Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting: only in America…

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All right, I’m about to ask a potentially heretical question:

How come my homemade cake is never quite as moist (and therefore as compelling) as cake made from a typical boxed mix?

Maybe it’s simply the way most of us are brought up – me included. I mean, we grow up believing that moistness is the single leading characteristic that distinguishes a so-so cake from one that’s truly worthy of frosting and birthday candles.

Remember back in the ’70s, when Pillsbury came out with its Pillsbury Plus cake mix? The callout splashed across the front of the box read, “There’s pudding in the mix, to give you the moistness and flavor of scratch cake.”

Pudding in the mix, huh? Well, THAT certainly sounds moist. Bring it on!

These days, the leading national brands on your supermarket shelf include Betty Crocker’s “SuperMoist®” cake, as well as Duncan Hines’ “Moist Deluxe.”

And how about Pillsbury’s current bow to moist cake?

Try “Moist Supreme.”

When you get right down to it, American’ tastes in cake are far different than Europeans’. An Austrian Sacher Torte, without its layer of apricot glaze and thick cover of fudge icing, is actually rather dry. And this is true of most Continental cakes I’ve sampled; the cake seems to serves simply as a rather austere base for frosting and filling.

Now, serve a cake like that to a typical American, and s/he’ll smile politely, hide a stealthy grimace, and politely push the plate aside.

Thus, my quest for the past year or so: bake a perfectly moist cake. A yellow cake, to be precise. With chocolate frosting.

Now, I wasn’t after soggy-moist; “sodden” isn’t an adjective I’d happily pair with “cake.”

But I did want a fine, moist crumb, one that didn’t feel like sawdust in my mouth. I wanted to take a bite of cake, and not immediately seek relief with a glass of milk.

And, you know what? I’ve tinkered around with a bunch of recipes and found one I really like.

Butter, eggs, and yogurt or sour cream seem to strike the perfect moist note: not too heavy, but not at all dry or sawdust-y.

A generous amount of vanilla (and a touch of almond) bring out the flavor of this simple cake. And pourable chocolate frosting, which sets to a fudge-like consistency, is the perfect complement.

But don’t take my word for it; bake this cake. If you’ve got a better recipe, please share it on our Baking Circle community.

I’m always happy to be one-upped!

First, let’s check out a couple of new ingredients-

Our new vanilla is a proprietary blend of full-bodied Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, and aromatic Tahitian vanilla. Stronger and more concentrated than run-of-the-mill vanillas, its rich, distinctive vanilla flavor comes through beautifully in all your favorite baked treats.

Our new all-purpose baking cocoa is perfect for ALL of your cocoa recipes; no more having to choose between different cocoas. Our blend of natural and Dutch process cocoas features the bright, bold, “pure chocolate” flavor of natural cocoa; and the rich, mellow notes of Dutch-process. Use it in cake and cookies. Use it in fudge sauce and ganache. Enjoy it everywhere.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan that’s at least 2″ deep; for extra protection against sticking, line the pan with parchment, and grease the parchment.

Put 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup room-temperature unsalted butter in a mixing bowl, and beat until very well combined.

Add 2 large eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each. After you’ve added the second egg, beat at high speed for 2 minutes; the batter will lighten in color and become fluffy.

Add the following, stirring to combine:

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Next, you’re going to add 1 2/3 cups (7 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt; low-fat is OK, but please don’t use nonfat.

Can you substitute sour cream for the yogurt? Sure. Full-fat is best; and low-fat is OK, but avoid nonfat – the cake’s texture will suffer.

Now, don’t just dump the flour and yogurt into the bowl and beat; here’s how to do it:

Starting and ending with the flour, alternately add 1/3 of the flour, half the yogurt, 1/3 of the flour, the remaining yogurt, and the remaining flour. Beat gently to combine after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s golden brown on top.

How can you tell for sure that the cake’s done?

A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it; and the edges will have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan.

After 10 minutes, turn the cake out of the pan, and peel away the parchment.

Set the cake onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Sift 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar into a bowl.

Do you REALLY have to sift it? Yes, you do. If you don’t have a sifter, just shake it through a sieve. You don’t want any hard little nuggets or lumps.

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons cocoa, natural or Dutch-process (our new cocoa blend works well here); and 1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt (low-fat is fine).

Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, but it really brings out the icing’s flavor, without adding any coffee flavor of its own).

Add the chocolate mixture to the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl; beat until smooth.

