Best Birthday Cake

Recipe By Tessa Arias
  |  
April 16th, 2019
5 from 1 vote
5 from 1 vote

This recipe for the Best Birthday Cake with moist and fluffy yellow cake paired with rich and creamy milk chocolate buttercream is perfect for celebrating!

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: This cake just tastes like a celebration! Vanilla-scented yellow cake combined with perfectly sweet milk chocolate buttercream will have you wishing it was someone’s birthday everyday.
Texture: The cake is light, moist, fluffy, and tender while the buttercream is ultra rich, smooth, and creamy.
Ease: Easy! Just a bit messy and time consuming.
anPros: A go-to birthday cake recipe.
Cons: Lots and lots of butter.
Would I make this again? Oh yes!

Ten years ago in 2009 I was graduating high school and looking nervously ahead at beginning college. I had no clue what I wanted to study or what I wanted to be when I “grew up.”

Ten years ago I started Handle the Heat on a whim.

Birthday cake on platter with sprinkles on top

That’s right… Handle the Heat turns 10 years old this month!

Thank you so much to everyone who has read, subscribed, followed, commented, and made my recipes over the last 10 years. I could’ve never dreamed all of this would be possible.

In fact, I recently found my journal from 2009. Here’s an except from an entry that made me both laugh out loud and feel awestruck with gratitude and appreciation for how far HTH has come since:

“I really want to get the ball rolling on my blog and my website idea. I think it could be really successful.”

Then there’s a list of “things to save money for” including

  • Camera
  • Domain & WordPress blog

I truly started with nothing. And I ended up getting a neon blue point and shoot digital camera for my birthday that I used to take the first pictures published here.

I used to look back at those first photos with embarrassment but now I have pride for how far things have come.

Birthday cake on platter with slice taken out

It’s so funny how things can work out a thousand times better than you could’ve ever expected or planned for. IF you keep an open mind about the possibilities and let the adventure take you where it wants to.

I mean, take a peek at what handletheheat.com looked like in 2009 and then in 2011. Since then I’ve gotten to publish a cookbook, go to culinary school, and turn my passion into a full time business that allows me to be financially independent. It’s pretty incredible.

If you’re hesitating to start something or take your life in a new direction I want to say one thing: JUST DO IT. Cliche as it sounds, starting is the hardest part and you never know what amazing things will happen once you do.

How to Make the BEST Birthday Cake

How do I make MOIST cake?

Be sure not to over-measure your flour which can lead to a dry or crumbly cake. I always use my digital kitchen scale to weigh flour, but if you don’t have one use the “spoon and level” method to measure with measuring cups. More on all that here in my Ultimate Guide to Measuring.

Do I have to use whole milk?

Using whole milk will help to create a tender and moist cake as well. You can get away with using 2% if necessary, but don’t use skim milk. Whole milk really works best.

Baking the Cake

Keep a close eye on the cake as it bakes to avoid over baking it. Don’t use dark colored cake pans for this recipe. They tend to overcook and dry out the edges and bottom.

Can I use a 9-inch pan instead?

This recipe calls for 8-inch baking pans, which is what will work best. You can also use 9-inch if that’s what you have. Your cake layers will be thinner. Just shave about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Can I make cupcakes with this recipe?

Yes, this recipe will make about 18 standard cupcakes. Bake in lined cupcake pans for about 20 minutes.

The Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

This chocolate buttercream recipe is one of my all-time favorites. It’s unbelievably rich, creamy, luscious, smooth, and perfectly sweet. It complements the yellow cake perfectly.

Why is there a raw egg yolk in this frosting? Do I have to use it?

The recipe contains a raw egg yolk, not unlike any recipe for homemade mayonnaise or Caesar salad dressing. The fat from the egg yolk not only lends richness and creaminess, it also helps to emulsify the buttercream to make it ultra smooth and silky with no extra work.

Simply make sure to use a very fresh quality egg. I like to use an egg from the farmer’s market.

