Filed Under: Cakes & Cupcakes

Best Yellow Cake Recipe

Recipe By Tessa Arias
  |  
February 25th, 2020
4.95 from 17 votes
4.95 from 17 votes

Best Yellow Cake Recipe is ultra rich, moist, tender, and fluffy! Super easy, homemade, and so much better than box mix, this will become your go-to cake recipe for every celebration!

Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Rich and sweet!
Texture: Perfectly moist, fluffy, and tender.
Ease: Pretty quick & easy for a homemade cake. I won’t use box mix again with this recipe!
Pros: My new go-to cake recipe.
Cons: None, really.
Would I make this again? Absolutely.

I have fond memories of my dad making yellow cake with chocolate fudge frosting for special occasions.

That’s definitely where I get my sweet tooth from, but my dad isn’t much of a scratch baker. Those cakes were always box mixes paired with the little tub of premade frosting with who-knows-what added in to keep it shelf stable.

Still, as a kid, I loved those cakes.

Best Yellow Cake Recipe is ultra rich, moist, tender, and fluffy! Super easy, homemade, and so much better than box mix, this will become your go-to cake recipe for every celebration!

Now as an adult… I find them shockingly sweet and artificial tasting.

But I will say I still like the fluffy moist texture of those box yellow cake mixes. I wanted to create a recipe that felt like those cakes I grew up with but with much better flavor. I think I’ve finally discovered it!

Honestly, it took about 7 tries to get this right over the course of 6 months. Layer cake is a hard recipe to want to test repeatedly in a short period of time. What are you supposed to do with all those mediocre leftover cake slices?!

So I went back to the drawing board and decided to start with my Best Birthday Cake as the base since that recipe is so well received. Where that cake texture is tighter and more delicate, I wanted this yellow cake to be a little looser and more moist like box mix.

I got rid of the egg separation method from that recipe, which involves whipping the egg whites, to get a richer texture and an easier process. More eggs + yolks, more butter, and a touch of sour cream help round everything out in this recipe.

I hope you love it!

How to Make the BEST Homemade Yellow Cake Recipe

Chocolate buttercream frosting being spread on yellow cake

How do I make MOIST & TENDER cake?

I highly highly highly advise weighing your flour when making 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.

There are a few ingredients that help create a moist and tender cake. All the eggs + egg yolks add richness and moisture. The sour cream also tenderizes as well as adding more flavor.

Do I have to use whole milk?

Using whole milk will help to create a tender and moist cake as well. Whatever you do, don’t use skim milk.

Do I have to use cake flour?

Yes. That’s what helps create a tender cake.

Avoid DIY cake flour substitutions. They simply don’t work as well. Check out my Cake Flour 101 article here to understand why. The best thing to use in this recipe is bleached cake flour (like the Swans Down brand).

How to Properly Mix Cake Batter

Yellow Cake Batter in a mixing bowl

A stand mixer fitted with a regular paddle attachment is definitely the easiest way to mix up this batter. Start by creaming the butter + sugar together. There are two keys here: use butter at COOL room temperature and scrape down the bowl and paddle often (even if you’re using an attachment that “scrapes” as it blends).

This batter is very rich. It uses a lot of eggs and yolks, as well as whole cream and a touch of sour cream. That means you may need to beat slightly longer after each group of ingredients to really make sure it’s all incorporated. It’s very important your refrigerated ingredients are all at room temperature.

When you beat in the last ingredient which is the sour cream, it may look a little curdled. Just scrape down the bowl and continue beating on low speed until it comes together like the batter photo above.

What are the best cake baking pans?

Never use dark colored cake pans. They tend to overcook the edges, making them too brown and dry.

My favorite cake pans are definitely my Fat Daddio’s pans. They bake evenly and clean up easily!

Homemade yellow cake layers cooling on rack

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 24 standard cupcakes. Bake in lined cupcake pans for about 17 to 20 minutes.

Are there high altitude adjustments for baking cake?

If you’re baking at a high altitude, you’ll probably want to make some adjustments to this recipe. Since I live at sea level, I can only recommend following the advice in King Arthur Flour’s guide here.

The Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Decorating a yellow cake recipe with chocolate icing
So for this recipe I absolutely ADORE using my brand new Best Ever Chocolate Buttercream recipe. It’s American buttercream that literally tastes, feels, and looks as close to the more difficult Swiss Meringue Buttercream that I’ve ever experienced. It uses two secret ingredients and 1 unusual technique to get those results, so I highly recommend you check out that recipe post here.

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

Or use my Best Buttercream Guide to make any flavor or variation you want to accompany this yellow cake!

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. Don’t defrost at room temperature or you will end up with mushy sticky cake.

How do I store this cake?

Cover with a cake keeper and store at room temperature for up to 8 hours then refrigerate. The buttercream acts as a kind of protective barrier to keep the cake inside soft and fresh. The sugar in the buttercream acts as a preservative to prevent the dairy from spoiling at room temperature. But after 8 hours I typically like to refrigerate layer cakes just to keep it safe. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

My Favorite Yellow Layer Cake Tools:

Yellow Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting on a cake stand

More Cake Recipes:

4.95 from 17 votes

How to make
Best Yellow Cake Recipe

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Best Yellow Cake Recipe is ultra rich, moist, tender, and fluffy! Super easy, homemade, and so much better than box mix, this will become your go-to cake recipe for every celebration!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups (254 grams) bleached cake flour, measured correctly
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) sour cream or plain full fat yogurt, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 Batch Best Chocolate American Buttercream

Directions

Make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter, flour, and line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment circles.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 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. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, egg yolks, and the vanilla one at a time, beating well between additions until combined. Beat in the sour cream 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. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes in pans before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Place one cake layer on a cake turntable or cake stand. Spread about a third of the frosting in an even layer all over, pushing it out over the edge just slightly. Place the other cake layer upside-down onto the frosting so that the top of the cake is nice and flat. With an offset spatula, spread the remaining frosting evenly all over the cake, smoothing the edges. Serve or cover and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Let come to room temperature for an hour before serving.

Recipe Notes

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown at the edges and a toothpick comes out clean.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: birthday

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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Recipe Rating




  1. #
    Janet Fazio — February 25, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Yellow cake is my favorite, but I’m really trying to make cakes from scratch these days and avoid the boxes with all the preservatives. I’m looking forward to baking this.

  2. #
    Sara — February 25, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    What can l use instead of sourcream in this recipe?

    • #
      SHIRLEY YOUNG — February 28, 2020 at 9:32 am

      For best results, sour cream is necessary. If you do not have sour cream, maybe it is better to try a recipe that has the ingredients you do have.

    • #
      Asha — February 29, 2020 at 10:55 pm

      I’ve used yogurt in place of sour cream and it’s worked very well.

  3. #
    Tonia Mees — February 28, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Hi! Bleached cake flour is not available in France.. can you tell me if l can make it?

    • #
      Tessa Arias — February 28, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      Bleached cake flour is what I tested this recipe with so I’m not sure how other options would work!

      • #
        Tonia Mees — February 28, 2020 at 2:14 pm

        Thanks Tessa.. l love your recipes! And hate substitutes just like you.. so l am going to make something else.. keep up your wonderful work

  4. #
    Patricia — February 28, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Hi Tessa
    Your chocolate looks lovely I was just wondering if I cannot get cake flour what can I use instead or do you know how to make cake flour I’m in Dublin it’s hard to get that flour here

    Patricia obrien

    • #
      Tessa Arias — February 28, 2020 at 2:06 pm

      Bleached cake flour is what I tested this recipe with so I’m not sure how other options would work!

  5. #
    Maria — February 29, 2020 at 2:37 am

    Hello because in my country cant find sour cream is there anything else i can use?

  6. #
    jk — February 29, 2020 at 7:35 am

    Tess, can I substitute half and half for the whole milk? I always have that and would be able to make this cake on the fly. If not, I would have to plan making the cake and buy milk. Thank you

  7. #
    Brittny — March 1, 2020 at 6:03 am

    Hi, I’m in the middle of making this and you have baking soda in the ingredients list but don’t mention it at all in the recipe. Do I not need to add it?

