Once you have tried this Yellow Cake recipe with Homemade Chocolate Frosting you will never be able to go back to a boxed yellow cake mix or canned frosting again! This recipe makes the perfect cake with decadent chocolate buttercream frosting

If you like this classic celebration cake, you'll love my Classic Carrot Cake, this delicious Red Velvet Cake, and my fun Rainbow Funfetti Cake!

An image of the best yellow cake with chocolate frosting pipped on in swirls around the border, then sprinkled with rainbow colored sprinkles and sliced to serve.


Table of Contents
  1. Why we love this Yellow Cake Recipe
  2. Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting ingredients
  3. Yellow Cake substitutions and variations
  4. How to Make Homemade Yellow Cake
  5. How to make Yellow Cake Chocolate Frosting
  6. How to assemble the Yellow Cake
  7. How to store Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
  8. Tips for the Best Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
  9. The Best Yellow Cake Recipe FAQs
  10. More Better-Than-Box-Mix Cake Recipes
  11. Homemade Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting Recipe

There isn't much more iconic than a yellow cake with chocolate frosting for a celebration or special occasion. It's pretty much the classic birthday cake, decorated with sprinkles and candles!

I always had a yellow cake made from a box mix when I was growing up. I have fond memories of those cakes, and while cake box mixes have a time and a place (like when you are making a gazillion cupcakes for preschool carnivals and such) I do prefer homemade yellow cake.

Truthfully, I actually loved making yellow cakes from box mixes until not that long ago. I had tried too many disappointingly dry or tasteless yellow cakes made from scratch over the years that I didn't feel a need to say goodbye to my beloved Duncan Hine for a long time!

Except then I finally found the Best Ever Moist Chocolate Cupcakes. The difference in flavor between those chocolate cupcakes and the ones from a box mix was stark and eye-opening.

So, of course, I set out to create a classic yellow cake recipe that I could make from scratch that would be superior in both flavor and texture to the best cake mixes out there. This is the best yellow cake recipe I have made.

This yellow cake is so moist and tender, while still being super easy for any home baker to make. It uses ingredients almost everyone already has on hand, without any extra steps!

two slices of yellow cake with chocolate frosting below a cakestand of chocolate frosted yellow cake

Why we love this Yellow Cake Recipe

  • Customize this yellow cake by decorating it with your favorite frosting toppings!
  • Made with simple but fresh ingredients, it's a great recipe to have on hand for parties.
  • This easy yellow cake recipe tastes even better than the boxed mix, but still has the same classic flavor!

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting ingredients

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Yellow Cake:

  • Butter - Use salted butter for the best flavor here. Make sure your butter is at room temperature before you begin.
  • Flour - All Purpose Flour is best to get that light and fluffy texture but you can use cake flour if you prefer.
  • Sugar - White granulated sugar is fine here.
  • Vanilla Extract - Use clear vanilla extract if you have it for more of a box-mix taste, but regular vanilla extract will work too.
  • Eggs - Use large eggs that are at room temperature before you begin.
  • Whole Milk - Whole milk is best for the best flavor, but you can use lower-fat or non-dairy milk in a pinch.
  • Baking Powder - The leavening agent for this cake to help it get nice and fluffy.
  • Salt - Enhances all the flavors.

Chocolate Frosting:

  • Butter - Use salted butter and make sure it is softened to room temperature to make it easier to mix.
  • Powdered sugar - Also known as confectioner's sugar, for the base of the frosting.
  • Cream or Milk - Use heavy cream for the creamiest frosting. You can use low-fat cream or whole milk if you prefer.
  • Vanilla Extract - Use clear vanilla extract for the whitest frosting.
  • Salt - Enhances the flavors of the frosting.
  • Cocoa Powder - Unsweetened cocoa powder is best to get a rich chocolatey frosting.

Yellow Cake substitutions and variations

  • You can substitute buttermilk for whole milk as the liquid, but I actually prefer to use whole milk in yellow cake and buttermilk when making my Chocolate Cake.
  • Some recipes I looked at added in two extra egg yolks in an effort to nudge the cake just a shade or two closer to a true yellow, but I am perfectly happy with the simpler approach of using just 3 whole eggs. And in a layer cake like this, I don't actually think you notice a difference in texture or flavor from those two extra yokes.
  • If chocolate isn't your thing, this homemade rainbow chip frosting is seriously so good, so fun, and easier than you might think to make at home.
An image of a yellow cake frosted with chocolate buttercream frosting and sprinkles on a white cake stand.

