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Classic Yellow Birthday Cake

This classic yellow birthday cake recipe is one that you'll want to keep around for any special occasion! It is moist, full of flavor and topped with a fudgy dark chocolate buttercream that you just won't be able to resist! This is the best yellow cake recipe for any birthday. Top with sprinkles for a fun, festive touch!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 28 mins
Cooling and Frosting Time 3 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 slices


For the Yellow Cake

  • cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks at room temperature)
  • cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup full-fat buttermilk (room temperature)
  • tsp cream of tartar

For the Dark Chocolate Fudge Buttercream

  • cups unsalted butter (2½ sticks at room temperature)
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Dutch-processed)
  • 3-5 tbsp heavy cream or milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • sprinkles for decorating


For the Yellow Cake

  • Please see notes section below for high altitude adjustments.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper rounds and grease the paper. I like to use Pam for Baking for the spray.
  • Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until very light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Scrab down the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn the mixer to low and add the egg yolks one at a time until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Add about ⅓ of the dry ingredients and ½ of the buttermilk. Beat on low speed until combined. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients and the rest of the buttermilk and beat until combined. Finish with the dry ingredients and beat until just combined, but do not overmix. The batter will be thick.
  • In the meantime, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar in a small bowl with a handheld mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form (about 3 minutes). Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter until incorporated. Do not overmix otherwise the egg whites will deflate!
  • Pour/spoon the batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool cakes completely on a wire rack in the pan before assembling and frosting.

For the Dark Chocolate Fudge Butter Cream

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy (about 2 minutes).
  • Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, heavy cream, salt and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute. Add additional powdered sugar or heavy cream if the frosting becomes too thin or thick.

Assembling the Cakes

  • Once cakes are cooled, remove from the pan and level the tops off with a serrated knife. You can discard the scraps, but I like to save them to put on ice cream!
  • Place one cake layer on a cake plate or stand and evenly top with frosting. Place second cake layer on top of the first and apply a thin layer of frosting all around the cake layers and on the top (this is called a crumb coat and seals in the crumbs for a smooth finish!). Refrigerate cake for 15 minutes.
  • Continue to frost with the remainder of your chocolate frosting. I like to use an offset spatula to create pretty swirls on the cake. Top with sprinkles. Refrigerate cake for 30 - 60 minutes for neater slices, or just dig in and enjoy!


  • Cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight cake container for 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • You can freeze individual slices of cake to pull out to eat later if you wish! Simply slice the cake and wrap each piece in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Store the wrapped slices of cake in a freezer bag. When ready to eat, pull a slice of cake out of the freezer, unwrap and set on a plate at room temperature until thawed. 
High Altitude Adjustments
  • Flour – increase by 2 tbsp.
  • Baking Powder – decrease to 1 tsp.
  • Granulated Sugar – decrease by 1 1/2 tbsp.
  • Eggs – use 5 yolks instead of 4
  • Increase oven temperature to 360° F
  • Decrease baking time by 5 or more minutes
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Keyword Birthday, Cakes, High Altitude Recipes