Yellow Birthday Cake
When I think of a classic birthday cake, homemade yellow cake with a slathering of chocolate buttercream is the combination that comes to mind. Simple, yet SO good. It never disappoints!
Our Yellow Birthday Cake consists of scratch yellow cake layers that are super moist, soft, and have a fine crumb. It really is the perfect yellow cake!
What is Yellow Cake?
Yellow cake is a flavorful vanilla cake which gets its name from the light yellow shade of the cake layers.
As with other vanilla cakes, yellow cake recipes call for whole eggs (unlike white cakes which often call for the egg whites only). They may call for additional egg yolks as well, which is true for our Yellow Birthday Cake.
Not only do the additional extra egg yolks add a bit more moisture and richness to the cake, but along with the butter, they lend a soft yellow hue as well.
What Does Sour Cream do for a Cake Recipe?
In most of our cake recipes, we add either sour cream, buttermilk, or cream cheese. The boost of acidity in the cake batter softens the strands of gluten, which makes for a much softer, more tender cake.
Sour cream also adds richness, thickens the cake batter, softens the texture, and results in a uniquely fine crumb.
How to Make Yellow Birthday Cake
You can find our full, printable yellow cake recipe below. Here is a quick rundown of our steps!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour three 8 inch x 2 inch round cake pans. (You could use 2 cake pans for slightly thicker layers if you would rather, but we like the additional layer filling.)
Combine Flour, Leavening & Salt: In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend for 30 seconds. Set aside.
Combine Wet Ingredients: In another bowl or measuring cup, combine the sour cream, milk, oil, and vanilla extract.
Cream Butter & Sugar: In the bowl of your mixer, beat the softened butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until fluffy and lightened in color.
Whole Eggs & Egg Yolks: Add the 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk blends in.
Alternate Adding Wet and Dry Ingredients: With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 additions of dry ingredients, 2 of wet). Mix until combined and smooth- approximately 20-30 seconds after last addition.
Time to Bake! Divide the cake batter between the three prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs attached.
Can Yellow Cake Layers be Frozen?
Yes they can! We freeze our cake layers whenever time allows- not only does it allow you to work well in advance, but we feel that it makes the cake layers even more moist!
You can freeze your wrapped cake layers anywhere from a few hours to a few months and they will taste as fresh as the day that they were frozen. Here is a quick look at our steps!
- Turn out onto Cake Boards: After baking and cooling our cake layers for about 10 minutes in their pans on wire racks, we flip them out onto foil-wrapped cake cardboards. (They are wrapped in foil so that we can re-use them).
- Wrap Layers Individually in Plastic Wrap & Foil: Allow the layers to cool a bit more, but then wrap while still a bit warm with a layer of plastic wrap and then foil.
- We find that wrapping and freezing the cake layers while they are still warm makes them even more moist!
- Freeze! We freeze our cake layers anywhere from a few hours to a few months and always with great results.
- Defrosting: When you are ready to defrost the cake layers, remove them from the freezer, still wrapped, and let them sit on the countertop for about 30-45 minutes. Condensation will form on the foil.
- Assemble and Decorate: At that point you can unwrap them and finish thawing to desired amount. Many decorators prefer to assemble their cakes when the layers are partially frozen as they are less fragile and easier to handle.
Table of Contents
What Frostings and Fillings go with Yellow Cake?
Today we are frosting our cake with a rich chocolate buttercream, but the great thing about yellow cake is that it goes with just about every possible filling and frosting!
Whether you'd like to use vanilla frosting, chocolate frosting, whipped cream or fruit fillings, you really can't go wrong. Here are just a few ideas for you!
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
This Chocolate Buttercream Frostings comes together in no time! It has more cocoa powder than our usual Chocolate Buttercream, and so the color is darker and the flavor is more rich.
This frosting amazing with the yellow cake layers! Here is a quick rundown of our steps:
- In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in cocoa powder
- Pour the mixture into the mixing bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar and milk, alternating the two. Reserve a few Tablespoons milk.
- Add the vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes until frosting is smooth and creamy.