How to Make Homemade Yellow Cake

  1. Prepare equipment. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans or line the bottoms of each pan with parchment paper circles.
  2. Make flour mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times during mixing.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla. Next, add the eggs to the butter and sugar, one at a time. Beat well after each addition, then mix in the vanilla.
  5. Add flour mixture and milk. Then, add the flour mixture and the milk alternately. Add about ⅓ of each at a time, mixing between additions just until combined.
  6. Pour into pans. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared round pans.
An image of yellow cake batter in two round 8-inch cake pans.
  1. Bake. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. If using larger 9-inch pans, the cakes will be a little thinner and bake in slightly less time (around 23-27 minutes). If you're making cupcakes, they will only need to bake for 18-21 minutes.
  2. Cool cakes. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Then, run a sharp knife around the edges, then gently turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Trim the tops. Trim the excess tops of the completely cooled cake layers so they are level, then frost them with chocolate buttercream and decorate with sprinkles!

How to make Yellow Cake Chocolate Frosting

Making this chocolate buttercream frosting is so easy! It pairs perfectly with this yellow cake recipe, and it's honestly 1,000x better than the stuff that comes in plastic tubs from the store.

Beat butter and cocoa powder. Use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the softened butter and cocoa powder together until totally smooth and creamy.

Add powdered sugar and cream. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and heavy cream, about 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of cream at a time. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add vanilla. Mix in the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, adjusting the consistency of the frosting by adding more milk or powdered sugar, if necessary.

How to assemble the Yellow Cake

Cool the cake. Be sure to allow the cake to cool completely before attempting to frost it. You will be tempted to do otherwise, but the frosting will melt into the cake and not set properly if you do not wait. If you find the frosting melting once added to the cake, simply stop frosting and wait a few more minutes before continuing.

Frost first layer. Use your homemade chocolate frosting to generously frost an even layer on top of the first layer of cake. Spread the frosting on with a knife or spoon then add the second layer of cake.

Frost second layer. Add more frosting on top of the second layer in an even spreading.

Frost the sides. Frost all the sides of the cake, then decorate as you wish. You can try for a smooth look and pipe on swirls around the top, like I did here, or go for a more rustic look and simply swirl the frosting on thick with a knife.

Add sprinkles. Add colorful sprinkles and any other cake toppings you wish and serve!

An image of a frosted yellow cake with chocolate buttercream and sprinkles.

How to store Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Store this cake in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 1 day, or in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Let the cake come to room temperature for a few minutes before serving.

Tips for the Best Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

  • The butter and egg yolks are what give this yellow cake its signature golden color, which is a beautiful, pale buttery yellow.
  • Some recipes I looked at added in two extra egg yolks in an effort to nudge the cake just a shade or two closer to a true yellow, but I am perfectly happy with the simpler approach of using just 3 whole eggs. And in a layer cake like this, I don't actually think you notice a difference in texture or flavor from those two extra yokes.
  • Gradually add wet ingredients into the cake mixture, mixing until combined each time.
  • If your cakes rise to have a dome on top after baking, simply level them out by cutting the top off with a serrated knife before attempting to assemble the whole cake together.
  • Refrigerate the cake once decorated for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing it to ensure you get clean cuts for a better presentation.

The Best Yellow Cake Recipe FAQs

Is yellow cake just vanilla cake?

Yellow Cake is a type of vanilla cake, but it is different from a white cake which is also typically flavored with vanilla. Vanilla cakes will either use egg whites to make them white, or whole eggs and butter to make them yellow. Many white cake recipes will also use oil and colorless flavorings to keep the color consistent.

How do you add flavor to yellow cake?

If you want to add more flavor into this yellow cake, consider adding in a flavored extract like almond extract. You could also add in some cake fillings, like dried friut, fresh berries, or even chocolate chips! Add crushed nuts or shredded coconut on the top too for decoration, extra flavor and extra texture.

What's the difference between yellow cake and vanilla cake?

Not to be confusing, but yellow cake IS a vanilla cake because the primary flavor is vanilla. To determine if a vanilla cake is yellow or white, it really depends on the ingredients which contribute to both the color and flavor of the cake. A white cake typically only contains egg whites for a more pure white color while a yellow cake contains the whole egg, which gives it its yellow coloring. While the flavors can be similar, white cakes are usually more delicate and spongy than a yellow cake. Both are delicious though!

What is the flavor of yellow cake?

Yellow cake will have a vanilla flavor and pairs well with chocolate frosting. But honestly, a good basic yellow cake has a pretty mild flavor and goes well with everything.

How do you keep a yellow cake moist?

If your cake is not properly stored, it will start to dry out. There are a couple different techniques you can do to keep your cake from drying out, frosting and unfrosted. If the cake is unfrosted, tightly wrap the layers in plastic and store them in the fridge for up to a week. Once your cake is frosted, the frosting will help form a protective barrier and keep the cake moist. Keeping the cake in an airtight container or placing plastic wrap on parts of the cake that have been cut and forming a barrier, will also help prevent the cake from being exposed to air.

The Not-So-Secret Secret To Baking

Use room temperature ingredients when you are baking from scratch. It DOES make a huge difference, so it's worth waiting a few minutes to let them come to room temperature before you begin. Using melted butter or cold milk and cold eggs can totally sabotage your efforts at achieving a beautiful, delicious yellow cake.

