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.

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

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Happy 2nd Blogiversary to House of Nash Eats! It's been a big second year of blogging for me and that means it's time to celebrate!

And is there anything more iconic for a celebration than a yellow cake with chocolate frosting? It's pretty much the classic birthday cake, right? With sprinkles and candles?

An image of a yellow cake frosted with chocolate buttercream frosting and sprinkles on a white cake stand.

Except that I always had yellow cake made from a mix when I was growing up, from what I can remember. Which, to be clear, I'm not hating on those and still believe they have a time and a place (like when you are making a gazillion cupcakes for preschool carnivals and such).

Truthfully, I actually loved those yellow cake mixes enough and tried too many disappointingly dry or tasteless yellow cakes made from scratch over the years that I didn't feel a need to say good-bye to my beloved Duncan Hines for a long time.

Except then I finally found the best ever moist chocolate cupcake. And the difference in flavor between those chocolate cupcakes and the ones from a mix was stark and eye-opening.

So I set out to find 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. And this one definitely delivers on both counts.

An image off two slices of yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting with a bite taken out of one piece and candles beside it.

I looked at lots and lots of yellow cake recipes before settling on adapting the yellow cupcakes recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction to make this 2-layer yellow cake.

I actually met Sally at a blogging conference last year and she is seriously the nicest, sweetest person and every recipe of hers that I have made has been delicious. One of my favorite things about using her recipe as a starting point was that it only used ingredients I already had on hand.

I adapted and simplified things a bit, and changed some measurements slightly, and I am super, duper happy with the result.

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

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

How to Make a Yellow Cake From Scratch

Nothing is revolutionary here. This yellow cake recipe has flour, sugar, butter, a little salt, and eggs, with baking powder for a leavening agent, vanilla for flavor, and whole milk as the liquid.

You can sub buttermilk for whole milk as the liquid, but I actually prefer whole milk in yellow cake and buttermilk when making chocolate cake.

The butter and egg yolks are what give this yellow cake it's signature golden color, which is a beautiful, pale buttery yellow.

Other recipes I looked at add 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.

An image of yellow cake batter in two round 8-inch cake pans.

It DOES make a difference to use room temperature ingredients when baking cakes from scratch.  Using melted butter or cold milk and cold eggs can totally sabotage your efforts at achieving a beautiful, delicious yellow cake.

But other than that important step, this is an easy cake for anybody to make!

  1. To make this cake, start by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Give it about 2-3 minute in the stand mixer. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, to make sure that everything gets incorporated really well, then mix in the vanilla.
  2. Then alternate adding the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt quickly whisked together) with the milk, mixing after each addition just until combined.
  3. Then just pour the batter into two 8-inch round baking pans and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean when you poke it in the middle of the cake.

Be sure to cool the cake completely before attempting to frost it (even though you will be tempted to do otherwise).

Level the top of the individual layers for a nice, clean look to your cake, then frost generously with chocolate buttercream.

Or 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 layers of yellow cake being frosted with chocolate buttercream frosting.

How to Make Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Making the best chocolate buttercream frosting is easy and it's honestly 1,000x better than the stuff that comes in plastic tubs from the store.

An image of a bowl of chocolate buttercream frosting for yellow cake.

Here's how you do it:

  1. Use a hand mixer to beat the softened butter and cocoa powder together until totally smooth and creamy.
  2. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and cream, about 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of cream at a time.
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, adjusting the consistency of the frosting by adding more milk or more powdered sugar, if necessary.
An image of two beaters with chocolate buttercream frosting on them.

Use the homemade chocolate frosting to generously frost between the layers, on top, and around the sides of the yellow cake.

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.

Either way, I think sprinkles are totally appropriate for this celebration cake.

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

More of my favorite from-scratch, better than box cake mix recipes you will love!

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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Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

4.93 from 88 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Additional Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 45 mins
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 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 degrees 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.

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. 5 stars
    What a useful post! I'll book-mark it for when I next need a standard yellow birthday cake base!
    I'm sure it's amazing, as is anything based on one of Sally's recipes!

  2. 5 stars
    Perfect! I've been on the hunt for a moist yellow cake recipe for a looong time. Can't wait to give this one a try!

  3. 5 stars
    Oh....my.... GOSH!!! Yum!!! I just made this for my husband’s birthday today (batter is still cooling) but the frosting and the batter are sooo delicious!!! Can’t wait to frost it and have for dessert tonight!

    1. I made one for my mother's birthday. Same day 9-11. We've been looking for this recipe for a long time. Reminds us of a cake we would have when I was a child.
      It was yummy. I've made about 5 of them since then.