If you feel too uncomfortable with this or if you plan to serve this cake to infants, the elderly, pregnant women, or someone with a compromised immune system, you can use a pasteurized shell egg or just leave the egg yolk out entirely. You will loose some richness and smoothness.

You can also use my Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe to frost this cake instead.

Help! I suck at decorating cakes.

If you need help frosting and decorating a cake so it looks nice a pretty, check out my Easy Cake Decorating video in this post. The biggest tip I can give you is to freeze your cake layers before frosting so you can avoid crumbs or tears.

We used Wilton Sprinkles in the “Rainbow Star Medley” design from Michael’s.

How can I make this cake ahead of time?

Wrap unfrosted cooled cake layers completely in several layers of plastic wrap. Place inside a freezer bag. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge (do not defrost at room temperature or you will end up with mushy cake).

The buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Let come to room temperature and re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again.

How do I store this cake?

Cover with a cake keeper and store at room temperature for up to 8 hours then refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

I need to serve this outside. How can I prevent it from melting?

Keep the cake refrigerated until your party starts or until you head to the park or outdoor location. This will allow the cake to come to room temperature gradually as it sits outside, but not get too warm that it begins to melt.

Favorite Cake Tools:

Slice of birthday cake with a piece on a fork

More Cake Recipes:

5 from 1 vote

How to make
Best Birthday Cake

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
This recipe for the Best Birthday Cake with moist and fluffy yellow cake paired with rich and creamy milk chocolate buttercream is perfect for celebrating!

Ingredients

For the yellow cake:

  • 2 1/3 cups (296 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature and separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk

For the milk chocolate buttercream:

  • 2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large very fresh egg yolk, at room temperature*
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (156 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) milk chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions

Make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350Β°F. Butter, flour, and line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment circles.

  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

  3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add two egg yolks and the vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the whole milk, beginning and ending with the flour, mixing just until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. In a separate clean bowl with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the 2 egg whites until they hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes. Gently fold into the cake batter.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes in pans before turning out onto a cooling rack. For easier frosting, freeze the cake layers until firm.

Make the buttercream:

  1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth and creamy.

  2. On low speed, add the melted cooled chocolate and mix until just combined. Don't whip! Fill and spread immediately on the frozen cake. Serve or let stand covered at room temperature for up to 8 hours.

Recipe Notes

*Use a very fresh egg yolk. If worried about food safety, use a pasteurized shell egg or omit the egg yolk completely.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolate buttercream

This post was originally published in 2015 and recently updated with new photos, recipe improvements, and more tips. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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  1. #
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness — March 30, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Happy Birthday to you! Thank you for all the work you do, and being an inspiration to me! I hope you have such a wonderful day! πŸ™‚
    In other news, I want to devour this WHOLE CAKE! White cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite, so you picked a winner of a dessert to celebrate today! Pinned!

  2. #
    Liz S. — March 30, 2015 at 4:59 am

    Wishing you a VERY happy birthday! Fellow Aries here πŸ˜€

  3. #
    Bunny Bars — March 30, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Wow! You’re only 24 and so accomplished?! Wow! Good for you ! I would like to thank you for all the wonderful yummy stuff you share! Have yourself a fantastic awesome (or whatever you kids call it these days) birthday!
    All the best:)

  4. #
    Jen @ Baked by an Introvert — March 30, 2015 at 6:39 am

    Happy Birthday! I love your blog and all of the wonderful tips you bring to the table. White cake with chocolate frosting is so clean and classy! It’s perfect for your birthday!

  5. #
    Emilie — March 30, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Happy birthday from Madagascar Tessa. πŸ™‚ You’re so inspiring. (y)
    Wishing you all the best!

  6. #
    Diana — March 30, 2015 at 9:10 am

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!! Thanks for all that you put out there in blogland for us cyber readers to read and do !

  7. #
    Amy — March 30, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Happy Birthday Tessa! Thank you so much for all your Recipes, I love your Blog.

  8. #
    Nancy Miles — March 30, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Happy Birthday!! Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes. Thanks for all of your time. I really like when you compare different ways of cooking or baking things and show how they turn out. Hope you have a wonderful birthday and get all you ask for.

