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This yellow cake recipe is a classic favorite for special celebrations! It’s fluffy, moist and tender then topped with a rich chocolate frosting.

Making a cake recipe from scratch is extra special! Other favorites include pound cake, angel food cake and strawberry cake!

Slice of yellow cake on a white plate.
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Classic Homemade Yellow Cake

There is so much to love about yellow cake with chocolate frosting! The smooth and sweet chocolate buttercream frosting is the perfect thing to add on top. The rich chocolate flavors balance out the sweet and moist cake beneath. 

It’s as easy to make as chocolate cake or vanilla cake. In fact, after making this easy recipe, you might be inspired to make a batch of chocolate cupcakes from scratch.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Better than boxed. This is the best yellow cake recipe because it’s as easy to make as yellow cake mix in a box, but tastes so much better.  
  • Perfect texture. The cake flour and baking ingredients are balanced to give you a perfect cake, each time. 
  • From scratch. Every single ingredient is as whole as it comes –  no shortcuts here! 
  • Freezer-friendly. You can make the cake today, freeze it, and then thaw it and decorate as needed. You could even use it for cake balls!
  • Versatile. Top with any flavor of frosting or use the batter to make cupcakes. 

Recipe Ingredients

A yellow cake recipe from scratch is fun and satisfying to bake! As it bakes, you’ll smell the butter and sugar concoction – it’s the stuff dreams are made of. 

Yellow cake ingredients on the counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Butter. In order to balance the flavors, use unsalted butter and add the salt separately. 
  • Egg Yolks: They should be at room temperature before you add them to the batter. Save the egg whites as they will be folded in later.  
  • Flour: Cake flour is finer and makes the cake more delicate and spongy, but all-purpose flour works too. 
  • Buttermilk: This is slightly acidic and contains more water than milk, so it will make your cake moist and tender. If you don’t have any, here’s how to make buttermilk with ingredients you probably have. 

Frosting Variations

  • Frosting: Change the chocolate frosting and top with vanilla buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting, or go fruity and top with strawberry cream cheese frosting.
  • Poke cake: After your cake is finished baking, use toothpicks to poke holes in it. Slowly pour caramel sauce into the holes. Bake it again for about 10 minutes. This is a delicious way to enhance yellow cake. 
  • Shape: Bake the cake in a bundt pan or a square baking pan. 
  • Single layer: If you don’t have time to make a layered cake, make cake in a 9×13 pan, add frosting on top and enjoy! 

How to Make Yellow Cake

Rest assured, this easy yellow cake recipe is straightforward and uncomplicated. If you can make the boxed mix, you can make this too.

Showing how to make yellow cake in a 6 step collage.
  • Cream the butter and sugar.  In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed. When it’s pale and fluffy, add the egg yolks and vanilla. 
  • Mix the dry ingredients together. In a smaller bowl, mix the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. 
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter. In ⅓ increments, mix the flour mixture into the creamed butter mixture. Add buttermilk in between each set. 
  • Whip the egg whites. Add the egg whites to a stand mixers bowl. Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar with the whisk attachment. Keep whipping until stiff peaks form. 
  • Add batter to pans. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Then, pour the batter into your prepared cake pans. 
  • Bake the cake. Keep baking until a toothpick comes out clean.
Spreading chocolate frosting onto yellow cake.

Making The Frosting 

  • Mix cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt. Use a large bowl and stir until they are mixed together really well. 
  • Add wet ingredients. Mix in the water and vanilla and scrape the sides of the bowl as you do. 
  • Add more butter and sugar. Beat in the butter and the rest of the powdered sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy. 
  • Decorate the cake. After it is chilled, decorate the cake however you want. 
Slice of yellow cake on a cake stand.

Expert Tips

There are a few modifications that will take this cake from delicious to out-of-this-world amazing!  

  • The type of vanilla matters.  Use a really good vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, since this cake relies heavily on its flavor. 
  • You don’t have to freeze the cake.  Freezing cake layers makes it easy to frost without losing a lot of the crumb, but isn’t necessary if time doesn’t allow it.
  • Be choosy with cocoa powder. For a more bittersweet chocolate flavor, use Dutch-process cocoa if you like.

Recipe FAQs

What Is Yellow Cake? 

Yellow cake is a sweet dessert that is made with the whole eggs, not just the egg whites. The result is a spongy, moist, and perfectly sweet cake that you can use to decorate or top with any frosting you like. 

What is the difference between yellow cake and butter golden cake?

They are basically the same thing, but you might find a lot of yellow cake mix recipes allow you to use any type of cooking fat that you want (like Crisco). Butter golden cake specifically calls for butter.

What gives yellow cake mix its flavor?

Two things give this cake its iconic flavor. The first is the whole eggs. You’ll use both the egg whites and the egg yolks. The other thing is the vanilla. That’s why I suggest using a high-quality, pure vanilla extract.

Is yellow cake better with butter or oil? 

I prefer using real butter over oil in my yellow cake. Butter has more flavor in it than oil does. You can use oil instead with perfectly fine results. With butter, however, you’ll notice a deeper flavor.

How to store?

Keep any leftovers covered in an airtight container or aluminum foil for up to four days in the refrigerator.

Fork taking a bite of yellow cake.

More classic cake recipes to love include strawberry shortcake, carrot cake, and strawberry sheet cake!

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Slice of yellow cake on a white plate.

Yellow Cake Recipe

5 from 8 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
For special celebrations and sweet occasions, this yellow cake recipe is what you need! This classic tastes better than boxed cake, pairs well with chocolate frosting and preps in 15 minutes.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Cool Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 8




  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks , at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (260 grams) cake flour , or 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cups (215 grams) buttermilk , at room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites , at room temperature
  • teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar , divided
  • teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened



  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line bottom of 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray only the parchment with nonstick cooking spray. Do not spray the sides of the pans.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla until combined.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Gradually mix in 1/3 flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk until well combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl between additions.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until can hold a stiff peak.
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until just incorporated. Pour batter into pans.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes in the pans before transferring the cakes to a rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

  • In a large bowl , stir together the cocoa powder, 1 cup powdered sugar, and salt. Mix in the water and vanilla on medium speed, scraping the bowl if necessary.
  • Beat in the butter and remaining 2 cups powdered sugar on medium-high speed 1 to 2 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. If frosting is too stiff, beat in 1 teaspoon water until it's spreadable.

Assemble the Cake

  • Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Spread about 1 cup frosting, enough to make a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick layer. Place the second cake bottom-side up over the frosted layer. Chill 30 minutes.
  • Using an offset spatula or rubber spatula, spread enough frosting to create a crumb coat around the entire cake. Chill 30 minutes.
  • Decorate the cake with the remaining frosting any way you like. 


Vanilla: Use a really good vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, since this cake relies heavily on its flavor. 
Variations: This batter is enough to make:
  • 1 9×13-inch baking dish (bake 45 to 50 minutes)
  • 24 cupcakes (bake 30 to 35 minutes)
  • 3 8-inch round cake pans (25 to 30 minutes)
Frosting: Freezing cake layers makes it easy to frost without losing a lot of the crumb, but isn’t necessary if time doesn’t allow. I also love Classic buttercream frosting.
Cocoa powder: For a more bittersweet chocolate flavor, use Dutch-process cocoa if you like.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 1110kcal | Carbohydrates: 156g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 32g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 176mg | Sodium: 421mg | Potassium: 435mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 105g | Vitamin A: 1589IU | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian

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