  8. #
    Olivia Frescura — March 6, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    This recipe turned out so well! I made the cake layers one night, wrapped and cooled in the fridge, and made the buttercream + finished the cake off the following night. Super easy process— the cake layers were so easy to level off and it turned out being the best layer cake I’ve ever done! The yellow cake really tastes like the boxed ones. I already loved the buttercream recipe as I tried it a few months back. I think I’ll try it with milk chocolate next time since I like things sweeter!

    • #
      Tessa Arias — March 9, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      Yay!!! I’m so glad to hear that.

    • #
      Dawn M Anderson — August 29, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      Has anyone used this recipe to make a homemade Pig Pickin cake? Hubs wants that for his birthday and I don’t buy boxed cake mix or Cool Whip.

  9. #
    Sharyn Frisbie — March 7, 2020 at 6:39 am

    whole cream and a touch of sour cream

    In Ingredients it calls for whole milk – which is it?

    • #
      Tessa Arias — March 9, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      Hi Sharyn, I think you missed a line. The recipe uses both.

  10. #
    Angela Dias — March 23, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    Instead of sour cream how about cream cheese?

  11. #
    Lea Bertolino — April 7, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Unfortunately the title is appropriate! We made it during the quarantine stage of life and I could eat all the cake! We used AP flour and full fat Greek yogurt as was all we had and was still fab.

  12. #
    Hebatallah — April 11, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I made this yesterday and it was gone the same day lol.
    I was trying out the recipe so I made only one layer. Yum. This will be my go to recipe for yellow cake.

  13. #
    Lauren — April 17, 2020 at 9:55 am

    I made this cake for my husbands birthday. It was my first time making a cake from scratch and it was perfect! Light, airy, moist, and the buttercream was to die for! Thank you for the perfect recipe and easy step by step to help a first timer!

  14. #
    K. Hendricks — April 22, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    This cake was moist, light, fluffy, and delicious. It was perfect. I followed the cake recipe exactly and made no adjustments or substitutions whatsoever. Thank you. I did make a cooked fudge icing was the “icing on the cake.”

  15. #
    carol gregersen — April 22, 2020 at 8:27 pm

    This cake is so incredibly moist AND delicious. The recipe is simple and easy to follow. This is my new go-to, and I highly recommend you try it. Yuuuuuummmmmmm

  16. #
    Maddie — April 24, 2020 at 5:15 am

    Could I add sprinkles to the batter just before baking to make a funfetti cake?

  17. #
    Kathy — April 30, 2020 at 11:55 am

    I made this cake today. I substituted heavy cream for the milk. The cake sunk. It smells delicious but it looks horrible. I hope it tastes good. Is the heavy cream what made the cake sink?

    • #
      Tessa Arias — April 30, 2020 at 4:48 pm

      Yes, heavy cream is not a suitable substitute for the milk in this recipe. It’s far too rich!

  18. #
    Ness — May 1, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    This is an amazing cake recipe! I had to make a few minor adjustments because I didn’t have any cake flour (had to use all-purpose) and I misread the recipe and used milk cold out of the fridge.

    Still came out amazing.

  19. #
    D canby — May 17, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Moist and tasty. Easy

  20. #
    Christi Winters — May 25, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    My 8” cakes became too brown on the bottom and sides with a wet qspot in the middle. They were heavy and not light or fluffy. Too dense and course.

    Worked it to the penny of the recipe. Can’t imagine what went wrong. A lot of trouble and time for the result.

    Christi Winters
    San Diego

  21. #
    Marcy — May 31, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    One place says whole cream & sour cream but the ingredients say milk & sour cream, which is it?

  22. #
    Marcy — May 31, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    Can you make this in a 9×13 pan?

  23. #
    Margaret — June 21, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Followed the 4ecipe exactly but cake was pretty dry. I might have cooked it too long but it was not done in the middle. Disappointed in texture

  24. #
    Linds — June 23, 2020 at 5:44 am

    I have made this quite a few times and it is now my go to cake recipe. I have someone asking for an almond flavored cake instead. I would love to still use this recipe because I love the texture. Could I make this have an almond flavor instead?

