serve…

  15. I just posted about the discovery of my personal yellow cake and chocolate frosting nirvana! Both ended up being from Shirley Corriher’s Bakewise. I feel finding the perfect version of this combo is Bucket List-level stuff.

    The cake recipe I love is different from yours (Shirley’s recipe involved folding in of whipped cream into the batter at the end–what, what?!), but the frosting is really similar–a total dream to work with! I think Shirley (you know, good old Shirl, my BFF) said hers was adapted from Maida Heatter, who is in tight with Rose B. With that trio approving the frosting, how it could be anything less than legendary?

    Love the confetti!

  16. Really the frosting won’t break? I’ve been making ganache and man, leave it on the stovetop (I don’t have a microwave) one minute too long… oily mess.

  17. Amanda Leigh

    Deb, the cake looks delicious! Yellow cake with chocolate frosting has been and always will be my favorite kind of cake. Where did you get the recipe from?

  18. Ahh, I was confused, saw Dessert Bible, thought Cake Bible, hence the Rose B. comment re: the frosting. But Christopher Kimball, he knows a good frosting too. Who wouldn’t trust a guy in a bow tie?!

    1. deb

      Danielle — Chocolate breaks when it is overheated or burned. If you watch it carefully, stir the whole time and take it off the second that last piece begins to melt, you should have no trouble with the melted chocolate in this or any recipe.

      Amanda — I cobbled it from three others!

  19. Miriam

    The cake looks wonderful! Unfortunately, my three children never want cake on their birthdays. They always opt for some other dessert. The thing about being a mom? It’s an entirely unwritten script for each woman. Still, it’s better to be armed with fabulous cake than find yourself in a cakeless quandary.

  20. Kristin

    This looks like perfection! I, too, would feel like an incomplete mother without the perfect birthday cake recipe (and I am 26 with no kids anywhere near the horizon, but that thought of finding the perfect cake has crossed my mind.) Have you tried Amy’s Bread’s yellow cake with pink frosting? To me, that is the ultimate birthday cake, but I’ll have to give this one a try!

  21. Amy

    Deb. My birthday is on Wednesday. I’ve been looking forward to using it as an excuse for the pb chocolate cake, and then you go and post this…how am I supposed to choose?!

  22. Aww man Deb, I just love you. I CANNOT believe I’ve only been reading your blog for three months when I could have been reading it for years. Having a baby is what prompted my campaign to shake my baking prejudice. Why? Because the kid is gonna need birthday cakes that’s why! What a lovely mom you will be. :)

  23. Marie

    I was delighted to hear that I’m not the only mom who spent a good portion of her first pregnancy worrying about not having the perfect homemade birthday cake recipe!! This post made my day!

  24. Betsy

    I too love love love a Duncan Hines (or Betty Crocker) yellow cake with chocolate frosting, but have always failed when attempting to make one at home. So I’m excited to try this!

    Since we’ve already admitted to a love of cake-out-of-the-box, I’m wondering… would you compare this frosting to the (delicious, if aggressively artificial) canned version? Both in taste and texture?

    1. deb

      Betsy — Actually, I can’t stand canned frosting. Never use them, can taste them a mile away. The last time I caved and used a boxed cake, erm, 5 years ago, I still made the frosting. Some help I am!

  25. Amy

    I totally understand the need to have a good cake recipe under your belt pre-baby. I always felt like I needed to be able to make a reliably good pie and excellent chocolate chip cookies (and also sew clothes well, grow vegetables, and get more comfortable singing silly songs) before becoming a mother. The downside to this is that now my 3-year-old thinks I can sew, cook, and fix anything in the world, and I keep trying to live up to her sometimes unreasonable expectations.

    Anyway, THANK YOU for that frosting recipe. I’ve been needing a good chocolate frosting that doesn’t use a ton of sugar.

  26. I just came over from Martha and I absolutely love your blog. The food – delicious. The pictures – gorgeous. The writing – informative and entertaining at the same time!

  27. Susan

    Oh, I go again with the second guessing. Thanks a lot, Deb.

    My quest began when I saw the drawing of a little bobbed hair girl biting into a huge hunk of chocolate frosted yellow cake in her little hands on the cover of a retro Hersheys Chocolate Cookbook, eons ago. My maternal soul was seduced by that picture but I had nothing to indulge it and nothing I tried was IT,,,and I was already a Mom! Oh, my shame! Finally, not quite a year ago (and my kids are now in their 20’s,,how’d THAT happen?) I found IT. And it’s a one bowl, throw it all in at one time, from scratch, miracle! Frosting? I’m finally close. A plain old butter and powdered sugar base..but uses Hot fudge sauce,( Yours) plus melted chocolate and is shiny, pipable AND easy to spread and not grainy. I JUST found that one in June for my daughters birthday. And now this.. I thought I was done. Sheesh. (BTW..I failed on the cake part of the Thankful Butterscotch Cake..then failed genoise for Boston Cream Pie..and just made my miracle cake for my own caramel cake..over a two day period for my own birthday..grrrr!)

  28. Thanks SO MUCH for posting this! It’s perfect timing. My sister’s birthday is next week and her favorite combo is yellow cake with chocolate sour cream frosting!

  29. Elisa

    dangit, Deb. Why didn’t you post this, like, July 3rd… Before I made my cupcakes of doom for my family’s 4th of July party? They looked gorgeous but were so disgustingly heavy I wanted to cry… I can’t wait to use this recipe, though… Thank you!
    And… 10 weeks left? Woot! Your kid’s gonna be born on my anniversary! ;)

    1. deb

      Jen — I mentioned in the recipe notes that this should make up to 2 dozen cupcakes, but I haven’t auditioned it in cupcake form yet. Sure it would be delicious, just watch that baking time, check real early. Nobody likes an overbaked cake!

  30. Oh yeah, that frosting. Just looking at the ingredients tells me it’s the one. Sour cream and chocolate shouldn’t just be the purview of cakes, frostings can join in too. And should. Confetti sprinkles though… is it alright if I just use my tie-dyed butterflies or bright flower sprinkles? ;) Kudos on finally being prepared for motherhood :)

  31. Sharon

    I love you, this looks perfect! I am going to try it out, then hopefully use it for my baby’s first Birthday! I also love your swiss buttercream, and use it for cupcakes all the time.

  32. Ok…I made the green bean and cherry tomato salad which was delicious, but now a layer cake!?! This is evil! And I have a batch of the NYTimes Chocolate Chip cookies in the fridge. But I must make this cake!!! This week! Maybe for the spinning guild meeting…

  33. Liz

    Thank You for this recipe! I’ve been married to my husband for a decade now and every year he wants the same cake for his birthday — butter recipe golden with milk chocolate frosting. I think I’ll try this cake out on my husband to if he likes it! His birthday isn’t until November, but I think I’ll try my little test now. If he does, wow, I don’t think I’ll ever buy another cake mix!

  34. Well, I think you can safely say that your “little snowflake” will be more than excited to stick his/her finger into this frosting and take a big bite of that luscious-looking cake. My kids still talk about the birthday cakes I made for them in past years, so be glad that you have found your perfect recipe. I’m going to be taking this for a test-drive before our next family birthday and I have a feeling it’s going to be a huge success.

  35. jen

    this was (and still is) my standing order to my mother for my birthday cake every year, yellow cake with chocolate frosting. maybe this will be the year it’s not the duncan hines version….

  36. Kim

    This is exactly what I was looking for! BUT I need to pipe the frosting (it’s for the Wilton cupcake CAKE), can you recommend a CHOCOLATE cream cheese frosting recipe? Or how I can take a traditional cream cheese frosting recipe and make it chocolate? Thanks!!

  37. Roshni

    Hi Deb, Im new here :) . Your blog is so wonderful!! i Stumbled across it a few days back and am hooked ! The pictures are so wonderful and you make cooking look so exciting! Im newly married and have just started cookin so your blog is so inspiring!
    Cant wait to try your recipes out ! keep up the Gr8 work!

  38. Kim

    another newbie-baker question… what are the adjusted cooking times/temps for the alternatives you listed (cupcakes, 9×13 pan, etc.) ?

    1. deb

      Kim — Haven’t tried them all out. Cupcakes generally bake for 20 minutes and the 9×13 cake will probably take ten minutes longer than the 9-inch rounds, however, your safest bet is to check you cakes 2/3 of the way through your estimated baking time and every 5 minutes after that. (Less if you feel it is very close to done.)

  39. Wow, this looks fantastic. Can’t wait to try the yellow cake recipe — I’ve been looking for the perfect one too. Great work, as always.

  40. Elise

    OMG I have to try this! This looks so delicious. I tried to make the yellow cake from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Cake Bible a while back, and it was actually somewhat dry. I wonder if that was my fault or the recipe’s – but I’ve moved on to other things and didn’t try it again. Now I am inspired once again to make a yellow cake, but this time I will use your recipe.

    Also, yay for you guys for only being 10 weeks away from being parents! :)

  41. You have answered the question to all of my problems! I actually need a yellow cake for my step-dad’s birthday (coming up in 12 days) because that’s the only type of cake that he eats (what a weirdo- LOL). I loathe using boxed mixes because they’re just full of stuff that I’ve never even heard of. I’d rather take those few extra minutes to make a cake from scratch.

    So, I am definitely going to try out your recipe for his birthday cake. Thanks for sharing it with us.


  42. Is it embarassing that my eyes started welling up a little bit while reading this? You are going to be such a great mom!! And the cake looks beyond delicious.

  43. margot

    My kids are teenagers but it’s never too late to make the perfect cake. Actually since both kids’ birthdays are in the same month and we have friends, family and extended family celebrations we OD on cake that month so we tend to make whatever dessert type of thing requested for birthday celebrations–dirt cake, ice cream sundaes, pie–you name it! :)

  44. Or as I like to think of it, this birthday cake will make a lovely breakfast when served with yogurt to Kid 1 and Kid 2 when I am constanting barfing into the toilet as a result of Kid 3.

  45. You have definitely crossed the bridge into Motherhood land. This cake looks supremely comforting, delicious, and like something everyone should know how to make. Your kid is going to be asking for a birthday every week!

  46. You are very wise to have created this recipe for your official Mom-dom. Once you start though, be prepared to make a cake not only for the birthday at home on the day of the actually birthday, but also for the birthday party (not always the same thing!), and for cupcakes at school! And, once used to homemade, your little snowflake will be used to the best and will settle for nothing less. Lucky tike.

    Thanks for the recipe – I usually use the recipe from Magnolia, and grew up on Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden. I’ve been wanting to try a new one for kids – who have, for better or worse, become cake snobs!

  47. Debbie

    I so, SO relate with you! You are my kind of mom – the kind I always wanted to be, & for the most part, have been. I now have two young adult ‘kids’ who are adventursome eaters, ‘scratch’ bakers/cooks, & have the same attitude towards food & family as you & I. Yeah!
    Have you read Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life”? If not, try to in the next 10 weeks! And by the way – thanks for the recipe! It looks great.

  48. Erika

    This post made me laugh, as I am a big fan of the “Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden” mix! I use it as a base for a bundt cake that always gets gobbled up.
    But, I also love to bake from scratch, so I’ll definitely be trying this. Honestly, a lot of times it’s just as easy to make it from scratch as it is to use the box :)
    Now I’m craving cake…..

  49. Sacha

    OOh! I tried one of these from scratch and was so disappointed in how it came out, DH loved every dry cake-too sweet frosting bite of it, bless him, but now I can’t wait to try this one out on him and show him what it should have been like!

  50. Classic! One of my very first baking attempts was for my then-boyfriend/now-husband’s birthday… and go figure – his all-time favorite is yellow cake with chocolate frosting (sadly that first attempt was well – not ‘the one’). Looks like another winning recipe (I’ve already made your Mediterranean Pepper Salad twice and everyone absolutely loves it) – this will undoubtedly be his birthday cake this fall.

    By the way, I love how you frost your cakes too – so smooth and perfect! I apologize if you’ve mentioned this before in all your cake posts but do you do a crumb coat? Or any tips for frosting a cake in general?

  51. Liz in Canada

    Ha! My birthday is tomorrow and I was just thinking “boy, I hope Deb posts another awesome cake recipe soon” and then wow! Here it is! Happy Birthday to me!! (and I absolutely LOVE chocolate sour cream frosting)

  52. ~L.K.

    Congrats on finding The Yellow Cake! I enjoy your cake entries! I have yet to master frosting. I keep trying to make a crumb coat, but I seem utterly inept at it. I’ve taken up to baking cakes, then handing them off to a friend of mine to frost them for me.

    I must admit, Duncan Hines’ products are scarily good, for times when you run out of time to make a real cake. Their brownie mixes are just the same. One day, we all wanted brownies, but it being 9pm, nobody wanted to take the time in making them by hand. Later that week, we bought 5 more boxes. D:

  53. Cheryl

    This sounds great. But I’ll be interested to see if your attitude toward the boxed cake mix changes once you have that baby! Sometimes we moms must make necessary “adjustments” to our lifestyles. :)

  54. Oooh this looks fabulous. Have to try it out soon – but here’s my question. I notice you’ve evened off your layers before frosting – what do you use? Knife? Dental Floss? I bought a cake evener in a craft store but haven’t been very happy with it.

  55. I too have been in search of a yellow cake worthy of my efforts! I always end up wanting for Duncan Hines Yellow cake instead:). So, I’m excited to try your cake and icing recipes. Although, I must say, it was not on my must-do list before giving birth. Only because our traditional family birthday cake is a filled angel cake with pink sweetened whip cream! Congratulations on being in the home stretch! Enjoy your nesting and prep for the baby, I hope you’re able to enjoy the end of your pregnancy.

  56. When I read about your journey I frantically scrolled down to see the recipe. I too have been searching and searching for the perfect yellow cake recipe for years. In all seriousness I may go home and make a yellow layer cake for my family just to try this. Thanks for sharing! Yahoo!

  57. Lynn


    I’m a longtime fan, first time commenter! First off, congrats to the upcoming new addition to the family. Selfishly though, I have been panicking at the thought of subdued frequency of posts that our bound to come with the responsibilities of raising little ones. Gasp!!!…who else am I going to turn to that has the same ehhh, obsession with cakes and all things good with food?? Well, this yellow cake recipe has calmed my anxieties for now & will be trying it over the weekend.
    Thank you for being great!

    1. deb

      Baking and Mistaking — I use a serrated knife, actually my bread knife. And because I am OBSESSED with my bread knife — I had no idea what magic a good bread knife was, I even use it to get neat slices out of this cake and the pizza that came before it — and it isn’t hideously expensive for a fancy knife, I have to plug it here: 8-inch (except I paid about $55 for mine!) and 12-inch versions.

      Lynn — You are not the only one panicking about the thought of less-frequent posting. I love keeping up this site, and hope to get back into the kitchen as soon as possible after the baby makes its appearance. Even if it’s just to make a smoothie margarita.

  58. Ariana from Chicago

    Deb, I have always been the WORST when it comes to cake decorating. Last week, I used your cake tips and your link to size conversions to make a 2 layer 9×13 huge ola bday cake for the mother in law. I made both the vanilla and choc buttermilk cakes from Sky High (like your wedding cake). I blew myself away! Everyone loved it and it came out fab. Used your tip on using a cold cake to trim and frost, it worked. Though texture was a little firm but it helped alleviate my fears. Onto this recipe! You’re the best. Enjoy your rest these last few weeks. Now – tip for you. Have a “plan B” in the event the crib doesn’t come on time. Our crib came in 2 months after my son was born! Yikes.

  59. pam

    Oh i love how understated this cake is. I made a burnt almond cake for 4 friends combined birthday party this weekend and it got tons of ooohhs and ahhhs but somehow the cake just felt pretentious to me. This would have been perfect. Can’t wait to try it!

  60. Oh this is perfect! I have tried making so many yellow/vanilla cakes over the years and they always end up too dry. I’ve taken baking classes, cake making classes etc and I have not had any luck. I figure that if you’ve posted this here then you have a good cake recipe and I can’t wait to try it. I have a WONDERFUL chocolate cake recipe but I’m still really in need of that perfect yellow one…thanks again!

  61. Sarah

    Yum, yum, yum! Deb, I have never met you but it is scary how much I think like you. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting was ALWAYS my requested birthday cake. I cannot wait to try this.

  62. Shannon

    You’re hilarious.

    I personally think the “basics” of life (ie the perfect chocolate chip cookie) are often the hardest to realize because we have this archetypal image of them that is impossible to live up to. This is why I specialize in neither-this-nor-that type activities– relieves some of the pressure.

  63. Anslee

    Beautiful and Late! I made a close to this (cake part) for the big first b-day for my girl this weekend. The king arthur golden vanilla recipe, but I bet this one is better.

    We let the baby “go at the cake” at their first party, if you do, I don’t recommend using chocolate icing, unless you like laundry messes. Hehe.

  64. Tragically for my ass, your recipes always encompass ingredients I have in my pantry. I just need an occasion to make the cake, and I’ll be satisfied upon that date. My fiance loves you, by the way, because I tend to make your sweet/dessert recipes all the time.

  65. Kimberly

    I love this post. . .only you would take this into consideration for parenting preparation. I really despise boxed cake mixes and even more so canned frosting. I look forward to making these into cupcakes for my nieces the next time I have them over. Thank you for another great recipe Deb : )

  66. Constance

    This recipe is on my list to try, even tho I will be stepping out on Rose Levy Beranbaum and her absolutely fabulous yellow cake found in the Cake Bible. For anyone looking for scrumptious chocolate cupcakes, also so cute and wonderful in mini form, can I point you to Abigail Johnson Dodge’s emergency blender cupcakes (easier to just stir together in a bowl), widely published when the book was released, so just Google it. The chocolate frosting in her book is great too, and Rose’s classic buttercream is simply worth living for, but I’ll be trying the one here because I must. : )

    1. deb

      Sarah — Yes, why not? As always, it is best to rotate your cake pans halfway through, top to bottom, and turn them 180. Hm, I suppose I could add this to the recipe too!

      Est — I am not sure. You can use baking soda to make baking powder but I have not heard about it working the other way around. If your baking powder is causing any funny tastes in your baked goods, you should keep your eye out for an aluminum-free brand, such as Rumford.

  67. That is actually my favorite cake too. I am not a big double chocolate fan, but this cake does it all for me. As a child, my mother who did all the baking would ask each of us which cake we wanted the most and I’d always ask for this. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  68. Oh perfect yellow cake, where have you been all my life?

    I’m kinda tempted to find someone with a july birthday just so I can make it for them. Who am I kidding, I deserve a 23 and 5 months birthday cake, right?

    Congrats on the cake, and the crib, you certainly are mommy-ready!

  69. Kyla

    Perfect! It is my grandmother’s 90th Birthday in a couple weeks and I have volunteered to make the cake…it’ll be this one for sure! Thanks!

  70. YES! Happy happy happy. I cannot wait to try this out. There’s even a family birthday coming up, so I might be able to swing making this sooner rather than later. Score!

  71. Erica


    Thank you! My husband and his family (who live near by) all request the Dunkin Hines yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting for their birthday cake. Every year for my husbands birthday I bring up the subject of me baking a cake from scratch rather than out of a box. He wants nothing to do with it. I plan on making this for my daughter’s first birthday so he can see what he is missing!

    Congratulations on your pregnancy and the upcoming birth. I hope she has an adventurous palate!

  72. Oh wonderful!…I have been a Mom for 18 years and I am still searching for that very same perfect yellow cake…I have everything in the house and tomorrow I will give this one a whirl…for my own birthday…well 10 days early but who is counting!
    The icing looks right up my alley!
    Thanks so much!

  73. I had to join the party. My husband loves, loves yellow cake while I always thought it was boring. But your cake inspires me to bake him one. And I don’t think I will wait for his April birthday. He will thank you :)

  74. Andrea

    Awwww, Deb, congrats! 10 weeks and you’ve got your LO a crib and the best birthday cake recipe. You’re all set!

  75. I LOVE yellow cake, it is by far my favorite especially with chocolate frosting!! I have made a few but like you said, seem to prefer the boxed version for its moistness. Can’t wait to give this one a try!

  76. Thanks for the recipe. I love yellow cake and and dense chocolate frosting. I am going to half the recipe and bake this in my 6′ pan tonight… a friend of mine is trying to conceive so i think this will be a nice pick-me-up. I don’t have sprinkles so i’ll put some chocolate curls on top.

  77. BIRTHDAY CAKES ARE AWESOME! And this cake really looks so so good! Wish I had a slice RIGHT NOW! Been on a diet since 8:00am today- I haven’t lost any weight so far! Oh the INJUSTICE OF IT ALL!

  78. Susan

    Did you put the leftovers in the fridge? I imagine with sour cream in the frosting, it has to be stored there. Right?

    1. deb

      Leftovers in the fridge: Yes, definitely. You can leave it out for a few hours but for longer-term storage, it should be cold. (If you’re using the sour cream icing. Regular buttercreams are fine at room temperature.)

      Corn syrup questions: Chris Kimball says in the book that he tried confectioners’ sugar, regular sugar and corn syrup. He felt that the confectioners’ sugar produced a sugary taste that dulled that of the sour cream. The granulated sugar didn’t mix well with the sour cream, he said, and made the frosting too stiff once cooled. So he ended up using corn syrup, which produced the best flavor as well as a shiny, smooth frosting.

      I know that corn syrup is going through a bad PR phase right now, but what we’re talking about is not HFCS. Corn syrup is an invert sugar, and in many baking and candy recipes, simply works better than a dry sugar. If you’re looking to replace it, you might try honey or even maple syrup, but this will change the flavor profile, though not necessarily in a bad way. One other option: If you’re using a sweeter chocolate, you might find that you don’t need any additional sweetener. But of course a milk chocolate will have a less intense chocolate flavor than a semi- or bittersweet.

      Someone asked about the crib: Without getting too much into it (which I will, anyway) let’s just say that we set out on Saturday morning to buy the baby what I understand to be a perfectly acceptable $79 to $99 crib from Ikea. What can I say? I’m cheap. Neither of the Future-Doting-Grandmas approved of this cage-looking crib, and let’s just say that we’ve ended up with The Polar Opposite of an Ikea Crib which is stunning and has a better mattress than we have on our own bed and can convert to a toddler and even full-size bed, whoa. It arrives in 12 weeks. Did I mention I’m due in 10? This should be fun!

  79. We have lots of birthdays coming up this month and I have been looking for the perfect yellow cake! Here it is on a blog I follow. Thanks!! Can’t wait to try!

  80. Oh i can’t wait to try this!! That would be top on my list too if there was a baby on the way! I am wondering the same thing Suzan is… do you need to put leftovers in the fridge?

  81. AWESOME. My mom is a total cake mix fiend, and that has really been the only “homemade” cake we’ve known in this house. I’d originally wanted to bake a cake with my sister for my brother’s birthday and she was like, “Oh, we still have lots of cake mix left from my birthday.” We unfortunately didn’t make anything because the only kind of cake my brother likes is ice cream cake, but I’m definitely putting this on the list of recipes to try!