    1. I always use salted butter. I know most bakers use unsalted butter, but I honestly don't notice a difference except for when eating the butter on toast, when I totally notice if the butter is unsalted (the danger of having more than one type of butter in the fridge). 1 stick of butter has about 1/4 teaspoon of salt in it in total, so you could always adjust the amount of salt down by that amount for each stick of butter if using salted butter, if there is a concern.

    2. Substituted butter with applesauce. Equal parts. So moist and delicious!! Thank You Amy. my kids made it. 1 yr old and 4 yr old 💖

  4. 5 stars
    Holy wow! This cake was very yummy. I love letting cakes sit for a day before taking them to an event so I made my cake, iced and sprinkled it and set it in the fridge. Then took it to two families on Thanksgiving and they loved it. I usually come back with a good bit of cake on the holidays, but was surprised when I came back with very little this time (which I am grateful for, because it's so delicious!). I love this recipe and will be using it from now on for my favorite cake.

    I did not have vanilla extract at the time of baking, and going out to get some was out of the question, so I excluded it from the cake and put about half a tsp of honey instead. I know vanilla extract sometimes gives a cake that extra oomph, but I felt it was fine without it. However, I can't wait to make it again with that extra ingredient!

    Thanks for sharing this yummy favorite!

  5. How should I adjust the bake temperature /time in order for it to be made in a 9x13” pan? Should I also make less frosting?

    1. It's still probably going to take around 30 minutes, but I would start checking at 25. Use the same 350 degree F temperature though. And yes, you won't need as much frosting. Half a batch would be sufficient.

  6. This looks great; can't wait to try it!
    I assume we should use milk for the frosting, since it's listed in the ingredients that way, but in he instructions it mentions cream.

  7. 5 stars
    Hi, I wanted to know how thick (as in how many inches tall) each cake layer was? I didn't have 8in. pan on hand, so I used a 9in. pan, and each layer came out about an inch high. Just wanting to know if that's due to the pan size, or maybe because my ingredients weren't at the right temperature.

    Thanks!

    1. Hmm, I have never measured height on these layers before! But about an inch high sounds pretty typical for a 9-inch cake pan.

  8. Hi Amy! I was wondering if you could give me instructions on how to reduce the size of this cake so it's more of a 2 layer 4 inch cake. Is it appropriate if I just cut the recipe in half??

    1. Hmm, I've never attempted that before, but yes, I would just halve the recipe. But you are going to want to watch your bake time and check it a lot earlier, I think, to see if it's done.

  9. I’ve made many cakes and this one turned out a little dryer then I care for. I didn’t overtake and all ingredients were room temperature. How can I adjust for this?

    1. If you feel like this is too dry, try subbing half of the butter called for with an equal amount of oil. Oil tends to give a moister crumb, but I wouldn't use just oil because yellow cake needs a buttery flavor as well.

    2. Yes. I agree. This cake was very dry, more white than yellow, and the icing turned out nothing like the pictures; it was much lighter color. Very disappointing. Will not make again.

  10. 5 stars
    I also grew up with those boxes of yellow cake. When we had kids, we decided we wanted to try to limit the extras that are added to processed food. We have tried baking yellow cake, after yellow cake. None had that soft, fluffy and sweet texture and taste that we were looking for.
    When my husband, said that he was just going to cave and buy a box of yellow cake mix, my kids and I scoured the internet and cookbooks for what seemed like it may be the right one. Luckily, after hours (yes, hours) of searching and reading and debating, we found and tried yours.
    THANK YOU! My husband thanks you. My kids thank you, and I thank you. It's even better than the store bought, and no extra junk!
    We quickly printed off your recipe and added it to my kids' recipe book. We now have the perfect yellow cake recipe. I'm looking forward to trying more of your recipes. Thank you again!

    1. Your comment absolutely made my day. I had a very similar experience to you and agree that this yellow cake recipe is even better than a mix! You should try my chocolate cupcakes and homemade rainbow chip frosting too! And I'm working on my vanilla cake and hoping to have that up soon as well because I never use mixes anymore because I have found that not only does making it from scratch mean it doesn't have all the extras from processed food, but it just plain tastes better too!

    1. You could try decreasing the sugar by 25%, but it's not something I have done before and I really don't know how it would turn out. I think it's pretty much perfect as is.

  11. Hi Amy,
    I grew up with my father actually baking the most delicious yellow cakes with chocolate frosting- he always used cocoa. But that was over 50 years ago. All my elementary school teachers would ask if he was baking a cake for our class functions. I have lost his recipe ( whose actual measurements I had to figured out myself) and I’m planning to bake your cake for my son’ 30th. So i only have a hand mixer. Can you help with any adjustments on speed and time when making the layers?

    1. Speed and time will be the same using a hand mixer as a stand mixer. You shouldn't have any trouble making this cake for your son with that.

