The Most Perfect Yellow Birthday Cake Recipe

Everyone needs a birthday cake recipe in their repertoire. One that you can bust out to make a killer birthday cake or any type of cake for that matter. Well here it is, the only yellow cake recipe you will ever need. Promise. The only one you will ever need. With the perfect vanilla taste and tender crumb here is the ultimate yellow cake recipe. 


I feel quite passionate about birthday cakes. I think it is nostalgia. I recently got into a "heated" debate surrounding grocery store birthday cakes vs. fancy bakery cakes and my feeling was grocery store birthday cakes all the way. With their fake buttercream and cloyingly sweet cake layers, that to me was a birthday cake, because that is what I grew up with. The cookbook author who I was having this discussion with I think was slightly horrified with my love of cheap grocery store cakes. But I don't mind, because it is my personal preference. 

However when I am making birthday cakes for friends and family, and don't want to subject them to my love of cheap grocery store cakes, this is the recipe I use. The cake recipe makes 3-8" layers, or 2-9" layers or a big old fashioned sheet cake in a 9 x 13 pan. Once you try it, I promise it will forever be your favorite yellow cake birthday cake recipe.

Yellow Birthday Cake 

For the cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1/4 cup  multi-colored sprinkles (optional)

For the chocolate buttercream:

  • 4 - 6 cups confectioners’ sugar 
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons milk, plus more, if needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled 

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 3 - 8" baking pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time. Reduce speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. If adding in sprinkles, fold them in but careful not to over mix. 

Divide mixture among three cake pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer pans to wire rack to cool completely.

When ready to assemble the cake, make the buttercream. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, combine 4 cups powdered sugar, butter, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Add in cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. If frosting is dry, add 1 additional teaspoon of milk at a time to reach desired consistency. If buttercream is too wet add additional powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistentcy. 

Frost the cake however you like, creating a naked cake (no frosting on the sides) or frost all over. Top with sprinkles and serve.