Quickly pour the hot frosting atop the cake.

Note that you need to work quickly once you add the hot butter mixture to the confectioners’ sugar. The frosting pours easily when warm, flowing across the cake and down its sides, then drying to a glossy sheen.

If you dub around, though, and let it cool, you’re going to be applying frosting to cake with a spatula. It’ll still taste just dandy, but it won’t be nearly as pretty.

The frosting recipe makes a generous amount. It’ll flow over the sides of the cake and pool a bit around the edge of the plate. To keep things neat, slip strips of parchment or waxed paper between cake and plate; frost the cake; and when the frosting is done oozing, gently tug the strips of paper out, taking the frosting with them and leaving a clean plate. Enjoy the extra frosting on ice cream.

Or simply run your finger around the edge of the cake and… c’mon, I KNOW that’s what you’re thinking!

Slice the cake, serve, and enjoy an absolutely classic American-style, moist yellow cake. With deep-dark, fudgy chocolate icing.

Oh, and by the way – one small tweak transforms this recipe into one for Boston Cream Pie. Split the cake into two rounds before frosting; fill with about 2 cups of your favorite pastry cream filling or vanilla pudding, and frost as directed.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. puppyfuzz

    I’ve always wondered why cake mix directions call for beating the batter for several minutes, yet the cakes are never tough. Is it simply because the flour they contain is super low in gluten?? Thanks :)

    Exactly so. Cake flour is super low in protein, about 7% in most cases. Frank @ KAF.

    Also, it has to do with the flour in cake mixes being bleached; there’s usually more sugar in a boxed cake mix, which helps tenderize the cake; and the dry ingredients are often pre-blended with fat, which also helps keep gluten from becoming tough. PJH

    Reply
  2. said the hobbit

    I promised myself I would take a break from baking ,but, with hubby’s birthday this week I think I’ll have to put the apron on and give this recipe a try………..It’s what he ask for every year. Yellow cake and chocolate frosting. He’ll be 71 this year so maybe it’s time to give him what he ask for…….Can’t help it I love chocolate cake.

    I love chocolate, to, but I really think you’ll fall in love with this cake – the frosting/cake combo is a wonderful balance of flavors. Enjoy! And happy birthday to hubby – PJH

    Reply
  3. lauried

    I can’t believe you had the nerve to admit what I, and I suspect many others, have thought. My family prefers DH’s classic yellow cake to all others, but not from a lack of trying to make a moist and tender cake with a tight crumb. I will try this for the next birthday. PJ, your posts always bring a smile to my face. Thank you!

    I was hesitant indeed – who wants to admit they can’t bake a cake as good as Duncan? Believe me, we all secretly whisper about this in the test kitchen… but the result is, we work extra-hard to figure out how to address this issue! This recipe is one result. Give it a try and let us know what you think, Laurie – PJH

    Reply
  4. tangrene

    Wondering if this cake is sturdy enough for stacking multiple layers for a large decorated cake…such as wedding or party cakes? And also how well it do being prepared a day ahead of decorating day? IF it is sturdy enough and moist enough to sit for a day or so before serving then it would be a good option for the rare times someone asks for a special cake out of yellow cake.

    It’s definitely sturdy enough and, in my experience, stayed nice and moist for several days. Not sure how it would take to being made into gigantic layers with 4 or 5 or 8 stacked atop one another – no guarantees, but I don’t see why not. Enjoy – PJH

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  5. Amy

    Hi! Silly question, but how did you flatten the dome of your cake? Was it just by inverting it on a rack and squishing it?

    Not silly at all, Amy – it just settled naturally as it cooled. Very cooperative! PJH

    Reply
  6. Baking Soda

    You made me smile! Being Dutch and baking American as well as European recipes I know there’s a difference between “our” moist and “yours” but I have to admit there’s always that tiny hesitation when I cut a cake; is this what it’s supposed to be or did I underbake? LOL
    Glad you adressed the issue! Just have to add we don’t like sawdust cakes either, in my family they’re called: cough-cakes ;-)

    Like that – cough cakes. “Harrumph!” :) PJH

    Reply
  7. Cindy Leigh

    PJ, if I only have fat free yogurt, should I replace a tbsp of the yogurt with a tbsp of vegetable oil?

