Basic Yellow Cake Recipe (Cakes and Cupcakes)

4.45 from 25 votes

This is the BEST Basic Yellow Cake Recipe! It’s perfect for a layer cake, a sheet cake or cupcakes! This easy cake recipe is homemade – you’ll never need to buy a box cake mix again.

If you’re looking for a classic yellow cake recipe, you’ve found it!

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Close up of a slice of layered yellow cake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles

Have you ever wanted to find a recipe for cake that also works for cupcakes? Well, look no further, because this is it!

I got so tired of trying to find a yellow cake that was an all-purpose cake recipe, that I decided to create my own.

If you guys remember, I have a perfect vanilla cupcake recipe and a perfect yellow cake recipe on this blog. BUT! I wanted to come up with one that would work for both. I needed a recipe that was moist, light and airy, and wouldn’t make me miss my good old standby, the box mix.

Since the basic yellow cake recipe was derived from the cupcake recipe, I started there and managed to come up with a cake recipe that makes a 9-inch layer cake, 24 cupcakes, or a sheet cake…all in one simple recipe!

This recipe is moist yet sturdy (it can hold up to stacking), fluffy and sweet, and tastes just like a yellow or white cake should. If I’m being honest, white cake and yellow cupcakes are my favorite cake. I’m a vanilla girl at heart!

If you’re ready to ditch your box cake mix, then print out this recipe. It’s the only one you need from now on, I promise!

Yellow layered cake on a cake stand with vanilla buttercream and rainbow sprinkles and one slice missing

What is Yellow Cake Flavor?

If you’ve ever wondered what the flavor of yellow cake is, it’s basically vanilla. This is a Basic Yellow Cake Recipe, and I call it yellow instead of vanilla because most people think of yellow cake when they think of a box mix.

What makes it yellow are the butter and eggs. The flavor comes from the butter and the vanilla extract. You can use plain vanilla extract or use vanilla bean paste, which I love.

What makes a cake more moist?

I know, moist. It’s such a controversial word in the food world. I mean, I guess I could say tender. Or fluffy? But moist just fits because it encompasses all those things: this cake is tender, fluffy, and not dry. Dry cake *shudder*

There are a few ways you can keep your cake moist, tender, and airy:

  • I use buttermilk in this recipe. The sourness of the buttermilk helps break down the gluten, keeping the cake moist and tender.
  • Extra baking powder: this cake uses 3 teaspoons. Getting the right ratio of baking powder can be difficult: too little and the cake doesn’t rise enough and is tough, too much and your cake tastes bitter. 3 teaspoons is just right for this cake recipe.
  • 4 eggs add structure, color, flavor, and moistness to the recipe.
  • Don’t over mix it.
  • Don’t over bake it.

You’ll notice this recipe has all-purpose flour, not cake flour. I prefer that because it’s easy to come by. Everyone has all-purpose flour in their pantry; not everyone has cake flour.

The main difference between cake flour and all-purpose is protein content: cake flour has about 8% and all-purpose is slightly higher. This makes for a bit denser of a cake (hence the extra baking powder and buttermilk in my recipe). You can learn all about cake flour here.

Yellow cake cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sprinkles on top and around bottom

Make Cupcakes with This Cake Recipe

Vanilla cupcakes are perfect for every occasion, because you can dress them up with pretty sprinkles, or chocolate frosting, or any kind of frosting you like. Yellow cake is a blank slate for sprinkles (like funfetti cake), for peanut butter filling, or to make into Twix Cupcakes or anything like that.

I love that this recipe makes perfect number of cupcakes – 24 yellow cupcakes – in case I decide I don’t want a layer cake.

Pan Size Equivalents

You can make this recipe a few different ways:

  • Three 8-inch rounds
  • Two 9-inch rounds
  • 24 cupcakes
  • 9×13-inch sheet cake

It makes this the perfect all-purpose cake recipe! Learn how to prepare your cake pans here.

Close up of a slice of layered yellow cake with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles with one bite missing

FAQ about my Yellow Cake Recipe

What is the difference between yellow cake and white cake?

Yellow cake uses whole eggs, while white cake uses just egg whites. The egg yolks add a richness and color to the batter of a yellow cake recipe.

