This classic yellow cake recipe is soft, buttery and moist, with a delicate crumb, and just the right amount of sweetness. Its simple vanilla flavor is perfect for showcasing your favorite frosting or enjoying on its own. Best of all? This yellow cake recipe is made entirely from scratch.
So here’s the thing about yellow cake mix, and box mixes in general. I’m not going to fault anyone for using or even loving them. We all like what we like, and some people really love their cake mix.
It’s chemically engineered in a food science lab to be incredibly soft, and to rise perfectly every time. Mom used it when I was a kid, and I liked it just fine (however, as a young adult I considered myself Team Pie until I started making cakes from scratch). My grandma used it as the base for her “famous” chocolate pistachio cake.
Homemade Yellow Cake vs. Boxed Yellow Cake Mix
Last year, I decided to buy two boxes of cake mix out of curiosity. I’d been making homemade cakes for ages, and I was curious why people love box mixes so much. To be honest, I was impressed by how idiot-proof everything was.
Homemade cake recipes have a method that typically looks something like this: creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs, then alternating between adding the dry and wet ingredients. All of this happens on varying mixer speeds.
I dumped the cake mix and add-ins into my stand mixer, turned it on high speed, and walked away. A few minutes later, the batter was fluffy as a cloud. Then I tasted the batter. I also tasted the finished cake.
They… didn’t taste good to me (either brand). While I thought the texture was pleasantly soft, the flavor was cloyingly sweet; I couldn’t imagine adding more sweetness with frosting. There was also a chemical aftertaste.
At the end of the day, it has to taste good to me. Otherwise, what’s the point?
That, my friends, is my argument for why you should make this homemade yellow cake recipe. I’m not going to preach about chemical ingredients, because I love Cool Ranch Doritos.
Cakes made from scratch taste better. Do a side-by-side taste test comparison. I dare you.
What’s the Difference Between Yellow Cake and White Cake?
Yellow cake and white cake are almost identical with one exception: the eggs! This yellow cake recipe gets its color and custardy flavor from egg yolks, whereas white cakes use only egg whites.
Also, while this isn’t always the case, white cake often uses cake flour, while yellow cakes typically use all-purpose flour.
Yellow Cake Ingredients
For this easy homemade yellow cake, you’ll need:
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Vanilla extract
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
How to Make Yellow Cake From Scratch
Step 1: prep cake pans
Tip: If possible, place the cake pans on a sheet pan. This will make taking both cakes in and out of the oven much easier.
Step 2: Combine wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls
Step 3: Cream the butter and sugar
If needed, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to incorporate any bits of sugar or butter that don’t get whipped into the mixture.
Step 4: Add the eggs
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl after you’ve added in the last egg.
Tip: The yellow cake batter may look slightly curdled at this point. That’s totally normal!
Step 5: Add the wet and dry ingredients
Step 6: Beat the yellow cake batter for 30 seconds
Step 7: Divide and bake
Step 8: Remove the cakes from the pans
Let the yellow cakes cool completely before removing from the pans. You’ll likely need to use a knife to release the sides of the cake before gently flipping the cake out.
You can frost this cake with any frosting you like, but I’ve made some notes in the recipe card below if you’re searching for an easy recipe.
Read more: While not essential, I think certain tools like offset spatulas and parchment rounds are very helpful. If you’d like to know more about my cake equipment recommendations, as well as general tips and tricks, check out my article: How to Make a Perfect Layer Cake.
Tips for the Best Yellow Cake
- Before placing the cake in the oven, make sure the tops are level (I do this with an offset spatula). This will help ensure that they bake evenly.
- If the tops still bake unevenly, use a serrated bread knife to shave off some of the excess cake before frosting.
- Weight the flour on a kitchen scale, or at least make sure you’re measuring it correctly. Here’s an article about why this is important: How to Measure Flour
- Avoid ingredient and equipment substitutions, at least the first time you prepare a recipe. Different size eggs will change the structure of the batter. So will different types of sugar. If you use non-dairy, skim or whole milk instead of half-and-half, the cake will be more dense and dry.
- Increasing the size of the cake pan will increase the bake time and potentially impact the structure of the cake. For example, a 9-inch cake pan is actually 25% bigger than an 8-inch cake pan, so to get the exact same cake, you need to increase the ingredients by 25%. Learn more about this here.
- Make sure your baking powder is active. Baking soda and powder expire over time, which will prevent cakes from rising.
More Cake Recipes From Scratch:
If you enjoyed this yellow cake recipe, be sure to check out my Rum Cake, Vanilla Cream Cakes, Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Classic White Cake, and Chocolate Malt Layer Cake. For even more homemade cake and cupcake recipes, be sure to visit my dessert recipe archives.
Classic Yellow Cake Recipe
- 7 ounces all-purpose flour (198g or 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon using Spoon & Level Method)
- 2 ounces cornstarch (58g or 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup half-and-half (or 1/2 cup whole milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 6 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 12 ounces granulated sugar (341g or about 1 3/4 cup)
- 4 large eggs
- Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Very lightly grease the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans (do not grease the sides) and then top with parchment rounds. Place the pans on a baking sheet, if possible (this will make taking both cakes in and out of the oven at once a breeze).
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the half-and-half and vanilla. Crack the eggs into a small bowl or liquid measuring cup.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar on low speed for 3 minutes, until pale and fluffy. If there are any bits of unincorporated sugar and/or butter on the sides or bottom of the bowl, use a spatula to incorporate them and mix for an additional 30 seconds.
- Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape down the bowl all the way to the bottom after the second and final egg. The batter may begin to look slightly broken by the end of this step; it’s ok.
- On medium speed, swiftly alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry. This shouldn’t take longer than a minute.
- Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, all the way to the bottom, making sure there are no hidden dry patches. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for an additional 30 seconds to help build the structure of the batter. Do not skip this step.
- Divide the cake batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Use an offset spatula to even out the tops (don’t skip this step or the cake may not rise evenly).
- Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan. Use an offset spatula or knife to help release the sides of the cake from the pan, then place a cardboard round or large cutting board against the cake pan and gently flip.
- Frost with your favorite recipe! (See notes for suggestions)
- Don't substitute different sized eggs (this includes farm eggs) without weighing them, or it will change the structure of the cake.
- The cake will work if you use dairy with a lower percentage of fat (such as whole milk instead of half-and-half), but the results will be more dry and dense.
- You will not get the same results from a 9-inch cake pan unless you increase the ingredients by 25%.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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