    Yes, Cindy, that would be a good idea – PJH

    Reply
  8. wingboy

    PJ, you are an evil woman ;)

    How am I going to shed the turkey/stuffing/mashed potato/green bean casserole/cranberry sauce/butter bun/ham/candied yam/pumpkin pie/cheese fondue ‘excess’ when you dangle recipes like this right in front of me?

    OK, OK. It’s not the New Year yet. Since it’s still the Holiday Season we can try this recipe.

    Right after New Year’s, though, the fridge is going to be stocked with nothing but carrots, lettuce, broccoli, celery, apples . . . wait. Apples. I saved a recipe that called for apples and butter and cinnamon . . .

    That’s me, WB, totally eeeeeevil…. I’m with you on trying to recover from the holidays, though, diet-wise. Whole grains are my mantra for awhile. And maybe you can share that apple/butter/cinnamon recipe with me, eh? :) PJH

    Reply
  9. TrishaT

    Hi PJ,

    I hope you are having a Merry Christmas! This post reminds me of a question I was going to call the hotline with. My grandma’s rum cake recipe calls for the kind of moist cake mix that includes pudding (or taking regular yellow cake mix and adding a box of pudding). Do you think this recipe would be a good substitute? I’d like to make her signature rum cake without all of the additives in mixes. Thanks for your help!

    I think this would be a good substitute, Trisha – no guarantees, but I don’t see why not. Have fun with Grandma’s recipe – I LOVE those rum cakes… PJH

    Reply
  10. Packer1

    I recently heard on a food television program that baking recipes should never be doubled because the ratio somehow changes. If I want to bake a two-layer cake with this recipe, how would I change the ingredients? Also, would there be enough frosting for both layers? Thanks!

    There’ll be probably JUST enough frosting for 2 layers, provided you don’t need to spread it thickly over the sides, but rather drizzle it over top and bottom layers. And you can double all the ingredients except the baking powder and baking soda; those can remain the same. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  11. reinecke53

    I am so excited to try this cake mostly because it only makes one layer. I needed a “small cake” recipe so that I did not have so much left over. And, this is my favorite combination :)

    Reply
  12. trishaslp

    Since your new vanilla is more concentrated than what I’ve been using, do I have to adjust the amounts I use, if I bake with a different brand?

    Trish, just use 1:1; if you find yourself thinking the vanilla taste is too strong, then cut back a bit. But I love vanilla, so I’d be inclined to just use whatever amount is called for in the recipe. Cheers! PJH

    Reply
  13. mvarelas

    PJ, could you make the cake in a canning jar? I would like to make some and send them to my nephew who is in the Army. He would have to do without the frosting.

    No idea, I’ve never tried it. If you try it and it works out, let us know – sounds interesting! PJH

    Reply
  14. Ann Onymous

    Yet another recipe that calls for a cup of yogurt, which these days means buying 2 containers and adding 2 oz. from one container to the other to make a full cup — then dealing with the leftover 4 oz. Not complaining about your recipe — I’m complaining about how the downsizing of yogurt and other products/ingredients has totally messed up a lot of my old recipes, and now some new ones, too!

    At least sour cream hasn’t jumped on the downsizing bandwagon yet, and you can still find 8 oz. in one container. I’m bracing for the day sticks of butter are only 7 Tbsp.!

    AO, feel free to substitute 6 ounces of yogurt and 2 ounces of milk; I often do that myself, and in fact, meant to add that info. to the recipe… Thanks for the reminder! PJH

    Reply
  15. Brenda

    Don’t know about this cake, but their favorite fudge birthday cake came out perfectly as cake in a jar, and my cake lover son-in-law is enjoying the 6 mini cakes I gave him for Christmas. People at work also enjoyed the ones I took in because they were too full to put on the lids (used the amount of batter called for in directions, which didn’t fill the number of jars specified).

    Reply
  16. lizardastasia

    I have a friend who doesn’t eat butter. Is there a substitute for butter that would work in this recipe? Or is the real butter key?

    Real butter’s a key, but you could try a full-fat (not “lite”) margarine… That would probably be the best substitute. PJH

    Reply
  17. bistokidsfan

    Ann Onymous: Get yourself a yogurt cheese strainer and drain off a little of the whey. It makes for sweeter yogurt and tastier recipes. This will take care of the “extra”. Also, it’s very good for other recipes that call for cream cheese – less fat.

    Reply
  18. oldone

    Somehow I must have goofed here as I posted this question earlier today but don’t find it here. Age isn’t always a good thing, one supposes.