  82. lindsey

    hi deb- i’m a long time reader, first time commenter, also from nyc. i had to comment because a moist yellow cake with good chocolate frosting is my favorite thing in the world. when done right, there is nothing better. i’ve been go-to with duncan hines for too long, so i cannot wait to try this out. thanks!

  83. Rhonda

    I would dearly love a piece of your cake right now. Must be the buttermilk in the cake that makes it IT. I have looked for a sour cream chocolate frosting and now you’ve done it. Thank you. Watched Ina this weekend and she likes the coffee crystals added to chocolate. Will have to try it.

  84. jennifer

    My go-to recipe is from the epicurious website. golden yellow cake. i’ve been making it for birthdays for 7 years now (yikes, how did my kids grow so fast?) and it has never let me down. simple, fast, and delish… the sour cream makes it very moist.

  85. Well, after your recommendation I must make this cake! Now I just have to find someone with a birthday in the next week…. or a 1/2 birthday…. or a 3/16 birthday… Heck, I’ll just make the cake and pretend it’s the cat’s birthday!! :)

  86. nina

    this cake looks amazing! i’m going to try it as soon as possible!
    also, buying toys for babies is so pointless! my 3 years favorite toys are my measuring cups and spoons! I give him a couple of spoons, a bowl and a small pile of flour when I bake so he can “bake” as well :)

  87. Love the sour cream chocolate frosting touch. I’m big on chocolate cream cheese frosting…I get a lot of eye-rolling until people actually swipe a taste. Then the eye-rolling subsides, because chocolate frosting with a slight tang is just about the best thing ever.

  88. i think your other yellow cake recipe is top notch (the one from the wedding) so i can’t wait to try this one! i’m a ganache girl, myself, but this seems a little lighter. any ideas on a sub for corn syrup, though? i wonder if honey or something like that would work. and, enjoy your last 10 weeks – try to sleep as much as you can! see movies! talk with a potty mouth! ;-)

  89. Gina

    Ah! what a great cake! It looks scrumptious and I’m sure we’ll be serving it in just a few weeks at MY birthday! :)

  90. Patty

    Now can you figure out the rum cake recipe? The usual is a box of yellow cake mix plus a box of instant pudding mix plus rum. It is good but it bothers me to use the mixes. Not suitable for Baby but so almost necessary for adults. Can you do it?

  91. LOVE IT! I need to make this cake immediately. I’m on a quest to conquer the layer cake world, and my recent battle with a ginger-lime-chiffon-buttercream cake made me realize how much more practice I need. Thanks for being a great source of inspiration and insanely tasty cake recipes!

  92. Linda Y

    dear deb!
    love your site. i am a newbie to food blogging & enjoy your blogs & photography as well as your recipes.
    in addition, i am new to cake baking! how did you level out the cake tops? thanks so much.

  93. Is there an alternative to the corn syrup that I could try. My kid has some sensitivities to it. But I’ve got to make his birthday cake soon and this looks like the perfect recipe to try. (He wants a Gopher Cake. Heaven help me.)

  94. klara

    When I was a kid, my mom asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday and I said “a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.”

    On my birthday, I’m pretty sure what I received was a Swedish princess cake. I’d probably like it now, but as a kid I thought it was totally disgusting and as close as you could get to the complete opposite of what I wanted without handing child-me a wrench sauteed with felt and postage stamps.

    AAAAANYWAY, I think your cake looks exactly like the cake I wanted as a kid and reading your post satisfies the 6-year-old in me. I’ll probably make this cake for my future kids, assuming they ask for yellow cake with chocolate frosting and not Swedish princess cakes with pale green marzipan.

  95. First of all, congrats on being a crib owner…haha! 10 weeks to go, and you’re stressing over cakes? Your baby is going to be spoiled in the kitchen!

    Secondly, gold cake with chocolate frosting…it’s my best friend’s favorite combo. I’m going to make this for her. Her birthday was last month, but I don’t think I need to wait till next year to make her a cake, do you? :)

  96. Congratulations on selecting and ordering the crib! I can’t wait to see the little one make an appearance. We’re celebrating my youngest’s first birthday on Wednesday, and I have yet to plan a proper birthday cake for him because we’ll be leaving the following day for our family vacation. You may have saved me.

  97. Rebecca

    This looks fabulous! I have always used the Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden (I have often wondered about that name, too) mix to make a pineapple upside-down cake every year for my Dad’s birthday. Maybe next year he might actually get an honest-to-goodness-homemade-completely-from-scratch cake!

  98. Tim

    I’m planning on using this for my wife’s birthday cake Wednesday. The only problem is that I can’t buy buttermilk where I live. Should I use yogurt or milk with lemon juice????

  99. SaraQ

    Which crib did you end up buying? My little one is almost grown out of her bassinet and it’s time we got her a real crib to sleep in. This cake looks wonderful! I recently made a little party in honor of our little daughter and made “pink lady” cupcakes which were quite tasty!!!

  100. I want to try this out so badly that I probably won’t even wait until the next birthday!! I had finally found a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that worked beautifully once I subbed out half the butter for butter-flavored shortening, but the past few times I’ve made it, it hasn’t seemed as wonderful as the first time. Can’t wait to try your recipe. And congrats on the countdown to your little one! :)

  101. My oldest is allergic to milk but I think I’ve figured out how to turn soy milk into something “buttermilk”-like; I’d love to try this! So many of the recipes I’ve tried have a weird, cornbready texture.

    Also, I know you didn’t ask but I’ll offer up that my favorite chocolate frosting recipe is the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. Don’t tell them I said this, but you could probably use butter instead of vegan margarine—but, I LOVE this frosting just the way it’s written. Super simple, basic and no need to do anything funky.

  102. laurie

    Hi Deb,
    Thanks so much for the cake recipe. My husband and two children always ask for the same (*yawn*) birthday cake: Duncan Hines yellow with homemade chocolate frosting. I’ve tried a few scratch cake recipes, but I get the sad look in their eyes imploring me to go back to DH. My killer fudgy/ganache-like frosting does have butter and sugar in it, along with the chocolate and cream, but it’s easy enough and so worth it.

  103. Maureen

    This reminds me of what my mother used to make (minus the confetti sprinkles). She just turned 89, and I made her your raspberry buttermilk cake, which she (and the rest of my family) loved. Mom was a wonderful cook and baker (until she lost her sight to macular degeneration) who made everything from scratch and taught us likewise. I am thankful every day that she cared enough to seek out the best for us and handed on her passion for good food. Our families and friends have benefited greatly from her culinary wisdom over the years, so don’t dismiss the instinct to give your little one your best. You already are a great mama, Deb! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  104. Vidya

    Oohhh I can’t wait to try this as cupcakes! I’ve tried the Magnolia recipe for cupcakes before and I found them too greasy and butter-filmy for my taste – you can eat about one bite and then need to put the rest down. This sounds fantastic.

  105. tonyamama

    i am a new sk fan! glad to know that i’m not the only one freaked out about not having a go-to homemade b’day cake recipe. made your double chocolate layer cake w/ raspberry filling a couple months ago and it was a big hit. after that, i am confident that i can depend on this one w/o even testing it out. thank you!!!

  106. Deb,
    First, the recipe looks superb.

    Second, new babies do NOT need a crib. My parents used a dresser draw padded with towels for the first week or two. Think about what the babies lay in at the hospital–looks like a very simple tub with a layer or two of flannel-covered sheeting, and maybe a light pad (not much.) So the baby arriving before the bed is simply not a problem. Good luck!

  107. Oh i cannot wait to try this!! I was just thinking yesterday I needed a go to cake recipe and here you went and did all the work for me! thanks so much Deb!!!!

  108. Kaitlin

    This looks delish! I can’t wait to try it…I have had great luck with many of your other cakes, so I am sure this one will be awesome as well!

    Does this cake need to be stored in the fridge? Does the icing harden like cream cheese icing and require a little “thawing” time?

  109. Angela

    I will definitely be trying this. Cake mix always have this chemical aftertaste to me. I made one to use for a cake decorating class and my then 8-year-old daughter tasted the stuff I’d trimmed off and said “hmmm….not your best work”.

  110. Ann

    Oh my birthday is just around the corner … I’m gonna ask my bff who bakes to try your yummy looking birthday cake for me… That would be such a treat. And congratulations on your coming baby, it is such fun to be a Mom:)

  111. Is it the “Deluxe Butter” part that gets you? Looks delish… and totally normal that the recipe is what you would think about as parent-hood approaches. Not that I would know. I only have dogs.

    1. deb

      magpie — It’s the “Butter Recipe Golden”–what the heck does that even mean? Is that English? Or just keywords strung together? I think about these things too much.

      Also, I am continually outraged (be glad you don’t live with me and where you’d be inundated with my food labeling rants) by the allowed use of the word “butter” where butter is not.

  112. Nichole

    Thanks Deb for another fun, great recipe. I made these into cupcakes tonight – I halved the recipe and it made 13 cupcakes – they were lovely cupcakes with a pretty decent dome. The frosting was also wonderful with a welcomed twist. I used dark and milk chocolate (that is what I had). Thanks…

  113. Yep. Now that you’ve found the perfect layer cake and chocolate frosting recipes, I can sponge off you. I’ve had good chocolate frosting before, but yellow layer cake is usually so dry. Looking forward to trying this one out!

  114. Ha! Neither one of my kids was in a crib before 3 months….they just seem better off in a basket or bassinet…Heck, if I had any more kids, I’d probably just use a padded laundry basket. That way I kept them very close, right by the side of my bed, and it just seemed more cozy.
    Anyway….I have tried recipe after recipe, and horribly…none was even as good as a boxed mix. I cannot WAIT to try this one! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  115. That photo is seriously making my mouth water. It’s true that it reminds me of the boxed mixes my mom would make, just much prettier. That’s going to be one lucky baby!

  116. Celeste

    I’m a long time reader first time commentor.
    Your website is my all favorite time food blog.
    Congratulations on your little bundle of joy.
    You are going to make a spectacular Mom.
    Wishing you the all best.

  117. Kelly

    Deb! Looks amazing!

    I too have been on The Quest for the Perfect Yellow Cake. Yours looks great, but I’ve got to ask… is it fluffy and light like a cake mix cake? Or heavier? Every cake recipe I try turns out too…. spongy-no-weight-to-it-cake-mix-y for my liking.

  118. Kerry

    Hi, I’m new at this, this is my first ever comment. Just started reading food blogs the last week or so and discovered your site (I’m from Sydney, Aust). Love the cake recipe, can’t wait to try it, already forwarded it to my friends. Looks mouthwatering!

  119. Just finished baking – a few notes:
    -I ran out of sugar (oops!) during baking so I subbed 1/4 c. powdered sugar for 1/4 of the 2 required cups. It did not seem to adversely affect the results. I didn’t want to risk influencing the flavor with brown sugar.
    -The batter seemed so plentiful I used 3 – 9″ pans. The cakes still finished even with the rim of the pan, so I consider it a win. They were done after approximately 28 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
    -Delicious! (Although denser than I expected consider how much the cake rose.)

  120. cz

    I grew up on Duncan Hines – so back of a little on the harsh prejudice. My mom also worked at the Culinary Institute and had some of the best chefs make me birthday cakes. Do not worry mommy to be: the cakes that had love baked into them are the ones that made me who I am today.

  121. Oh my – this is just what i needed today! and the sprinkles? they are a necessity for any decent cake or cupcake creation
    I have made a variation on this chocolate sourcream frosting now for about 1.5 years,and it is a huge winner with every bite
    funny, adults seem to really like it the most

  122. I love it when you find the perfect recipe for something. Something that you don’t have to search again for, ever. I really only have that down pat with a few things. Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and vanilla cupcakes. Still searching for the rest.

  123. beckyk

    Anybody out there know a good substitute for corn syrup? It’s not readily available here in the UK and I always skip over recipes that include it. Sad.

    1. deb

      beckyk — I understand “golden syrup” to be a good replacement.

      Danielle and others without buttermilk — It can be made at home, easily. Simply add one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Let it stand for 10 minutes until it “clabbers” (looks a little curdled, yum) and go ahead and use it. Easy-peasy!

      cz — There was no “harsh prejudice” against box mixes and/or people who use them. In fact, I clearly stated that I wasn’t knocking anyone who, like me, thinks they do a freakishly good job of churning out consistently moist and plush cakes, but that I wanted to crack the code at home with natural ingredients. This post is for others who have ever wanted to do the same.

      Shannon — You can make it with 3 8-inch round pans (or 2 8-inch round that have more than 2-inch sides). The 3 pan version will be thinner, but not horribly so. You’ll probably have to dial back the baking time a bit.

      Jenny — I really like that Vanilla Buttermilk Cake, but I would say it is a bit sturdier and benefits a bit more from a syrup (especially for longer-term resting, as we were doing with the wedding cake). This cake is a little more moist and rich, possibly a little heavier (from the moisture, not density). There’s no reason that you cannot brush this or any cake layer with a syrup, however; it’s just nice to know that it is not a prerequisite to having a super-moist cake in this case.

      Kim — Usually an hour is enough to get anything back to room temperature. But of course this will depend on how cold your fridge was an how warm your home is.

  124. Thank you so much for this! My husband is american and for years has asked me to make him an ‘american style’ birthday cake (which i always fail terribly at). This looks exactly like what he wants and i will make this for him this year. It looks absolutely fantastic by the way :)

  125. Martha

    wow!!! what a great cake – I MUST try it!!!
    best regards from chocolate-land

    btw: i love to see your great photots and recipes!!! thank you so much for sharing! you make a swiss girl happy!!! :-)

  126. Selkie

    My second son spent his first month in a sheepskin lined drawer, placed on a table next to my bed, within easy reach. It worked perfectly, much better than a crib across the room, needing me to get up and reach into.
    We all are so excited about this baby, Deb. Aunties, all.

  127. Congratulations- the cake is perfect party fare and guaranteed to please any child on their big day.

    Bring on the baby (s!)

    PS. Hope you are feeling well and not ‘nesting’ in the crazy panicky way I was in those last weeks.

  128. Tracy

    What a lovely thing to find in my inbox on my actual birthday! I love that it doesn’t have a ton of sugar in the icing as I am trying very hard to cut down on my sugar intake. You made my day with this.:)

  129. jessica


    As a new mom to a 3 month old daughter, I have to confess I have been dealing with TREMENDOUS guilt at having very recently resorted to boxed mixes–something I NEVER thought possible and constantly was making snooty remarks about “those who did not love their families enough to bake from scratch”. I know people say it and I never believed it, but our standards DO change when we have a baby. Having said this, I’ve sought out some make-your-own convenience products and can’t wait to try them. When your LO arrives, I’m sure you will appreciate the new time paradigm of getting stuff done in 10-15 minute increments–from giving the bathroom the once-over with chlorine wipes (never did I consider buying these a year ago), or starting a load of the baby’s laundry on your way to take out the trash, to tossing a batch of brownies in the oven just before dinner is served.

    I just can’t wait for your posts about making your own baby foods! ;-) Something I have been dreaming about since the moment my child was conceived.

  130. Gosh, I am jealous of your child. :P My mom felt no cake mix shame. The frosting especially looks good, I hate that crunchy, sugary frosting on grocery store cupcakes that makes you want to hurl. I agree, making these into cupcakes is a great idea!
    Congratulations on your little one. Aren’t you just thrilled that we’re all sitting here waiting for it to pop out so we can admire? lol

  131. Yay! Thank you! I am a cupcake baker and I have been searching for a full-proof yellow cake. I hate box cake mixes but the recipes I’ve tried are inconsistent. This one is on my to-do list for the weekend. The frosting looks perfect. My buttercream frosting is too sugary and sometimes grainy. I have high hopes for this one! I just know it’ll rock.

    Thank you! :)

  132. Becky

    Vanilla as well as butter cakes are my family’s favorites, Deb! Thanks for your inspiring post. As usual, the photos are luscious.

    Now I am confused though-I always understood butter cake to be different from vanilla cake. Are they actually one and the same? I get requests from my kids to bake one or the other, depending on whose birthday is coming up. I would appreciate any clarification, since I feel rather silly now! Thanks!

    P.S. We have no summer birthdays in the family, however I am going to bake this cake today just because you posted it and it is too dreamy to pass up!

  133. Congrats on ordering your crib! I remember how excited I was, and how much I yearned to make food (and get it just right) while I was in my last tri-mester!

    The cake looks absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to make it, (my birthday is this weekend, so I just have to try it) The only question I have is once the cake is baked and frosted, does it require refrigeration? If so, how long will it take to bring it to room temperature (I just did a party for my 4 year old on Sunday and the cake was preservative free and required refrigeration but we apparently didn’t cool it long enough, it was slightly hard when we served it)


  134. Jenny

    Deb, How does this compare to the Vanilla-Buttermilk Cake that you made for the wedding? Is it too soft/fluffy for a simple syrup “brush”? Thanks again!

  135. Shannon


    This is probably a really dumb question, but you mention 8in square pans, not 8in round. Would it be possible to make this recipe with 3 8in round pans, or would the layers be too thin? I have a friend’s birthday coming up, and haven’t felt very inspired about what to make, until now! I can’t wait to try it. I ask because I’m pretty sure my 9in pans aren’t deep enough.

    Thanks! I really do love your website. I am never worried when I make a recipe from here for the first time. I know it will always come out delicious and impress my friends. It does every time!


  136. RA

    My husband requested this cake for his birthday after seeing this post, and his birthday is in DECEMBER. This, from a guy who has a deep love of Funfetti! That is to say, This is a Big Deal.

  137. Mel

    Hooray! I only have 4 weeks left so you saved my day too! I am one step ahead though and I do have the baby’s room set up. Seriously, this cake looks wonderful and I may have to try it out this weekend. I don’t get to comment to you very often but I’d like you to know how much I look forward to your recipes in my email and how much my family has loved all that we have made. You’re the best!

  138. Linda

    Do you notice a funny smell when using cake flour? I always do and it just so happens that Joe Pastry recently did a flour tutorial ( covering every possible aspect of flour and said this about cake flour: “One side effect of the heavy bleaching that some people notice is a slightly acrid smell or sour taste. The reason for that is a trace amount of hydrochloric acid that the processing leaves behind.” I can always smell it no matter what brand of cake flour I use. Can you substitute regular flour?

    1. deb

      Linda — OMG, yes! I notice it every time (smell, not taste, then again, I often bake with buttermilk and would never guess that a sour taste was coming from the flour) and I can never figure it out. My boxes never last long, so it’s not like they could be too old. Love Joe Pastry.

      I have made this cake with regular flour. It does work fine, but sift it twice. Cake flour is already sifted once (pre-box) and then again in this recipe so it is lighter than light. You can also make your own cake flour: Add two tablespoons of corn starch to each cup of regular flour and sift it twice. Measure your cups of flour from this mixture.

  139. Maria

    beckyk and the others concerned about corn syrup, try Lyle’s Golden Syrup. I always use that instead of corn syrup – pecan pie, for example – and it is delicious. That’s what they use in England and that’s where I first tried it. It’s derived from cane sugar instead of corn.

  140. Amy B.- Portland, OR

    Woweeee for the cake and icing recipes! More woweee that your Super checks on the progress of your appliances. Hope your crib arrives pre-baby. Thanks for sharing the love.

  141. Cyndi

    The timing of your post could not be more perfect. I was looking for a drop dead delicious bday cake for someone and here you are. Thanks for being you and doing what you do :)

  142. jo

    This is defiinitely, definitely a very pretty cake. I love the coloured sprinkles at the side and a very timely post at that. I need to whip up a birthday cake pretty soon.

  143. Lisa B

    Deb – did you ever lose your urge to cook during your pregnancy? I’m only 8 weeks along and feeling like there is no more need for a single cookbook on my shelf because I feel like I never want to cook again. Just the thought of preparing a meal (does slicing cheese and opening crackers count as preparing a meal?) sends me back to bed to snuggle with a cat. I always look forward to your posts, but now I’m worried I’ll never want to make them again. It’s scary.

    1. deb

      Lisa — Yes. I think I cooked like 4 times in the first trimester. It comes back, promise. Though now in the third, it’s a lot of “oh I should make that!” and then “maybe I’ll nap first”. But when you really want something, you’ll make it happen. Congrats!

  144. Lovely cake. I will be keeping this recipe in mind for my next yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which is a cake I don’t make very regularly, if I ever made one, but the pictures of this one make me want to go bake it right now! There is always something in life worth celebrating, right? :)

  145. Lulu

    Hi Deb,
    Not sure you’ll be able to respond today, but I’m making this for my husband’s birthday today. I’m using mini cake pans – 6″ round, that are less deep than 8 or 9″ rounds, closer to 1 1/2″d to top rim. Do you think I could make a half recipe and I’d have enough batter? I’m thinking because they are a little less deep that half may be ok. But maybe to be safe I should make a 3/4 recipe. Also, do you have any idea what the reduced baking time would be for smaller pans? Thanks! You’re an awesome baker/cook – so impressive. How do you find the time?

    1. deb

      Lulu — 6-inch cake pans usually make a perfect half of a 9-inch round cake batter amount, keeping the height the same. (I played with this proportion in my almond cake.) However, if your cake pans are less than 2-inches tall, it is a little risky as this cake took up most of my 2-inch tall cake pans. You might want to a) divide it between three pans, to make a three-layer cake or b) one-third the batter, instead of halving it.

  146. Gorgeous cake! I too have never found the perfect yellow cake, but I always trust your recipes, so I’ll be making this the next time I need to whip up a birthday cake!

  147. Lindsay

    This cake looks amazing! Quick question about the frosting — how prominent is the sour cream flavor? My husband loathes sour cream and refuses to eat anything that contains the stuff. I’ve been been sneaking it into baked goods for years, but I’m not sure if I can get 2 1/4 cups by him.

    1. deb

      Lindsay — I would not use this frosting if your husband hates sour cream! It’s like 50% of the flavor. The chocolate mellows it a lot, but there are probably less tangy frostings out there for him.

  148. Rachel

    I am currently in the final stages of studying for the California Bar Exam, which is…not a lot of fun. I am also a stress baker. After recently making lime cookies, chocolate cookies, and a number of savory pies, I just informed my roommates that I was nearing the dire point of turning to box mix for the ultimate comfort food that I have NOT been able to make from scratch: yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

    Moral of the story: Thank you for providing a bright point of joy amidst my studying! I am going to bake this and eat it (possibly all by myself) to get me through practice exams. I have been reading and cooking constantly from your blog for some months now, but this is the most miraculously timed recipe I have found!!

  149. Your ready to be a parent concern cracks me up – when I was pregnant with my son I was convinced that I would not be a good mother unless I was able to make dogs in blankets with cheese (bread dough wrapped around hot dogs with cheddar cheese). I still suck at anything with yeast, but thanks to you and Molly of Orangette I can make the best chocolate chip cookie ever. And who wants a hot dog when you can have a cookie?