  12. Hi so I made the frosting but it looks separated when I finished making it. I put it in the fridge so it can harden a lil and maybe whip it again. Is it normal to look separated its a smooth frosting but just looks separated

    1. No, it shouldn't really separate. That sometimes happens with a little too much cream. Rather than beat again, I might try stirring with a spatula to break up some of the air bubbles for a smoother frosting and see if that helps.

  13. I have a special afternoon event and the celebrant would love a dark chocolate frosted yellow cake. I would love to surprise him with this recipe but would like to make it a 9x13 layer cake. Any suggestions regarding baking pans, double recipe and dark chocolate frosting would be most helpful. Thank you Amy 😀

    1. Shoot, I can't remember for sure, but I would go for 20-25 minutes in a 9x13-inch pan and then check to see if the cake is close. I need to write this down the next time I make it this way.

  14. My cake looks sad. They didn't rise very much if at all. They look like cake Frisbees, maybe 1.5 in tall. What did I do wrong?

    1. Oh no! Could your baking powder have been old? The only other thing I can think of is if your pans were 10-inch pans, since I made this using 8-inch pans.

  15. 2 stars
    I made this recipe on 2 9-inch pans and the cake was too dense. Not fluffy at all. Didn’t have much taste either. 🙁

  16. 5 stars
    This recipe looks amazing and I plan on making it tomorrow for a Friday Birthday! I need to serve 15 people so I was planning on finding a 12" cake pan unless you think the recipe as it is will serve 15. If not, how do you think I should adjust this recipe for a larger pan?

    1. I have never used 12" cake pans but would assume it will take longer baking time. I would do 1 1/2 batches in order to fill the larger pans I think. The normal recipe probably won't serve 15 unless you are doing really small slices.

  17. 5 stars
    My husband loves this cake and frosting. I use the 9x13 pan and bake 30 minutes. I half the frosting recipe. Thanks so much for this great recipe. This will be the 3rd weekend in a row that I've made it and it's gone in 2 days. lol.

  18. Thank you for this recipe! I recently made the yellow cake and chocolate frosting for my sweet sister-in-law’s Birthday. It was a hit! Everyone in my family loved it. I will definitely make this again and again.

  19. Hi, I'm making a bear head smash cake with a 6x2 pan and two 4x1.25 pans. What would you suggest my baking time be? Also, would I need to adjust any of the ingredient amounts to get the right texture for the cake since I'm using smaller pans? Thanks!

    1. I really have no idea what the baking time should be adjusted to with those pan sizes. I think you are going to just need to watch the cake for doneness and test with a skewer or toothpick to be sure. Personally, I would make the whole cake and just fill the pans as needed and use leftovers for cupcakes!

  20. Do I need to keep the extra frosting in the fridge? Do I refrigerate the cake if it is for tomorrow? I am not a baker, but I tried! I think it looks good so hopeful that means it will taste good. It is for my Hubby’s Bday. Thank you!

    1. You could go ahead and frost the cake now and refrigerate until tomorrow. Or if it's just overnight it would be fine sitting out, covered. That's probably what I would do. But yes, you could refrigerate the extra frosting and let it come to room temperature before using. I'm so glad you tried it and I hope your husband likes it!

  21. I used your recipe for pineapple upside down cake replacing the milk with juice from can of pineapples. Came out delicious. Cheers!

  22. Im curious about using a full cup of butter rather than just 3/4 C. I wonder if it would ruin the recipe or just make it butterier (is that even a word?) About to make it. Looks like it's going to be great!

    1. Lol - if butterier isn't a word it should be. You are welcome to try it and let me know what happens! I don't think that amount of butter will make a significant difference, but you might need to offset with an additional tablespoon of flour as well.

  23. I made this cake and followed the directions to the T; I found that the cake was very dry; not at all what I was hoping for. I used (2) 9" rounds and only baked for 27 minutes so I don't know; however the frosting was delicious!

  24. Delicious, moist, and made with easy ingredients I had on hand. Perfect, tasty yellow cake. Thank you! I don't think I've ever written a review and I've made so many recipes from blogs. This one was so good I just had to comment. I used 9 in h pans and it still had nice height. Yum.

  25. I made the cake for my husbands birthday, 1st of all he was shocked I made it from scratch. LOL. I made the frosting and went by taste, didn’t use all the powdered sugar it called for and adjusted the milk., forgot the salt. I am not a chocolate fan but the frosting was AMAZING! I loved how the cake turned out. Plus, it was super easy to make, will keep this in my book. It’s true, once you have made something from scratch you will never go back to box style.

  26. Simple and delicious! I doubled the recipe for an 11x15 sheet cake and it baked beautifully at 40 minutes! It made a wonderful graduation cake for my son and was followed by many compliments! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are welcome! I'm so glad you enjoyed this yellow cake and I love that you turned it into a sheet cake!