    A two inch deep cake pan? I have a springform pan that size, but thin batters tend to leak out. Should I try it? Thanks.

    Oldone

    Well, this isn’t a particularly thin batter – it should be OK. Maybe you should wrap your springform in aluminum foil, to contain any leaks? PJH

    Reply
  19. judikins

    I wonder if you could comment on the differences between this cake and your “Golden Vanilla Cake” which has been my “go-to” yellow cake for a long time. I can see the difference in method (reverse creaming versus classical creaming) and the use of yogurt instead of milk, difference in the ratio of fat to flour and the yield of single versus double layer. Just wondering how these differences are reflected in the final results. I love to compare recipes and see how small changes affect the end product. Must be the scientist in me! Thanks for your insights.

    IMHO, the cakes are very similar in flavor, but this classic yellow cake is moister – which was my goal… PJH

    Reply
  20. milkwithknives

    HA! It’s true! People are always sheepish when they have to admit to using a boxed cake mix, but it’s true, too, that scratch cakes are somehow always dry in comparison. I gave up being embarrassed about cake mixes ages ago (it’s impossible to screw those things up!) and use them all the time, but now you appear to have cracked the code, PJ! The next cake opportunity that comes up I’m going to try out this recipe, probably with the Boston Cream filling. I’ll also just leave the slobby frosting on the plate since most people don’t seem to be averse to a little extra frosting. Thanks for reigniting my interest in homemade cakes! -Erin

    P.S. I had to laugh about the cough cakes. I was at a birthday party years ago enjoying a piece of perfectly yummy homemade cake which was, you guessed it, a little bit dry. My brother said something funny, I started laughing, and I somehow inhaled the little sawdusty cake crumbs and then coughed them back out in a perfect fan formation across the table. Family was equal parts horrified and hooting laughter. (head shaking)

    Dry cake occasioning a memorable moment – I’m glad it was your family around you and not some stodgy group of business associates! PJH

    Reply
  21. martibeth

    I don’t think anything can beat the 1-2-3-4 cake with 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs. Quite often I will add a fifth egg. I also use 1 cup buttermilk or sour cream. I’ve never found this cake to be dry. It’s wonderful unfrosted, but of course, hard to improve on the classic yellow cake/chocolate frosting combo.

    Just baked these side by side, Marti – have to say, I like the Classic Yellow better. Rose higher, deeper crust color, more buttery flavor… though 1-2-3-4 was definitely very good (and I had a nice big helping of each!) PJH

    Reply
  22. fran16250

    PJ,
    I grew up adding salt, baking powder and baking soda to the flour. I’ve noticed lately it being added to the creamed mixture. Is it critical in this recipe? It just seems to me it would be more evenly distributed by mixing it with the flour first. This looks great, I love single layer recipe as my family is not too keen on cakes. I might try a layer of peanut butter filling under the frosting for a tandy cake re-do. yum! Happy New Year!! Fran

    Oooh, Fran, now THAT sounds good – PB and chocolate. I just pulled this cake out of the oven again – wanted to compare it to the classic 1-2-3-4 cake people usually cite as their favorite. Looks like the texture would be sturdy enough for spreading with PB – go for it! PJH

    Reply
  23. mamsis

    Like Fran, I wanted to ask why the salt and leavener is added to the creamed part of this recipe, rather than sifted into the flour. My husband LOVES Boston Cream Pie, so this is a recipe to be baked at our house soon. Thanks again fo all your great recipes, information, and advice.

    The flour and yogurt are added to the creamed mixture alternately. Adding the flour and leavening alternately with the acid of the yogurt would create different results. We hope you trust our tried and true method for making this cake. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  24. wozniaksusan

    What is this cheerleading for box cakes all about? I bake something called Demeter’s Ricotta Cake, a recipe that came from a friend who is a classics instructor which is basically ricotta and eggs bound together with yellow cake batter. The original calls for a yellow cake mix. Cake mix? With its cardboard taste? You expect me to waste a pound of expensive ricotta and 8 eggs by using a cake mix!

    Perish the thought! I used a recipe from that icon of American cooking: The Joy of Cooking. The next time I make the cake, I will use this recipe.

    Cake mixes indeed!

