Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting

I always jump at the chance to bring dessert when having dinner with friends.  Thankfully my friends are all understanding of my compulsive desire to cook, bake, and blog about it so they happily oblige.  But once committed, I often do this thing – I make the decision of exactly what to bring into a life or death decision.  I pore over my cookbooks, bookmarked recipes online, etc. and I am unable to make a choice until the last possible second.  It sounds silly but the reason makes sense – too much inspiration, too little time.  The number of recipes I have saved to try is enormous (I really don’t want to know the exact number) and the vast majority are desserts.  It’s the same reason I resist buying all (okay, most of) the new cookbooks I want – that would only make the problem worse.

Most recently I was going through the usual hemming, hawing and second-guessing when I flipped over this page in a cookbook.  Problem solved, case closed, my tummy decided for me – I needed this cake stat.  Incidentally it worked out perfectly because one of our friends recently celebrated a birthday so this classic cake-frosting combo seemed ideal.  Well let me tell you, in the process I have found the yellow cake that I will use as the yellow cake.  It is sturdy but still moist and has exactly the flavor I like in a yellow cake.  Additionally, the steps of mixing up the batter are as simple and basic as any other cake.  No separating eggs, folding in egg whites, etc.  If I can get a  cake with a few less steps, I’m all for it.  And the frosting….oooohhh my.  It’s finger-, fork-, and plate-licking good.  Silky smooth, chocolatey and not too sweet.  Importantly, it also has an strong irresistible scent that wafts from the platter tempting you to take a slice.  One down, hundreds (thousands?) to go 🙂

Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting
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For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
1½ cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups milk

For the frosting:
1 lb. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
6 tbsp. boiling water
3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt

To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.  Butter and flour the edges of the pans, tapping out the excess; set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk together to blend well and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool 20 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pans to help remove the cakes.  Invert the cakes onto the rack and peel off the parchment.  Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.  Level the cakes if necessary.

To make the frosting, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl; stir until the cocoa is dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate; beat on low speed until combined, 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the cocoa mixture until well blended.  (Note: My frosting was still a bit runny for decorating at this point.  I let it cool longer before frosting the cake so it could firm up slightly.)

To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a serving platter.  Top with 1 cup of the chocolate frosting and smooth over the top of the cake.  Top with the remaining cake layer.  Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting as desired.  Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.  Let come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

Source: Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

84 Responses

  1. this is an easy and quick cake but yet it look gorgeous! will try one day..

  2. What a perfect birthday cake! You can never go wrong with such a classic like yellow butter cake and chocolate frosting…yum!

  3. i have the same issue- soooo many recipes i want to try and never enough time:-)

  4. yeah a classic! my favorite cake in the world. Hey, do you have one cookbook that you noticeably use more than any other?

  5. Have you tried the cooks illlustrated recipe for both? You should…
    Love your blog!

  6. That cake looks AWESOME! I want to go make it right now….

  7. This is my all time favorite cake combination, the classic yellow with chocolate frosting, so simple yet exquisitely delicious. I have previously been intimidated by cake baking but I am going to try this cake for the upcoming weekend, thanks so much for the posting!

  8. Oh how I wish I had this recipe this past weekend when I was looking to make this very same combination. Always a classic! Yours looks delightful. I’ll definitely have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

  9. OMG! This is the best looking cake i have seen. I wish i could have a slice…. actually, make that 2. Yumm!

  10. The frosting looks incredible!

  11. I love yellow cake, and have somehow gone through life not making it from scratch. I am bookmarking this awesome recipe!

  12. Hi Annie,

    This is perfect timing! I’m actually doing a birthday cake for this weekend, and they have requested a yellow cake. I’ve been scouring over yellow cake recipes and still have not reached a decision. Was your cake moist? I found a Martha version on her website, but it had a few reviews of being dry. I want a moist cake that’s strong enough to handle fondant. If you recommend this version, I’ll go for it! Thanks.

    • Yes, it was moist. Not like super duper moist, but I wouldn’t even bother posting the recipe if it were dry. If you are worried about it you could always brush with simple syrup just to be sure it stays moist. Especially if you’ll be decorating over a day or two with the fondant, it’s never a bad idea.

  13. This looks so good. Traditional, delicious, I think the perfect choice!

  14. I have the same problem…hundreds of recipes and much “anguish” and last minute deciding over what to make/bring. And you haven’t helped matters at all for me, girl! TONS of my recipes are from here!

  15. I love the classics! You always have the most lovely cakes…even with just something as simple as this!

  16. Now I have to check Facebook to see whose birthday is coming up, because this sounds like the perfect birthday cake.

  17. Well, I will be bookmarking this one. My husband LOVES the combo of yellow cake and chocolate frosting. If you say this is as good as it looks, then this might be his new favorite.

  18. I just tried your yeasted waffles and they were out of this world! I have copied and tried many of your recipes and you are a fantastic cook. Keep up the good work!

