Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
There is something about a classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting that is so nostalgic. My homemade yellow cake with chocolate frosting will remind you of your childhood in the most delicious way. This is not a dense yellow cake, but the crumb isn’t very open either. I think the texture can be described in one word: perfect. Paired with my Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, this is the best yellow cake you’ve ever had!
If you’re looking for more nostalgic cakes to bake, Funfetti Cake and Old Fashioned Red Velvet Cake are always crowd-pleasers. For simple flavors that pack a punch, try my Texas Sheet Cake or Brown Butter Cake. Happy baking!
Why This Recipe Works
- Chiffon cake technique keeps it light. With this technique, we whip our egg whites into stiff peaks, then gently fold them in with the rest of the ingredients to give our cake volume and a light texture.
- Butter for flavor, oil for moisture. If you’re wondering how to make a moist yellow cake, add butter AND oil! Butter adds delicious flavor, but a cake made with all butter would be quite dry. Adding oil as well as butter ensures that our flavor is tender and delicious.
- Simplicity wins. Everyone knows I love a cake recipe that involves multiple fun and tasty elements – but sometimes, simple, straightforward flavors are what you want. The pairing of yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting is delightful in its simplicity.
- Cake flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, resulting in cake with a finer, more tender crumb. You can use all-purpose flour in place of cake flour. Just know the cake crumb will be slightly coarser, but still delicious.
- Eggs: Eggs help create structure and stability as well as help the cake rise. This recipe calls for three whole eggs and three additional egg yolks. By separating out the egg whites and whipping them into stiff peaks, we add air into the batter which helps create a more spongy texture once the cake is baked.
- Egg yolks: For the best homemade yellow cake with chocolate frosting, we add extra egg yolks for richness and color.
- Buttermilk: Besides adding delicious flavor to this cake, naturally occurring acid in buttermilk reacts with baking soda to help this cake rise.
- Cream of tartar: Cream of tartar is a bit of a mysterious ingredient. You’ve probably come across it in my Snickerdoodle Cookies recipe, where it adds just a hint of tanginess. In addition to adding some tang, cream of tartar stabilizes egg whites, so here we add it to our meringue.
- Prepare your oven and pans. Move an oven rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 350℉. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, either with a nonstick cooking spray, or butter and flour. Line the bottoms of your pans with parchment paper, then spray again with nonstick cooking spray or grease and flour them.
- Mix dry ingredients. In a bowl, whisk together 2½ cups cake flour, 1¼ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 1½ cups granulated sugar.
- Mix wet ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together 1 cup room temperature buttermilk, 10 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter, 6 room temperature egg yolks, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
- Whip egg whites. In a stand mixture fitted with a whisk attachment, mix 3 egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar on medium speed for one minute, or until the egg whites are foamy. Then increase the speed to medium high and whip the egg whites into soft mounds. Next, turn the mixture to low and add ¼ cup of granulated sugar. Turn the mixer speed up to medium-high once more and whip for 2-3 more minutes or until you have stiff, glossy peaks of meringue. Gently transfer the egg whites into a third bowl.
- Mix dry and wet ingredients. Swap your whisk attachment for your paddle attachment and add the dry ingredients to the bowl of your stand mixer. With the mixer speed on low, slowly pour in the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides of the stand mixer bowl.
- Fold in your egg whites. Remove the stand mixer bowl and gently fold ⅓ of the whipped egg whites into the rest of the ingredients with a rubber spatula. Once fully incorporated, add the rest of the egg whites and fold gently until no white streaks remain. Do not rush this step, or you risk knocking the air out of the meringue, which may result in a flat cake.
- Bake. Divide cake batter evenly between your two prepared cake pans. Level the batter with an offset spatula, then gently tap your cake pans one at a time against the counter to help the batter settle. Bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Allow cakes to cool. Remove your cakes from the oven and allow them to cool in the cake pans for 10 minutes. Then, turn them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make chocolate frosting. Set your microwave to half power. Melt 6 ounces of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Allow chocolate to cool for 5 minutes. Whip 1½ cups room temperature unsalted butter in the clean bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes at medium-high speed. Reduce to low speed and slowly add 4 cups powdered sugar. Once sugar and butter are combined, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pour in melted chocolate and beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. If frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and mix for another minute.
- Assemble your cake. Place your first cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread about 1½ cups of frosting on the top of the cake in an even layer that reaches all the way to the edges. Place the second cake layer on top of the first, and cover the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the frosting.