    Reply
  25. mkasten

    I’m always scoping out new yellow cake recipes – it’s my husband’s favorite kind. I tried the KAF Golden Layer Cake once and found it too dry. I also usually use a slightly modified 1-2-3-4 cake, but with 5 eggs, buttermilk and altitude tweaks; since you say this one is even moister, I’m excited to try it. A single layer cake is nice to have when you don’t want a lot of leftovers around the house. Thanks for the recipe!

    I’d be interested to try the 1-2-3-4 with your tweaks – maybe it would be a step up from this Classic Yellow! But I do think I’d increase the vanilla in the 1-2-3-4… Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  26. Susan

    This sounds perfect, really like that it makes only one layer. So, bring on the chocolate version, who doesn’t need chocolate. I’ll be watching my email for that one.

    No need to wait, Susan – here’s the best single-layer, easy chocolate cake recipe ever: Cake Pan Cake. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  27. nancysch

    I made a Boston Cream Pie using this cake and icing last night. The cake was perfectly moist and sliced in half with ease. I have always loved my grandmother’s chocolate icing that is made with nearly the same ingredients, however the method was different. This is, hands down, much better in both taste and appearance. My cake was so pretty! I believe I will use it on my (aforementioned) grandmother’s Wacky Cake the next time I bake one.

    Reply
  28. hobbit

    Made the cake for hubby’s B-day. It was fantastic. I was surprised at how high the cake was. It came out of the pan with no problem.Frosting was excellent but, I couldn’t possible use all the recipe called for. Do you think it would hold up in puff pastry? Always liked chocolate croissant. Or, maybe I could eat it 1 tablespoon at a time like my memere taught me.

    I think you’d best eat this as a topping on your baked croissant; it wouldn’t hold up as a filling. And, of course, it’s delicious simply enjoyed a spoonful at a time… :) PJH

    Reply
  29. nancysch

    Me again- I just clicked on the Cake Pan Cake link above and guess what? That is the Wacky Cake recipe I was referring to before! Only difference is my grandmother baked it in a 9×13 pan. When it came out of the oven, she poked holes in the cake with a fork and poured the icing (also still warm) onto the cake, forcing it into the holes. Now I will definitely try it using the above icing recipe!
    (btw my grandmother was a Rosie The Riveter during WWII and this cake was called “wacky” because it was mixed and made in the pan, called for vinegar and used no eggs.)

    Great idea, Nancy – I’ve made “poke cake” before, but never a chocolate version! I’m going for it next time… And yes, this is definitely a WWII recipe – and these days, ideal for vegans! PJH

    Reply
  30. Lulu

    I read that you can substitute sour cream for the yogurt in the cake, but can you also substitute sour cream for the yogurt in the frosting?

    Absolutely, Lulu – go for it! PJH

    Reply
  31. Muniyrah

    This was my first homemade yellow cake and frosting. I served dinner at my mom’s house so after eating my daughter called me over in the corner and said please don’t tell Sunshine (my mother) but this cake is the best cake she ever tasted in her life! It was a wonderful compliment. Thank you for such a superb recipe. I see a few more that I’d like to try so keep ‘em coming!

    Reply
  32. nelll

    Since ObsesseedBaker is asking about Marble Cake, what about those checkerboard cakes? I have a checkerboard cake pan, and would like to use it, but the recipe on the box makes – you guessed it – cough-cake (that’s a term that’s definitely got to get into the language). Very dry and rather flavorless. The cake is all show. So I’ve only used the pan once.

    I’d dearly love to use it again. It seems to need a fairly stiff batter to keep the dark and light rings from running into each other. Any ideas?
    I’m not sure of the volume of your cake pan, but the marble cake recipe may be worth a try. ~Amy

    Don’t see why this wouldn’t work in your checkerboard pan it seems like it would be the right volume… Let us know how it comes out, OK? PJH

    Reply
  33. Nutrilisa

    Dear PJ, I made this cake for my New Year’s Eve dinner desert and it was wonderful! It complimented my Surf & Turf dinner perfectly! Your directions were spot on and the results were enjoyed by all! Thanks for all your help to make my New Year’s start with something so delicious and easy. Regards Nutrilisa.

    Thanks for your positive feedback, Nutrilisa – and a very happy new year to you, too! PJH

    Reply
  34. pleasespammenow

    Wondering if it’s possible to make the frosting with melted chocolate instead of cocoa, and if so how?
    Yes, it will work as long as the melted chocolate is cooled after melting and is close to the temperature of the frosting before it is added and incorporated. ~Amy

    Reply
  35. Rhonda

    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday and it came out excellent. The frosting however…not so much. It tasted good but it wasn’t thin enough to pour over the cake. I had to spoon it on the cake and spread it with a knife…any ideas what I did wrong?