  27. This is such an AMAZING cake. I made this for Ostara and gave a slice to my favorite nearby witch and she loved it. Definately making this again

  28. Made this tonight and it is to die for. The cake is moist and decadent and the whipped frosting well who goes wrong with choc. Lol will definitely make again

  29. I have been baking cakes for over 30 years and this recipe was deemed the best ever! It was super easy to make and so delicious!. This will for ever be the birthday cake that I make for my family.

    1. On no! It's hard to troubleshoot without being there, but for next time, try baking the cake layers for a little less time so they stay moist. Then I would also recommend wrapping each layer in plastic wrap after it has cooled and freezing it. Frost the layers while still frozen (or at least chilled) and that should help it not to fall apart.

  30. Hello Amy,

    I wanted to thank you for posting this perfect recipe.

    I followed the instructions verbatim and the cake turned out flawless in both appearance and flavor.

    Just one question, in the pictures of the cake you added sprinkles around the base with Godlike perfection, what is your secret?

    I tried to copy this and:

    a) it looked like I just threw them at the cake 
    b) I used tons of sprinkles 
    c) the majority ended up on the floor
    d) I still find them in the vacuum 2 weeks later

    Thank you again for the recipe.

    Kind regards,

    Ian

    1. Lol, I'm so glad you liked the cake! But yes, the sprinkles are never super clean and I always end up sweeping afterwards. I find that the best approach is to set my cake stand on a large baking sheet, and use one cupped hand to sort of press the sprinkles along the bottom edge of the cake. They spill around the sides but most of them land in the baking sheet so I'm able to reuse and mostly contain the mess. I hope that helps!

  31. Felt like making cake.. so this post, got all my ingredients up to room temp and started right away!  Super quick and super easy.  Cakes came out perfectly. and the chocolate buttercream complements the lightly sweet and simple yellow cake perfectly. Cake is super moist and the buttercream is super fluffy and not too sweet. 

    I will note.. room temp ingredients make a difference for sure. I didn't really need to level the cakes. I did tap the pan after I poured the batter. 

  32. In your 12/18/18 comment you said that using both butter and oil might produce a moister crumb. Would you add the oil at the end of step 3, after you cream the butter and sugar?  Thanks. 

  33. Made this recipe today as a 13x9 cake. Turned out excellent! My family loved it. Even my 4yo who usually only eats the frosting ate the cake! Will absolutely make this again! 🙂

  34. We don’t usually keep regular milk at home, so I made this with 1 and 1/4 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and 2 extra tablespoons of butter to compensate for the fat in the milk and it turned out AMAZING.

  35. Tried this cake for the first time today (cake only) And it is a good cake. Some things bakers would like to know:
    Cups of batter: 5 cups of batter
    Baked in 8x3 round cake pan (Magic Line) Cake was 1.5” in height for one layer. Total finished cake frosted was about 4” in height. 
    Cake is a little dense. (This can be fixed by substituting Cake Flour as per directions on cake flour box)
    I used Buttermilk (didn’t have whole milk) 
    I added a tsp of Almond Extract along with the 2 tsp of Vanilla (because I like it) 
    I used Unsalted Butter (because I thought the recipe would automatically call for it) I think next time I will use Salted butter and see how it come out. I’ll add update later. 🙂 
    Overall: Cake is a yummy flavor, not overly sweet, semi-soft crumb. 
    I will make this again for sure! Thank YOU for sharing a great recipe. 

  36. Beautiful cake! I made this for my mom's birthday yesterday in a 9.5 x 13.5 pan (35 mins.). I will say the bag of powdered sugar I purchased provided only for 4 cups for the frosting but the 5th cup was not missed at all. Because I made a sheet cake I only needed have the frosting but now I have extra for something later.

  37. I made the cake for my dump cake recipe. Instead of box cake. I pour the batter over peaches. The cake turned out beautiful and delicious. Thank you

  38. This is a delicious moist cake, and the chocolate buttercream frosting is wonderful! I made half the amount of frosting and it was plenty. I used 2% milk in the cake and frosting, since it was what I had on hand. Everyone in my family loved it!

  39. I have a sister that loves yellow cake and chocolate frosting, but what I need to know is can I make this cake a day in advance and frost it that morning and if so, how should I store the cake?

    1. Hi Taryn! Yes, you can make the cake a day (or even up to a month in advance!). I highly recommend wrapping each layer individually in plastic wrap and setting them on a baking sheet in the freezer. After a few hours, you can stick the frozen layers into a freezer-safe ziploc bag for longer term storage. When you are ready to assemble the cake, make your frosting, then go ahead and frost the cake layers while they are still frozen (it actually helps keep crumbs to a minimum) or let them thaw first on the counter and then frost.