  150. Mary

    Gorgeous cake; the yellow-cake-chocolate-icing has always been my favorite. I have always refused to bake my own birthday cake, on principle, but I might have to rethink that. I have until May to think about it.

    Regarding the crib: you won’t need it for a while, especially if you plan to nurse. Get a folding bassinet that is narrow enough to roll through your doorways. Baby can be right by your bed at night, and in any room you’re in during the day. Teeny one will just look lost and alone in the big crib anyway. My second grandbaby was just born July 1. I feel joy for your mom!

  151. Jamie

    I’m planning on making this cake for my cousin’s birthday in a few weeks, but she wants yellow cake with vanilla frosting, not chocolate. Do you have any recommendations for good vanilla frosting?

    1. deb

      My favorite vanilla is my Swiss Buttercream.

      Also, baby and crib advice: Thank you, really. But, please, we’re up to our eyeballs in advice. We’ve got it covered. I’d much rather talk about cake. And confetti sprinkles.

  152. maggie

    I grew up with friends with “professional” moms. The kind who dropped the kids off at daycare before school, and sent grocery store cupcakes for birthdays. Somehow, in spite of the fact that they both worked, mommy or daddy always found time to pin a tea towel to my waist, grab the Betty Crocker cookbook and make a batch of birthday cupcakes with me. Of course, at the time, I would have preferred the airbrushed Care Bears cake, but I appreciate the effort in hindsight.

  153. kyza

    Hi Deb,

    The cake looks amazing! I’m actually allergic to Chocolate and I’m wondering if you have a good suggestion for another frosting!


  154. Julie

    Is it sacrilegious to top this cake with something other than chocolate frosting? Believe me, I would love it the way it’s presented, but I am going to bake it for a non-chocolate loving person.( I know, a freak)

  155. Hi Deb, this cake made me very happy. Reasons –

    1. I had been looking at very many cake recipes, collecting and discarding, and yes, I too hadn’t yet found The One to make for my 9 month old daughter’s first birthday. I needed something special, easy, and trustworthy. This seems much doable and worthy of a try. Thank you.

    2. When I read a cake recipe, I usually skip the butter and oil part totally. Rather compensating for that with 1 cup of sour cream or yoghurt. So far, it worked. The cakes get all the more soft and fluffy (even your mom’s apple cake yield fantastically to this treatment – great recipe I should say). But I had not ventured out for wedding or b’day cakes with these skills although I need a recipe for special October. Thanks to you again. I would try the recipe as it is.

    3. Of course the frosting – for this one cake, the frosting cannot be skipped and should be made as the recipe demands.

    Now questions, what do you mean by pure vanilla extract. Should I make the extract at home from vanilla beans? Any tips? Also, can there be a substitute for butter milk?

  156. Kristin

    Yum, can’t wait to try this. We have no more birthdays until mine in September. However, my eldest daughter’s long-time imaginary friend is always willing to celebrate her birthday anytime I feel like making a cake! :D

  157. Deb, this is my hubby’s fave cake: yellow with choc. icing, so I will definitely be making it for his birthday in Sept. Looks divine.
    I know you are nothing but a common-sense gal, so perhaps you know all this already. As alluring as it may seem to go on a spending spree and buy all new adorable tiny baby things, remember these motherhood mantras:
    DON’T BUY ANYTHING NEW. I know garage sales are few and far between in NY but now there is Craigslist, where people are begging you to take all the bulky plastic crap that comes hand-in-hand with parenthood off their hands.
    LET PEOPLE GIVE YOU STUFF. Let other people spend their money on adorable togs for your baby.
    YOUR BABY DOES NOT CARE IF IT’S USED, and no one else will know unless you tell them.
    More money for all the expenses you will now have. Not trying to scare you, m’am. Just facts.

  158. Hello Deb… Could you please post the “weight” of your flour? I am out of the country and the cup measurements are a bit off. Also the flour is packef tightly in packages so I am afraid it will throw me off. I will have to substitute many things in this recipe. But I am planning to make it for my FIL bday tomorrow. I was planning to make the one you made a couple of month ago. But will try this one. I alsomade your choco chip cookies today. My 2 year old twins ate them on the beach.They kept saying “cha-chi (chocolate) nummy(yummy)”. Thank you for sharin great recipes with us. And dont worry about your crib being late. Both twins slept in a pack-and-play for 3 months. Daddy was making the cribs. One had to sleep in that thing for 10 months. Daddy will have to explain him that when he grows up:-) good luck with your pregnancy..

  159. Alpa

    Hi Deb ,

    I have tried a couple of your cakes , chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is smashing hit so much so a couple of friends asked me to bake it for their birthday. I am planning to bake this for my son’s birthday in a couple days . I will have a couple of people who dont eat eggs , how can I make this cake eggless .
    I really appreciate you replying to my query



  160. Kate

    I just found your website and have had a blast looking through past posts — I’m really looking forward to trying many of your recipes! And, I have always said that my goal when I have children is that they’ll think I’m the best baker in the world, so maybe your birthday cake recipe will help get me there! Thanks :)

  161. oh my heck. i have been scouring for the perfect cake to make myself for my birthday in 2 days and i think this might be it! i don’t like chocolate cake but i love chocolate frosting and yellow cake. i had a few other contenders but i’m thinking i’ll try this one! thanks!

  162. Cheryl

    I hear you, Alpa! My son is allergic to eggs, and his birthday is next month! I got away with it last year by giving him ice cream while everyone had some cake. He’s turning 2 and this time I want him to enjoy his cake. I haven’t tried those egg replacers – it just sounds so weird I’m almost afraid to use it. But with other cakes calling for just 1 egg I’ve had some success in substituting 1/4 c oil. Deb (I’m a huge fan!), is there any way this great yellow cake can be eggless?

  163. Sour cream chocolate frosting? My 4 y.o. is going to love this!! She puts sour cream on everything – it’s her favorite topping for spaghetti. Just sour cream, salt, and Parmesan cheese.

  164. deb

    Gina — I won’t be able to post the weights until I make this again. I didn’t weigh them this time. However, 4.6 oz or 130 grams is understood to be a fairly reliable weight equivalent for a cup of cake flour, or so Google tells me.

    kyza — I linked to my page of Celebrations Cakes in the post, which has many non-chocolate frosting recipes.

    Cheryl — I have never worked with egg substitutes before. Perhaps someone else who reads will be able to advise.

  165. Sarah

    It’s pointless to bookmark recipes here. I’m just going to make them all anyway.

    This I’ll make for my twins’ third birthday in a few months. Thank you for the perfect mommy-made birthday cake recipe. :)

    (Oh – and the boy bait – weird how men especially like it.)

  166. Yesi

    Deb, I have never commented on your blog but Ive been reading it for a little over a year now and it’s one of my favorite food blogs ever. In fact, it was the first food blog I discovered and has helped this novice cook immensely. I always go here when I need some inspiration.

    You TOTALLY read my mind with this post. I was just thinking to myself, “what kind of cake should I bake for my mom’s b-day?” I figured I would consult your blog first since you are, after all, the queen of cake baking. Chocolate yellow layer cake is one of my mom’s favorites, so this cake is just the answer. Thank you!

  167. whitney

    my daughter will be 2 at the end of this month and i DO believe this cake would make that little girl very, very happy. thanks for sharing!

  168. Sara

    I make this cake for my sister’s birthday every year and I feel terrible that it comes out of a box and a can – but she loves it that way. This year I will be making this one!
    I have no baby advice for you since I have 9 weeks to go with my first child. I just thought it was hilarious that I just bought the $80 Ikea crib and my co-worker called it a baby jail! I do wish it was a bit sturdier, but I still love the look. What can I say…I like plain.

  169. Michelle

    would it be possible to use yogurt in place of the sour cream for the frosting? or would that be too loose? thanks!

  170. How did Yellow with Chocolate Frosting become the classic? It’s the same cake my mom makes for my Dad every year! Thanks for the from scratch recipe! I’ll pass it along to my mama, who’s not a blog reader. xogabriela

    P.S. The way in which you decorated the cake is absolutely charming in it’s simplicity…reminiscent of a cake my grandma would’ve made.

  171. Michelle

    Congratulations, on both your baby and for “being ready”. I just wanted to share that children love anything (well most anything) made by their mothers. My daughters claim I’m the best chef/baker there is (even I know this is far from true). However, I’m brought back to Earth when I remember my daughter’s school party, where she wanted cookies shaped like dogs. After numerous problems and at midnight, I ended up running to the store and “lowering myself to Pillsbury dough”. I frosted them as planned and was informed they were my best yet. The love you put into the things you make are always what makes it so memorable. I think we’ll celebrate an Un-birthday (as Alice and her friends did) and give this one a try. Congratulations, there’s nothing better then children, love and wonderful food!

    1. deb

      Excellent question! I fluff and half-scoop, half-spoon with cake flour because it’s already so ridiculously fluffy. With regular flour, which has usually been compacting in my canister for weeks, I fluff and spoon and sweep. I am not even sure this reads like English to anyone who does not bake a lot.

  172. Becly

    Hi again Deb…posted earlier today. If you have a sec, would you mind clarifying if this recipe is technically a “butter” (or “yellow”) or “vanilla” cake….I am so confused about the use of both terms in today’s post. I have completely committed “butter” cake lovers in the house as well as “vanilla” cake lovers in the house, so before I bake tonight, I just want to make sure if this cake is in fact more butter-y or vanilla-y!! Thanks so much!

    Also, I made your “Pink Lady Cake” and it was also a huge hit. I have to invest in better quality cake pans and tins though. That brings me to another question: do you have a preferred manufacturer of baking sheets and tins? I think mine are not “commercial” enough. THANK YOU!!

    1. deb

      Hi Becly — Sorry, I was confused too and am not sure that I know the distinction between the cakes you mention — or that there are ones. The layer cake distinctions I know are “yellow” and “white” layer cakes. Yellow are made with whole eggs (hence the yellow color) and white are made with just egg whites. White ones tend to of course look whiter, and are used a lot for wedding cakes because of this. They are a bit lighter, but also a little more dry, and generally need a syrup to keep them moist. Yellow cakes are more like this — a little richer, more moist and, well, I think more flavor. Hope that helps. (P.S. The pink lady cake is, at its base, a white cake.)

      I don’t have a preferred cake pan brand. I generally get cheap ones at the baking supply store.

  173. Jamie

    I have to try this! I’m having my first baby next month and had a mini panic attack the other day when I realized I did not have the cake decorating skills that my mother had when I was a child… Maybe the next few weeks will be full of cakes for my friends in the name of practice! :)

  174. Finally! Finally, finally, finally! A recipe for frosting that doesn’t me want to hide in a cave of lettuce leaves! That cake looks luscious. And fortunately, the next birthday I have coming in my life…is mine! I think I might treat myself. Hope your OTHER sweet little cake is baking up just beautifully, too! Best of luck in the home stretch!!!

  175. Lulu

    Hi Deb again,
    I am making the cake now and tasted the frosting and crunched into a coffee crystal. I used instant coffee granules, but after I did that I thought that didn’t make much sense since how would it break down w/o the hot water. Is instant espresso powder different? I’m pretty sure I made a boo-boo here. Thanks.

  176. Jackie

    Hi Deb,
    That sounds great. I may have to try it out- but I was certain I’d already found the ULTIMATE yellow cake recipe already! My favorite yellow cake recipe is the “tender yellow cake” from Cooks Illustrated. (They also have a light and fluffy one I haven’t tried out). I love it because its quite buttery, not sweet at all, tender and moist. One of those cakes you can just eat without frosting and its just as good. Our recipes are quite similar except for these differences:

    Mine uses only 2 1/4 cups cake flour
    Mine uses 1/2 cup whole milk instead of 2 cups buttermilk
    Mine has 1/2 cup less sugar and no baking soda

    But I need to make a two-layered 9×13 cake this weekend so I may try your recipe for one layer and my go-to recipe for the other layer…and see what the guests think! :) I can update you on the verdict (I’ll likely post it, plus the other recipe, on my blog) if you’re interested.

    p.s. Your food blog is probably the only one I read on a regular basis- LOVE everything about it (your variety of food posts, your pictures, your commentary).

  177. Deb, I “tested” the cupcake version this evening for an officemate’s birthday tomorrow, and they worked beautifully – about half the baking time of the 9-inch layers, and each portion was just over 1/3 cup (2.75 oz. by weight). Thanks so much – these were yummy.

  178. janie guetzow

    I kid you not when I tell you that finding “the” perfect yellow cake recipe was one of my many goals this summer. However, the 100 degree heat has put a damper on much of my baking. I think I’ll be baking at night now when the temp drops down to at least 88 degrees :) Congrats on your baby! You’ll come to know that loving a child is like nothing else in the world. It’s so encompassing, so immeasurable, and overwhelming – but in a wonderful way! Enjoy every minute of it because they grow up fast. I keep wishing my 10 year old son, Aidan, was 3 or 4 again as he’s too cool to let me hold his hand in public now :(

  179. MBT

    To all the people wishing they had an excuse to make this:

    my birthday is in 2 and a half weeks. I’m very good and cake-eating and compliment-giving. Thank you :o)

  180. Sara

    Deb, I’m really grateful for the cake recipe – all three of my boys have birthdays coming up. But what I’d love to know is if you have any feelings/advice/input on “theme” cakes. I want to make cakes that are both yummy and shaped/decorated like trains. Do I have to wait until your little one (to be) hits toddlerhood?

  181. Devbeth

    Love it! I just took cupcakes out of the oven. Your recipe made 24 cupcakes plus a 9″ single layer cake! They are yummy. I couldn’t wait for a cupcake to cook off enough to try it. Very tender and moist and good flavor. My daughter wanted a ‘funfetti’ cake for her birthday. I added 2 T of cookie decorating bits – worked like a charm. I do not miss the artificial flavor of box cakes. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  182. missysoupy

    I had to laugh when I read your post and it’s boxed cake references. Growing up, I always thought my Grandma was the best cook ever. Her baked goods were especially tasty (her sugar cookies are to *die* for!). As my daughter’s first b-day was fast approaching, I realized that I had no idea how to make cake! My grandma had passed away 6 months earlier, and I was so sad that I had never acquired her recipe. So, I called my aunt to get it. She said, “Oh sure! I’d love to share that with you! Are you ready?? Got a pen? …. It’s Betty Crocker PUDDIN’ IN THE MIX! It’s gotta have the Pudding in the Mix!” I almost DIED.

  183. Serin

    This seems like a dumb question, but is there a trick to getting the sprinkles in a ring around the edge like that? Or is it just a steady hand, which I unfortunately lack?

    1. deb

      Serin — I just pinched little bits and dropped them all around. The sides were pretty straight so what fell off mostly landed on the counter.

  184. Jill

    Yay! This is my favorite cake! Years ago, for my 30th birthday, my dad threw me a small party. I told him that I wanted a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. He went to one of the best bakeries in town and they told him that the only way that could make a yellow cake was with a box, or food coloring. I am making this for my son’s 4th birthday this weekend. Thanks, you rock.

  185. kate

    I am so excited about this cake! Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is such a nostalgia kick — must bake, must eat. My co-workers are going to love me come Friday morning; no better breakfast than cupcakes!

  186. Helen

    Hurray for home-made cake! this looks delicious. its so refreshing to see that there are still people in the world that will MAKE a birthday cake instead of order one at the closest grocery with the gross-full-of-sugar-and-shortening-and-horribly-unnaturally-colored-rainbow-frosting and the tasteless boring cake underneath all for the glory of those kids’ toys/characters on top. Where’s the love in that?? I will always cherish the cakes my mother made me, and subsequently, the cakes she has lovingly made for her grandkids.

  187. Reshma

    OMG!! I am so excited about this cake- I have been looking ALL OVER (mainly your own website!) for a yellow cake recipe !! Your chocolate-Guinness cupcakes are my go-to for chocolate cake/cupcakes, and now I can’t wait to try this. One question about the frosting- I made a sour cream frosting in the past and it came out, well, sour. What is it supposed to taste like?

  188. Laurie

    I just baked this cake and it was really good and moist, and super easy…. but my favorite part was the frosting – OMG!! It is sooo amazing! I do not like powdered sugar frosting at all, and have been looking for a good alternative – this one is so good and so quick and easy to prepare, it will definitely be my ‘go to’ frosting from now on!! Thanks so much!!

  189. cz

    I will totally try this as my first cake in my new kitchen! Cant wait. and as for my comment about “harsh prejudice” I guess that was preemptive for other comments I felt were to come. Yet your readers are open to it all and obviously you cracked the code – brava! As I said, with love in the recipe you cant go wrong. Watch out birthday candles, here I come

  190. Swapna

    Bless you, you echo my sentiments. I want to be the Mommy who can bake and not have to come up with a perfect cake that comes out of a cake mix bought at the supermarket and that cake looks beauuuutiful. im gonna try it today. Hooray and can’t wait to try some of those other lovely pictures I saw

  191. Karen

    That looks beautiful! (You posted this the day before my birthday, BTW.) My mom hated—literally, hated–to cook and bake, and quickly realized that i was her culinary opposite. So as soon as i could handle the oven, she told me, brightly, that I would “get to” bake my own birthday cake every year. As a kid, yes, this seemed like a treat, but as I got older I saw it for the lame thing that it was. Nobody–and I mean NOBODY–should have to bake their own birthday cake. My husband was horrified when I told him this tale, and thus, even though I’m the resident baker, he insists on making my birthday cake every year, himself. Yes, it’s from a box (i have celiac disease and we rely on Betty Crocker gluten free mixes); and the boys help, and it tastes delicious.

    Thus endeth my rant. Moms, make sure you don’t make kids bake their own damn cake. :)

  192. Lauren (UK)

    This looks beautiful and I LOVE the confetti sprinkles around the edge. I was interested to note that what you guys call yellow cakes are simply sponge cakes here in the UK (probably the most ubiquitous cake around) – weirdly, easy to get right but also quite easy to mess up….a heavy, dry, tasteless sponge cake is a sad little thing. Anyhoodle, they’re pretty much the first thing that anyone in the UK learns to bake (generalising massively here, of course!) and the definitive recipes come from Saint Delia, aka Delia Smith, baking guru and all-round kitchen smartypants. She has one for the all-in-one method (no creaming of the butter and sugar), a traditional Victoria sponge one, one for a wholemeal sponge, one for a whisked fatless one…the woman is a MACHINE.

    To the lady whose husband is not keen on sour cream; could you perhaps make a similarly delicious chocolate frosting using cream cheese and a little butter instead? I made one this weekend for a chocolate yoghurt cake and was really happy with it.

    Thanks again Deb for a lovely recipe and gorgeous pictures.

  193. Isabela

    My dad’s favorite cake is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting but i have yet to find a recipe that i like. (Dad is a bit old fashioned…he likes the taste of the one out of the box…and thus we appease him though it makes me cringe to do so!) I will definitely give this one a whirl.

  194. Nadia

    Oh, and Lauren (UK), Saint Delia has a recipe in her “Complete Cookery Course” for what is probably (in my humble opinion) the most luscious, decadent, gorgeous chocolate cake frosting EVER. I bow to Delia.

  195. Christine

    Hi Deb, I am baking my first layer cake tonight. I am actually going to use your carrot cake recipe. Being as this is my first, I have a question…should I bake the layers separately? Or at the same time? And if I do it separately, do I need to refridgerate the batter? Thank you!

    1. deb

      Christine — You should check out my layer cakes tip post. There’s no reason to refrigerate the batter or bake the layers separately unless the recipe says to (it does not). Definitely leave carrot cake questions on that post if you can, so they can help others making it too!

  196. Liz

    Thank you, Deb, for this birthday cake posting that I’m just now looking at on MY birthday….the cake looks delicious. I’m the baker in my family, my husband Alex is the chef. We’re both deployed right now, I’m in Afghanistan and he’s in Iraq, so not the happiest birthday ever. I had to settle for birthday ice cream, no cakes to be made in my remote Afghan location, but your post made up for my lack of cake. I’ll put the recipe in my list of things to bake when I get back home next March or April. Thanks for your blog, I’ve made my Alex happy on many occasions with your great recipe picks! Best wishes for the next 10 wks!

  197. Christine C.

    No problem. I have been using your layer cakes tip post as my guide in preparation for this venture. Thanks, Deb!

  198. Olivia

    Hey Deb:
    I’ve known about your site for a while but have recently gotten totally hooked, reading your archives and collecting recipes for an extended-family vacation. I work at Trader Joe’s Union Square and wondered, since you’re in the neighborhood, if you shop there? In any case if a girl named Olivia is ever your check-out person, please say hey because I’d love to meet you, and ask you questions about the food you’re buying. :)

  199. marybeth

    I am a mom who bakes and have ALWAYS struggled with scratch cake. I can bake just about anything else in the world and my kids think I rawk for it. My 18 y/o daughter loves to bake as well. . . . . but I must confess we always turn to the yellow cake BOX mix :( and make our own frosting as compensation. Perhaps we will give this little cake a try – it is just adorable!

  200. You are so absolutely ready to be a mom that it is incredicble!! Among other supernatural powers moms need is the ability to read minds, and by featuring this yellow birthday cake today you have successfully done that! My son is turning 21 (GULP) next week and I just made a mental note to bake-and-freeze his cake today. He requested just this type of cake. So now, I don’t even have to go rummaging through my voluminous (and totallly disorganized) files to find it. Thank you, you more-than-ready-mom-to-be!

  201. For those of you looking for an eggless solution: 1 tbsp of ground flax seed (usually in the organic baking aisle at supermarkets nowadays) + 3 tbsp water can substitute for one egg, especially in recipes with leaveners already present. You can honestly barely taste the flax seed in just about any cake recipe I’ve tried. Flax seed comes in brown and gold/yellow varieties; the properties don’t change with color, but if you use the brown one, you’ll see brown flecks in the cake (not necessarily a bad thing). Store the rest of the flax seed in the fridge to keep it longer, and bake away!

  202. Jessica

    This cake was kid-tested and fantastic!! It is a true birthday cake. I have tried many found them too dense and heavy, this is perfection!! Thank you

  203. Kristen

    I was trying to decide if I should feel ashamed for baking a birthday cake for my sister AFTER she returned to California yesterday, but after popping THIS cake in the oven and smelling its buttery deliciousness engulf my whole house…I am glad that she is gone and that I can enjoy it all my own! Reason: She is a Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden fanatic, and I am not! HA! The ingredients were on hand and ridiculously simple to put together. The only thing keeping me from crawling in the oven and basking in the warm scent is the fact that the oven is 350 degrees, and well..that wouldn’t be good. 10 minutes to go before it is ready, and then the chocolate icing will commence. Thanks for this luxurious recipe, oh yeah, Happy Birthday, sis! I’ll send you a pic of the cake and let you know how delicious it was – you run along and enjoy that box now, ya hear?!?!

  204. I am a novice cakemaker and planning on putting this together for my daughter’s birthday on Saturday. Why is icing with butter a bad thing?? It’s in the only recipe I have. Is it a calorie thing? Please enlighten me lest I embarress myself further down the line.

