Yellow Cake with Easy Fudge Buttercream

This weekend my darling baby boy turned one year old. It’s a big milestone for any mom and I was no exception. I had been planning the celebration in the back of my mind since John was a newborn and when it came time to put it into motion, I got a little emotional. How could he be a year old already?

The party was simple, just a backyard barbecue with family. And of course, there was cake. No birthday party would be complete without one. I kept it traditional, a yellow vanilla layer cake iced with an easy fudge buttercream frosting.

Yellow Cake with Easy Fudge Buttercream (+ a First Birthday Party)

The weather was warm and perfect and John enjoyed playing with his cousins and grandparents. We served up hot dogs and brats, potato salad, and lemonade. Then came time to open presents and finally, cake.

Yellow Cake with Easy Fudge Buttercream (+ a First Birthday Party)

The cake was a hit, as I knew it would be. Who can say no to yellow cake with chocolate frosting?

Yellow Cake with Easy Fudge Buttercream

John was unsure about his little cake at first, too many people staring at him. He enjoyed little licks of the frosting from his fingers, but it wasn’t until his Dad put both his hands into the cake that he really got the hang of it. And then he didn’t stop until he, the table, and his highchair were covered in chocolate frosting. I think it’s safe to say he loves cake as much as his mama.

Yellow Cake with Easy Fudge Buttercream (+ a First Birthday Party)

I so love this little boy of mine and we enjoyed celebrating him this weekend. I’m looking forward to many more birthday parties and lots more birthday cake in years to come! Just don’t grow up too fast, John, okay?

Easy Fudge Frosting

This is the easiest chocolate frosting you’ll ever make. Simply put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse for one minute until smooth. And no need to sift the powdered sugar!

If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Sift the powdered sugar and then beat everything until smooth and creamy, about three minutes.

Yellow Cake with Easy Fudge Buttercream

This recipe was originally posted in February 2011. Photos and content have been updated and slight changes have been made to the recipe.

Vanilla Layer Cake with Easy Fudge Frosting
A light and flavorful vanilla cake iced with easy fudge buttercream. Perfect for a birthday celebration!
Yield: One 8 or 9-inch layer cake
For the cake:
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1¼ cups (297 ml, 10 fl oz) buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the frosting:
  • 6 oz (180 g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 4½ cups (563 g) powdered sugar (no need to sift)
  • 1½ cups (340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) whole milk or half and half
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To make the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 (or 3) 8 or 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, ¼ cup of the buttermilk, and the vanilla extract in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. Add the butter and remaining 1 cup of buttermilk. Mix on low speed until moistened, then increase the speed to medium high and beat until light and creamy, about 4 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the mixer in 3 additions, mixing only until incorporated and scraping the bowl down between each addition.
  5. Divide the batter between the 2 (or 3) prepared pans. Bake until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few dry crumbs, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting:
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate. Process until smooth, about 1 minute.
  2. To assemble the cake, place one layer (flat side up) on a plate or cake stand. Cover with the fudge frosting. Repeat with the remaining layers. Cover and frost the top and sides of the cake with the frosting.
  3. Place cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. Let come to room temperature before serving.
Notes: You may use either 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Bake 2 or 3 layers depending on desired look.

Recipe from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. Originally posted February 2011, updated April 2013.

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69 Responses to Vanilla Layer Cake with Easy Fudge Frosting (+ a First Birthday Party!)

  1. Maria says:

    Your cake looks perfect! Very nice job!

  2. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets says:

    This looks beautiful! But I understand your continued search for the perfect yellow cake, as I'm on a similar hunt. The one I've found that looks most promising and sounds like what you're looking for also is from Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. It uses both butter and oil as well as whipped cream in the batter and is even titled "magificently moist." Here is a link to where a blogger has posted it online: I'm planning to try it for my boyfriend's birthday caramel cake in March. Hope you like it!

  3. Roxan says:

    Oh my gosh, this cake turned out beautifully! You did a great job with the frosting. I don't think I could ever get mine to look as smooth as yours. This cake looks delicious… Mmm… I could totally go for some cake right now.

  4. Avril says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous cake! I too bake to as a form of feeling better….it's like my therapy! 🙂

    I'm delighted that I have discovered your blog!

  5. kaitlin says:

    yellow cake with chocolate frosting is always my favorite. hope all is well over there…summer is on it's way (i keep telling myself) which we can always look forward to 🙂

  6. Victor says:

    The frosting looks heavenly delicious!

  7. Georgia (The Comfort of Cooking) says:

    Wow, Annalise, this cake is heavenly! It just looks so soft and so flavorful. Yellow cake and chocolate are simply my favorite flavor combination, no doubts about it. You did such a beautiful job on this cake!

  8. Galexi Cupcakes says:

    That cake is so gorgeous it makes me want to cry tears of joy!!! I love your blog and have been following it for quite some time. Please feel free to visit my blog if ever..Jackie

  9. Mindy says:

    Ooh, I love, love this combination. You know, I have a buttermilk cake recipe that I use for the kid's birthday cakes that I think is pretty delicious. You are definitely welcome to it.

