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Yellow Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Perfect Yellow Cake
There are some cake recipes that I go back to again and again, and this simple yellow cake is one of them. Unassuming and almost plain looking, this cake has a great flavor and a soft, tender crumb. It is easy to make and perfect for eating any day of the week in big slices with a glass of milk – rather than waiting for birthdays or other special occasions.

The cake is made by creaming the butter into a mixture of cake flour and sugar. This creates a cake that has a much finer crumb than most cakes made with the regular creaming method. The mixing method given below may sound a bit unusual compared to some other yellow cake recipes, but it doesn’t take too long to put the cake together and the results are well worth the effort. The finished cake has a nice balance of vanilla and butter flavors in it, with the buttery notes coming from both butter and buttermilk in the cake batter. The tenderness of the cake gives it an almost melt-in-your-mouth quality to it.

This cake gets its name from its pale, yellow color. While yellow cake mixes might get their color from food coloring of some kind, the yellow color of this cake comes from egg yolks. For comparison, when I’m making a white cake, I only use egg whites to keep the finished product as light and white-looking as possible. I frosted it with an easy to make chocolate cream cheese frosting, but you can really use any kind of frosting you like, or even serve it with fresh berries and whipped cream if you want to keep things simple!

Perfect Yellow Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Cut butter into 4 or 5 chunks and drop into the bowl with the flour mixture. Blend on low speed until mixture looks sandy and no large chunks of butter remain, 1-2 minutes.
In a large measuring cup, combine egg, egg yolks, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Beat lightly with a fork until combined. With the mixer on low, pour 1 cup of the buttermilk mixture into the bowl. Turn speed up to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed back to low and pour in the rest of the buttermilk mixture. Continue to beat at low speed for an additional 30 seconds, until liquid is fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds, if necessary.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, and the cake has begun to pull slightly away from the sides of the pan.
Turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely and peel off parchment paper before frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
4-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 – 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Beat together butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Sift in cocoa powder and beat until smooth. Add in milk and vanilla, along with about 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Mix at medium speed until very smooth.
Add additional confectioners’ sugar as needed until frosting is thick, smooth and spreadable.

Note: If you want to make a two layer cake with this recipe, simply split the batter into two greased and lined-with-parchment 9-inch round cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean). Make two batches if you want a four layer cake.

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  • Krystal
    November 5, 2010

    Looks wonderful. What is it about yellow cake and chocolate frosting? I love it!

    -Krystal @ recipesofacheapskate.blogspot.com

  • Linda
    November 5, 2010

    If you need a larger cake, does the recipe double well and stack well for a 2-layer yellow cake?

    I so want to try it tonight but I’m sticking with my first idea about tomorrow baking project. At times I’m like a kid in a candy store about your recipes–I can’t make them all quickly enough. The next one looks so good I want to make it instead of the last one. 🙂

  • the blissful baker
    November 5, 2010

    i love yellow cake, but have yet to find a recipe that i truly love. i’ll try this one out, thanks!

  • Nicole
    November 5, 2010

    Linda – If you want to make a two layer cake with this recipe, simply split the batter into two greased and lined-with-parchment 9-inch round cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean). Make two batches, splitting each into two pans, if you want a four layer cake. This recipe does make for a great layer cake if done this way!

  • Heather
    November 5, 2010

    Oh yum! There’s something about a yellow cake with chocolate frosting that’s so comforting. The last recipe I tried I found the cake a little ‘tough’ – but I think the cake flour will make a huge difference. Thanks for sharing this recipe – I look forward to testing it out. Love your blog BTW.

  • Ram
    November 5, 2010

    Hi Nicole, did you bake it on a 9 x 2″ round pan or how deep is the pan you used for this cake? Thanks.

  • pakhot
    November 6, 2010

    I so want to try it tonight but I’m sticking with my first idea about tomorrow baking project. At times I’m like a kid in a candy store about your recipes–I can’t make them all quickly enough. The next one looks so good I want to make it instead of the last one. Please don’t stop your great job.

  • Caley
    November 6, 2010

    Oh, I have to try this! We got a soft, ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ cake from a bakery once and I had no idea how they did it! If I wanted to flavor it with lemon, would I just replace the vanilla extract with lemon? Thanks for the recipe!

  • MissH
    November 6, 2010

    Tried this recipe for a meeting this week–could have used another one. Does the recipe double well?

  • Nicole
    November 6, 2010

    Ram – Yes, it is 2-inches deep.

    Caley – Yes, that would work just fine. Add in the zest of one lemon (when you add the butter) to add even more lemon flavor.

  • Betty
    November 6, 2010

    That is THE birthday cake at my house. My boys would love it!

  • loreen
    November 7, 2010

    oh, it’s so delicious!! I wanna try this at home too.

  • Helena
    November 7, 2010

    Could a lower-fat cream cheese (such as Neufchatel) be used for the frosting, or would that completely change the taste? How about farmer cheese? Trying to lower the fat content of the frosting a bit if possible. 😉

  • Kelsey
    November 7, 2010

    the cake looks super soft!