  9. #
    Auntiepatch — March 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Happy Birthday! May you have many more! The best is yet to come!

  10. #
    Clara — March 30, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I’m so impressed that you are only 24. You are such an accomplished woman! It’s really inspiring. I’ve been lacking cake inspiration lately, and then I saw this. I love how simple it is. I guess sometimes less is more.. Thanks for sharing!

  11. #
    Jack L — March 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Looks great!

    What is the reason for the egg yolk? Really, leave the uncooked egg frosting out for eight hours? I realize it is just one yolk, but…

    Is the cake stiff enough to carve into a shape?

    Thanks!

    jack

  12. #
    Robin — March 30, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Happy Birthday! The cake looks great! Thanks for all the recipes!

  13. #
    Debbie Caraballo — March 30, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Happy Birthday, Tessa! Hope you’re having a wonderful day. This cake and frosting look so delicious – pinned for later!

  14. #
    Helen Maitland — March 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Wishing you a very Happy Birthday, you always have lovely recipes. This cake is too die for.xxxx

  15. #
    Julia @ Sprinkled With Jules — March 30, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Happy Birthday! The layers of this cake look so soft and delicious, I wish I had a piece!

  16. #
    Denisse | Le Petit Eats — March 30, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I love the simplicity! So nostalgic…hope your birthday is awesome!

  17. #
    Gaby — March 30, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Happy Birthday! This cake looks delicious!!!

  18. #
    Kay — March 30, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Happy Birthday Tessa! The cake looks yummy πŸ™‚

  19. #
    Anand — March 31, 2015 at 1:16 am

    Happy Birthday Tessa, love your recipes , have a wonderful day and a great tasty year ahead. you make our lives rock with your recipes. They are just beautiful and YUM !!!!, Happy Birthday .

  20. #
    Angelina — March 31, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Muchas felicidades por un aΓ±o mΓ‘s y que sigan los exitos!!! Un saludo y un abrazo, desde Chihuahua, Mexico.

  21. #
    Clara — March 31, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    I know I already commented, but I just made this cake, with a few changes, and it is mouth-wateringly good. Instead of chocolate buttercream, I used a mix of dulce de leche and lemon juice and in the middle I also put canned peaches. Because the dulce de leche is so sweet I halved the amount of sugar in the yellow cake, but it still turned out perfectly sweet. What a great recipe, and so adaptable! Will be making this again πŸ™‚

    • #
      Tessa — April 2, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Wonderful Clara! Thanks for sharing your version, sounds delicious πŸ™‚

  22. #
    Natalia — March 31, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Happy belated birthday to you! I’m gonna try this recipe on my father’s birthday, thank you.

  23. #
    Annalise @ Completely Delicious — March 31, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Oh how I wish it was my birthday, or that I at least had a slice of this cake! Hope you had a fabulous day!!

  24. #
    Marly — April 2, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Happy, Happy Birthday! Looks like you’re celebrating in style with a super delicious cake! I mean, what other way is there to celebrate anyway?? πŸ™‚

  25. #
    Greg — April 5, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Happy belated birthday! This is my wife’s favorite cake/icing combination. I will make this for her birthday in September. Thank you!!!

  26. #
    Suzie — April 24, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Help! I made this cake twice today and while it is DELICIOUS, both times it totally collapsed in the center. I live at an altitude of a little over 9200 and the first time made the recipe as written and the second I made my usual high altitude adjustments with no change. What am I doing wrong? I love the flavor and can see this being my go-to cake if only I can get it to rise!

    • #
      Tessa — April 26, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Hi Suzie! I’m so sorry but I have absolutely zero personal experience with high altitude baking as I’ve never lived far above sea level. I know that my friends who live at high altitudes often have to experiment with adjustments to make recipes work for them. Hopefully you can figure it out – good luck!

  27. #
    Anand — April 30, 2015 at 4:16 am

    Belated Birthday Wishes to you Tessa.