    Measuring the powdered sugar is just like measuring the flour. You’ll want to fluff it up before spooning it into the cup, always sift after measuring. If you “dip” it out you’ll have too much. This could make the icing thicker than expected. Frank @ KAF.

    Also, if you waited even a touch too long to pour – it hardens quickly, and that might be what happened… PJH

    Reply
  36. mkasten

    PJH, I’d love to share my yellow cake recipe with altitude tweaks. (blush!) Here it is:

    Moist Yellow Cake (at 4500 ft)

    3 1/4 c cake flour
    1Tb (-1/8tsp) baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 c butter, room temp
    1 3/4 c sugar
    5 large eggs, room temp
    2 tsp vanilla
    1 1/4 c buttermilk

    Sift 1st 3 ingredients. Set aside.
    Beat butter 4min on MedHigh until butter is light and creamy.
    Add sugar 1/4 c at a time, beating 1min after each addition. Scrape bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time and mix.
    Add vanilla to buttermilk.
    Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape bowl and mix again for 15sec.
    Spoon batter into buttered&parchment lined (or baking spray) 2 8×2-inch pans or 1 9×13-inch pan. The batter is very thick. Smooth top with knife or spatula. Drop pans onto counter from few inches to burst any large air bubbles or drag a knife edge-on through batter.
    Bake 350F on baking stone until cake is light brown and comes away from the sides and a toothpick in center comes out clean, ~35min.

    Notes: This makes 2 great TALL layers. It is similar to a 1-2-3-4 cake with adjustments for baking at 4500ft (although it has 5 eggs, not 4). The original recipe calls for 3c cake flour, full Tbs b.powder, full 2c sugar. Bake on a stone or not, whatever you prefer. If not, you will probably bake longer. The voice of experience says don’t open the oven door until your cakes are pretty well-baked, though, or they are apt to fall.
    Cheers!
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with us. We are always looking for more high altitude resources for our customers and this is so helpful. ~Amy

    Thanks – I’ll bet the buttermilk makes it wonderfully tender… PJH

    Reply
  37. Adele1791

    Hi PJ and Frank,

    Thanks for the helpful hints…I took another stab at making this cake as a Boston Cream Pie this time and the frosting came out just as you show in the pictures :) and my husband loved it! This will be a family favorite for years to come.

    Excellent, Adele – thanks for reporting back and sharing your results. Glad you’re able to add this recipe to your “family favorites” collection! PJH

    Reply
  38. "Denise at Shadylane"

    I doubled the cake recipe (keeping the baking powder and baking soda the same) and baked this in three 8-inch layers. My husband loves cherries and the “idea” of Black Forest cake but doesn’t really like chocolate (I know, and I STILL love him). So for his birthday, I followed the instructions for Black Forest cake using this cake and renamed it White Forest cake, including topping it with shaved white chocolate :) It was incredibly moist and flavorful. The almond flavoring was perfect with the cherry and whipped cream filling. This will definitely become my go-to recipe for yellow cake. Yummy doesn’t even come close to describing how delicious this was (and still is 4 days later).

    Reply
  39. Jamie

    Have you ever tried using this batter for cupcakes? If so, any suggestions? Also, do you think it would matter if greek yogurt was used? Thank you!

    Jamie, I haven’t, but it’s on my list to try. Only suggestion would be baking a shorter amount of time. And I think Greek yogurt would be fine. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  40. srizilla

    i’ve tried this and i like it, but i’m confused by some key differences from the classic yellow cake in the king arthur cookbook. essentially most of it seems to be 75-85% scaled back, which i get–a larger one layer as opposed to a two layer recipe. of course there are some other differences like the amount of vanilla etc but the difference that i don’t understand is in the baking powder and baking soda amounts. i posted the question via email to the bakers but the response i got really didn’t shed any light on what difference this makes to the recipe and why the proportions are so much different than the classic yellow in the cookbook or frankly to the typical ratios as i understand them–1 cup flour to 1 tsp of baking powder or 1/4 tsp of baking soda. the proportions are SO much higher in this recipe. clearly it doesn’t fail, but i don’t understand the rationale for it. also, i don’t understand why this recipe gets such a nice golden brown crust but the other doesn’t seem to. by the way, for others wondering, i’ve tried full fat sour cream, whole milk vanilla yogurt, and in the past milk/buttermilk. liked the vanilla yogurt one better–seemed less dense than the sour cream, and liked all better than the milk version. can’t remember how the buttermilk version compared so i’m trying that again today. i’d appreciate the insight regarding the baking powder/soda though. always trying to learn and better my baking w the help of KAF!

