Basic Yellow Cake Recipe (Cakes and Cupcakes)

4.46 from 22 votes
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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!

Pin it now to save for later

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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.
4.46 from 22 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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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




37 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. This is the best vanilla cake recipe I’ve ever used. I’ve tried a lot of recipes. This is the best and it doesn’t require cake flour. Thank you for this. I’ve made it a few times already and it’s always a hit!

  2. Excellent cake, moist and flavorful. I made two different cake recipes to see which one I liked best when I had to make a few cakes for a church decorating class. This one was the best!!! Thanks for the great recipe.

  3. Great recipe. I’ve made it a couple of times now. I did change it the second time by not melting the butter and instead creaming room temp butter together with the sugar. I found the texture to be less dense and bit more fluffy that way. Otherwise, awesome recipe! Good and simple for vanilla cakes.

  4. I made used this recipe to make mini-cupcakes and had enough batter left over to make a single layer cake…holy cow! This cake is delicious. It baked up perfectly, is super moist and the flavor is spot on. I usually make a cream cheese icing, but used the icing suggested here and it’s the perfect compliment. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Flavor is great and easy to make; however, very thick and hard to swallow. Could I used less flour to make more moist and fluffy?

    1. I made the yellow cake cupcakes today, along with the icing recipe. I was amazed at the difference the buttermilk made! The cupcakes were the best I have ever eaten, so was the icing. I will be making this again for sure! Thanks so much!!

  6. It’s a decent recipe but it says best yellow cake recipient then only shows cooking time for cupcakes. Very disappointed with that 

  7. Such a great recipe! Perfect consistency and very easy to make. I put a Golden Oreo in the bottom of the cupcake wrapper before pouring in the batter and then frosted and decorated with half an oreo on top. Looked and tasted great.

  8. I made this as a vanilla cake and as a orange/lemon cake. Both were delicious. Receipe was very versatile. I will use again.