An image of a slice of yellow cake made from scratch with homemade chocolate buttercream frosting and sprinkles.

More Better-Than-Box-Mix Cake Recipes

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

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Homemade Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

4.94 from 116 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 people
Fair warning:  Once you have tried making this Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting, you will never be able to go back to a boxed cake mix or canned frosting again.  This is the best yellow cake with chocolate buttercream I've ever had and I'm preeeeeetty sure you will agree.

Ingredients
  

Yellow Cake

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 ½ cups salted butter, softened to room temperature (3 sticks)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • cup milk or cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions
 

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans or line bottoms of each pan with parchment paper circles.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times during mixing.
  • Add the eggs to the butter and sugar, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in the vanilla.
  • Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately, about ⅓ of each at a time, mixing between additions just until combined.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared round pans, then bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. If using larger 9-inch pans, the cakes will be a little thinner and bake in slight less time (around 23-27 minutes), and if making cupcakes, they will bake for 18-21 minutes.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before running a sharp knife around the edges, then gently turning the cakes out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • Trim the tops of the completely cooled cakes so they are level, then frost with chocolate buttercream and decorate with sprinkles.

Frosting

  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and cocoa powder together until creamy and smooth.
  • Gradually add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, with 1 tablespoon of the milk or cream at a time, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Add the vanilla and salt and mix well, adjusting the consistency by adding powdered sugar or milk as needed. Use to frost a 2-layer cake.

Notes

  • Storage: Store this cake in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 1 day, or in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Let the cake come to room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
  • Freezing: Wrap individual slices of cake in plastic wrap then freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 737kcal | Carbohydrates: 99g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 570mg | Potassium: 201mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 76g | Vitamin A: 1175IU | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. Hi,
    What kind of cream to use for the frosting? Can I use whipping cream? I have 2 packs of unused whipping cream and I thought of making use of it.

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    Genn Lee

    1. Yes, you could use any frosting you like! I don't often use whipping cream to frost cakes, and it wouldn't be stable for very long, but you could certainly use it if you wanted to.

      1. Great! Also, do you prefer cream or milk for the frosting? If cream, would you use heavy whipping cream?

  2. Maybe I did something wrong, but the cake I made today is heavy and dense, not light and moist as I’d expected. I believe I followed the directions, using room temp butter, milk and eggs.
    I’ve baked for many years, but not cakes recently. The idea of a white cake with chocolate frosting was going around in my head for a while and today I did it. But I”m disappointed with the cake. 
    I’ll use a a recipe from a real cookbook next time, I have had better luck with those.

  3. Can some of the milk be substituted for water. What would this do to the cake flavor and texture?

    1. Milk both adds richness and tenderizes baked goods. But I would imagine you could use water instead for this recipe.

  4. The frosting turned out good however, but the cake was way too dry, and dense. I think there was too much salt and rising agent also as it could be tasted. I did everything exactly as described, and I even cooked it for just 25 minutes, it was perfectly light golden brown, and it was just too dry still. I felt that the cake didn't have much flavor either for some reason. I'm not sure what could be changed as I really liked the simple recipe it just needs to be tweaked a bit I think.

  5. So, the first time I tried it, it had a great flavor but was a bit dry. The frosting was amazing and taste like the canned frosting but much better. I made this cake a second time and substituted some butter for oil, 8tbs butter, and 4tbs oil. Amd omg, this time is turned put absolutely perfect, moist, buttery, the icing was great again. Definitely try the substituted oil for butter and you will not be disappointed. On a side note,y over cooks too fast so I turned the temperature down to 325 degrees F, and cooked for 30 minutes, rotating the cake from the bottom rack to the top halfway through.

  6. You had me at salted butter! Can't wait to make this for my dad's 86th birthday on Sunday! The texture and simplicity make it a winner in my book. Looks perfect. Thank you!

  7. This is the best yellow cake recipe I have ever made before! The recipe was super easy to follow and the cake was amazing! I would definitely recommend this recipe if you are looking for an easy and tasty yellow cake recipe.

  8. 4 stars
    I only used the yellow cake part of the recipe, not the frosting. I liked the recipe overall. I made cupcakes instead of a cake. I felt they were a tad dry and could have been a tiny bit sweeter. Like it was missing something. Other cupcakes I’ve made are definitely more moist. It was still really good and what I made with them turned out really well. The recipe was easy to follow. But when I make yellow cupcakes or cake again I might look at another recipe just to see if they could be more moist. I followed the recipe exactly as well.

  9. My cupcakes were very dense and on the drier side. Very pale yellow and frosting (used 5 cups of confectionery sugar) was very thick, not spreadable so I had to pipe it on. What might I have done wrong?
    I was so hopeful.

    1. If they were dense and dry, that sounds like overmixing. And if the frosting wasn't spreadable, you can add some additional milk or cream to get it to a consistency you like.