  19. I love this cake! I think I’m going to have to make it. A yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite kind to make and it’s been a while since I’ve done so. Your pic makes it look very yummy!

  20. Classic cake, classic look. Love it!

  21. These pics are especially gorgeous!

  22. I LOVE ALL of your recipes. I somehow came across your blog in early May and I have made almost everyone of your recipes! This cake looks awesome! I will make it for my mother in law this week for her 81st birthday. Did you know that since I found your blog, my grocery $$$$ has spiked? LOL! Love ya!

  23. I am EXACTLY like that too! I have a million different recipes, and it takes me eons to decide what I want to make! Glad I’m not the only one ;p

    I have made this cake and it is also my “go to” yellow cake recipe!

  24. Yellow Cake with Chocolate frosting is by far my favorite comfort dessert! It’s what I always get when trying out new bakeries to have a good comparison. I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe for awhile. I’ll have to try this. Thank you for posting it!

  25. Oh my gosh, this cake looks perfect! Yellow cake is my favorite. It reminds me of being a kid. Yum!

  26. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite kind of cake, bar none. I’ve never made it myself, so I definitely am glad to have a recipe to use when I do!

  27. yum! i’ve been on the hunt for a good yellow cake recipe. i can’t wait to bake this after all my midterms are over.

  28. there is nothing better than to end a day with a chocolate iced cake and this one looks heavenly. nicely frosted.

  29. Annie, you hit it out of the ball park with every recipe you post! This looks incredible!

  30. I jump at the chance to bring dessert as well! I love to bake and getting an excuse to do it, without the consequences of eating it all myself is always wonderful! Your cake is so beautifully iced I am ready for a piece right now!

  31. I am the SAME exact way! It takes me forever and a day to decide what to bring, and I can’t stop buying cookbooks. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my husband and my favorite, but I’ve never tried making it from scratch. This looks like a winner!

  32. That looks yummy! I’m the same way when I make something for company or to take somewhere. It takes me far longer to pick what I want to make than it does to make it!

  33. I am beyond shocked that I have owned Martha’s Baking Handbook for years and have somehow not made this recipe. That frosting looks so incredibly dreamy, LOVE`!

  34. I laughed out loud when I read this. I do the exact same thing…my family thinks it’s hilarious that what to make can be such a huge decision! 🙂 The recipe sounds fabulous, and as you have probably guessed, it’s bookmarked for future reference! 🙂

  35. I have a similar thought process when making a special dish. I have the internet avenues I know and trust, my Excel files full of saved recipes, and of course, good old-fashioned cookbooks. It’s a bit overwhelming but it’s great to be able to cross one off your “to try list” and for it to be a success! I’m adding this one to my collection (as I’ve done quite a few of yours) because I’m always in search of the perfect yellow and white cake.

  36. gor-geee-ous! hint: my birthday is this coming sunday. 🙂
    would it be weird if i made my own birthday cake???
    cathy b. @ brightbakes


  38. That looks so delicious! What a beautiful job!

  39. Hi, Annie! I have the same decision making problem you do, especially with desserts. I am new to the food blogging world over here Love your blog!

  40. It’s funny that you posted this recipe today. Your post yesterday made me miss my mother-in-law who passed away ten years ago. I loved her as much as my own mom. I only ever make cake from scratch, but every so often, my husband asks me to just make “the yellow kind in the box with the chocolate frosting in the can” like his mom used to make for him. I will be trying this tonight while I remember one of my favorite people:)

  41. I love good old fashioned yellow cake! Your cake photos are STUNNING!!!

  42. So I’m on the search for the best yellow cake to make for my friend’s wedding.. with your rave reviews I’m going to have to give this a try- do you think its wedding delicious??

    • I do, but I would certainly recommend testing it out before making it for the big day (I’m sure you would have done that anyway).

  43. That looks absolutely delicious…and stunning! Thanks for sharing!

  44. Yay! Finally another dessert recipe(: I collect recipes too.. The list is way too long! As soon as i cross one off the list, Another just gets added to it! The cake looks great. I love butter cakes. The frosting goes great with it to.

  45. My cookbook wish list on Amazon is a mile long, but with all these great recipes available online, I find I’m thinking the same thing as you. I’ll go crazy with endless options! I love your blog! The recipes and the beautiful pictures-you make it look effortless and that’s saying a lot since you also have a little one!

  46. This cake looks absolutely divine!! And that chocolate frosting, mmmmm. Definitely bookmarking this.

  47. So simple, but so good…I can almost taste now. Thank you for the inspiration.

  48. Bookmarked! Can’t wait to try, this is my fav combo, and I really want to find a buttercream that I like. Curious, what brand of block chocolate did you use? When I need a lb of chocolate for a recipe (like this for the frosting), I tend to go the more inexpensive route, like Ghirardelli. I’m hesitant to bust out my $8 block of Callebaut ;). Hopefully the flavor doesn’t suffer due to brand choice….