Can you make yellow cake without buttermilk?

If you don’t have buttermilk, don’t worry. You can make this cake with ANY kind of milk, as long as you add 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the batter. However, I recommend using whole milk or full fat non-dairy milk – the more fat in the liquid the better the cake.

Can you make this yellow cake recipe with oil?

You can substitute vegetable oil for the melted butter. This makes it easy to make dairy-free. I recommend adding a bit of butter extract for flavor, but it’s not required.

Gluten-Free Cake Option

I have substituted Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 GF All-Purpose flour in this cake with success.

Frosting Choices

Have you made this recipe?

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Basic Yellow Cake Recipe

This is the BEST Basic Yellow Cake Recipe! It’s perfect for a layer cake, a sheet cake or cupcakes! This easy cake recipe is homemade – you’ll never need to buy a box cake mix again.
4.45 from 25 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Assembling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield 24 servings
Serving Size 1 serving


For the Cake:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups (310g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups (297g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (296) ml buttermilk

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups (452g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) heavy whipping cream


For the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake pans with liners or grease and flour cake pan(s).
  • Whisk salt, baking powder, and flour in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  • Using a hand mixer, cream sugar into melted butter until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then mix in vanilla extract.
  • Add dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour, mixing gently between each addition. Mix until just combined. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans and bake as directed. Cool completely before removing and frosting.
  • Bake Time: 24 cupcakes: 14-17 minutes // Two 9-inch round pans: 24-27 minutes // Two 8-inch round pans: 25-33 minutes // 9×13-inch pan: 30-40 minutes

For the frosting:

  • Beat butter until smooth with a hand or a stand mixer. Note: if you’re using a hand mixer be sure to use a very large bowl to avoid wearing the powdered sugar.
  • Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat on medium speed until crumbly. Mix in salt and vanilla.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream at a time, mixing between each addition, until the frosting is smooth and the desirable consistency.
  • Frost cake or cupcakes as desired.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

You can use a 9×13-inch pan, two 8-inch or 9-inch rounds, or make 24 cupcakes.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 334kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 74mg | Sodium: 175mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 30g

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake

If you love yellow cake, check out Jocelyn’s with chocolate frosting, Cheryl’s Raspberry Filled Vanilla Cupcakes, or this milk chocolate icing! Perfect Funfetti Cake is great for a birthday!

**Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!**

A Basic Yellow Cake Recipe is perfect to make both cake and cupcakes and is better than a box mix!

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Recipe Rating

47 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. Easy to access ingredients and simple recipe! I added flour and an egg, flour then another egg alternately and continued to do the same as directed with the buttermilk, as I was wary of the butter/sugar curdling with that many eggs added. We have home fresh laid eggs that are enormous so I thought I may only need 3 but it turned out perfect with the 4. Beautiful texture and seriously yummy!

  2. This recipe did NOT work. It didn’t rise at all and was extremely greasy and eggy. It smelled (and kind of tasted like) scrambled eggs. I tried to make cake truffles out of it but had to scrap it because it was so bad. I followed the recipe exactly, so hopefully it was just a fluke, but I won’t be using this recipe again.

    1. I’m sorry that happened! That is strange as I’ve made this quite a few times and haven’t had it happen. Two possible reasons for eggy cake: not beating the eggs enough and/or the cake is over baked.

  3. This looks like the recipe I’ve always wanted 😃 I’m going to try it this week! I’m making a fairy castle cake for my daughter. Can this recipe be doubled? Or best to make it a few times?

  4. I used this recipe for my husband’s 69th. Birthday and it turned out perfect! I added the vinegar to whole milk since we didn’t have buttermilk, as you mention about substitutes. I wondered if the recipe would also work with a bundt pan? Thanks for sharing your recipes!

  5. This is delicious! And easy! I had a cup of browned butter in my freezer that needed to be used, so I tried this cake with that. Wow, fantastic! Thanks for a great recipe! (I made a 13×9 cake. My oven baked it in exactly 30 min)

  6. Made this recipe for the first time. Followed the directions to a T. Opted to make cupcakes. Got two dozen out of this recipe. They are delicious! This recipe is a keeper. Thank you for sharing it.