    1. deb

      Sher — There is nothing bad at all about icing with butter. But for people looking for a break to heavier, butter-based icings, this version might be refreshing. And a nice contrast to buttery cakes.

  205. Lauren (UK)

    Nadia – I LOVE Konditor & Cook!! That receipe looks gorgeous, thank you…and I will have to investigate Saint Delia’s chocolate frosting recipe. To be perfectly, honest, I often just rely on instinct and experimentation for frosting and icing recipes and hope for the best. This is not always terribly efficient/sucessful, but hey ho!

  206. heather

    thank you sooooo much! what to do?- when i moved to london almost a year ago only to find that they really don’t do cake mixes here!!! my daughter had her 7th birthday shortly after moving into our new place- with no furniture or kitchen supplies! no cake mix! now i’ll have THE PERFECT cake for this year! thank you so much! i needed this!

  207. Natalie

    Yes, yes YESSSS!!!!! Finally I can make a cake that doesn’t suck! Every time I make from scratch, it comes out inedible… I think my problem was that I didn’t use cake flour.. :-/ D’oh!

  208. Nimble

    I made a yellow cake with chocolate butter frosting out of my old Better Homes cookbook two years ago. The cake was dry and blah, the frosting was the only part worth eating! (I have had better luck with chocolate cakes.) I will try this combo, it sounds great.

    Thanks for all your cooking savvy sharing.

  209. juli

    Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe. I went a head and baked it today for a office surprise party. I did make some changes: I divided the frosting and made the filling with white chocolate, no extra sweetening was needed. The outer frosting I made with dark chocolate and only added 2 Table spoons of confectioners sugar. For decoration I put a few hand fulls of berries on top. Everybody enjoyed it!
    I did think it was a little tall though. Next time I’ll cut the tops off the cake.
    Again, thank you so much for your wonderful blog and great recipes.

  210. I recently made my first “from scratch” yellow cake. I made mine into cupcakes. I used the Better Homes cookbook recipe and thought it worked fine I felt it was lacking something. I think maybe the addition of the buttermilk would do the trick. I’m definitely going to try this one next. Thanks for doing the legwork. :)

    The icing sounds divine and my nieces will love the confetti sprinkles. They are my official cupcake decorators.

  211. Dawn in CA

    Some of my family members have dairy issues, so I did a “test run” of the frosting last night with soy sour cream. It turned out great! I wouldn’t normally plug a particular brand of something, but in the case of soy sour creams, I have really only found one with a decent taste: Tofutti’s “Better Than Sour Cream” brand. Also, I used almost the full 1/2 cup of the light corn syrup; not sure if the extra sweetness was needed b/c of the soy, or b/c I used extra-dark 60% chocolate. In any event, thought your other non-dairy readers might be interested in knowing the frosting is delish, even without the real cream. I’ll be making a full batch of the frosting, with the (non-dairy version of the) cake for my son’s bday this weekend! :)

  212. Betty

    I was looking to make this for my nephews birthday on Sunday.. and was wondering if i could substitute chocolate for white chocolate for the sour cream frosting. My nephew doesn’t like chocolate.

  213. I really want to make this cake for a friend’s birthday because I love the texture of a traditional yellow cake, but she’s requested chocolate cake. Could I just add 1/2 cup good cocoa powder to the recipe? Subtract 1/2 cup flour at the same time? (I’ve made your double chocolate cake before and it’s a bit rich for me. Please don’t hold that against me! This recipe is exactly what I’m looking for, only in chocolate.)

    1. deb

      I would use one of the chocolate cake recipes on the site: these two are my favorites. Both are perfect every time and have good chocolate flavor. 1/2 cup cocoa wouldn’t add a whole lot.

  214. Tula

    There goes the diet again. You wouldn’t happen to have a good strawberry frosting recipe? My brother’s birthday is next month and he prefers strawberry to chocolate. I made your pink lady strawberry cake last month and he ate most of it by himself, raving about how good it was. I’d love to find a nice, fluffy, not overly-sweet strawberry (or raspberry or any other berry) frosting to put on this yellow cake or maybe a white cake. It would make it a bit more summer-like, I think. The chocolate frosting I’ll save for myself :-)

  215. I am so excited about this frosting. When I don’t have the time or patience to make one the more “complicated” frostings, I always end up resorting to a buttercream (well, sometimes ganache). You may have just solved my problem!

  216. Susan

    I just ate a piece of this lovely cake. I made it this morning. It’s excellent today and will probably be even better with an overnight rest! The crumb is moist, tender and medium fine without being too light or airy, and with good flavor. It’s a high riser, too, and is impressive frosted. Nobody will ever go away from their birthday party where this cake is served feeling unloved, that’s for sure!

    I decided to bake it in 3 – 8″ layers because my 9’ers are a dark metal, and I didn’t want the dark crust, not that it would matter against this lucious dark chocolate frosting. I used creme fraiche instead of sour cream, as that’s what I had on hand and because it’s not as tangy as s cream. I thought it might allow the chocolate to come through without the sour backnote. I also didn’t add the coffee since I was using a 62% Sharfenberger dark chocolate. I didn’t think it needed pumping up! It didn’t, if anything, it needed toning down. In fact, for my taste, I could go lighter on the chocolate for this cake. A combo of semi sweet and milk might have suited me better and wouldn’t overpowder the delicate flavor of the cake. I suppose I could just eat it with some vanilla ice cream..that would do the trick even better! This frosting has a sophisticated, complex flavor. I think I’d save this frosting until my kids were out of the “purple icing love” phase!

    Great Cake, Deb. Thanks for letting us give it a try.

  217. Sorry, yet another question. I can’t easily buy buttermilk where I live. I usually use milk and lemon juice. I wonder what you would suggest as the best alternative. Also, just now I use skimmed milk, would whole milk be better?

  218. juli

    Yes, I’ve made white chocolate sour cream frosting severaltimes and it is great! Since white chocolate is so sweet, do not sweeten it further.have fun, juli

  219. Stoich91

    A+! Great first-time cake! I loved it. Yes, it took me three days of salavitating over the picture to finally get some buttermilk in the house (I wasn’t going to go for the lemon/milk, thing :-)) and make this cake (nix the frosting recipe! We ban corn syrup, fruictose or not, from our premesis, and wasn’t going for the funky maple/choco thing, either! :-)). Because of it’s size, this cake, in our family, should last…let me bring out the calculator…hmm…yeah, like 24 hours, or something. SO GOOD!! Definitly worth your time! Thanks for the beautiful recipes, great site, and wonderful pics. Good food, good photography…I’m there! :-) And with 318 comments in only 4 days…I’d say you have yourself a readership, or something, Deb…

  220. Meghan

    Thanks, Deb. This was a perfect cake. It baked up beautifully – and level!! This was the first (homemade) cake I have made in my new oven. It was a great and successful test. It was also a wonderful surprise for my husband because he is a cake-monster!

    I love your recipes and your comments. I enjoy learning from you. . . Now, leftover buttermilk. You know what that means? Fried chicken.

  221. Kid

    I have just started baking, and decided to make these in cupcake form. They cooked for about 15-16 minutes I think. They were just right. Also, if you do the cupcakes, the frosting might be too much. I did half of the cupcake recipe, and then a third of the frosting, and i had to really pile it on the cupcakes (not that I mind). Just thought I’d share that.

    Thanks so much for this recipe. it tasted amazing. and a bunch of people i gave it to loved it. THANKS!

  222. heather

    so exciting that you’re only ten weeks away!!!
    with a five year old and an almost three year old, i’ve baked my share of cakes and cupcakes… but, i haven’t found my perfect yellow cake either. maybe this will be it. i hope this will be it… then i can stop searching around. i’ll give this recipe a try, in cupcake form, for my youngest’s third birthday party in a couple of weeks. thanks for the recipe : )

  223. I tried this today for my daughter’s birthday but with a different icing. It was good but my own icing was just a bit to sweet. I will try yours next time.

  224. beckyk

    can I just say that I LOVE your site, Deb?! Thanks everyone for the answers to the corn syrup question. This is absolutely my favorite and possibly the best resource on the web for great, everyday food that works EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (If you knew me at all you would know I NEVER gush without merit. But there, I just did.)

  225. My housemate is severely dairy-allergic, so I made the cake with coconut milk, keeping everything else the same, and it baked up BEAUTIFULLY and has a lovely crumb (just a little drier than I would expect from buttermilk) and tastes wonderful, with just the faintest subtle echo of coconut. Dawn, I made a classic buttercream with margarine and French vanilla Coffee Mate in place of butter and cream, and I (who am a buttercream snob) Could.Not.Tell.The.Difference. (I would have totally gone with the chocolate icing, but the birthday honoree wanted classic yellow-cake-and-buttercream). It is just the perfection of simplicity!

  226. Annette

    Deb, your site is so amazing. The photographs alone! And your writing is so delightful and entertaining. I’m trying to make a little tea-time cake that’s less sweet and has some finely chopped rosemary in it. I think the sugar proportion is important, though, and it’s hard to get the chemistry right with less sugar. I’ll try this exact recipe with the addition of the rosemary and start from there. Thank you! Congrats on the impending visit from the stork!

  227. Robin

    Wow, this is a really fantastic cake. We had tonight for my son’s 1st birthday and everyone LOVED it. It was really yummy and I’m really happy that everyone just left so that my husband and I can scarf down some more. This is definitely going to be the go-to birthday cake from now on! The frosting is perfect too!

  228. Micki

    Wonderful cake! I halved it, substituted 1/2 cup of yogurt and 1/2 cup of milk for the butter milk, and made it up as a dozen cupcakes (15 minutes on my oven). It was perfect! Thanks!!

  229. I had the same problem with Rose Levy Birnbaum’s sour cream ganache the first time I made it, and she leaves out the important note about temperature in The Cake Bible too…but even with little flecks of chocolate, it was delicious and this is still my favorite chocolate frosting recipe. Well, except for the one of the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box, oh and the one…….

  230. eliza

    In your search for an ideal chocolate frosting, have you tried the Cooks Illustrated chocolate buttercream? It is rich, not cloyingly sweet, really chocolately, and so easy! It tastes somewhat like dark chocolate mouse and if you have leftovers and happen to freeze them… you can eat the frozen blobs. YUM!

  231. Patryce

    Cupcake report: I made 32 cupcakes, filling the cups nearly full, came out nicely domed but not overflowing the pan much(glad I had greased the top surface of the pan though) I followed the recipe as accurately as possible, with the exceptions being: had only three cups cake flour in the house, so faked a cup with the cornstarch trick mentioned above; used extra-large eggs, ’cause that’s what I get from Costco, and I had only about a cup of buttermilk hanging out in the freezer, so used the vinegar/whole milk sub for the rest. I baked them for 17 minutes, rotating pans after 10. I think I’ll try 16 or even 15 minutes next time, thought they were a tad dry, but great flavor, nice rise and good crumb. (nobody else thought they were dry but, hey, I’m really picky about cake) I imagine the flour and extra egg volume didn’t help the moisture either.

    I made half recipe of the frosting, since my 5 y.o. son wanted some lemon frosting too–a combination of 70% and 87% cocoa made for some VERY chocolate frosting! Very easy to make and the texture was great. Used the larger amt of corn syrup, since the choc had so little sugar already.

    I took some frosted lemon and some chocolate to a Girls Night In down the block, and they were very well received.

    I have a yellow cake recipe that I love for layer cakes, very moist and great flavor, but it shrinks too much to be good for cupcakes. Very pleased to have this one!

  232. Alice

    I tried this recipe today! It’s delicious! The frosting is exactly what I’ve been looking for- sweet, chocolate-y, and even a little tart with the sour cream. Yummmm…. I made cupcakes, and the recipe makes about 36 cupcakes!!! My first batch overflowed a little because I was trying to make 24 before I finally decided that I was just chasing disaster =P

  233. Joan

    I didn’t have buttermilk or lemons so just used milk on hand. The cake was dry. Flavorful but dry. Is that because I didn’t use buttermilk? BTW, I managed three layers and this was the best looking cake I’ve made in a long time.

  234. Dancer who eats

    I made this cake. LOVED the yellow cake and thought the frosting was okay. I think it is just the sour cream thing…

    Will make the cake again with a ganache or other chocolate frosting. Thanks!

  235. Julia

    I tried this today, but I made cupcakes. This recipe makes exactly 96 nicely-domed mini cupcakes (about a teaspoon and a half of batter per cupcake). And the frosting recipe makes just enough to frost all of them (medium amount of frosting on each). I put half a teaspoon of pureed raspberry on top of each cupcake before baking, which was a great addition. And I got to use my home-made sprinkles, so yay! This will definitely be my go-to yellow cake recipe from now on.

  236. joylynn

    Hi Deb,
    This post is perfect timing because my daughter’s 13th birthday is Friday and she has requested yellow cake. My only problem is that there will be at least 25 people at the party and I was planning to make a layer cake with 2 12 inch square layers. Any ideas on converting this to the larger size? Thanks!!!

  237. Farihah

    This looks like an awesome recipe! Just one question: can I use normal corn syrup as opposed to light corn syrup? Is there a difference? Thanks!!!

  238. Fran

    Baked for my own birthday yesterday, with a oh-no-I-couldn’t-have twist. Purchased a cake flour at Whole Foods that turned out to be whole wheat. Moist and delicious but very dense results. Never be fooled by overly-earnest cake flour!!! Will use the rest for bread making.

    Can’t wait to Smitten-ize some other special events. Deb, you rock!!!

  239. Sue B.

    I made this for the family yesterday… the batter was so generous, I got 3 plentiful 8-in. layers out of it! And absolutely beautiful cake… light and vanilla-y and gorgeous. I also like to drop my filled cake pans onto the counter to get out the bubbles b4 baking (per your cake tips), yet this time there still seemed to be a few extra holes in the finished product. But no matter. LOVED the frosting, tho the sourness was a little grown-up for the kids in the group. Guess I should have used more corn syrup (I did use a little over 1/4 cup). Next time I might throw in some powdered sugar…

  240. Jennifer

    I followed the recipe exactly and made a layer cake. The icing is fabulous, but the cake, though it has nice flavor, was way too dry!! What did I do wrong?

  241. Jenny

    Made a version of this over the weekend for my mom’s 60th birthday. I made it lemon-buttermilk and filled the cake with some of my delicious wild black-raspberry curd and a lemon pastry cream. I frosted it with my lemon swiss buttercream, wrote “Happy 60th Birthday” with tempered dark chocolate and finished decorating with wild black-raspberries. FYI, I made the cake on Thursday, froze it and then filled/decorated it on Sunday. My layers domed more than I would have liked, but now I have “scraps”, layered with extra filling in my freezer to nibble on later! It was definitely not fluffy, rather moist, dense and buttery.

  242. Judy

    Thank you so much for sharing your cake recipe. I have baked several yellow cakes and they were all dry and dense. This one is perfect. I made it today for my son’s 21st b-day. It was light and fluffy and tasted fabulous. This time I used a CI recipe for the frosting but I am going to try your Choc Sour Cream Frosting next time. There will definitely be a next time.
    I hope you let us know how much cake flour by weight you use. I never trust myself with the dip and sweep or the spoon in method. Everyone seems to have a different weight, some as low as 3 1/2oz. per cup and as much as 4.6oz. per cup. I wasn’t sure how much to use so I used the dip and sweep method and it weighed about 4.5oz. I was afraid of having another dry cake so I just took out a little and it was 4.35oz. and that was the weight I used for each cup. I know this not a common recipe weight but it did turn out great.
    Thanks again for a great recipe!

  243. You saved the day AGAIN! My mom is coming up to visit, we only see each other once a year :-(, and it’s her BIRTHDAY! I asked what kind of cake she wanted me to make for her and she said a yellow cake with chocolate frosting!! BOOYAAAAAAHHH! I have one that I make from one of the KA flour cookbooks but it’s never been WOW! So I’m happy to give this a whirl tomorrow so that when she arrives on Friday she will feel LOVED!

    Congrats on the CRIB!! That’s a milestone for sure!

  244. I made this for my baby girl’s first birthday last weekend. It is flawless, foolproof and rock-your-socks-off delicious. I love the icing, it was the best part! It was so not sweet and that really made it outstanding. Thanks so much for posting this just in time for my needing it. Fabulous!

  245. I halves the recipe make 12 cupcakes last night. It was too much and my cupcakes overflown. :P Too greedy. Or maybe I left the milk+vinegar slightly more than 10mins?

    I tried it out last night because I wanted to use it for my boy’s four years old birthday cake tomorrow. The cakes tasted good but I have some questions so that I can improve it:

    1. I dropped the muffin pan a few times to get the bubbles out. I regret after I did it because I noticed that my papar cup went sideways when I put the pan inside the oven. I don’t know it was because of overfilled or because I dropped it. However when the cake was done, I still see holes inside my cakes. Any comment on this?

    2. The cake was a bit moised on the top this morning. Is it that I haven’t baked enough? I baked 20mins and the pick already came out clean.

    Hopes to hear from you soon. Thanks for the recipe.

    1. deb

      Pei — If the toothpick was clean, the cake was baked. Moisture tends to accumulate on wrapped cakes overnight; don’t think it means anything is wrong. If your paper cups shifted, it might be because they weren’t a good fit for the pan — frustratingly, even though muffin tins and liners are supposed to be standard, they’re all a little different.

  246. Oh my. just finished icing the last cupcake. I’ve already eaten two with a tall cold glass of milk. Delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe. xo
    p.s. I halved it and it made 16 cupcakes.

  247. mary fran

    i’m excited to make this, but i have an amateur question: is the bittersweet/semisweet chocolate the same thing as bittersweet/semisweet *baking* chocolate? if no, could you use semisweet chocolate chips?

    1. deb

      Technically speaking, bittersweet is supposed to be a little more bitter than semi-sweet (I’m thinking 70 versus 60 percent). That said, I don’t think anyone pays attention to this distinction. I see the two used interchangeably even in books from pastry chefs that would know they’re different… I’d say use either, or err on the side of more or less bitter, as you prefer.

  248. I’m soooooooooo making this cake for my son’s 1st birthday though he will not be able to eat it. He can definitely dip a little bit.

    Congraz!!!! Hope you will not be that crazy as I’m. To tell you the truth, his bday is in Oct :P Yes I’ve started to look for a perfect cake recipe since he’s 6-mth old. hehe

  249. courtney

    i’m staring to lose track of your cakes and cookies!! (a tragic thing considering you’re my go-to cake/cookie source) will you be updating your “topics” any time soon?

  250. Julie B

    So my mom asks me what kind of cake I want for my birthday – and I have visions of her standing in the cake mix aisle grabbing the frosting and mix and then a flash of your cake photo in my minds eye and I quickly cut her off and said, “I’m bringing my birthday cake!” I just got done preparing it for the big day tomorrow – the frosting is right up my alley but my my husband is a little freaked out. He kept telling me to add corn syrup until I threw him out of the kitchen when I got to a little over 1/4 cup – it’s my damn cake! I think I’ve made 5 of your recipes this week! Thanks for all you do!

  251. This really does look beautiful and moist. I will make it this weekend. I made a chocolate birthday cake for my sister inlaws birthday this past weekend. Everyone loved it. I added the instant expresso for the first time and it make a big difference in bringing out the chocolate flavor. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  252. sandy

    oh, I’m so sorry if you thought my comment was rude, I didn’t mean it to be. I just said I didn’t like the frosting but did say different strokes… meaning others might.

  253. clbtx

    I just baked the cake layers today for my brother’s birthday tomorrow. Seriously, they are perfect! Possibly the most perfect cake I’ve ever baked! I flavored it with some spiced rum instead of vanilla and am making a variation of your Bailey’s buttercream with spiced rum for the frosting. I think someone will be pretty happy. :-) Thanks for sharing all your great recipes!

  254. Jen

    I made your cake today in a bundt pan and while it overflowed a little bit, it still came out amazingly well – the best butter cake recipe I’ve ever made. (I also took one of your cake tips and brushed it with simple syrup before pouring on a chocolate glaze.) I’ve tried several different recipes for butter cake in an attempt to find one that’s delicious and not from a box, but they always came out too dense and heavy. My husband loves cakes from a box and even he thought this one was great, as did everyone at our party. I was very rushed for time yesterday and made a chocolate cake from a box with canned frosting for my daughter, but made your cake today for her second party – and I was so happy to see that my daughter loved the homemade cake much more!

  255. Diane

    Deb, I came across this site and already wish I lived with you! lol. Your family better worship you!

    I’ve always been a fan of baking, but am still quite a newbie at it, and have had very little practice since Home ec in high school. Since searching through your blog, the three main recipes I really want to try out are “Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies”, this “Best Birthday Cake”, and “Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake.” I think I can already predict your answer but would an amateur like me be able to tackle any of these three recipes w/o butchering them?:S

    I’m also open to any other recipe suggestions you might have for a starter like me. Anything involving chocolate would be nice but I have an open mind:D. Thanks so much and keep up the great work!

  256. I asked my finace “Should I make this?” His response was priceless. “Yellow cake with chocolate frosting? If you make it, I will eat it. All of it.” So, here we go again…

  257. Athryn

    I made this cake for my birthday yesterday, and the cake came out beautifully, but for some reason, the frosting did not turn out so well. The chocolate melted fine, it all mixed together well, but when it came to the sweetening point, it just never came together for me. I kept adding more corn syrup, but the taste of the frosting was still just bitter and too sour.

  258. We all have a favorite yellow cake/chocolate frosting recipe in this house–the one my grandmother used to make–but I always like trying other recipes, so I tried this cake this morning. The cake as promised is fluffy, moist, and tasty. Really tender crumb, too. I admit that I didn’t love the frosting, though–too rich, too sour, too something I can’t quite my finger on. That’s just my taste, though!

    Lots of luck with the upcoming baby!

  259. I think you might’ve had your perfect yellow cake recipe hiding under your nose for a couple of years – I’d just made the caramel cake from your archives (verdict from the workmates – YUM!), and ingredient-wise, it’s almost exactly a half proportion of this yellow cake (give or take a couple of tablespoons of flour). I only realised because I had half a carton of buttermilk that needed using, and went looking for things containing buttermilk, and was about to make a half-batch of this cake!

  260. Alpa

    Deb ,

    I was the one who asked about eggless version for this cake . I finally made this birthday cake for my son’s 5th b’day , both as cupcakes and nine inch cake . I used a commerical egg replacer bought from natural , health food store . They were an absolute smash hit . Thank you so much for the recipe. Loved the frosting recipe , fell short of sour cream so added 1/4 stick of butter . it turned out creamy .. really well
    once again Thank you


  261. This might be a dumb question, but do you sift the flour before you measure it? or do you measure it and then sift all the ingredients together? I’ve never really understood sifting. Thanks so much! I want to make this recipe as cupcakes for my husband’s birthday this weekend :)

    1. deb

      You sift it after you measure it. When you’re reading a recipe, it is all about the placement of the word “sifted”. If it says “2 1/2 cups sifted flour” this means that you sift then measure from the sifted flour. If it says “2 1/2 cups flour, sifted”, you measure and then sift the flour, using it all. [Since I find this latter method much easier (as do most people), I often rewrite recipes too accommodate for the flour that would be lost when sifted, as I did in this case.]