  28. #
    Linda Gardepe — June 26, 2015 at 11:28 am

    First I have to say that I love your blog, your recipes are wonderful. I do have a question about the yellow cake. Can it be baked in a 9×13 pan and if yes about how long. Thank you.

  29. #
    Brady515 — April 4, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Tessa I am very new to baking my first question is baking cake and frosting’s is it necessary to use a mixer with a paddle attachment Ness are I made a buttercream frosting that didn’t do so well not sure if I mixed it to much it was grainy and looked like whipped topping probably didn’t post this in the right place and also happy birthday to you

  30. #
    Stephanie — May 16, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Tessa, I made this cake for my son’s 1st
    Birthday party and everyone loved it and devoured it! They thought I had catered it! (partly because it was also decorated super cute). I have a question, is it possible to use cake flour instead of all purpose flour? I ask this because I felt like my cake tasted a little too floury. Could it be the type of flour I’m using? Any other recommendations to fix this? Of course no one else commented on this, but I always feel like cakes I make from scratch have a significant flour taste.

    The buttercream was superb btw! I’ve never made my own and this was so easy! I was a little weary using it as it has a raw egg in it, but it turned out amazing!

    Thank you for any help! I look forward to using more of your recipes!

    • #
      Tessa — May 16, 2016 at 9:38 pm

      Wonderful, Stephanie! What a compliment to your decorating skills πŸ™‚ Are you measuring the flour with measuring cups or by weight? I’d suggest investing in a kitchen scale if you don’t already have one and measure by weight because it’s SO much more accurate. It’s really easy to overpack flour into a measuring cup and end up adding more in than the recipe calls for, which might be contributing to that floury taste you’re experiencing. Here’s my measuring guide: https://www.handletheheat.com/ultimate-guide-measuring/

  31. #
    BakingLover13 — August 24, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Hey Tessa, happy birthday!!!! I just have to say how much I love your recipe, Its so amazing and I’ve baked twice now, Though I have a question do I really have whip the egg white at the end of the baking, because for me that adds a lot of dishes to do. Thanks ; )

  32. #
    Tara — September 17, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    This cake is exactly what I’ve been searching for!! It’s absolutely perfect!! Thanks so much!! I made cupcakes instead of the layered cake.

    • #
      Tessa — September 18, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      So glad to hear that, Tara!

  33. #
    BakingLover13 — September 26, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Oh my Tessa I literally just baked an hour ago and I love it. Though instead of 30 it took 45 minutes until i thought it was done otherwise it was superb. Well done and happy BELATED birthday!!

    • #
      Tessa — September 26, 2016 at 10:11 am

      Thank you! So happy to hear that πŸ™‚

  34. #
    Marcela — November 4, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Hi Tessa!! I love this recipe so much! Is it possible to freeze the dough to bake it any time any day on a craving emergency?

  35. #
    Maye — December 10, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Hi Tessa, I have one question normally when I bake cakes, it grow basically in the center and are not leveled like the ones in your photo. do you have any tip for this? or maybe is the oven?

  36. #
    Laura — May 23, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Is the best birthday cake recipe missing the baking soda? I used it for cupcakes and they collapsed too and were flat and a mess.

  37. #
    Viviane — July 6, 2017 at 6:22 am

    Hello, i’m looking to buy a round cake pan and I’m curious to know why you prefer 8 inch cake instead if 9 inch. Is it because it’s bigger and easier to work?
    Thank you πŸ™‚
    Viviane

  38. #
    Michelle — April 16, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Congratulations on 10 years of Handle the Heat! I love your blog and recipes. Also, I just want to say thank you for sharing your journey and the encouragement to go after your dreams! It’s definitely inspiring to see how far you have come!

    • #
      Tessa — April 22, 2019 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks so much, Michelle!

  39. #
    Cake fiend — September 10, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    Hi, cute cake. May I know what piping tip you used for frosting the edges of the cake? You piped out 2 strips around the border? Thanks!

  40. #
    Divya Malhotra — September 15, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    I love the way you have written everything so precisely. Left with no single doubt. This birthday cake I will try for my my bae

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