  25. #
    Lira — June 25, 2020 at 6:15 am

    Last night I just felt like a cake. I wanted an apple cinnamon cake, but I needed a yellow cake recipe. I looked at lot of recipes and decided to try, “best yellow cake recipe.” OMG this cake is good I cannot deny how good it is. I added diced apples and cinnamon and nutmeg. My husband had two slices before bed. When I find recipes I like they get printed and placed in my recipe folder with a smiley face. this recipe will join the others. Give it a try. My ingredients were not at room temperature because making a cake last night was not part of my plans; however room temperature makes the cake even better.

  26. #
    Julie — July 5, 2020 at 9:46 am

    I have made this twice now, and it’s fabulous. Everyone raves about it. Love the chocolate ganache addition

  27. #
    Amy Grace — July 8, 2020 at 10:45 am

    This was an amazing cake and easy to make. I topped this with strawberry cheesecake icing and topped with large white chocolate curls. I served it with vanilla bean ice cream and strawberry purée. It was outstanding.

  28. #
    Carolyn — July 8, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    Question, I am wanting to make a 2 tier wedding cake with your recipe but am afraid this cake may be not dense enough to be transported, however it will be made using (2) 8″ x (2) 6″ round cake pans, what do you think, will it work?

  29. #
    Jessyca Miller — July 27, 2020 at 11:31 am

    I just made this cake and it looks very fluffy and amazing unfortunately it turned out super dry. I followed the recipe very carefully so I’m not sure went wrong. Not a fan though. I won’t be making it again.

  30. #
    Amy Smith — August 2, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    One of the best cakes I have ever made

  31. #
    Stefanie — August 13, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    So I wanted to do a trial run of them to see it this would be good for my sons birthday. I halved the recipe and did cupcakes. They came out sunken and fell apart when trying to get out of cupcake wrapping. They are yummy and the batter was! But I’m just wondering what I did wrong? I did substitute 2% lactaid bc that’s all I had in house. I would really love to use this recipe for cupcakes for my sons birthday and I love the airiness and taste.

  32. #
    Seleiya — August 22, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    Why are my cakes always uncooked on the inside?

  33. #
    Vickie — August 30, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    This was the worst cake that I have ever made. Very dense and it was dry. I followed the directions to a tee. I bake from scratch all the time and my daughter said I made way better cakes. I made this for my husband’s birthday.

  34. #
    Barbara — August 30, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Fabulous recipe. Very moist, buttery, and packed with flavor. The consistency & denseness is similar to pound cake. It’s lovely to have on its own. I combined another recipe with this & made an apple donut cake! Great to eat alone or combine with other recipes.

  35. #
    Brittany — September 28, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Cake fell apart on me. Middle was sunken and edges slightly burned. I followed directions so not sure what happened. Tasted good though.

  36. #
    Victoria Gimbel — October 4, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    Hi. Your introduction mentions whole cream, but the recipe only has whole milk and sour cream. 8 assume you mean whole milk in the introduction, but wanted to check. I can’t wait to try making it!

  37. #
    Gina — October 9, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    Hi there! Can I substitute coconut sugar for the granulated sugar in the cake? I’ve read that’s it’s a good 1:1 substitute.

  38. #
    Sharon — October 13, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    I used coconut milk. I know your recipe shows whole milk. But I didn’t have whole milk on hand. When I took the cake out of the oven and let cool…..it was moist because I had to cut a piece here there for assembly and put frosting on it. I put cake in a cake holder covered and wrapped cake holder in plastic and put into refrigerator overnight. I took cake out 2-3 hours before needed. It was at room temp when I served. It was a little dry. The cake dried out more the following day after initially serving. I’m thinking it was the coconut milk.

  39. #
    Lori S — October 18, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Can this cake be frozen?

  40. #
    Wildflower — October 24, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Made half the recipe in case it wasn’t a hit! I used whole milk Greek yogurt. Poured the batter into one small 1.5 liter rectangle glass baking dish. It baked up nice! Greasy from the butter! I don’t want to make the chocolate buttercream frosting called for…I will make my
    favorite instead!

  41. #
    Dushyanthi — October 27, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    Can you sub coconut milk for the milk?

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