      That said, in this recipe, I use neither of the “sifted” instructions in the ingredient list, but in the steps where I say that you “sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.” Thus, no pre-sifting required.

  262. Deb
    I’ve been reading your blog for almost 3 years now, and I’ve never left you a comment. Not because I didn’t have what to say, but I felt that it was unnecessary. Not anymore!
    I found your blog on StumbleUpon shortly after I got married and can’t tell you how many of your recipes I use weekly. I read your posts to my husband because they are so entertaining!
    The time has come for me to comment, because this post really hits home for me. I am 22 and expecting my 3rd child in September. I have been blessed with a husband and children who can eat whatever they please and never gain a pound. This demands a lot of baked goods from me and sometimes I just run out of ideas. Next week I am making a double birthday party for my son and daughter – she is 2 and he is 1! I’ve been going crazy searching for exactly this recipe and of course you delivered. I really just want to thank you for providing this wonderful blog and even though I don’t know you personally I feel grateful to know you through your site.
    Congratulations on your upcoming birth! I hope this child brings you only happiness and pride. I also hope your labor and delivery are fast and efficient :)

  263. Rachel

    Deb, I used this recipe last weekend for my son’s 5th birthday cake and it was my first successful layer cake EVER. It turned out so well and I told everyone about your blog. Your cake tips are so helpful and I will never again be afraid of the layer cake! No more 9 x 13 cakes for me!

  264. heather

    i am making cupcakes for my son’s third birthday party tomorrow… i filled 26 and they are overflowing. so, the recipe definitely makes more than 22-24 : ) they look delicious!

  265. i made these last week for my husband’s birthday and we both loved them! I cut the recipe in half and it made about 16 good sized cupcakes. I used a simple buttercream frosting because we were taking them camping and I didn’t want to worry about refrigerations. Thanks for the recipe – these turned out great and i love that i know exactly what’s in them. i posted about them on my blog and linked back to you – hope that’s ok! also, i’m guessing they get stale a little quicker than if i’d used a cake mix because of lack of preservatives?

  266. I wanted to report that I made this as cupcakes yesterday and I got 30 standard sized cupcakes from the full recipe. I also made a full recipe of icing–but I only had 2 cups of sour cream so I replaced the rest with whole milk yogurt and it worked great! I was a bit worried at first that the icing wasn’t really “fudgy” (it seemed sort of runny at first) so I put the cupcakes in the fridge overnight and it firmed up and fudged up nicely. My coworkers are so loving these today!

  267. Julia

    I made this for my brother’s birthday last night and I’d say it was a hit! The frosting was AMAZING and no one could believe it was basically just sour cream, chocolate, and corn syrup. I also ended up with wheat cake flour and the cake was a little bit denser and cornbread-tasting (according to my dad…) than I was expecting, so I think I’ll try twice-sifted regular flour next time. But here’s the best part: I made the cake a day in advance and it was still super moist 24 hours later!!! Congrats on being so close to your baby day! I hope you’ll find a little time to post some pictures after your new addition arrives!

  268. Diane

    I’ve made this superb cake twice since it was posted. I’ll never make a different yellow cake. Both times, they were birthday cakes tp give to friends. My husband is so appreciative that it makes two 9″ layers as well as an 8″ layer. The small layer stays with us and never lasts throughout the day!

  269. Pat Kane

    Apparently, I’m the only one who doesn’t like this cake. It turned out beautifully but I didn’t like the taste or the texture. Give me Duncan Hines any day! I’m going to make the cake again to see if there’s any difference. I’m wondering if I left out or added too much of something, although I don’t think this is true. I also made the sour cream frosting. I neither loved or disliked it. I certainly didn’t think it was great though. I’m really bummed. Still searching for the best yellow cake recipe.

    PS the cake batter tasted soooo much better than the finished cake.

  270. I too have been searching for The Perfect Scratch-Built Birthday Cake. With only three days left before my daughter’s first birthday, I’m so glad I found your recipe! I can say that it deserves the name Best Birthday Cake. I made my test batch as two different sizes of cupcake. I think there is plenty of batter for at least 30 regular size cupcakes. Even after sitting out overnight and uncovered, they remained moist. In fact, the flavor improved. I didn’t have as much luck with the frosting. It never thickened up enough to spread. I turned it into mocha cheesecake ice cream which came out great. Thanks so much for this recipe!

  271. I just finished my son’s b-day cake using this recipe. I made 2 12-inch rounds, so I doubled the recipe and made 5 cupcakes. The cake turned out very pretty. The batter tasted great. I’ve only tried the cupcakes so far, but it doesn’t taste… vanilla enough. The frosting was great at first, but I didn’t finish icing the cake before it was hardening. Now I’ve got solidified chocolate on top of cake. I mean, it tastes good, but I’m concerned about the aesthetics of it at the party tomorrow. (I know, I should have tested it first). Do I need to turn the air up and hope that the body heat and the humidity make it soften up by noon tomorrow?

  272. lesley

    Just pulled my 2 layers out of the oven. I agree with the other posters that the batter smells lovely (didn’t taste it myself), very vanilla-y. They are now inverted & on the cooling rack but they smell very eggy. Did anyone else notice this? I’m not fan of eggy cakes.

    I’m not using a chocolate frosting.. I’m going to make a cream cheese vanilla frosting instead. I hope the frosting overpowers the eggy-ness.. it’s for my brother’s bday tonight so I’m crossing my fingers.

  273. Penny

    This was the first post I saw when I visited SK for the first time. And now, I know that I am home. I baked the layers and made the frosting for it yesterday … my “sneak tastes” of both revealed that this tasty baby likely will not live long in my household! I’m going to put it all together when I get home from work tonight.

    I haven’t been much into box cake mixes in recent years (canned frosting is another story) but now I know that I will never use one again (same goes for frosting!). This was really just as easy to make and it’s about 15 times more delicious, IMO. Deb, I love you.

  274. Kathie

    Made this cake over the weekend and it was Fantastic!! I have to agree with some comments above about the frosting! It was so bad I ended up making the cake again just to refrost it. Perfect cake recipe…….but please skip the frosting!

  275. jennifer

    This was delicious! I made it for a friend with a corn allergy and substituted simple syrup in place of the corn syrup in the frosting. It turned out fantastic!

  276. Stefanie

    Made the cake batter and turned it into cupcakes. They took 23 minutes in my convenction oven set to 325 (lower to account for the convection). I substituted AP flour (20 oz for the total amount) and exchanged 2 tbsp flour per cup for cornstarch, sifting twice. It was great! Much better than a box.

  277. Babs

    I used the frosting recipe from this cake on a different cake today and all I can say is THANK YOU. It’s perfection. Not too sweet or heavy which was perfect to balance the sweet and heaviness of the cake I used it on. Yum yum. I just hope the people I made it for will like it as much as I did. :)

  278. Alexis

    I made the cake tonight for a co-worker’s son’s birthday cake. Thank you! I was only about to take a pinch from the top (I call it quality control) for tasting, but it was great. The right moistness, the right flavors, a pretty golden delight. It is officially my “go to” yellow cake. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  279. Colleen

    I have a question about the sour-cream frosting. I usually keep my sour cream in the fridge. Does that mean I should keep the sour-cream frosted cake in the fridge as well, or is it safe/ok to leave it out on the counter? Also, the frosting seems to become somewhat runny as it warms to room temperature.

  280. deb

    You should keep it in the fridge. The recipe (last step) also notes that if the frosting gets too thin or soft, that you should re-thicken it by cooling it in the fridge.

  281. Alex


    I love your blog! You have taught me how to make pie, and now, how to make fabulous yellow cake!

    I made a half recipe of cupcakes last night, and they are fabulous! They were perfect after 20 min. in the oven, and they’re almost better after spending the night in the fridge. :) Yum!

    Thank you!

  282. Neil Gaffney

    I made this cake on 8/12/2009 for my wife’s birthday. I would like to point out a couple of things.The cake overflowed when using two 9″ cake pans. The amount of cake is too much for only two pans.The icing is also very bitter when using semi sweet chocolate even by adding more corn syrup.I am a fan of dark chocolate but this goes way beyond the limit. In spite of this I would make it again by using three 9″ pans and using a combination of milk and semi sweet chocolate for the frosting.

  283. I made this cake last night. Well it made 2 – 6 inch cake, 12 regular sized cup cakes and 24 mini cup cakes and there was still a lot more batter left. It tasted great coming out of the oven, but I’m waiting on what other had to say. I iced it w/ Green Tea Swiss butter cream because that was what I had on hand. I’m excited about them.. I hope they get great reviews because I’m planning on using this recipe to make birthday cupcakes in a few months.

  284. Thanks again, Deb! I made this last week and it was amazing. I used two 9″ pans, but they must not be quite 2 inches high because I couldn’t fit all the batter in. I ate the leftovers and felt slightly sick but very satisfied.

    For those who were wondering, you can pipe the frosting with a really wide tip as long as you aren’t worried about perfection. I piped little dots around the base of the cake for visual interest just by loading some frosting in a ziploc bag, chilling it in the fridge for a few hours and then cutting a small bit of the corner off and squeezing it out in tiny dollops. There will be pictures up on my blog tomorrow if you’re curious.

  285. I just tried this recipe and it turned out great! I halved both recipes and made 12 cupcakes, with the perfect amount of frosting. Thanks for such a great tasting cake and the super simple frosting. I think it’s my new favorite!

  286. cedens

    any tips on how to make thisrecipe high altitude? I’ve never really had a problem baking at a mile high but although the cake was really and moist it was a little on the flat side.

  287. Sue

    Made the Best Birthday Cake yesterday during an annual marathon cooking day for a special dinner party, and had an all time kitchen “disaster” occur that I would want to warn readers of. That is, after baking many cakes over the last forty yrs, I have been used to the recipes stating “2 8″ or 9″ round pans”. Being meticulous in every other way to the recipe, and ingredients, we made the batter and put it into my 40 year old 8″ pans. Twenty min. later smelled something burning, and in my Viking Oven were stalagmite drippings on all three racks and oven bottom!!! Everything was overflowing. My 18 yr old apprentice, suggested we get a third pan, and take some batter out from each of the “runneth overs”. We did, we took everything out, waited for the oven to cool down, cleaned it and recooked them all! Frosted and gorgeous we served our three layer disaster and our guests marvelled at the story and the cake was delicious!! (Though we have photos to prove the drips and burned parts!) So——it must be stressed use only 9 ” pans!!

  288. gleigh

    My sweet daughter turned one on Thursday, so today we celebrated with a Cake and Champagne party – the first birthday is for the adults anyway, right?? So, I spent yesterday baking and remembering. I made 5 different cakes and an odd dozen or so cupcakes… and of course a patty-cake for the birthday girl. Mercy!! This is what happens when an indecisive person is in charge of the menu! I morphed this one from a 2 layer, 9″ cake to a three layer, 6″ cake, and similarly scattered with sprinkles. Cute, cute, cute. I am delighting in all the leftovers…

  289. barb

    i made this cake a few weeks back and although it was good (hey, it was cake),
    it wasn’t quite the to-die-for yellow cake that i was expecting. i found this recipe in a magazine by chance and tried it. Very, very moist
    and easy. i think i am going to try it as a layer cake with a chocolate frosting.
    i never used yogurt for a cake, but i cannot stress how moist this is!

  290. Jess

    I am having trouble finding cake flour in the regular grocery store. Is it absolutely necessary to use or are they any substitutions like AP flour?

  291. Cheryl

    I used your frosting recipe for my 2 year old’s birthday cake and it was GREAT! I will never use so-sweet-it makes-your-tooth-ache buttercream frosting anymore!

    I also made the Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake you have here for hubby’s birthday (that’s 2 birthdays in 1 week!). No more messy water baths, and who cares about the crack right in the middle – it was super duper yummy!

    Thank you!

  292. JM

    I made this cake for the first time last night for a co-worker’s birthday today, and it was an enormous success! Many thanks.

  293. sarah

    I did successfully make cupcakes from this: I used a 1/4 c. measure for each cupcake (~ 2/3 to 3/4 full), baked them for 20 minutes in a 350 deg F oven, and ended up with exactly 30 perfect cupcakes.

    I loved how the recipe comes together – it’s an easy one to mix and bake. The cupcake texture is lovely, too – it’s a very tender and light cake, perfect for summer because it’s not too heavy or cloying. But the taste was a bit too airy; I had to try very hard to taste any flavor or sweetness. I’m wondering if that’s because the cupcakes, being a smaller portion, need a bit more flavor than for a full-sized cake? Next time I make cupcakes from these, I might try brushing a bit of vanilla/water on top of each cake before frosting it. (That’s a tip from one of your previous celebration cakes.) Or maybe adding a bit more vanilla, or a some vanilla powder, to the cake mix before baking.

    As for the frosting, I definitely need to try this again; I used Sharffen Berger Semisweet Chocolate. The resulting frosting had a very bitter (tangy? I’m not sure) taste. I’m thinking that the recipe is fine, but the chocolate I used was a poor choice. Adding more corn syrup (I added a 3 or 4 extra tablespoons, one at a time as recommended) didn’t bring out the sweetness as much as it did compete with the tanginess. (But I have to admit it was a gorgeous looking frosting.)

    I’m offering this so your readers avoid this particular chocolate for this recipe. Deb: Which chocolate did you use?

    p.s. I love your site; I hope you don’t find this comment too negative.

    1. deb

      Appreciate the feedback. The frosting — being sour cream-based — is definitely tangy and not very sweet. I believe I used Valrhona feves. I couldn’t find the semisweet that I wanted, only 72%, so I used some of those and a small amount of milk chocolate pieces to get it closer to the 60% level I wanted. Yes, I’m super-particular like that. ;)

  294. Jamie

    I made this cake with buttercream icing & it was a huge success. The birthday girl and family all enjoyed it. It had a great flavor. Thanks!

  295. Hi Deb, I plan to bake this cake over the weekend and so was reading through your tips. I have a few questions. (I must admit, it’s the firts time I ‘m going to make a layered cake. I normally avoid it because of lack of confidence – but your posts give me courage.)

    1. You said – bake the cake at a lower temperature if I want to make it even (so that less to trim)- so should I bake this at 300 degrees?

    2. Also about leveling the cake sides – what if the baking pan is round? Do you still need the leveling? Tips?

    3. What does sifting the flour do to the cake? I am curious because I saw a friend of mine bake cakes without sifting.. and I started doing the same way without realising much difference. But, of course, I have not tried making these cakes.

    4. Also how do you make pure vanilla extract? I normally put the vanilla bean while boiling milk or something for some purpose but never made the extract. Or is it just the thing that you buy from a store?

    5. Did you do the whole mixing process with the electric mixer? Often while making the fruit cakes, I find it turns out better if I use a spoon for the rest of the process, after using the mixer for the butter and eggs (or the wet items).

    6. If I just butter the cake pan and sprinkle some flour on it, would that do (that is, no parchment paper) or would there be some shortcomings?

    Finally, as you said, most finished cakes will keep moist and lovely in a fridge for at least a day, I am planning to make the layers tomorrow and do the layering and frosting a day before the D-day? Hope know one will know!

    Thanks in advance for all the patience. All the best :)

    1. deb

      WOW. I am assuming you’ve read my cake tips post — if not, you should. It’s written for people with a lot of questions. ;)

      1. I might try 325 instead. 2. The leveling is for the dome. 3. It lightens the ingredient. It won’t break the cake if you don’t do it, but you’re going for the lightest cake you can, so sifting will help. 4. I don’t make my own extract but the web is full of recipes (really directions) if you’d like to try. If you’re buying from a store, make sure it is labeled “pure”. 5. You can mix the cake any way that works for you. 6. Parchment paper will give you a layer of security, a guarantee that the cake will come out of the pan that you won’t get without it. Should a well-buttered and floured cake pan release a cake layer? Yes. But it’s not a guarantee the way silicon-coated parchment paper is.

  296. Ouch. I just made this cake (still learning my way around my first stand mixer) last night, and when I took it out of the pan it split in half almost diagonally down the middle.

    I was using a 13×9, and the cake was pretty high. I was wondering if I might not have had enough flour. My normal flour measuring method (when I don’t have ounces/grams to work with) is to spoon into the measuring cup and level. Is this how you made it?

    That said, the cake pieces are delicious and will make a wonderful trifle. Just not what I was aiming for when I decided to make a cake for a friend who just took the bar exam.

  297. Karyn

    I decided to live dangerously and try this instead of my go-to cake layers from the Cake Bible for my mom’s birthday and — disaster!! Followed the recipe exactly, checked my oven temp with my handy oven thermometer, checked the layers at 35 minutes and pulled them out. The tops looked a little lunar, which I ignored. But when I went back 10 minutes later to turn the layers out of the pans, the centers of each layer had collapsed. Now I’m going to use these layers anyway (frosting will be my spackle) but I’m wondering what caused the collapse?

  298. Julie

    I was wondering about the swiss buttercream icing. I read where you said that you could leave it most of the day. I am making a “princess cake” for my daughter’s 5th birthday and would love to finish it the day before–the party is at 10 a.m. Should I put it in the fridg. overnight?

    I am really enjoying your blog! Thanks for all the yummy recipes and helpful advice!

  299. yvette

    This is my fave cake combination, yellow or vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. When my son asked for his birthday cake (he’s 5 already!) to be chocolate, I just made the executive decision that it would be yellow cake. He picked the frosting (half lemon buttercream with yellow sprinkles, half chocolate buttercream with color-y sprinkles). It was yum, but I’d love a basic recipe for cake and frosting and can’t wait to try this!

    *11 Jamie R – if you HAVE to resort to box mix, I love Cherrybrook Kitchens Yellow or Chocolate cake mixes! Taste most like homemade to me, nice crumb, not to fluffy, no chemical taste. The chocolate cake mix even has mini mini choc chips!

    *417 Julie – I’d put it in the fridge overnight, then take it out to warm up in the morning, depending on temp. of your venue, keep cake out of direct sun until cake time… good luck

  300. Sharon

    I halved the recipe and baked 2 thinner 8″ cakes. They baked in 27 minutes. Am frosting with whipped cream, and serving for my baby’s 1st Birthday. No chocolate for him yet!

  301. Hi Deb, well, after bothering you with handfulls of questions and (thanks to your patience) your point-wise replies, I owe you a feedback. I can’t differ from what all the above comments had implied. The cake was too good to resist. Everyone who ate a piece asked for another, despite witholdings about butter, diet, sweetness, etc… the recipe was just perfect.

    What I goofed up (I think so, although no one cared), I made the frosting too liquidy (by error). I had to cut the chocolate quantity in half because it was becoming too strong for my taste, but the sour cream quantity was not reduced much. So although I tried to copy what I saw on the videos where experts taught how to frost a cake, and pretend that I was doing very well, I actually was not. The filling and the frosting never got a thick layer like in the videos (despite the freezer trick). My frosting was perhaps half of that of yours. I need to improve heavily.

    Finally, it seemed that the chocolate icing was a little overpowering than the cake layers. Is that how it should be? Do you think a white frosting would be less stark and as interesting? Just wondering.. plan to try with different frostings.

    Also, what do you do when you want to bake two cake layers at the same time in the same oven? I tried to interchange their places (one in the middle and one at the bottom) every 10 minutes. It was okay, but of course one of the layers had a dome double the other.

    Whatever it is, I can’t thank you more. You did wonders with your blog and I feel so happy to have tried out a layer cake complete with fillings and frostings. Thank you. Thank you. & thank you :)

  302. Christina

    What did I do wrong? I halved the recipe to make cupcakes. Based on previous comments about it overflowing, I erred on the side of putting less batter in each cup. However, I wish I filled them up more as these did not rise or fill the paper. Also, the cakes were very squishy and too moist. Did I underbake them? They were browning on the top, not too much, but enough for me to pull them out. They were springy when I removed them from the oven and passed the toothpick test. I had to let the batter sit out like 10 min while my other batch of cupcakes were baking. Could this have been my downfall? Thanks!

  303. Made this cake over the past two days for a friend’s birthday party last nigh, and as with everything you share, it was a hit! When people found out I made the cake, they were high-fiving me and showering me with praise ALL night. The birthday boy loved it! Thank you once again for making me feel like a domestic goddess :)

  304. I need to make two 9×13 cakes…would I follow the same instructions? Also, I have to make one of them into a pirate ship and stack it on top of the other one…do you think I would be able to do this without worry of the bottom one caving in? This looks like a great cake, but am not versed well in making special cakes…

    Mama Bird

  305. Kathy

    The cake was great, the frosting was terrible. It was way too bitter and I kept adding more and more corn syrup to make it taste less bitter. It ended up still tasting terrible and no one liked the frosting. I will have to keep looking for the best chocolate frosting.

  306. moe

    I made the cake this past weekend and I have to say it was the nicest looking cake I’ve ever made. The sour cream frosting made it so easy to achieve a smooth finish. However, I would say if there are going to be children consuming it, I would suggest using a butter cream frosting. My kids were not very keen on this one. I’m not sure whether it was the espresso powder or the sour cream. However, the adults all seemed to like it. I wouldn’t change a thing about the cake!

  307. Duh, just re-read your post and recipes makes one 9×13 pan. Sorry. Also figured out how to support the ship part of the cake…cake board and dowels. This is going to be interesting…hope it’s not a ship-wreck!

  308. Sharon

    Deb – do you think this cake would support the addition of mini chocolate chips? I have a ton of leftover chocolate buttercream in the freezer, and my son requested chocolate chip cake.

    The 2 8″ cakes I made for the baby were a hit! Perfect for a smaller gathering, but still celebratory. This is a winner!

  309. Paula

    Way simpler than the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for their yellow cake (they too were trying to replicate the Duncan Hines recipe without the guar gum or whatever else they stick in those boxes); thanks for that!!

    Also CONGRATULATIONS on the impending birth of your child- I hope you’ll still find time to cook and bake and share info. with us. My little ones are 15 months and 4 yrs and I’m just getting back to regular cooking and baking. I usually bake in the evenings once they are asleep or very early in the morning when they are asleep.

  310. Christina M

    Thank you! I have been looking for a cake like this that doesn’t come out of a box and have tried other recipes claiming to be the best and they’re either too dense or too dry; I wanted to try yours for a coworkers birthday cake but was worried it would have the same problems as the other from scratch recipes I’ve tried. So tonight I quartered the recipe and made a single layer 6-inch cake for my husband and myself to try first and it was perfect! It was light and moist and will definitely be my go to yellow cake recipe.