    Let me begin by saying cake baking is my weakest “subject” – I’m more a yeast bread baker, so I welcome anyone else – KA, or readers – to jump in here. Also, you may want to pose this question on our community, where I’m sure you’d get some good answers – probably better than you’ll get from me!

    Looking at the two recipes, I think the added baking soda in the online recipe covers the fact that the recipe calls specifically for acidic dairy; and thus it needs a certain amount of baking soda. The recipe in the book calls for either acidic or non-acidic dairy, so I’m not surprised it calls for less baking soda. As for why this online recipe doesn’t follow the classic proportions for leavening – I think it’s a case of it veered off the path at some point, it worked, and we just left it as is. WHY it worked – again, must be the requirement for acidic dairy. The added baking soda is also why it browns better – baking soda increases “brownability,” if I remember my kitchen chemistry correctly. If you’d like more information on this, you might try contacting our bakers via LiveChat – if the one you’re chatting with isn’t able to help, ask to be connected with one of our expert cake bakers, OK? Susan Reid, editor of our Baking Sheet newsletter, would probably be the one… PJH

    Reply
  41. Cathy

    Can you use cake flour for this recipe? Would it make it moister and lighter? How much cake flour would you use?

    Cathy, I haven’t tried it, so no guarantees; but it should be fine. If you want to give it a go, use 2 tablespoons additional cake flour (compared to AP flour). let us know how it works out, OK? PJH

    Reply
  42. srizilla

    well, PJ, i appreciated your very thoughtful reply to my questions and your humble honesty. not having any way that i could find to directly contact susan reid, i posted some questions to the baking community as you suggested. frankly, i don’t think i’ll be going back there–let’s just say not all the responders share the same supportive character as the KAF baking experts and one left me really upset. as a home baker, the last thing i need is to be belittled when i’m trying to learn and better my baking. i did try the buttermilk again and have settled on vanilla yogurt. i also tried adding pudding mix ala cake mix style (as i’ve been hybridizing the cookbook yellow and yours) and it made for a very moist cake but i just couldn’t stomach making a scratch cake and adding pudding mix. since pudding mix is mostly sugar and cornstarch, i added some cornstarch ala your fudge birthday cake and upped the sugar and that added considerable moistness. it’s not quite perfect but close though still lacking the golden crust of yours despite the baking soda (not in as high proportions as your recipe). i was befuddled by the texture of some of my interim trials but i guess i’ll continue to wonder or research on my own. thanks again.

    I’m sorry you had an unhappy experience on our community – that makes me feel very sad. I wonder why people can’t understand that baking is a pleasurable pursuit, not something to which you bring your negative energy? Alas… Anyway, I’ll get in touch with you and send you Susan’s email, OK? I think she’d be happy to discuss cakes with you. Take care – PJH

    Reply
  43. foxsmama

    I made this cake into cupcakes yesterday. They were perfectly moist and delicious, but they fell when I took them out of the oven, and the edges were a little brown. Should I try decreasing my oven temp to 350?

    Before adjusting temperature, try adjusting oven placement. Move the rack 1 slide lower, this may solve the over browning. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  44. Dhanya

    Hello PJH! I’m a complete novice at baking, yet I dared to try your recipe today :) It was my first-ever-bake too! Having never used an oven before, it was not – what they say – a cake-walk ;) however, except for some initial goof-ups in turning the oven on (yes, I said it right – Turning the oven ON :$ )…everything went well :) your recipe was perfect and the detailed walk-through with pictures was such a comforting aid :) I ran out of yoghurt so I substituted it with equal proportions of buttermilk…still the cake came out beautifully :) Instead of your chocolate glaze, I made a normal vanilla glaze (husband hates chocolate temporarily!!) and now my cake is sitting in the refrigerator :) Thanks to you, my first baking experience is a breezy memory I will carry forever…and thanks for inspiring me to bake again! Cheers :)
    Wow Dhanya! For being a first time EVER baker! And you even had to improvise with ingredients. That is pretty darn good. You need to keep going with this idea of baking. Don’t put it down. What are you going to try next? Elisabeth