    • I pretty much always go Ghirardelli unless it’s for something like chocolate mousse (OMG) or flourless chocolate cake where chocolate is the primary (and one of very few) ingredients. Then I buy Callebaut. I think Ghirardelli is good quality for the price.

  49. How do you frost the cake only? I always manage to make a mess of my cake display too.

  50. I think I’m in LOVE!!! :)) This cake absolutely looks delicious!!! I sure am trying this recipe myself:)

    Greets from BFC !!!

  51. Annie….how did you mange to keep the cake stand frosting free….did you frost it there? If not how did you transfer it and keep it looking so picture perfect?

    Jeannette M.

    • I just answered this question in a comment above. I don’t have a special trick, it just seems to come with practice.

  52. I hear ya on the mountain of saved recipes to go through…except I print mine out and have a HUGE stack of papers that threaten to shower down on me from my upper cabinet in the kitchen. Sigh, so many desserts, so little time!

  53. I do the same thing. LOL. And once I decide the dessert, I go through atleast 20 recipes for it, and only then do I make it. Love the homey style frosting 🙂

  54. This has come at the most perfect time! It’s both my daughters birthdays this week and I needed a chocolate cake recipe to make tomorrow. This one will be great! So thank you!

  55. “I make the decision of exactly what to bring into a life or death decision. I pore over my cookbooks, bookmarked recipes online, etc. and I am unable to make a choice until the last possible second. “….that sounds EXACTLY like what I do! 🙂

    This cake looks like utter perfection! That glossy, fluffy frosting over the yellow cake….and the border of sprinkles. *sigh*

  56. I have to laugh because that is EXACTLY what I do! I always volunteer to bring a dessert and then instead of using one of my tried & true recipes, I have to make something new and different. I look at every recipe site I know and read (& reread) cookbooks until I’m so baffled I have no idea what to make! Until the last minute, when it (usually) all comes together wonderfully!

  57. i am exactly like you when it comes to baking for an audience, too many inspirations, too little time. And i get very excited too. too excited in fact. :p This cake looks wonderful. The i love the coloured sprinkles, they look so vibrant against the chocolate

  58. Could you dye the batter with food coloring to make it a different color? I want to do candy corn cupcakes and I would much rather do yellow cake then white. Thanks. Great job!!

    • You could, but realize anytime you dye a yellow cake, that natural yellow color will throw off the color of whatever you add to it.

  59. good job frosting the cake so perfectly! 🙂

  60. This cake aint jus delish but so so pretty too ,love it and congrats on making it to Top9 @foodbuzz!

  61. What a beautiful cake! My daughter saw it and immediately wanted to make it, she loves those little round “sprinkles”… I never really knew what those were called. Nice job!

  62. Love your pic and post!! Congrats on getting to Foodbuzz Top 9!!!

  63. I’m with you – “too much inspiration, too little time”. My problem is I keep collecting those recipes and buying those cookbooks. Love the cake.

  64. Whenever I’ve ever eaten cake I push most of the frosting to the side and wash all the cake down with an ice cold glass of milk. There have been few times when I’ve really enjoyed all of the icing that came with the serving because it’s so often too sweet.

    This cake however looks just about right to me. The way you iced the cake leaves those amazing “waves” that make me want to take a but ol’ bite. It looks like it’s soft and smooth and the fact that you touched on the most important element of icing (for me) – not too sweet.

    The photo and recipe add up to a well deserved top 9!
    Matt Kay

  65. I have tons of comparison posts that I WANT to do, but yellow cake is the only one I feel like I really NEED to do. Idiotically, I’ve actually done the baking before (twice!), but then got lazy when it came time to the actual eating and comparing. One thing that’s held me back is not being able to choose the perfect set of recipes – now I know to include this one!

    • I agree, you need to do that comparison. I actually thought that when I was making this recipe. I’ll be interested to see where CI’s yellow layer cake falls for you because I’ve made it lots of times and it is good, but I am not sure the extra effort is worth it. I thought this was as good or better and so much simpler.

  66. Hey Annie, I was wondering what store did you go to to buy cake flour. I’ve been to a lot of different stores, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and I can’t seem to find them.

    • I’ve never had trouble finding it at any grocery stores, even the worst ones in our area. It’s in the baking aisle. Ask a store employee for help.

  67. Well I made this cake last night and it was not only easy to make, but super delish! Thanks for sharing Annie!

  68. Wow I am completely in love with the way that frosting looks!!

  69. Used this for cupcakes, you are right, delish and yummy smelling too. I am not a buttercream fan but this frosting rocks! Easy to adjust sugar level too. I much preferred the cake at room temp, the refrigerated frosting took a while to soften. thanks so much!!!

  70. I have the same problem. I finally decided i have to make something new each time and not repeat recipes. This is a problem too because I’ve tried some pretty darn good recipes.

  71. I just made this cake tonight for my dad’s birthday tomorrow! Can’t wait to try it!

  72. Very easy recipe. Thanks! I’m making my dad’s white russian cake for his birthday. Hope it all comes together. 🙂

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