  311. Meilin

    Delicious! I made this for the first time last night and had a piece just now. (I used a different frosting but didn’t change the cake at all.) It’s so tasty, I had to have a second helping. It’s got this lovely buttery flavor and aroma, a lot like the box mix yellow cakes except with NO artificial stuff! Better yet, it only took me 31 minutes to mix up and get into the oven! Normally I’m so slow with new recipes, but this was a breeze. Thank you Deb!!

    One tip for people, you want to eat it warm or at room temp. If you eat it cold, you’re missing out.

  312. Made this as cupcakes this weekend. LOVED the cake part! The frosting was a bit too tangy for me but still tasty. Liked it better after I had sprinkled some sea salt on top. I made way more frosting than I needed so if you make them as cupcakes, I’d recommend making less than the recipe!

  313. Krista

    YUMMY! I just made this cake and frosting for my son’s 15th birthday today. Delish! Thanks so much for posting your recipes. I love your blog.. and congrats on your new little one. He is precious!

  314. Isadora

    Hello, I would love to try this cake and frosting recipe but I’m very confused with your measurements. I’m from Europe and I use grams. I checked your conversions page but I’m still somehow confused. For example, is it 560 gr of flour or 454? What about sugar? 450 grams seem a lot of sugar. Could anyone post the ingredients with the right metric measurements please? I’m fine with the teaspoons and tablespoons. It’s just the cups.

  315. Irene Carrick

    What can I say. This has to be the best recipe for yellow cake I have made. The flavor is buttery – not bland as most are. Thank you.

  316. eva

    This will be my first layer cake. It’s for my dad’s 70th birthday. I just took the second layer out of the oven (I only have a mini-oven, no space for 2 pans) and it looks good.
    I’ve used smaller pans, so I put some of the extra batter in 2 tiny cake tins and added some chopped up mango. Very yummy.

    Now I have been reading through the comments and I’m a little concerned about the frosting. Where I live it’s really hot, maybe 29 degrees (like 80F?? no idea..) so will the frosting survive a 1 hour trip to the next refrigerator? Or should I use a different frosting?
    Anyway thank you dearly for your great blog&recipes and congratulations on you little baby!

  317. Made the cake this past weekend, was incredible. I used a 9-inch springform pan instead of two standard 9-inch pans. Top started browning too quickly, so I loosely covered it with a sheet of foil and continued baking at 350-degrees F; took about 45 minutes longer than suggested (not surprising considering differences in pans).

    Used half bittersweet/half semisweet chocolate in frosting. In the future I’ll stick with milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate as many guests felt frosting was too tangy the way i prepared it (although I liked it).

  318. Nancy

    I baked this cake for my son’s bday and I am sorry to say but it’s got to be the worst tasting thing I’ve ever baked (and I’ve baked a lot). It looked as glorious as the photos but the taste…. oh not good. I will confess to two things however; I froze the cakes as I read at this site that you could (to make frosting it easier) so maybe that effected the cakes texture/taste. I also substituted quark for the sour cream in the icing which my German friends always use in icings but that turned out to be a bad move – horrible taste. I attempted to save it by adding honey and then icing sugar but it just kept getting worse and worse. In the end, it’s a big cake to have to throw away….. Next time I’ll stick to a known recipe for celebrations (lesson – not the time to experiment).

    Thanks anyway.

  319. amy b

    deb, a million congratulations on your latest concoction. he is indeed delicious. mine is turning one (!) and i definitely want this golden cake. I sort of have my heart set on maple frosting, though–october, fall leaves, outdoor party… Can you advise? I’m scared of attempting maple buttercream, and wondering about maple-cream-cheese holding up out of doors…

  320. It wasn’t so strange! The whole time I was pregnant and since, I’ve been testing chocolate cookie recipes for the perfect one to be mine. I liked my friends mom’s cookies better than my own mom’s, and I’ll be damned if that’s going to happen to me!

  321. Emily

    I’ve made this recipe into cupcakes and they were great! (baked about 15 minutes, but as in any baking, just watch carefully and you’ll know when they’re done!) I am new to this site but love it for all the beautiful photography and great recipes. Thank you!

  322. Natalie

    I made this cake into apple cupcakes!! I used applesauce for 1/2 the butter, added nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, lemon zest, and a finely chopped apple. So soft and so yummy!!

  323. Lee Anne

    Yes! My son’s birthday party is tomorrow and I had already failed a test run of another cake that was wayyyy too sweet, heavy and just wow! It tasted more like a giant sugar cookie than a cake. I don’t understand why everything has to be so sugar-laden. ECH! Headache. So I am making a cake to look like a wheel of swiss cheese, but the cake itself will be a checkerboard. I made the regular batch of yellow, then I made an additional batch of the recipe but halved and added 1/2 c. of cocoa powder to the flour mixture. Then I melted 2 oz. of Ghirardelli 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate and added at the end. YUMM-OH! It was enough to fill the 3 9″ pans in the Wilton Checkerboard pan set AND 6 cupcakes for us to have tonight!
    Thank you THANK YOU Thank you so much for this recipe which is perfect and moist and not so super-give-me-a-migraine-and-heartburn sweet. love it!
    P.S. I am going to use your Swiss Buttercream to frost with a little yellow food coloring to make it really look like cheese! And a melon-baller for the holes! Whoo!

  324. I tried this frosting out on cupcakes today and it was so tasty! I forgot to add the vanilla, but the frosting was beautiful, smooth, and even using average hershey’s chips melted in the microwave, the flavor was so decadent. I added a little bit of powdered sugar in order to make the icing stiffer. Thanks so much!

  325. Yes, I, too, freak out at the prospect of the first honest-to-god birthday par-tay for my little boy and I’m still hunting for a ‘real’ birthday cake recipe. The stand-by that he will, in college, call and remind me to send him for his birthday and will insist that his kids grow up on, too. No pressure here, nosiree.

    Before going to the hospital for his birth, I baked a flourless chocolate torte to celebrate his arrival. His first birthday was celebrated with a spice cake and pumpkin cream cheese frosting, four delicate layers high, I might add. Last year I carved a chocolate cake train engine, frosted with ganache and decorated with merengue disk wheels. This year I want to go whole-hog little boy birthday cake…and I think I just found my recipe. Thank you!

  326. Lisa

    I just made these as cupcakes (I halfed the recipe and baked them for 22 minutes) and they came out great! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  327. Just made cupcakes with this recipe (haven’t read all 447 comments – you’re popular!) but in case you don’t already know, the full recipe makes 36 standard size cupcakes baked at 375° for 15 minutes.

    Yum! They’re still warm and we’re down to 30 and counting.

  328. Finally tried this! The cake turned out beautifully, the icing tasted good on its own, but I didn’t love the combo. Still, the fact that the cake was so easy and so yummy means it’s becoming a regular in my house too!

  329. petunya

    I loved the cake recipe, seemed a little dense so I subtracted 2 T of flour and added 2 T of butter and that improved the texture. Had tried it as written twice.
    My daughter and I both tried the sour cream frosting and it doesn’t quite make the cut. My favorite chocolate frosting is from the Silver Palate p 89, 6 T of cream, powdered sugar and 21 Dove dark chocolate promises. That is not exactly her recipe but it works great.
    Thanks for the cake recipe. I am going to try the Swiss buttercream which my daughter says is great!

  330. Michelle

    I made this cake back in August, and forgot to post about it. The cake was delicious, and it’s now my go-to recipe for a yellow cake. I didn’t make the frosting though, instead choosing a different chocolate frosting recipe that I’ve made before. The flavor of the cake was excellent and the texture was great. I wish I still had some now.

  331. Emily

    Just made this tonight. I haven’t tried it yet except for the batter and the scraps I trimmed off evening the edges, but those are delicious. I did an 8-inch square layer cake, which I really enjoy the look of. It required just a slightly longer baking time. The frosting tastes wonderful, but it looks nothing like yours in the picture. Mine is slightly paler and not shiny at all, and it was quite stiff to spread (very manageable, but no way was it going to spread evenly and prettily on the cake) immediately after I stirred in the chocolate, no refrigeration time. It looks more like a lighter-colored version of the ganache on your double chocolate layer cake from July 2007. I can’t figure out why it turned out this way.

  332. Sally

    Thank you for another great recipe. I made this for a friend’s b-day tomorrow, and it is delicious! I know this because I realized too late that I only had one round cake pan (where is that other one?) and had to use a square pan and cut off the corners. I think I might do that more often. The corners were a great dessert. I did put too much espresso powder into the frosting, but that was just an error in my measuring. Oh–I used good Greek yogurt as I had no buttermilk. Just as moist and really buttery cake came out of the substitution.

  333. Laurie

    I made this cake for my boyfriend’s birthday. I found the frosting bitter, even with a mix of 2/3 bittersweet, 1/3 milk and even with close to 1/2 c. of corn syrup (used the Guittard disks, which have never steered me wrong). It’s too bad, because it’s a very easy, beautifully spreadable frosting. I also found the cake dry, but I think I overbaked it. I will try the cake again, because it couldn’t have been easier to mix, the batter tasted divine, and it rose beautifully. This is my third cake in a row from the site (did the carrot and the double chocolate previously) and the first disappointment. Guess you can’t win ’em all!

  334. Wendy

    I just made this recipe (1/3 of it), and made it in 2 4 inch round cake pans and a couple of cupcake wrappers. The cakes sunk big time when I took them out of the oven. Any ideas why? I think I’ll have to rebake them for the cake I’m making.

  335. Cassie

    I made this last Wednesday for my Dad’s birthday…and I have to say, THANK YOU FOR CREATING SUCH A FANTASTIC CAKE RECIPE. I loved it, he loved it, my Mom loved it, all the friends I brought pieces to loved it…GAHH. So delicious and perfect. (We hit a big of a snag when I used 8 inch pans instead of 9 and it flowed over a bit, but nothing a cookie sheet couldn’t save.)
    The ONLY thing I found was that the day after, it was a bit dry. DELICIOUS and awesome, but a tad dry. Nothing we couldn’t handle, but I was wondering, could that possibly have had something to do with the fact there’s no oil in the recipe?
    Again, THANK YOU. I’ll be trying out more of your recipes from now on!!

  336. Beth

    Hi, Deb! I’m going to try this. It looks delicious! Can you recommend one of your other frosting recipes that would be good for piping and match this particular icing?

  337. Jen

    I’ve tried various yellow cake recipes… main components using butter, AP, milk or butter, AP, cornstarch, milk and even oil, AP, milk. All produced cakes that were not quite what I was looking for in a yellow cake. The cakes were either eggy, too dense/heavy, too springy/spongy, crumbs were tight, and the recipe using oil of course lacked flavor.

    This is The Best yellow cake recipe! Exactly what I was looking for. Results – Moist, perfectly balanced vanilla flavor with NO Eggy taste!. The texture of the crumb is tender and light, but not so tender that it falls apart and just light enough that it has a bit of weight (density) to it. I made half the recipe into cupcakes. Yielded 18 cupcakes (filled 2/3 full). Baked at 325 (I have dark pans) for 18 minutes…Viola…Heaven!

    For me, the cupcakes stayed moist (wrapped well and stored in air tight container) for two days. By the third day, it still tasted good, but as expected, a tad bit drier. I did also freeze some on the first day and it stayed moist and held together.

  338. Reena

    Hello, Love your site, I’ m a real big fan….. I have the same problem as 433, I am from london and would love to make this cake for my sons birthday, so when converting are you using us cups or metric, secondly when converting flour seem a lot at (560 grams)……. is that correct…..????????, please advise as I would love to make it…… thanks so much!

  339. sarah

    I just made this cake today, and I’m afraid something is horribly wrong with my frosting – I followed the directions to a T and it is incredibly runny! I’ve refrigerated it for hours and there’s been no change in consistency. However, I did learn that no one in my family has a taste for chocolate sour cream frosting. I do love the cake, though, so there’s a plus. Does anyone know what I did wrong?

  340. Anna

    I made this cake last night and thought the batter looked way too thick for cake batter, but I was definitely mistaken, thick or not, it’s delicious. I also had no buttermilk so I mixed plain yogurt, skim milk, and half and half and it did the trick in a pinch.

  341. Mirella

    This looks wonderful. I am planning to make a chocolate cake for my son’s birthday in January. He loves loves chocolate. Will the recipe for the chocolate frosting be enough to frost and fill 2x 10 inch layer cake or should I double the recipe for the frosting?

    I am planning to use your chocolate cake recipe but with this frosting. :)

  342. Evan

    Just wanted to let you know that this cake has changed my life. I have made it over 5 times now and every time (three birthdays, one half birthday, and once for cakes-sake) it gets rave reviews. I work for a major candy company and people there really flipped! Love love love the blog!

  343. Hanna

    What can you use instead of buttermilk? I live in Sweden, and here they don’t sell buttermilk.. I really want to try this recipe, so I hope someone can help me! :D

  344. Oh my yes. I have been wanting to try this since you originally posted the recipe, so I finally just made an excuse (it’s New Year’s Eve!) today and hello! Deb, you are oh-so-right in naming it the best birthday cake (or New Year’s cupcakes, in my case)! I also whipped up the instant fudge frosting. Again, bingo on the unsweetened chocolate! I had my doubts, but I’m so glad (once again) that I trusted your judgment! I am headed to my car right now to go share the abundance with friends, because you know it’s not a good idea for me to keep all of this in the house!

  345. bob

    Hello –

    Just a brief note to let you know that I baked this cake today for my daughter’s 11th birthday party. My expectations were high given the positive reviews and raves on this site. I must admit that I am a food snob and a gourmet cook and I compared this recipe to others I have. The ingredients were nearly identical except for additional flour and buttermilk. The verdict – the cake is actually quite good. BUT, and its a big BUTTT – this cake tastes like a delicious “cornbread” more than yellow birthday cake. I asked 5 of the girls for their opinions and 3 said it tasted like cornbread. I will add corn next time and serve at Thanksgiving, but will never make again for a birthday. Happy New Year and Cheers to all

  346. Hi Deb,
    I just made this for as a last minute birthday cake for a labmate (LOVED that I already had all the ingredients on hand!) and it was fabulous! I made two 8-inch round pans and a few cupcakes, you know, for quality control :) Thanks for the recipe!!

  347. So I made this cake for a friend’s birthday tonight, and it ended up tasting good, but it will go down as one of my most foolish cooking experiences to date. I tried to squeeze all the batter into two 8 inch cake rounds and it does not work – the poor cakes looked like active volcanos overflowing down into the bottom of my oven – my house still smells like burnt sugar. And to top it off, as I was busy cooking dinner and taking care of my son, I forgot I was melting the chocolate for the icing and I ended up with crystalized nibbles throughout – yet somehow it all still came out edible. I dusted it with cocoa, chocolate shavings, and chocolate pearls and it made my friend very happy.

  348. loti

    I followed the recipe to the letter except used everything I had on hand instead of the exact ingredients called for, like… didn’t have enough white sugar, used, white sugar, 12 stevia packets and lt brown sugar, then didn’t have enough white flour, so used white, whole wheat and a bit of cornstarch to lighten, no buttermilk, but did have powdered buttermilk…. I didn’t have a lot of faith that it would even be edible. It was really good, this recipe is another keeper!!

  349. Anne

    I am in love with this recipe (mostly because I, too, believe my parenting skill is directly proportional to my baking skill). I tried it today with the Instant Fudge Frosting and it was a huge success! (despite being my first ever attempt at a layer cake). I love the idea of buttercream in the food processor- you can add a handful of un-melted chocolate pieces to the mix for a “chocolate chip” icing of sorts. Anyway, love this, love your site (which I recently discovered), can’t wait to try more recipes!

  350. lauren

    laura i did the same thing!! right now i’m looking out into my smoke-filled kitchen, depressed about the mess that awaits when the oven cools…the cake doesn’t look too horrible but i’m afraid it’ll taste like smoke! i might have to run and get some more buttermilk and try this birthday cake again. i have made this recipe before in cupcake form and was so sure of myself trying it again…foolhardy! lesson learned.

  351. This is a GREAT recipe. I’m making a cinnamon cream cheese wedding cake in about three weeks, and I offered this cake at the tasting with 1 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon added. It was the hands-down winner. Great texture, very moist, PERFECT. And I love that it bakes up so high and fluffy. Thanks for sharing it.

  352. Liese

    Used this recipe for cupcakes today — it made 24 normal and five jumbo! Absolutely delicious, plan to use it tomorrow for two more batches. Thank you!

  353. My little one’s 1st is comin up and this has been a big help. I wanted to do something myself without using a box or trying to make the perfect torte, so thank you!

  354. Bret B

    Hi deb,

    I noted that in one of your recent posts you like to use weights in your recipes. I do too, and here’s the following recipe converted to grams:

    563g cake flour
    6g baking powder
    6g baking soda
    12g salt
    224g butter
    445g sugar
    5g extract (I usually bump this up considerably. I used a total of 12)
    4 eggs (didn’t weigh, but eggs are ~70g each)
    467g buttermilk (I used soymilk, for the lack of lactose)

    oh, and here’s the kcal breakdown for fun:

    5827 total calories
    215g fat
    893g carbs
    (13g from fiber — cake flour!)
    90g protein

    It’s about 100 calories per oz, give or take.

  355. Eliza

    I made this for my daughter’s 6th birthday and it will be my go-to cake from now on for anything and everything. It’s so much better than the 1-2-3-4 cake, which I used to think was great. I’ll try it with cupcakes next and cake flour, I used all-purpose, since I couldnt find cake flour. As always, thanks! And really cute kid!

  356. Elaine

    I made it for the twins’ 8th birthday and my daughter, who has a legendary sweet tooth, has declared the cake to be delicious. It is not dense at all, like some other scratch cakes I’ve made. (Hello, Martha Stewart.) I subbed the icing though for butter, cocoa, powdered sugar and milk concoction.

  357. Digitalmoomin

    I am making a princess cake at the weekend for my 4 yr old, will your cake withstand being baked in a pyrex basin? Do I need to adjust the baking times (it’s 9″ in diameter). I am then going to cover it in buttercream and cover with rollout fondant, thanks in advance! D

  358. Jamie

    You are my long lost baking sole-mate!!! (Really, how many people tell you that!? I’m sure many) But really, so many of your goals are my goals, I am tired of having to go to a box to get a good delicious cake – and have been searching and trying (only for about 1 1/2 years) to find MY recipes for the “best of” the simple baking pleasures . . . I think after trying a few of your recipes that I may learn to be content with just making homemade recipes you have found. . . thank you for doing so much of the work for so many of us foodies!

  359. ang

    really great yellow cake recipe- moist. flavorful. holds up great!
    the icing is also very enjoyable! not too sweet. easy to spread!

    i made the birthday cake for my brother-in-law (right down to the confetti sprinkles) and everyone loved it! the comment i heard most was “this isn’t going to put me in a sugar coma” :)

    i was also happy at how it actually turned out to look like the picture- i was so proud to hand it over to my mother-in-law!!

    thanks for sharing all the wonderful recipes with us- it’s like a foodie treasure hunt!

  360. As my family’s designated cake baker, I have now made this delicious cake and frosting 4 times for birthdays in September, October, November and December. (See here for pics of the 4 cakes).

    There were no family birthdays in January, but my youngest sister’s birthday is on Thursday of this week and I offered to make her something different for a change of pace. However, best yellow cake is now a firm family favourite, and she is requesting yellow cake and chocolate frosting for her birthday treat too.

    Frankly, my whole family *loves* that the frosting is a little sour and not too sweet (I add 1/4 cup of corn syrup).

  361. Megan

    This is my first time on your blog, and this is the first recipe I chose to try. Seemed a perfect way to spend my time during this snowstorm in Philadelphia. It came out well, but a little drier than I would have liked. I used a 9×13 glass pan and had leftover batter. I am wondering if maybe the cake was still too think and I should have put more of it into another pan? Also, I had to cook it longer than the 35-40 minutes. The center was too wet. Any suggestions for keeping it moist?

  362. This is THE BEST cake I have ever had in my life…something must have gone wrong w/ my frosting because it was really I switched it up and added some milk chocolate and maybe a little more vanilla & sugar to sweeten it up..but the cake!! OH THE CAKE IS DELICIOUS!!!

  363. Amanda -_-*

    I just finished baking this cake as cupcakes for my son’s birthday tomorrow. My husband and I took a few nibbles from an extra cupcake, and he said it tastes eggy, but he liked that- it gave it more flavor than most cakes, I think were his words. I can’t wait to try them with (buttercream) frosting and sprinkles in the morning!

  364. Carla Hinkle

    I just made this for Valentine’s Day with my girls (ages 3 and 6). We had a ball making it and baked it in 1 8 inch square pan and 1 8 inch round pan … I then cut the round pan into 2 halves and stuck on the square cake (angled diamond-shaped) for a great (if gigantic!) heart shaped cake that the kids loved.

    The cake baked up beautifully and delicious. The frosting was tasty, but really it’s almost like chocolate pudding, not really frosting. I wouldn’t use it for my go-to chocolate frosting … still searching for that, unfortunately!

    We used the chocolate frosting as filling, and frosted the cake with whipped cream (tinted pink for Valentine’s Day!).

  365. Jung

    I’m very confused with the weight equivalents for flour. According to The Joy of Cooking, 1 lb of all purpose flour is equivalent to 4 cups, or 1 cup is equivalent to 4 oz or 114g. As for cake flour 1 lb is equivalent to 4 3/4 cups or 1 cup is equivalent to 3.4 oz or 96g. When I weighed my measured cup of cake flour, using the spoon and sweep method, it was around 110g. I wasn’t completely happy with the results so I thought that it could be due to the discrepancies in my flour measurements. Any suggestions? Should I try again using 130g of flour per cup?

    Also, making buttermilk, I used 1 teaspoon instead of 1 tablespoon of lemon by mistake. It still curdled fine but did I lose something by not having the full 1 tablespoon of lemon?

    As for the frosting, I used bittersweet chocolate and felt it was a bit too intense so I added cream to mellow it out. In the end it tasted great with the cake. It spread and tasted like chocolate frosting (once chilled), not at all like pudding as in above comment and not sour at all. And I used agave syrup in place of corn syrup as corn syrup is not readily available in Australia. It is a bit sweeter so you need to decrease the amount just a bit.

    This was my first attempt at a layered cake. It got rave reviews from my family when I make it for my daughter’s 2nd birthday (I’ve already given out the link to your recipe twice). Thanks for the recipe and for the encouragement!

    1. deb

      Hi Jung — Glad you enjoyed the cake in the end. The difficulty converting cups of ingredients to weights is that not everyone agrees on what a cup of flour weighs. Some say 4 ounces, some say 5 ounces and many people go with 4.5 ounces (I generally do as well, unless a recipe says otherwise). An incredibly frustrating process, I am sure. (I will update this soon with “my” weights so that you can be sure they are correct. Hope that helps.

  366. Quinn

    Deb- this recipe was fantastic! I made the full recipe and I had more than enough batter for 24 cupcakes- I probably could have baked 3 dozen. Instead, I made 2 dozen cupcakes and baked the leftover batter in my bundt pan. It didn’t make a very tall bundt- but still a nice looking and delicious one at that! I poured some dark rum over the bundt after it cooled and it was divine.