    Reply
  45. Dhanya

    Thanks oh-so-much for your kind words, Elisabeth :) And yes…having baked this one to flourish, I literally couldn’t stop baking…Quite smitten, I should say ;) After the yellow cake, I tried a few others in the past weeks – Banana-walnut bread, Chocolate chip cookies, Apple spice muffins with Streusel topping – and my beginner’s luck must still be on – all of those came out beautifully :) Nothing too difficult, yet it was nothing short of magic for me (I goofed up turning on ovens, remember?! ;) ) Next I’m going to try and build a Train cake for a little fella’s birthday, who is crazy about “choo choo trains” :D Planning to make loaf cakes out of your Classic yellow cake recipe…freeze and cut them into engines and carriages…and frost & decorate them based on another recipe I found online :D Gonna be fun! Ah! Can’t wait to turn that oven on again ;)

    Reply
  46. Nancy Ferrero

    I just made the cake and it really was moist and delicious. It was just what i was looking for. i made a pan frosting using cocoa. My question is why did it sink in the center? Not a lot but it was not as pretty as yours. The batter went together nicely and it seemed perfect not over beaten. What do you think happened?.

    This is a perfect time to call our Baker’s Hotline!We will be more than happy to help answer your question over the phone or over our online chat.-Jon 855 371 2253

    Reply
  47. Lulu

    To make a 9×13″ cake, would you double this recipe, or 1.5x it? Any suggestions on how long to bake that size?

    If it’s just a one layer 9×13 you will not need to double the recipe. If you want 2 layers then double the recipe. Add another 5-10 minutes to the bake time.

    Reply
  48. Kristen

    I was in search of a moist and flavorful vanilla cake recipe. I have my go to cupcake recipe but I wanted something more dense for my cakes that can hold up to fondant or stacking. I have tried a few recipes and they were good but either lacked flavor or were not moist enough. I made this in two 6″ pans and trust me there was more than enough batter to make 2 6″ cakes, nice thick layers. I used half the batter following the recipe exactly and to the remaining batter I wanted to add a couple of tbsps. of vanilla pudding powder as I have been told that adds additional flavor and moisture. I have had three different co workers try the cake, in particular the different layers, both were moist and delicious (ok yes I did try a little piece of the top I cut off last night and it was yummers but I know the real test is when it cools) they felt that both layers were moist but the addition of the vanilla pudding powder had a bit more moisture and flavor. This recipe was simple and I do feel the added vanilla and the almond extract really gave the flavor. I am glad I finally found my go to vanilla cake recipe because I had go to recipes for all my other cakes but vanilla. This was perfect (even without the vanilla pudding additon), moist and flavor but most important super easy. Will use this from now on! Thanks for this recipe, you saved my culinary life ha ha ha.

    Reply
  49. Rachel

    This was delicious. I doubled the cake (without doubling baking soda and powder!) and it made a beautiful 9×13 cake. The only two things were that the cake was a little dense, vs fluffy like a mix cake. Did I over mix it? Also my icing was not at all pourable. I had to add a tablespoon or so of hot milk and then it was great. It was a gritty separated messin the pan so I messed it up somehow!

    Delicious and great flavor, though. Very moist. My new go to!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Glad to hear the cake was up to snuff, Rachel, if not the icing; not sure what might have happened there, unless you didn’t sift the confectioners’ sugar, or used kind of a heavy hand when measuring? This cake won’t be as light and fluffy as a box mix; it’s just not that kind of cake. Box mixes use chemicals, including bleach, to help with their signature texture; and we don’t add chemicals to our cakes, so that’s the difference. Thanks for sharing here – PJH

  50. samina

    I don’t use any extracts, only have vanilla flavoring at home, what can I use to make the cake not bland? (nutmeg, cinnamon, okay?) I’ve bought the KA unbleached cake flour blend, do I use the same amount as the recipe? Btw, adding weight measurements to the ingredient list would be very helpful.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      If your vanilla is good quality, you can always try using more (say an additional teaspoon) to boost the flavor a bit. There’s no reason a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg wouldn’t be wonderful in this cake; just enough to give it a bit of je ne sais quoi. You could also try switching up the liquid from cow’s milk to coconut milk for an interesting twist. If you click on the link for the recipe, you’ll have an easier time. Once you’re at the recipe you can toggle back and forth from volume to weight measurements. Susan

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