  10. Hannah says:

    Beautiful cake! I'm also on the hunt for the perfect yellow cake and the best candidate I've found is from Smitten Kitchen ( Give it a try!

  11. Delectable Delights with Rebecca says: this is my fave! I have a daughter Annalise! 🙂

  12. Sarah says:

    If you are looking for yellow cake. In Lebanese cooking was have a Semolina Cake. Its delicious. It’s called sfouf.

    • Lissa Brooks says:

      This recipe looks really interesting. I happen to have semolina flour for pasta making, but haven’t actually made pasta with it yet. Perhaps I’ll have to try this cake instead.

  13. Mary says:

    If you’re still looking for the perfect yellow cake, I have a wonderful recipe from the Kitchen Klatter Cookbook:

    Juliana’s Scrumptious Yellow Cake

    2/3 cup butter
    1 3/4 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    3 cups cake flour
    2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. salt
    1 1/4 cups milk

    Cream together butter and sugar until like whipped cream. Add eggs and flavoring and beat vigorously. Sift flour with baking powder and salt 3 times and stir in alternately with the milk. Turn into 2 9-inch layer cake pans, well greased and floured, and bake in a 350F oven for 30-35 minutes.
    This is a moist, tender and extremely rich cake. Tastes great frosted with sweetened whipped cream.

  14. Natasha says:

    Your cake looks amazing! I was wondering if I could use ‘cake and pastry’ flour instead of all purpose flour for your recipe?

  15. Farzana says:

    Do you ever make recipes that are egg free? My 2 year old has severe allergy (anaphylactic shock). This cake with choco frosting looks absolutely delicious.

  16. What a lucky birthday boy!

  17. Julie says:

    I thought this WAS the PERFECT yellow cake. Very delicious and moist. In my opinion, you can stop looking. It’s here. I may be a little biased as I am the proud grandma of that little guy but also the very proud ‘mom’ (in-law which I hate that part of the title) to this amazing baker. The day was wonderful. I have loved watching little John grow this past year and can’t wait for what is next with these great kids of mine. Love you! And yes, I worked my a** off this morning trying to get rid of the delicious food you made. 🙂

  18. Mr. & Mrs. P says:

    Awww. how cute are the photos of the birthday boy!!! Happy Birthday to John!!!

    The cake looks delicious!! The frosting looks so rich, creamy and chocolatey!! Yum!

  19. Flavia says:

    Happy birthday to your sweet John! I am so glad I got to meet him last year. I love all the pictures of his party and your cake looks fantastic! I will be hosting a birthday party for my mom later this year, and I think this cake would be perfect for her party. Glad you had a great time celebrating!

  20. Julie says:

    This looks amazing – I have to make 2 dozen cupcakes soon and yellow cake/chocolate frosting is my fave – could this recipe be done as cupcakes instead?


  21. Awww such a sweet baby!! And this cake?? SWOON!

  22. Lissa Brooks says:

    Your cake’s texture looks very much like ones you find in a store bakery (that’s a compliment… they might not taste good, but I love their very fine texture). How do you get that fine texture? All the cakes I’ve ever made have larger holes in them and don’t look nearly as smooth as this one does. Is it the method you use, which is technically reverse creaming? I’ve never tried that method, but Cook’s Illustrated uses it a lot.

    • Annalise says:

      I use reverse creaming with a lot of my cake recipes and always have great result. The largest contributor to the fine texture, though, is cake flour. It’s low protein content leaves baked goods very tender.

  23. Chelsea says:

    Happy birthday to John!!! He has grown up so fast, wow. Funny story, the way I found your blog in the first place was when I did a search for a fudgey chocolate frosting…I wanted to find one that used chocolate instead of cocoa powder. This led me to the original post for this recipe and It was the best chocolate frosting I have ever made, and since then every single recipe of yours I have made has never let me down. Glad it was a fun celebration!

  24. Looks like it was a beautiful day to celebrate. The cake looks delicious and I love the frosting all over John. Happy first little man!

  25. The perfect yellow cake? Right here my friend. Happy birthday to my favorite Daily John. I have photos just like that of Smudge, and they’ve become even more precious over time. XO

  26. Kristy says:

    Those pictures of John are awesome! So cute! Happy first birthday lil’ man. Cake looks delicious!

  27. Ive been on the hunt for a perfect yellow cake and this one looks wonderful! Pinned!

  28. This cake sounds just perfect! I love it! The pics of your little one are adorable!

  29. Stacey Ladesic says:

    I’m thinking of making this cake for my son’s 1st birthday this weekend. Can you tell me what the measurements and baking time is for the small cake? And what size pan did you use for it?

    • Annalise says:

      I baked the smaller cake in two 6-inch pans. I don’t remember the exact baking time, but I’d start checking on them after 20 minutes. Happy 1st birthday to your son!

  30. Katya says:

    to make the small cake, do you use the same amount of ingredients or would you 1/2 it?