  367. Sunny

    Hi Deb,

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures and wonderful tips. I baked the vanilla cake with fudge frosting. The frosting came out great. The cake was good, but like Bob (January 2,2010) mentioned, my cake turned out tasting like a fantastic cornbread. Do you know what I might have done incorrectly as I would love to make it again and have it taste like a yellow cake. Thank you. Sunny

  368. Carey

    Thank you so much for this fantastic recipe! I used it last night to make cupcakes for my 6 year olds Birthday school treat!
    And what a treat, your recipe made a generous 24- 30 cakes!! Just what I needed.
    Thank you again for a place to go when I need a sweet recipe!

  369. Mandy

    I also felt that this cake, while very good, reminded me of cornbread. I had some extra batter, so made a cupcake out of that (always like to taste things before serving them!) and decided to go with a sweeter frosting to counter that flavor. That helped, and the people I served this to enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite the birthday cakes I remember from my childhood. I wonder if maybe I was just off somehow? Maybe my flour measurements weren’t precise enough?

  370. Made this tonight, and so far, super impressed with the results. We haven’t iced them yet, but definitely a wonderful cake recipe to fall back on. Made half the batter, for 12 cupcakes, and added an extra egg yolk (so, 2 eggs, plus one yolk), and made it a bit richer, and not as cornbread tastey.

  371. Gretch

    I love everything about this cake – it was easy to make, smelled good baking, rose nice and high – good crumb, moist, flavorful. I made it for my own birthday yesterday (I remembered this cake from its gorgeous photo) and had at it. The only thing I wish I would have thought of was making it into cupcakes. Next time for sure.
    Frosting was magic. Mine was nearly thick enough to use right off the bat. If anything, I had a little too much frosting, but I liked the little zing of the sourcream and the deep chocolate flavor. And I will say, it’s pretty good for breakfast, too! Thanks Deb!

  372. Sharon

    I’ve used this wonderful recipe many times in the past for cakes. Made 1/4 of the recipe today and got 8 perfect cupcakes. Baked at 350 for 20 minutes. I’m frosting them with whipped cream.

  373. Lauri

    Just thought I’d note that I needed 12 cupcakes this weekend so I made 1/2 this recipe and the amount was perfect. As if anyone ever needs ONLY 12 cupcakes, jeesh! I would have made 24 but I already had two 9×13 layers for my son’s Buzz Lightyear Rocketship cake and that was PLENTY! But I needed some cupcakes for the rocket burners, baked in silver foil and turned on their side with red and orange spiky frosting… perfect! :-)

  374. I made this last night in a bundt pan. 300 degrees for about an hour and ten minutes. It seems to have turned out well. I also used the alt frosting recipe and probably could have halved it for the bundt since I still have about half left.

  375. Deborah Greene

    This was absolutely delicious. Two beautiful, tall cake layers that had a wonderful buttery, vanilla & moist flavor. I topped with a dark chocolate frosting from Cooks Illustrated and filled the center with a peanut butter cream filling…out of this world! Got rave reviews on this cake…thanks for a great recipe, it’s my new go to yellow cake!

  376. Marti

    I made this for my husband’s birthday and he was very impressed, which is saying something because he is the baker in the family, not me. We had never settled on a really good yellow cake and at last we have found it. Your site is now my favorite!

  377. Kate

    Absoutely a lovely cake, moist and delicious! I think I’ve found my “go to” yellow cake now. I used the Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting on the Cook’s Illustrated site and wowza, is this good! I even had a thin slice this morning at 6 AM because I was thinking about it and could not resist:-) Thank you for this recipe.

  378. My husband just asked me to make him a birthday cake and I froze up with the panic that I was about to be outed as an unqualified imposter of a wife, but then I ran to this site and found this recipe. You are a life (and marriage!) saver!

  379. vesta

    I just put this in the oven for my hubbys birthday cake. His favorite is the above mentioned Duncan Hines cake, mine too for that matter. Judging from the batter I think there will be a new favorite in our house! I have tried other yellow cakes from scratch, but have not gotten that “yellow” flavor and this one seems to have it. I can’t wait to eat it!

  380. Kelley

    I needed a yellow cake and used a recipe for genoise from a fancy cookbook. It didn’t taste good! I decided a do-over was in order and made this cake. As usual, your recipe pulled through. Easy to make and delicious. Thanks for being so consistently good.

  381. Sara

    In a word, Excellent. My mother was on a rant about how she loathes using a box mix (duncan hines in particular.) Also, how she has tried to make yellow cake from scratch many times and it has not turned out as moist and delicious as she has desired. When I first read your recipe for this cake I laughed because you also brought up duncan hines! Thank you for this marvelous cake. It truly is fabulous!

  382. laurel

    had been waiting to make this one for a special occasion and finally did today for my boyfriend’s birthday. am SO loving the sour cream chocolate frosting. had never tried it before, but it’s going to be a keeper. can’t wait for him to get home to slice into it. thanks again as always :)

  383. ecath

    Not bad for my first attempt at a layered frosted birthday cake! Very presentable. But I have to agree with the cornbread crowd — not only the flavor, but the crumb, too, seemed very cornbready to me, maybe I did something wrong with the mixing but it was rather dense. LOVED the frosting, though — not too sour at all with the Ghirardelli chocolate I used.

  384. penelope reyes

    I made this cake last night for my daughters basketball team party. I was desperate for a moist yummy yellow cake and this is it!! I made extra and put some Nutella on it, OMG :p Then on the bball cake, I cooked down some blackberries and strawberries and filled it. Wow, so good!! Thank you for posting this recipe :)

  385. Latha

    Hey Deb,

    How the hell did I miss this lovely place in my 2+years of blog hopping!!!! i came in googling for scones, thought i’d better also check out a birthday cake recipe for my son and now thoroughly lost, but happily so:) i’ll start adoring your recipes once i try them but until then falling in love with your writing…

  386. Yael

    Hi Deb,
    I am happy to report that I test drove the cupcake version and there is a class of second graders that is very thankful to you. :-) They even liked the frosting, even though I thought its tangy richness was on the sophisticated side.

  387. Thanks for posting this yellow cake recipe. Came across it through a google search. I filled mine with Trader Joe’s Reduced Sugar Blackberry Preserves and made a lemon buttercream frosting for the rest.

  388. dmo4ab

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this yellow cake recipe!! I had been searching for a good homemade yellow cake and struck gold with yours. It rises great into a level layer (perfect for decorating) and had great texture and flavor! And, unlike a lot of “yellow” cake recipes I have tried, this cake is actually yellow in color when baked!! I love it!

  389. John and Kathleen Tracey

    We tried this over the weekend — very chewy, not as sweet as cake should be (really!), and pretty much dry. The taste is interesting, but much more like a thick pancake or cornbread. Not the killer yellow cake recipe we were looking for, alas …

  390. Abby

    Hi there, i’ve just made your yellow cake, it’s in the oven now, but I have a question which i’m probably asking too late but never mind! If i wnat to make in a single tin and slice in half afterwards what size tin should I use/ I’ve got 3 springfrom tins, 9.5″, 10.3″ & 11″, all 2.6″ deep. I’ve put my mix in the 10.3″ one and I’m thinking about an hrs cooking time, do you think it wil be o.K?

  391. rachael

    Hi Deb,
    My oldest son turns 4 on tuesday and has requested a snake cake for his party. I found one that calls for two bundt cakes, cut in half to form the snake, but no cake recipe as of yet. I was thinking of using this recipe, what changes would you make for the oven time in a bundt pan? Would one recipe make 1 bundt? Also, he wants vanilla cake, and I was going to do chocolate frosting, but the snake needs the frosting to be colored green (you may be doing something similar in just a few years! :) so I need to do a white frosting…any ideas? vanilla on vanilla seems so boring to me.
    Thanks so much,

  392. Hi Deb!

    I have been visiting this recipe again and again and am so looking forward to bake it for my friend’s birthday. I want this cake to be more… alcoholic, so I want to substitute some of the buttermilk with Baileys. Is this advisable? How much can I substitute or should I not substitute at all?

    Thank you so much!


    1. deb

      Jasline — They may look the same — creamy — but they don’t have the same effect on cakes. You might try brushing the cake after you bake it, before you fill and frost it, with a liqueur or Baileys. Take it from someone who adores Baileys and has often tried to add it to baked goods: the flavor never ends up as pronounced as you wish it would, especially once baked. Using it as a finish will make it stand out more.

  393. Alisa

    My son demanded a homemade cake for his half birthday today, giving me only a few hours notice. I didn’t have a scratch cake in me, so that part was from a mix. But I always draw the line at the frostings–must be homemade. I LOVE this frosting recipe! It was so incredibly easy–I was amazed. I am so tired of complicated buttercreams with the whole egg situation, and ganache is sometimes just too dense and rich. This was perfectly delicious!! Loved the tartness from the sour cream and the smooth, creamy texture, which made spreading so easy that my ten (and a half) year-old did a great job of frosting his own cake.

  394. This has become my favorite yellow cake recipe, mostly for cupcakes but I occaisonally go all out and make a full cake too. At the request of my son I turned the batch for his birthday into marbled cupcakes. I combined 1/2 cup boiling water with 1/2 Heshey’s Dark cocoa powder then mixed that into a third of the cake batter. Alternating spoonfuls of the two into my cupcakes and then swirled them with a toothpick a little. It was fabulous and I was delighted to get double duty (as it were) out of the recipe.

  395. Allo! I just want to say I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday last weekend and it is definitely…. the best yellow cake I’ve ever tasted. In fact, my family and I were mesmerized by how perfectly poofy and tall, and moist and wonderful the cakes turned out! My yellow cake has always risen, then deflated a bit once removed from the oven. Not this one. Is it the cake flour? We decided to use your Instant Fudge frosting instead of the Sour Cream recipe listed above, just to ensure my little one completely dug it. And she did. Check out our website for a photo:) Also will be posting on my food site next week. Thanks SK!

  396. Julie

    Wow. This cake recipe is a keeper. I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday and it is very yummy, moist and delicious, tall and beautiful. (Well actually I made 2 cakes with instant fudge frosting–that was 10 sticks of butter right there!). I have been waiting 16 years for this recipe. Thank you.

  397. cathy b.

    My family loved this cake! I used 4 cups plain flour instead of cake flour. The texture, taste, appearance was delicious and beautiful. I used a chocolate ganache recipe for filling and icing. So rich, so fabulous! I also divided it among 3 eight inch round pans. It was the tallest cake I’ve ever made and looked just like the one on the site. Very impressive. It’s a keeper. Thank you!

  398. Kiki

    Made these into cupcakes- came out great! Use vanilla frosting and my husband has been having and average of 3 cupcakes since I made them. I made them for a bridal shower and all my friends loved them! I doubled the recipe and its made close 2 6 dozen medium sized cupcakes. I had enough to bring to work – where it also got devoured! Can’t wait to be able to make it for my kids’ birthdays one day :)

  399. Rachel

    I was searching for the perfect birthday cake for my daughter’s 2nd birthday until I came across this recipe–the search is over! This was a perfectly moist, absolutely delicious cake that came out beautifully. I followed the tip about brushing simple syrup on the cake before decorating, and it worked wonders. This is going to be my go-to yellow cake from now on. Thank you!

  400. greene

    I tried this cake this evening, and it is AMAZING.
    Definitely my favorite to make. I knew it was done when I could clearly smell it from across the apartment and can hear the crackling (crackling!) when I opened the oven door.

    It also tastes delicious.

  401. I made this cake for the first time for my wife’s birthday last week and am making it today for my son’s 1st birthday. Awesome. Just awesome. A friend of ours had a piece; O…M…G was the response. I used buttercream frosting with a homemade strawberry filling between the layers. A few rosettes from the pastry bag to decorate and people ask where we got it.

    Without a doubt, the best cake recipe I’ve found and it will be my go-to cake recipe from here on in. Search is done…wrap it up, send ’em home, no need to look any further.

  402. Lena

    It’s my birthday! And I’m getting ready to make this golden layer cake. I am going to make it with the recipe you have for chocolate ganache, from the Chocolate Layer cake you made awhile back, then a raspberry jam filling. :9)

    Thanks Deb, LOVE your blog!

  403. Elisa N.

    I like it! The frosting was shiny and very spreadable. The cake was tasty and moist. I had a little trouble because I used a 9 x 1 1/2 inch cake pan- luckily I realized there was too much batter in the pans and I took a bunch out and made a third, thinner layer. For the first time, I also used the metal strips and baked at 350 and made a crumb coat. All of these tips worked well. I also took the cakes out too early (they were golden on top and I swear the tooth pick came out clean) and a few minutes later, realizing my mistake, had to put them back in for another 18 minutes or so. They still turned out moist, luckily. Next time, I’ll use the 2 inch high cake pan and make sure they are done when I take them out. Thanks for the great recipes.

  404. Xabbyy

    Thank you sooooo much for the recipe. The cake was soooooooo good and sooo fluffy and moist. ITs sweet and buttery sooooooooo delicious. I will definitely make it again. I like the cake plain, but, for my birthday I will make my own frosting.

    Thank you.

  405. AnhD

    Hi Deb, thanks for posting such an awesome recipe. Tastes delicious; super moist; great recipe. My only question is – how do I make my cake more yellow? I followed your recipe to the pin, but mine don’t look nearly as yellow. Any tips?

  406. Xabbyy


    I want to add green tea powder to the cake batter. Do you have any recommendations on how much to add?

    Have you ever made a green tea cake? WILL YOU EVER????

    As I stated before the cake is soooo good. I am making it again today. I am adding chocolate chips to the batter. YUM.

  407. Monica

    I made this cake tonight–very light texture and quite delicious–word to the wise if using a 9×13 pan–the batter fills the pan ~3/4 full and took me 45 minutes to bake the center fully. the edges still are spongy and soft, so i do’nt think it is overly cooked on the sides (i hope!). It may fair better being a 2 pan cake versus the one pan approach.

  408. Julie

    So glad I came across Smitten Kitchen and this cake recipe. I just finished making it, with the help of my four year old daughter, for my two sister’s birthday bash tomorrow. It looks fabulous! Since we have two men that don’t do chocolate (I know, it’s hard to believe anybody doesn’t do chocolate!) we went with the cream cheese frosting from your red velvet cake recipe. Can’t wait to slice into this baby tomorrow night! Thank you for the recipes!

  409. S

    If I were to bake reese’s pieces into the cake, do you think it would change how the cake bakes? Am I better off putting them around the sides of the cake after it is already frosted? Any advice would be appreciated, thanks.

  410. Quinn

    This is the BEST yellow cake recipe ever…and I’ve tried them all (believe me!) I have made layer cakes and cupcakes with this and they come out perfect every time. Thank you so much for sharing!! This one is a keeper!

  411. MZ

    I just tried this recipe in cupcake format and unfortunately it did not work out. The batter was gorgeous, and I was hesitant to “bang” the air out of it. I wonder if I had not banged it, if they would have worked. They just spread all over the top of the cupcake pans and were flat- HATE when this happens to cupcakes! I also had enough batter for about 30+ cupcakes. Maybe I overfilled them b/c I had so much batter. Any ideas what went wrong? Thanks!

    1. deb

      MZ — It sounds like they may have been overfilled, especially if they spilled over. It’s a little OCD on my part, but sometimes when I’m not sure exactly how full I need a cupcake liner, I will bake just one to get an idea of the correct level. I do this mostly because I’ve ruined so many batches of cupcakes when they all spilled over. That said, in 90% of cupcake cases, 2/3 to 3/4 full is the right way to go.

      Once trimmed, your flat-top cupcakes will probably be easier to put frosting on than domed ones!

  412. MZ

    Thanks for the reply- yes I think I did overfill, and I think I did bang them too hard too. They were pretty crumbly; it seemed like the texture was compromised in some way. Anyway….no worries. I just did a bunch of mini chocolate cupcakes (making for a party tomorrow), and weighed each one out so they would all be the same (talk about OCD). Chocolate is my go-to flavor anyway. I will try this yellow cake again though- maybe the cake layers next time :) BTW, love your blog. The sweet potato-chard casserole is TDF!

  413. Jess

    Deb thanks for this recipe, it’s a total keeper! I made it for my father in law’s birthday and my whole family liked it so much i made it again for my niece’s first birthday. Both times it was a huge hit and watching my neice smear bits of cake and frosting all over her face with great gusto put a huge smile on my face.

  414. Chiara

    My son requested a plain yellow cake with chocolate frosting for his 12th b-day. I came across your receipe which seemed like a keeper – delicious!! Makes lots of batter so had enough to left over to make a dozen cup-cakes as well and my kids were over-joyed (cupcakes & cake on the same day)! I didn’t make the frosting because I knew my son would prefer butter chocolate icing but will try the sour-cream icing as soon as I can. I’m so glad I stumbled across your receipe and can’t wait to try out others. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  415. Cathy

    Hi Deb, I love your cakes!! I am trying to make this cake for 150 people!! It’s my first time baking a cake this large and to top it off I just realized that a full sheet cake (18×24) will not fit in my oven. So I’m hoping to use this recipe to fill 12×18″ pans. Do you have any idea of how many cakes I would need to make and how how I can multiply this recipe which is originally for a 9×13? Thanks!!

  416. Tara

    Hi! Just made the devil dog cake…it’s awesome but I’m not sure how I’m going to finish it…Also just finished this recipe…went with cupcakes…I have 24 baking and a TON of batter left! May make a square layer cake or something…not sure. I wish I had more cupcake pans!! I am officially hooked on your site! Thanks so much…

  417. Annie S.

    Fabulous, easy, perfect. I frosted it with whipped cream and strawberries for a spontaneous summer solstice garden party. THANKS Deb!!

  418. amanda

    omg i just made this cake and it is beeeeaaauuuttttiiiffffffuuulllll : )
    I made it for my father-in laws birthday tomorrow,and i cant wait to show it off (especially in-front of my mother-in law…heehee)……thank you so much for the great recipe!!!!

  419. Hi! I’ve been a long-time fan and lurker, but I’m not sure if I ever commented. I tried this recipe over the weekend as a test-run for some birthday party cupcakes (for a 1-year-old son of a friend at work), and I have to say that it is SO good. (I added Magnolia’s chocolate buttercream.)

    Thanks very much for all that you share with us. I really appreciate it. Everything is a feast for the senses here…the taste buds and the eyes.

  420. I have never liked any yellow cakes except the ones that come out of the box. But this cake was delicious! I did misplace my vanilla though so I added a bit of cinnamon for flavor. The cinnamon played fabulously off of the chocolate icing. Thanks for the recipe!

  421. Raich

    Deb – I bookmarked this recipe 6 months ago, but there were 3 other yellow cake recipes on my list already. I made them one by one as occasions arose – too dense, off taste, too spongy. This morning I finally got around to this one. I don’t know why it took me so long, I should never have doubted you.
    I used 2 T lemon juice filled to 2 C soy milk instead of buttermilk. It came out amazing!

  422. Amber

    I made this recipe last night and it turned out great. I will say that I had a huge amount of batter and made more like 3 dozen cupcakes. Luckily I had enough of everything to fill them with lemon curd and frost them with a strawberry buttercream. And really, too many cupcakes is a good problem to have.

  423. Deb I made this over the weekend for my friends 30th birthday and what a hit it was! It was delicious and beautiful and I loved it and I’ve never been anyone to love a tasteless yellow cake. Thank you!

  424. Courtney

    My 5-year old niece proclaimed this the “best birthday cake EVER!” – a huge compliment coming from her (by the way – I concur!)

  425. Chad

    I just wanted you to know that this recipe has become my traditional birthday cake. My mom added this recipe to our family recipe book and is actually making this cake this weekend for my birthday. Thank you.

  426. Johanna

    Hi, just wanted to share that I made this cake substituting yogurt for the buttermilk (1 to 1 substitution) and it turned out great. Thanks for the recipe!

  427. Mona

    My daughter has a milk allergy. After about a year of trying different “dairy free” cake recipes, I’ve starting just trying regular recipes substituting milk with almond milk and butter with Earth’s Balance buttery sticks. THIS recipe was simply THE BEST! Even with my substitutions! Most of the family was amazed that I’d finally baked a cake that tasted “normal” as well as moist and delicious! I added 2 Tbsp vinegar to the almond milk to make the substitution for the buttermilk (i assume otherwise the baking soda wouldn’t have done its magic).

    I made this for my daughter’s first birthday – it was teddy bear shaped cake and frosted with a chocolate buttercream (i wanted to try the sour cream frosting subbing “better than sour cream” but was afraid it wouldn’t be the right texture to pipe the fur with). Wish I could share the pic ….

    Thanks again for a great recipe! Even when made dairy free! Hooray!!

  428. Becca

    Made last night for a bday party for all adults. Cake was easy to make and came out of the pans BEAUTIFULLY. Not sweet enough for my taste though. The frosting was much to sour for me and my friends, however. Will definitely remember this cake recipe for its ease, and maybe next time pair it with a very sweet frosting for balance. thanks!

  429. Michelle

    this cake is absolutely delicious and turned out perfect. thank you SO much. I have had the exact same search as you – and this cake is it!

    the person I baked the cake for wanted raspberries and chocolate, so I mixed in a jar of raspberry jam with the frosting included here. it made it just sweet enough. I think if I had added the jam to a sweeter frosting, it would have been overly saccharine.

    thanks again, Miss Deb. :)

  430. Beth

    I made this cake a few weeks ago for my husband’s birthday. In that specific cake, I used two round pans for the layered version. The cake itself (I used a different frosting in which I messed-up the proportion of ingredients, so the frosting was a complete and bitter dud) was the most delicious yellow cake we’ve ever had. My husband has mentioned the cake several times since, he was so impressed.

    I had a hankering today for something sweet so I thought I’d make this cake again paying close attention to the details of ingredients necessary for the frosting we selected. My husband isn’t a sour cream fan, so the frosting you propose here is out of the question. In this version, however, I attempted to bake the cake in a 9 x 13 pan.

    I will say that I feel pretty confident I followed the steps accurately, but the two cakes were very different to me. My husband didn’t notice as much, or either did not feel comfortable telling me so, since I can be a big baby when it comes to criticism in cooking, but I found that the texture was altogether better in the 9 inch round layer cakes as opposed to the single 9 x 13 pan version.

    The 9 x 13 version took quite a while to cook, as expected, but the sides finished so much more quickly than the middle that the sides were extremely dry in the finished cake. And yes, the cake is more reminiscent of cornbread – something that definitely did not cross my mind, ever, with the first go ’round in the 9 inch pans.

    All of this to say that I wholeheartedly believe that this cake should not be made in a 9 x 13 pan without some adjustments. I am not a very skilled baker, so I can’t say what those adjustments would be, but I do know that the results were different enough that I will never make this cake in anything but 9 inch round pans because the 9 x 13 pan does not do this cake justice.