Makes 5 ½ cups frosting
Not only does this rich chocolate frosting taste great, but it is also the perfect consistency for piping.
As with any of our buttercream recipes, if the frosting is too thick, just add a touch more milk. If the frosting is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.
Assembling and the Cake
- Place the first cake layer on the pedestal or cake plate. Spread with chocolate frosting. Next, add the second layer and repeat.
- Top with the third yellow cake layer and fill in any gaps between the layers with frosting as needed.
- Crumb coat the cake- this is a thin layer of frosting. At this point I like to chill the cake in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to firm everything up before applying the final coat of frosting.
Decorating the Cake
- Decorate the cake however you like! Here is what I did:
- After applying the second coat of frosting, I rotated the cake on a turntable as I smoothed it with a bench scraper.
- I like to heat my bench scraper under very hot water for this step. It slightly melts the top layer of frosting for a smoother finish.
- Neaten up the top edge of the cake by smoothing any excess frosting toward the center of the cake with an offset spatula and lift off any as needed.
- (Another popular technique for cleaning up excess frosting buildup around the top edge of the cake is to freeze the cake for 15 minutes and then slice of the excess frosting with a heated knife.)
- I made a top border of large shells piped with a 2D piping tip as well as smaller shells piped with a tip 21. I added little dots on top of the cake also with a piping tip 2.
Enjoy the Cake!
Thanks so much for stopping by! We hope that you'll give this Yellow Birthday Cake a try. If you do, please make sure to leave a photo and comment below!
For the Yellow Cake Layers
- 2 Sticks (226 g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 2 cups (400 g) sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 additional egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 cup (242 g) sour cream (we use full fat)
- ½ cup (120g) milk (we use whole milk)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (8g)
- 3 cups (342 g) cake flour *See substitution below
- 3 teaspoons (12g) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (4g) salt
- ¼ cup (54g) vegetable oil (we use canola oil)
For the Rich Chocolate Buttercream
- 2 sticks (1 cup) (226g) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cup (108g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar) (690g)
- ½ cup (121g) plus 2 Tablespoons milk or cream ( add more milk if needed or more powdered sugar if too thin)
- 2 teaspoons (8g) vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (8x2) inch or 2 (9x2) inch round cake pans. We like having 3 layers because we like more filling.
- In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend for 30 seconds. Set aside.
- In another bowl or measuring cup, combine the sour cream, milk, oil, and vanilla extract
- In the bowl of your mixer, beat the softened butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until fluffy and lightened in color.
- Add the 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 additions of dry ingredients, 2 of wet). Mix until combined and smooth- approximately 20-30 seconds after last addition.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Let the cakes cool 5-10 minutes, then turn out.
For the Rich Chocolate Buttercream
- In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Take off the heat and stir in cocoa powder. Stir until well combined and smooth.
- Pour the mixture into the mixing bowl, allow to cool a bit. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar and milk, alternating the two.
- Add the vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes until frosting is smooth and creamy. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon or two more until you reach desired creaminess.
Makes 5 ½ cups frosting
Decorating the Cake
- Place the first cake layer on the cake plate or pedestal and spread with frosting. Repeat for the next two layers and crumb coat (thin coat of frosting).
- At this point I like to chill the cake 10 minutes in the freezer (or longer in the refrigerator) to firm things up before applying the final coat of frosting.
- Add the final coat of frosting. If you are going with a smooth finish, you can run a bench scraper or spatula around the sides of the cake as you rotate it. (I heat my bench scraper under hot water & dry it before smoothing) Clean up the top edge as needed, removing excess frosting.
- I added a piped design of shells using a large 2D star tip and a smaller tip 21 star tip.
Substitution for Cake Flour:
If you have no cake flour, here is a substitution: For each cup of flour in a recipe, remove 2 Tablespoons of flour and replace with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour in the UK). This recipe has 3 cups of flour so you will measure out 3 cups of all purpose flour, remove 6 Tablespoons and replace with 6 Tablespoons cornstarch, whisk to blend.