    • Annalise says:

      I used the recipe listed here for both cakes, and just put some of the batter in the small pans before filling the big ones. If you wanted to just make a small cake, I’m afraid I don’t know the measurements for that.

  31. Tamara says:

    Made the cake – my first attempt at a cake not from a mix. Turned out marvelous! Cooled the layers overnight. Today will attempt icing, wish me luck . . .

  32. Tamara says:

    it worked out very well. . . at least 2 out of 3 layers. The third I baked in a silicone pan, which didn’t want to release the cake (weird, opposite of what happens when I bake bread in it). I baked the layers on day 1, refrigerated for about 24 hours, then frosted on day 2. My friends were delighted with the cake, thanks again!

  33. Stephanie says:

    Aww, happy belated birthday baby John! Children grow up super fast, but no worries, John will always be your baby boy. =)

  34. Kathleen A Hecklinger says:

    Hi there! How many people does this cake serve. We are expecting a crowd this weekend and I am wondering if I should attempt to cakes.


    • Annalise says:

      I’d say you can get anywhere to 12-16 slices out of an 8 or 9-inch layer cake, depending on how big of slices you want.

  35. Ima says:

    Dear Annalise,
    I just wanted to say thank you and congratulate you for such a wonderful blog. I was looking for directions on how to make a layer cake for my daughter’s first birthday and came across your post on how to build a layer cake. I knew I didn’t have to look any further. I was impressed by the quality of and amount of detail in your directions which clearly showed you were an expert worth trusting which such an important project 🙂 I followed your instructions and recipe for the vanilla cake with easy fudge frosting. It was a huge success. The cake tasted delicious and looked really nice (see link). My guests were very impressed and I was very proud. I don’t usually write comments or reviews but I just had to say something It was very important to me to make my baby girl a nice, delicious first birthday cake. Thank you so much for your help. Best, Ima.

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  37. Ashlee says:

    Hey, i love the recipe i use it all the time..
    do you have a recipe you use for chocolate cake?
    or do you just add cocoa into this one?

  38. I made this cake last night, refrigerated the layers, then topped it with a marshmallow buttercream frosting tonight. I used your post about building a layer cake and baking it at 300 really made a difference for flat layers! I used 1/2 tsp of almond extract instead of vanilla. It all came out beautifully!!

  39. Kayla says:

    In the photo did you double the recipe for the 3 layers or did you use the recipe as is?

    • Annalise says:

      I used the recipe as provided here. I like taller cakes, so I’ll often bake two layers and then cut them in half to make 4 layers. Since I also made a little smash cake with some of the batter, this time I opted to instead bake 3 separate 8-inch layers for the large cake. I hope that makes sense?

  40. La Donna Fuller says:

    This I like my nephew is turning one in three more weeks I will make this for him this is the big boy needs and I to love cake I hope to post the pictures of my big guy enjoying his own personal cake family of women and this is the first male in years this is show on my side of the family thanks for the recipe

  41. Sonja says:

    I found your site through a Google search on how to make layer cakes. This recipe looked perfect for what I needed! I decided to adapt it slightly to make a marble cake and baked it in a 9×13 pan. I will have to slice it for the layers, something I am not that great at but will Google it. The theme will be Angry Birds Star Wars and I will use your chocolate frosting recipe! I am sure it will turn out amazing! Thanks for the great recipe and wonderful tips!

  42. Sonja says:

    The cake was a huge hit! Everyone loved it and it tasted amazing! I loved how easy the frosting was to make. This is definitely going to be a “go to” recipe for me from now on. You can see a picture of the cake here:

  43. […] I baked this layered cake for everyone but of course, I baked a separate little one for Nathan. Betty Crocker had some adorable ideas for smash cakes. Did you know they had an official name like that? […]

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  45. jack l says:

    As per Lisa Brooks above, the fine crumb texture of your cake is exactly what I have been trying to achieve, but your instructions of beating the dry ingredients for such a long time typically results in a cornbread like texture. But if you’re sure of it, I am willing to give it a try!!!

    • Annalise says:

      Hi Jack! The process of beating the dry ingredients along with the butter and sugar, then adding in the liquids is known as the Reverse Creaming Method and it is used a lot in the cookbook where this recipe comes from – Sky High Cakes. I’ve never had any issues with texture or crumb of this cake. Hope this information is helpful!

  46. dohaa says:

    hey! i’ve made this cake twice and its alright but a tad dry? any tips? am i doing something wrong?

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  48. Kathryn says:

    I baked this as cupcakes. I baked at 350 for 20 minutes & they were perfectly done. They were very tasty, but ended up a funny oval shape…every single one. This recipe probably lends itself better to cake rather than cupcakes. Don’t get me wrong, they were delicious. Plus, if you put enough of that delicious chocolate frosting on top you hardly notice the funny shape. Will definitely save this recipe for cake in the future & will keep searching for a good vanilla cupcake recipe.

  49. Gina says:

    This is the exact recipe on Been waiting to try this cake. Think I’ll move it up on my to do list.

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