Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Nov 15

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream: Tender yellow cake layers with chocolate buttercream.

Classic Yellow Cake

Is there anything more classic than a yellow cake with chocolate frosting? I continue to hear that it’s a favorite for so many people, especially the box mix. And while I said goodbye to box mixes years ago, I’ll admit, there’s something pretty alluring about the flavor and texture of a yellow cake mix: rich butter and vanilla extracts in a moist and fluffy cake… you just can’t go wrong (except for the fact that it’s not homemade).

I’ve tried a couple yellow cake recipes in the past but was never impressed enough to save them or send myself on a mission to find the best yellow cake recipe – until now, that is. This new mission started  when I offered to make my friend, Brooke from, a cake for her review. I told her she could pick any cake she wanted, and without hesitation she said a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. 

Trial and Error

Of course, I immediately threw out every yellow cake recipe I had, knowing they weren’t nearly good enough, and started my research from scratch. I scoured Pinterest, cookbooks and my go-to cake blogs, selected a handful of recipes and started comparing ingredients. I wanted something that screamed flavorful and moist, so when I saw Grandbaby Cakes recipe with a full cup of sour cream, seven whole eggs and butter extract, I knew I had to give it a try. (Taste of the South Magazine also loved this cake.)

I had high hopes that it would meet my expectations for flavor and texture, but I have to admit, I was slightly let down. It’s a good cake but it was a little too dense for my taste and didn’t resemble any of the flavor from a box mix that I was looking for. 

I was about to try a completely new recipe, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this recipe could be a keeper… with a few tweaks. Since I was going from a slightly artificial flavor, I decided to substitute clear vanilla extract from the pure vanilla extract. I also liked Sweetapolita’s idea of using egg yolks in addition to the whole eggs, so instead of seven whole eggs, I used five whole eggs and two yolks the second time around, hoping to get a slightly more yellow color and richer flavor. (The color didn’t change but I was happy with the flavor.) The other change I made was adding more baking powder to get the cakes to raise a little more and feel a bit more fluffy.

After making my revisions, I gave the first slice to my toughest critic, Westin. I literally sat next to him as he ate, staring at his face for a glimpse of his first, initial, most honest reaction. Luckily, it was a good one. Two thumbs up. (Phew!)

As for the frosting, I first tried the recipe Grandbaby Cakes provided with her yellow cake, but I found it hard to spread and didn’t love the dense texture, so I’ve included my favorite chocolate frosting recipe below.

The real test will be tomorrow night (11/17) when Brooke and I get together for a live Periscope broadcast about this cake, some tips and tricks, and her taste test. Brooke will also be showing us how to make one of my favorite desserts: peanut butter ice cream. I’m so excited! I hope you’ll join us. Check my Instagram for reminders about when we’ll broadcast. 



Photography by Brooke Liason, Female Foodie

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Yield One 3-layer, 8-inch cake

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream.

Tender yellow cake layers with delicious chocolate buttercream.


For the Cake

  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (72.6 g) canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5.6 g) salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 5 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 eggs yolks, room temperature
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 cup (240 g)  sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g)  clear vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) butter extract

For the Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter, slightly cold
  • 5 cups (625 g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 1 tablespoon(13 g) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 oz. (150 g) good quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup (57.75 g) heavy whipping cream
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra 1/2 batch.


For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray, add parchment and another coat of spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium size bowl, sift the cake flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, canola oil, salt and sugar on high until fluffy and smooth, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time to the bowl and beat on medium until well incorporated.
  5. Turn the mixer on low and add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Then add half of the sour cream and blend well, followed by another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the second half of the sour cream and lastly, add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated.
  6. Add the clear vanilla extract and butter extract and beat on low until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on low for another 30 seconds.
  7. Evenly distribute the cake batter among the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Make sure not to over bake.
  8. Remove cakes from the oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks.
  9. Once completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer or refrigerator to chill before frosting.

For the Frosting

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, heat the cream and then pour it over the chocolate to melt. Stir until the mixture is smooth and silky. If needed heat the mixture for another 20 to 30 seconds and stir until the chips are melted. Set aside.

  2. In a bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine beat the butter on medium-high until light and fluffy.

  3. Turn the mixer to medium-low and gradually add the melted chocolate ganache. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat again for about one minute.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt.
  5. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  6. Stir by hand to push out air pockets.


  1. After leveling each cake layer, place the first cake layer (top side/crumbly side up) on a cake board that has a little frosting on it (which acts like glue to hold the cake in place).
  2. Spread about 1 cup of the frosting over the cake layer. Place the second cake layer on top and add another cup of frosting. Make sure to get eye level with the cake to check that your frosting is spread evenly across each cake layer. 
  3. When you get the final cake layer, place it top side down on the second layer of frosting. Spread a thin coat of frosting around the entire cake to lock in the crumbs. Freeze the cake for 10 minutes to set the crumb coat.
  4. Continue to frost and decorate the cake with the remaining frosting.

78 thoughts on “Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

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  1. Hello! Just wanted to let you know – you don’t ever say to include the last half of the sour cream. I assume it’s after the 2nd half of the flour mixture.

  2. I was hoping you can help me out. I’ve attempted this cake a few times and it keeps falling and I fallow your recipe to a tee. Any suggestions?

  3. Help!!! I’ve attempted this cake a few times, fallowing the recipe perfectly, and it keeps falling. I’m mixing everything on low after step 3, everything is room temp… I cant figure out what I’m doing wrong. I also live not to far from you so altitude shouldn’t be a problem.