- Dig in! Feel free to add additional decoration, like sprinkles. Slice and enjoy!
If you have access to organic eggs or farm-fresh eggs, use them in this recipe to give your cake a richer yellow color. Regular eggs work great, of course!
To make your frosting a darker brown, add a few additional tablespoons of cocoa powder. This won’t affect the texture or flavor of the frosting much.
Feel free to experiment with your frosting – I think yellow cake with cream cheese frosting would be delicious! You can still keep it mostly classic with my Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, or try my Cream Cheese Whipped Cream frosting. Or, keep it simple with your favorite store-bought chocolate frosting. Your secret is safe with me. 😉
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
Make Ahead: If you want to make this cake ahead of time, I recommend storing it without the frosting. Wrap the cake layers individually in plastic wrap, then store them at room temperature for 24 hours, refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze them for up to a month.
Storing: Cover leftover cake with a cake cover. If you don’t have a cake cover, wrap your cake loosely in foil or plastic wrap. The cake should keep at room temperature for 4-5 days – if it lasts that long!
Freezing: Freeze individually wrapped cake layers – without frosting – for up to a month. When you want to defrost them, thaw them at room temperature for 2-3 hours. For more information, check out my guide on How to Store and Freeze Cakes.
Yellow cake gets its color from egg yolks. White cake is typically made with just egg whites to maintain the white color. Vanilla cake may refer to either a yellow cake or a white cake.
You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a 1 cup measure, then filling the rest of the cup measure up with milk. Let it stand for five minutes. You can also take a 3/4 cup of sour cream and thin it with a 1/4 cup of water or milk.
Yes! The batter for this recipe should make around 24 yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Bake them at the same temperature, but start checking for doneness at 15 minutes. You may also end up with extra frosting – but that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
Yes! The batter for this recipe should fit in a 9×13 pan nicely. However, you will have to increase the baking time. Start checking around 30 minutes. If you still want to make this a yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting, simply cut down the middle of your rectangular cake and stack the halves on top of each other.
More Layer Cake Recipes
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk - room temperature
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted
- 3 large eggs - room temperature
- 3 large egg yolks - room temperature
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch cream of tartar
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottoms of each pan with parchment paper, spray with nonstick cooking spray (that contains flour) again, along the bottom of the pan and the sides. If you don’t have cooking spray that contains flour, then grease your pan with butter and dust with flour.
- In a bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 ½ cups sugar.
- In a second bowl whisk the buttermilk, butter, egg yolks, vegetable oil, and vanilla until smooth.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment mix the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed for 1 minute, or until mixture is foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until mixture is soft billowy mounds. With mixer on low, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, once added turn the speed to medium-high and whip stiff, glossy peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the egg whites to a 3rd bowl.
- In the now empty stand mixer bowl add the flour mixture. With the paddle attachment and the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds, stopping halfway through mixing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold in one-third of the whipped egg whites. Once incorporated add the remaining egg whites and fold until no white streaks remain.
- Divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared cake pans. Level the tops with an offset spatula, then gently tap the cake pan on the counter to allow the batter to settle. Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and let cool in the cake pan for 10 minutes before turning the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely (about 1.5-2 hours).
- Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at half power, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes. (You don't want to add hot melted chocolate to the butter because it'll melt it and/or make it VERY soft). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on medium high speed for 2-3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Once the powdered sugar is mixed in, add the vanilla. Beat for 30 seconds.
- Pour in the melted chocolate and beat on medium high speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything is evenly incorporated. Add the heavy cream (if needed) and beat for another minute.
- Place a cake layer on a cake plate or cake stand. Spread about 1 ½ cups of chocolate frosting on the top of the cake (no need to measure it out, just eyeball it!) spreading it in an even layer until it meets the edges of the cake. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting along the top and sides of the cake. Enjoy!
- If you want the frosting to be a deeper brown color add a 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. I added 3 tablespoons to my frosting just to give off a darker brown color. No need to adjust anything else in the recipe if you choose to add the cocoa powder.
- To freeze and use at a later time, don’t make the frosting. Allow cake layers to cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month. Allow the cakes to thaw at room temperature for 2-3 hours before frosting.
- This recipe will make 24 cupcakes and one 9×13 cake, but you will need to adjust your baking time. For cupcakes, check them at 15 minutes; for a 9×13 cake, check it at 30 minutes.
Yellow Cake recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.