    Cupcakes may work fine, considering they cook more quickly, however I will have to work up the nerve to give that a go. Using the 9 inch round pans produce such a beautiful, tender and most delicious cake that I probably won’t even risk it unless I’m fooling around and make one regular layer (just in case!) and the rest in cupcake form.

  431. sameHatch

    Made this cake today for my husband’s birthday. It turned out AWESOME! I’ve never made a cake that wasn’t from a box, and now won’t ever use a box again. Thank you for having a website with good food recipes. I’ll be frosting it with Buttercream frosting with a raspberry puree between the layers. Thanks again!

  432. Christy

    I just made this cake for a friends birthday with my own little tweak to it, I made it into a lemon blackberry cake. It was amazing! This will definitely be my go to yellow cake.

  433. Chrissy

    Finally, a yellow cake recipe that doesn’t let me down! My birthday is tomorrow, and yes, I make my own birthday cakes so I can control what goes into them. For the past couple weeks, I’ve been all over the internet trying various yellow cake recipes in order to find the perfect one for my birthday. All of them claimed to be light, fluffy, and moist in the end… and not surprisingly, they all turned out flat and dry. I came across Smitten Kitchen and found this recipe, which looked very promising to me. With my birthday only a day away, I gave it a shot.

    I used all of the exact ingredients that the recipe called for with a few minor adjustments. Warning to anyone to hasn’t made this cake yet: Use a VERY large bowl to mix your ingredients together! I used the largest mixing bowl I had and it was literally about to overflow. This recipe yields a lot of mix!

    I used about 1/4 less cup of sugar than the recipe calls for, and added in a squeeze (probably about a tablespoon) of agave nectar to add in the extra sweetness. I filled two 9-inch cake pans, plus spared a little extra to make one cupcake as a tester.

    I set my timer for 35 minutes (though, the cupcake was done in about 15-20) and checked on the cake. The cakes had risen significantly (more than any other cake-from-scratch I’ve made before) and the toothpick came out clean, though I put it back in the oven for another five minutes just to let it reach it’s golden brown color. I then removed them and placed them on cooling racks.

    Once my cupcake cooled, I took a bite and was very, very satisfied with the outcome. The cake had cooled without becoming dull and try. It was still fluffy, moist, and delicious! I couldn’t believe that I had finally found a yellow cake recipe that didn’t let me down. I’m very satisfied. My cakes are currently in the fridge, and I’m going to icing them with my own chocolate buttercream icing, which I think will be a perfect pair. I’m looking forward to sharing it tomorrow!

  434. Pooja

    Dear Deb

    this cake was my 2nd attempt at your celebration cake recipes after the stupendous success of double chocolate layer cake that i baked for my hubby’s birthday. and this cake lived upto its name! i baked it for one of my friends birthday and it turned out so well..softest, fluffiest and yummiest yellow cake ever! Birthday girl swooned over it and couldnt stop thanking me for baking her this beauty. people around me say that i am turning into quite a baker but i have to say that i have only you to thank!
    i just realized your celebration list doesnt yet have a german black forst cake. not ur type? would love to give it a try if u post it sometime coz if it comes from ur blog, then its gonna work for sure!

    hope ur lad is doing great!


  435. Tracy

    Made this cake this past weekend and will not be using this recipe again. Cake was so very dry and very little flavor to the cake.

  436. SJ

    Hi deb! I just tried this recipe and I must say that despite previous comments, if you do follow it well, you get a cake with fantastic flavour. However, I’ve got some problems with the baking time.

    I made it as a birthday cake the first time and when I sliced off the domes the cake was this unbaked-looking pale yellow underneath, nothing like the lovely picture you have. The domes tasted FANTASTIC though.
    The second time I made cupcakes and they all turned out different! Most of them turned out dry and BROWN on the inside, alot of gluten looking things and the only soft, tasty yellow cake I managed to get was from some almost-burnt ones that had the perfect yellow on the inside. So I stuck the rest back and got them to the same colour but they all came out brown and icky again.
    As you can see, I’m pretty much going mad about the baking time. Help please! :(

  437. Jenette

    I’ve tried out many recipes from your blog – my stomach and my husband thank you very much for all the great recipes! But… this one absolutely takes the cake! (no pun intended! Well… maybe a little!)
    I made the cake last night as a test for my mom’s birthday (I also used a little of the batter to make a couple cupcakes as “testers”)… after one bite I immediately ran outside to find my husband so we could drool together over the fluffy, “tastes like out of the box, but better” cupcake! This is exactly the recipe I have been searching for! Thank you!

  438. Katie

    My sister is Jenette (shown above), and we LOVE your blog! Every night I work until 11:30 at night, then have to go get my 2 kids, and drive home to our house, without talking to anyone on my way home. When Jenette called me at midnight to tell me I HAD to come over to her house to try a cupcake – I was surprised that she was awake (first of all), and second of all – I knew it HAD to be delicious!!! And it was! Driving over to her house to have that 1 moist, delicious, amazing cupcake was definitely worth the extra 15 minutes of being awake after a long night of work! Thank you for the amazing recipie!!!

  439. jojo

    Oh yes, this is quite the cake!
    It is buttery, super moist and absolutely delicious!
    (Tracy, I hope you give this recipe another chance…perhaps the baking gods were napping while you were whipping…)
    I baked one for my dad’s birthday and enveloped it in a swiss meringue buttercream….If I could walk on clouds, I’m sure that sensation would rival eating this dream cake.
    Intend on making another one for my son’s birthday…
    …I know, great excuse.

  440. tartar

    It was quite dry. I followed step to step and it was really dry. I do not know what is wrong but I would suggest adding something else, nobody in my family liked it.

  441. Sony

    Just as “tartar” reported, my cake was also dry. Four cups of flour plus a little extra seems like a lot of flour to me. I did use cake flour and sifted the dry ingredients as stated in the recipe. I will try the recipe again, buttermilk cakes usually are much better than those without buttermilk, but I will use a little less flour. Has anyone made this in 3 – 9″ pans? My layers were very tall.

  442. EricaB

    Baked this cake today for dear daughter’s 9th birthday. Moist delicious cake perfection.

    I checked my pans before baking and they were only 9×1 &1/2 so I held back some of the batter and baked off six cupcakes separate from the two 9 inch layers. I’d make this again any day – I think it would be wonderful with whipped cream icing and blueberries… lots of possibilities. This is a keeper. Thanks Deb :)

  443. Melzor

    I exploited this for cupcakes. Normally, I’m very critical of everything I bake, but I thought that these came out perfect. Super moist and fluffy and perfectly sweet. My mother claims that she’s never made a moist yellow cake and that it is therefore impossible. As this is was my first yellow cake attempt, I am quite pleased with myself. Wahaha.

    For the cake, I used AP flour twice sifted. To curb any rogue sourness of the frosting, I used semi-sweet chocolate and leaned a little heavy on the corn syrup.

  444. Jessica August

    I’m making this for my husbands 40th birthday today! I was so happy to find a beautiful cake to make him :) Thank you so much for the recipe!!

  445. Amy D

    Just wanted to thank you for an amazing cake recipe, I have made it twice now, once for a Birthday cake for my mom and then just this past week as cupcakes (recipe made about 26 cupcakes for me) for a bridal shower, and have gotten raves both times,
    It is a delicious cake and come together really well, just one tiny word of caution others making this cake- boy does it rise, a lot! for the cake I made 2- 9inch rounds and could have easily split the batter into 3 and would have still had very tall cake layers, and the cupcakes did the same and rose to very high hights even though I only filled the liners to 3/4 full, but its all good and tastey!!! thanks again deb for a great recipe!!

  446. Heather

    If it helps anyone I just made four 6-inch layers from the recipe and they turned out great. I baked them for 34 minutes at 350 degrees. And I may have had a few spoonfuls of batter, yummy! I can’t wait to taste it all frosted up. Thanks Deb.

  447. Kris

    I was hoping this would end my search for the best cake recipe but alas, it hasn’t. This made a very dense cake (it was moist) but felt more similar to a pound cake than a regular cake. I didn’t make any substitutions and followed the recipe to the “T” The taste was okay but nothing special.

  448. Jessica

    Literally just took this cake out of the oven about 20 mins ago….cooled the full 10 mins, scraped sides of my 2 8-inch pans and inverted as per instructions. a good, uneven 1/4 of the cakes stayed in the pans. i did not use parchment, but i did butter pans and dusted with (cake) flour before adding batter. where did i go wrong?

  449. Jessica

    ok so always use parchment – check! made the choc sour cream frosting today, and it’s beyond fabulous. words can’t express how amazing this stuff is! i too was a tad concerned about the sour cream base being too, well, sour, and at a particular moment in the making – even with all ingredients – it is too sour. nevertheless, there’s some sort of magic that happens once you’ve added just the right amount of corn syrup and voila – it’s frosting perfection! i’m making this cake for my son’s 2nd bday tomorrow, and it looks great (even though it’s a tad lopsided what with my parchment debacle from last night). used all your layer cake suggestions….freezing, etc. definitely makes everything easier. i’m making the swiss buttercream as i write this – just tasted, and it’s the best frosting i’ve ever had in my life! thanks so much, deb, for posting these recipes and for your excellent instructions.

  450. Was wanting to make a birthday cake for celebrating September birthdays at our church. Didn’t want the typical way-too-sweet concoction that usually passes for birthday cake, so I googled “best birthday cake ever” and your recipe came up. Pure heaven. Went together like a dream. Didn’t have enough cake flour on hand, so added two tablespoons of cornstarch to each cup of flour called for; didn’t have buttermilk, so added one tablespoon vinegar to each cup of buttermilk called for; and even with these substitutions, it turned out light, fluffy and perfect tasting. I made two eight-inch layers and baked for 42 minutes. Came out like golden perfection.

    And that icing!! Oh my gosh, that’s the best stuff ever. And goes on perfectly. The addition of the colorful sprinkles around the edges puts a little added sparkle on that which I did not think could be improved/ It says “birthday celebration” in such a simple and dignified way without screaming it out the way candles would.

    Now, I can hardly wait to try more of your recipes. This one goes into my book with fives stars and a great big “WINNER” stamped across it, for sure and will be baked for many more birthday celebrations to come, I am certain. So thank you, thank you, thank you!!! for sharing it with your readers.

    Blessings galore,


  451. This is a wonderful recipe and I am convinced that my yellow cake search ends here! I didn’t expect them to be so fluffy and soft, nor rise like they did. They really produced results that I’ve been looking for – you don’t know how relieved I am! I made half the recipe and that yielded enough for 24 mini cupcakes and 5 standard size cupcakes. Baking time for me was 13 minutes for minis and 18 minutes for standard. All I can say is, THANK YOU!! And to the readers: MAKE THIS ONE!! :D

  452. Esme

    It might have to do with your oven’s temperature. It might be worth it to buy a cheapo oven thermometer to check how accurrate your oven reads compared to its setting.

  453. I liked this, but thought it would’ve been better as a three-layer cake. It was just so huge for a two-layer cake, but I guess I should’ve realized this, what with the whopping 4 cups of flour, when most other cakes have about 2! I used a different chocolate frosting recipe, but for decorating/writing on the cake I used the peanut butter frosting from your chocolate-peanut butter cake. I am in LOVE with that peanut butter frosting and have made it several times.

  454. samira

    thank you for your recepie.
    can i use heavy cream inset of sourcream and buttermilk?
    what should i use if i want to make it parve?
    thank you so much

  455. Sharon

    I just made this with the Instant Fudge Frosting and it is without a doubt the best cake I’ve ever made. I too am a new mom and could see myself using this recipe for birthday cake for the rest of my life. Thank you!! For me this made 27 standard size cupcakes and some of them were burnt on the edges after only 13 minutes, so if you make cupcakes check them early and often!

  456. Viry

    Through years i have been wishing to get the best yellow cake recipe ever… i searched and found one and other that was very very good but didn’t take my breath away until this one… OMG I can’t believe it, I don’t want to know about any other recipe EVER, actually, I just made it 30 minutes ago and my husband is almost going for the third cupcake! beautiful cake, delicious flavor, thick crumb, this was what I was looking for… It made 12 huge cupcakes and then i put some frosting on a piping bag with a big tip and insert it in the cupcake almost to the base and fill it with the delicious chocolate mousse, then frost the top and sprinkle about 1/2 tbs chopped pecans… I will be making this forever!!!

  457. Sarah

    This is cooling, fresh out of the oven now, for my daughter’s 3rd birthday. It looks delicious and huge – it didn’t overflow the pans, but I had a jelly roll pan on the bottom rack in the oven just in case. But I like a tall cake. (Also, I catch your Ramona reference!)

  458. Dara

    This cake is lovely, it is so much better than any yellow birthday cake I have ever had. I like how it expanded so much, and it is neither too dense nor airy. I made the cake plain with out the frosting for a lighter dessert. I hope it will convince my Russian husband to like American birthday cake!

  459. I made this cake for a celebration lunch today and it was heavenly. Light, fluffy, and the recommended instant fudge frosting is so easy it’s almost magical. A great recipe for many years to come.

  460. Tricia

    Thank you for this recipe! I have always been scared of trying cakes that aren’t from a box. This one was great! I made it into cupcakes and it made 24 + a one layer 6″ cake!! The cupcakes did kind of go in haphazard directions, is that because I didn’t get the air bubbles out?

  461. Laura

    I made this cake this weekend for my son’s 2nd bday (seriously, it goes by too quickly!). I was determined to find a great cake recipe as last year, after making a chocolate cake recipe from your site (don’t remember which) with this icing (the chocolate sour cream) convinced he would love it as much as me (a devout chocolate consumer), he took a bite, did the ‘yucky’ face, and wouldn’t touch it again. Who’s son is he?? :) This cake lived up to it’s name as the BEST birthday cake.He devoured it. It also did well as it was shaped into a “Cars” character topped with marshmallow fondant. The funny thing is as I was making them (2 cakes) Friday night I could tell by the richness of the batter it was a good cake, and a little familiar. The next day after tasting it I got out my husband’s Nana’s famous pound cake recipe and sure enough, your recipe is exactly half of the ingredients in her recipe. I knew it would be fav. Thanks again for the great recipe and one that will be used for years to come!

  462. Tiffany

    This cake was absolutely delicious and everyone agreed. It was nearly gone in 10 minutes! I made a chocolate buttercream from another food blog I love (baked bree). It was a wonderful pairing. This was my all time fav combo growing up and I’m thankful to add this to my recipes!

  463. ali

    Thank you so much for the recipe. Have tried lots of other yellow cake recipes and this one is the best. Just made it for my partner birthday and frosted with a ganache, was perfect! No need to buy a birthday cake again.

  464. Vivicity

    Thanks for a great birthday cake recipe! The quest ended here.

    I made this cake for my son’s 5th birthday this past weekend and it came out great. Used two 9″ springforms (well greased and floured, didn’t need parchment) and they came out with great height.

    Didn’t have cake flour so I used regular flour + cornstarch based on the formula of 1 cup minus 2 tblsp flour + 2 tblsp cornstarch – and made sure to sift the combo per one of your earlier reader’s comments.

    As I never acquired the taste for frosting of any kind I used dulce de leche with chocolate sprinkles between the layers and covered the cake with dulce de leche as well to make it smooth, before I poured chocolate ganache over it. Used a Wilton icing writer to write “happy birthday”.

    It didn’t last past the party – which was great though I wouldn’t have minded trying it a day later!

    I loved it the way it was though next time I make it, I’m considering adding a little orange zest to the batter.

  465. Megan

    I’m going to make this for my 30th birthday party… after two failed (fallen) cakes I need a solid recipe for Saturday. I’m going to try the addition of orange zest as Vivicity recommended… I love the comments section and this addition sounds like a good idea!

  466. Marianne

    I just made the sour cream frosting tonight and it was awesome! I was looking for a good chocolate frosting recipe that I could made with ingredients on hand–basically, one that didn’t require confectioner’s sugar. This is way better than my standard chocolate frosting recipe! Will use this from now on. Thanks!!

  467. Kyra

    This is the best yellow cake I have ever tasted. My dad, who has only ever had boxed yellow cake, is going to flip when I make it for him. Thanks Deb!

  468. Daniela

    Dear Deb, I am making this right now for my husband’s birthday tomorrow, Christmas Eve. The batter alone is heavenly..cannot wait to finish the whole thing tomorrow. Thank you

  469. Rachel

    Deb, I just made this for my husband’s birthday on 12/29, and it is nearly gone. There are only two of us in this household to eat it, and there is one piece left.


    I think that means he liked it at least as much as I did. :-D Thank you so much for a stellar recipe! I’ll be using this one for our kids’ birthdays whenever we have them (such a good idea to file it away for that!). Thank you heaps!

  470. Just made this and am having trouble not eating it all right now. Luckily we made it so it needed trimming and can have the ends while the cake cools. Perfect yellow cake – Thank you!!

  471. Amy Clark

    My daughter and my mother-in-law made this cake for my birthday (which is today) and it is the very, very best cake ever. So moist and oh-so-yellow-cake delicious!!! We did not try the sour cream frosting, for fear our daughter would not like it, but will definitely try it next time. I’ve never had such a good birthday cake; yellow cake with choc. frosting is my all-time favorite!

    Thank you for the great recipe.

    BTW, our 20-year-old niece just told us about your site, and when I googled “best birthday cake”, yours was the first to pop up. It was meant to be!

  472. Bailey

    I decided to try this recipe for a birthday cake I’m making, especially for the simplicity of the ingredients and process. I used some extra batter to make some cupcakes so that I could try it before the party. OMG! It is the BEST from-scratch yellow cake recipe. It will definetely be my go-to from now on. Thanks for sharing it!

  473. Jaci

    I’ve ever, ever successfully made a layer cake, but using your tips and some from Martha, and these recipes, I finally did it! It’s beautiful, and tastes delicious. My family thanks you.

  474. Alright, so I know comment #613 is hardly compelling, but I am just here to tell you: this cake saved my WEEK.

    My boy turned six a few days back, and I spent three hours making a “best ever” genoise from Rose Levy Birnbaum’s book. It was a DISASTER, capital everything. The cardboard it sat on was better. Even the polite adults wouldn’t eat it. I served it to twenty. Thank god for ice cream.

    Come time to bring cupcakes to the school party the next day, I turned here (which, silly me, is of course where I should have begun). Fast. Easy. Foolproof. SO GOOD.

    I’ve been looking five years for a solid, super vanilla cake. I’ve found it. Thanks, Deb.

  475. naila

    Hi Deb , u have a wonderfully laid out blog. im definitely gona try this cake. iv made the silky chocolate pudding and all at home loved it. I want to buy a new stand mixer , for all my baking needs.which one do u use? could u please tell me what brand should i buy.

    Thanx again

  476. Holy crappola- this makes WAY more than two 9-inch rounds worth. Yikes! I guess I should have been smart and realized that the pans shouldn’t be nearly full when you put them in the oven- I now have burnt cake batter all over the bottom of my oven. I scooped out enough batter from each to completely fill up a third 9″ round. It’s not going to be pretty, but maybe I can trim them all enough to make them look halfway decent for my friend’s bday tonight. I’m sure it will be delicious, but I coulda done without the overflowing. Guess I’ll use my brain next time! (Or read the reviews first.)

  477. laurie

    Am making this for my dad’s 68th birthday, he wants a cake just like his mom used to make, this will hopefully fit the bill! It looks perfect (and I’m heading towards the instant fudge frosting cause he wants a buttercream). Question: have you ever used organic sugar instead of pure granulated white in the cake? We use Trader Joe’s. Do you think this will affect the cake? If so, I’ll go get good ol’ C&H. Thanks for all you do!

  478. laurie

    Hi again. So I made it with 1/2 C&H granulated and 1/2 organic raw sugar and the overflowing edges I nibbled on were divine. But the middle fell in a bit on each. I live at 4500 ft, could this be a factor? Hope to cover with your frosting and impress my dad to no end! thanks

  479. Katrina

    I, too, have been searching for the perfect from-scratch yellow cake. Thanks for posting it! I have made this recipe several times now and it is always delicious. Halving the recipe makes a very cute 2-layer 6″ round cake and one-quarter of the recipe makes about 10 of the most perfectly-domed, golden cupcakes.

    Thanks again, Deb!

  480. Leila

    Hi, I just have to comment on this recipe. The yellow cake recipe is simply the best! Search no further – you won’t find anything better. This was my first attempt at making a homemade cake and it came out perfect. I made a castle shaped cake for my son’s birthday and everybody loved it! I used the sour cream recipe only I used heavy whipping cream instead of sour cream as I got a little worried about some comments regarding the sourness of the final outcome. I will try it with sour cream as well though! Simply marvelous recipe!!!!!!!

  481. Danielle

    Hi Deb,
    I made a variation of this yesterday for my boyfriend’s birthday. He wanted a yellow cake with lots of strawberries and not too much cream, so I used the yellow cake and tried a mascarpone filling and frosting, which didn’t work out – it turned the whipped cream into liquid. In the end I used plain whipped cream. The filling was strawberries macerated in the fridge with sugar and lemon juice, mixed with some fresh chopped ones, and just a little cream. I also painted the cake layers with the strawberry juice. Delicious! Your basic childhood strawberry birthday cake. If anyone is interested, I would suggest slicing more layers out of this, I felt there was a lot of cake and not enough filling.

  482. Second comments allowed on the same post? Hope so. Because after effusing a few weeks back, I’ve made this three more times, with pure awesome results each and every.

    Funny thing is, I was just talking to a pastry chef friend yesterday, who told me a good yellow cake is the hardest one to get right. And that *whisper* *whisper* *hush* *hush*, all real pastry chefs use a doctored Pillsbury mix. I can’t confirm that, but I can confirm that this one has performed hands-down for me, four times running, now.

    Thanks again, Deb.

  483. Sopheavy

    I love all of your recipes and have tried a ton of them. However, I must have did something wrong because it can our tasting dry even though it felt really most in my hands. I used lowfat buttermilk because thats all i could find. i wonder if that is the problem. i did not overbake it. after a couple of hours it became really hard. i beat it for a few minutes and maybe that was an issue. not sure. but anyway i also made your carrot cupcakes and it was to die for and i make it at least once a month.

  484. Carol

    This was not the best yellow cake. I bake quite a bit and the one thing I noticed about this recipe is the baking soda, which does not belong in a yellow cake. The flavor of yellow cake is too light and delicate to withstand baking soda. It should only call for baking powder.
    This is why the cake tasted like cornbread.

    Second, I think the frosting could have used butter and maybe a bit of sour cream. I liked the silky consistency that the sour cream gave the frosting, but it was a little too sour.

  485. Leah

    I was wondering if there is ANY way to substitute the butter in this recipe?!?!? (I know how to substitute recipes with melted butter as that converts easily to oil) As I don’t cook with butter or shortening. I would love to be able to make this for my own birthday cake on friday (birthday is sat.)….
    Thanks soooo much!!!!!!