    1. You may want to check the internal temperature of your oven to make sure it’s reading inside what the outside tells you. I’m actually using the yellow cake as a base for a new cake and I took out half cup of sugar and added 3 tablespoons flour and it’s rising beautifully. Sugar often weighs cakes down, so it may have been too much originally on my part.

      1. Thank you so much! I fallowed your advice and checked the temp of my oven and it was 15 degrees off! I also changed the sugar and flour amounts and the cakes turned out beautiful. Thanks again!

      2. Hi Courtney! I saw this comment about adding flour and taking out sugar. I’m wondering if you changed this recipe to take that into account, or if I should try adding 3 Tbsp. flour and taking out 1/2 c. sugar for a total of 3 c. + 3 Tbsp. flour and 1 1/4 c. sugar. Thanks for your help. You and your cakes are beautiful!

  4. I am making this for Mother’s Day! Would I be okay to bake the layers Saturday and freeze, and then frost on Sunday with room temp frosting?

    1. Yes, absolutely. I do that all the time. Just take the cake layers out of the freezer about an hour before you frost so they aren’t completely frozen but they’re still chilled and easy to work with.

  5. I am looking for a yellow cake with tall fluffy layers & this one looks perfect. I read a comment about the layers not rising & you suggested amending the ingredients. Do you recommend this as a permanent amendment to the original recipe? Don’t want to waste my time making another thin layer cake.

    1. I think you need to try it the way it’s written first and see if you have any problems with it. You shouldn’t, unless you’re at much higher altitude than me (I’m in Salt Lake).

  6. Pingback: Cake by Courtney
  7. This cake tasted fine but it wasn’t very yellow in color and it was quite dense. My taste testers said it was more like a pound cake. It was not fluffy at all. I am moving on in my search for a great yellow cake!

    1. I’m sorry to hear that. It’s definitely not supposed to be a dense cake. It’s supposed to be light and fluffy. Maybe you packed in too much flour into your measuring cup or your oven temperature is off and it didn’t bake correctly? Just some variables that create a dense cake.

  8. Hi Courtney. If I wanted to make enough batter for three 6″ pans instead of three 8″ pans, would you suggest making 2/3 of the recipe? Thanks!

  9. I’m looking to make a pretty tall stacked cake, probably four-six 8inch layers and four 6inch layers stacked. Do you think this recipe would be too light to stack that much, or would it hold (with proper support of dowels, etc)?

    1. If wrapped and protected well, cake layers and completed cakes hold up great in the freezer. I have a post about it on here “How to Freeze, Thaw and Transport Cakes”

  10. Hi! If I wanted to make a pineapple cake with this as the base, would it be ok to substitute the oil and 1/2 cup of sour cream for a large can of crushed pineapple? Just trying to figure out how to change out enough liquid for the liquid of the pineapple 😉 Thank you!

  11. Hi Courtney,

    I followed your recipe and had an amazing classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Thank you so much for such a wonderful recipe! Its a keeper 🙂

  12. Just saw this on your Instagram stories, and I’ve seen most cake bakers do the double non-stick spray methods and I was wondering what brand of spray you use? I tried one years ago and found it left a horrible taste on the cake! So I swore them off for good but now I’m starting to reconsider. (It’s also the only one I could find here at the time but with online ordering and a stock-up trip soon I’m hoping to find a good one)

  13. Hi I made this yesterday the frosting was amazing but my cake was dry and kind of bland. I’m not sure what I did wrong.

  14. Hi! First time I made a cake from scratch! The little pieces I tasted turned out lovely! It did dome (I have fat daddio pans) I googled how to help this, but wondering what you do? Excited to make the frosting and assemble.

  15. I made this and it tasted great. Although, the cake was quite dense and not as fluffy as I hoped, it definitely needed a few more minutes in the oven. I was so worried about overcooking it though, that I took it out. I’ll try again, thanks so much for the recipe!


  17. I love all your wonderful cooking tips to make beautiful cakes! I have purchased several of your tools to help make it easier. I’m loving the results! I consider myself an excellent baker and have become quite confident with pies, cookies and several bread recipes. Mastering cakes has become my new quest. I have a question regarding your instructions for the yellow cake recipe. Your directions said to beat the sugar and butter for five minutes on high. I feel this is way too long. I think it whips up the batter too much so when it cooks in the oven, it settles and becomes too dense. At least that was my experience. But I loved your tip to put all the refrigerated ingredients at room temperature. That made a real difference and all my layers were super even. I love what you do! It is inspiring!

  18. hi! I made this cake and something tasted off, I think it might have been the extracts. I used a Kroger imitation vanilla extract and a Loranns butter emulsion. What do you suggest? Should I get a butter extract instead of emulsion? And what type of clear vanilla extract? Thank you!

  19. Hi, i noticed you said all of your recipes are already adjusted for high altitude. I am not at high altitude. Do i have to make any adjustments to any of your cake recipes or do i make them as is? All of your cakes look amazing and i really want to try making some of them. Thanks!

  20. This looks delicious! I was thinking of making a mini cake out of this. Like 4” possibly. Would you suggest baking in a 9×13? And for how long?

  21. This recipe is a keeper! The cake turned out moist and fluffy and the frosting was yummy and easy to spread on my cake. Your site is my go to for cake recipes – I bake an average of two cakes a month for an organization I volunteer for. Thank you for such reliably good recipes