  • Megan
    November 7, 2010

    Ooh! Chocolate cream cheese frosting?! Yes, please.

  • Nicole
    November 7, 2010

    Helena – Yes, you can use Neufchatel cream cheese in this recipe if you want to cut the fat down a bit. You could also try the lower fat cream cheese frosting recipe here: http://bakingbites.com/2009/03/lower-fat-carrot-sheet-cake/

  • Deborah
    November 8, 2010

    Growing up, yellow cake with chocolate frosting was a favorite at our house! I love the chocolate cream cheese frosting on this.

  • Amy
    November 8, 2010

    This was a wonderful recipe. I baked it in two layers and frosted with the Swiss buttercream I was experimenting with. Didn’t have enough for the whole cake so I did a layer of bittersweet ganache in the middle. And now I have cake for breakfast tomorrow.

  • Anna
    November 9, 2010

    In all my yellow cake trials, I found that yellow cakes made with this method (I think it’s called the two step method, but I’m not really sure) are the best.

  • Rebecca
    November 10, 2010

    I just made this and I loved it. Perfect for any occasion and the cake was delicious — not only a vehicle for the frosting. I wrote about it on my blog.

  • Katie
    November 12, 2010

    Am making this now for my son’s birthday party tomorrow! Should I assume that the baking powder goes in with the dry ingredients…it doesn’t mention in the directions. Thanks for a fantastic looking recipe!

  • Karen
    November 16, 2010

    This was delicious! I made a single layer, sliced the layer in two, filled it will Clear Lemon Filling and frosted it with a cooked egg white (marshmallow-type) frosting. Very yummy!

  • debbie
    November 27, 2010

    nicole – i LOVE yellow cake… but this recipe beats ANY that i’ve tried (and i’ve tried a lot) thank you so much. i dream about this cake and love you for posting this recipe! 🙂

    i was wondering though if i wanted to split it into 4 small loaf pans, how long should i cook them for? 🙂 thank you!!

  • Ben
    December 26, 2010

    I made this cake .. but it’s center sank down .. !! I don’t know why !!
    Can you tell me what was the problem ?!

  • Ben
    December 26, 2010

    By the way I substituted the buttermilk with 1 cup milk and 1 tbsp white vinegar !

  • Marla
    January 1, 2011

    I made this last night. For some reason I was really in the mood fof strawberries, so I made a simple strawberry reduction for filling between the layers. Because I wanted a good three layers, I doubled the cake recipe and did 1 1/2 the frosting. It turned out the frosting amount was perfect but had a little too much cake. I should have done 1 1/2 times for both. Regardless, everyone loved it and it was a great dessert to ring in the new year.

  • ivymeister
    January 3, 2011

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this recipe! I just made this tonight and I was soooo pleasantly surprised!! I’ve tried many “homemade” yellow cake recipes and this one takes the cake! This is my “go to” recipe from now on!! My son and hubby both LOVED it! One question, does anybody know if i can use strawberry or lemon extract instead of the vanilla to change the flavor of the cake? Will it taste funny? Or possibly lemon zest? Thanks! 🙂

  • Shar
    April 1, 2011

    This is a lovely cake but way too much batter for one 9″ cakepan – ended up with a bunch on the bottom of my oven!

  • Rosie
    May 24, 2011

    I tried baking this cake in 2 8″ pans on the weekend. Unfortunately, it was a complete failure! I think it’s because I used reconstituted buttermilk from buttermilk powder and ended up using too much liquid.

  • Cindy
    June 9, 2011

    What a delicious cake! I just baked it today. 🙂 I ate mine without the frosting & really didn’t miss it.

  • Karyl
    June 25, 2011

    This yellow cake was delicious! I used a chocolate buttercream instead of the cream cheese frosting, but the cake itself was moist and springy. I wound up taking it out at 20 minutes for two nine-inch pans and it was perfectly done. Thanks for another great recipe.

  • Jess
    October 21, 2011

    I only used the frosting recipe and can’t say it was my favorite unfortunately! It is too subtle, and personally was the first time I tried chocolate frosting with yellow cake and I don’t think I like the combo. But the frosting did come out beautifully smooth and creamy, just not the right flavor for me!

  • Jnicole
    June 6, 2012

    Thanks for the recipe!!!! I didn’t have any cake flour or buttermilk so I used all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons and for the buttermilk just mix a cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and let it sit for five minutes… My cake turned out great

  • Loved it!
    September 23, 2014

    Hiiiii, I never ever ever comment on recipes I try. Even though I try loaaads from blogs and stuff. (Pinterest junkie over here) But this cake was toooooo good not to comment on. It was seriously the best plain cake I’ve ever tried. I didn’t make the frosting, the cake is just good on its own.

    I didn’t have butter, so I replaced that with plain sunflower oil, I think this made the cake ultra moist and yummy. Also, I had to replace some of the flower with whole wheat flower. I am definitely going to try the recipe with butter though!

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