Yellow Cake Recipe

I’m a simple kind of girl, once I’ve found something I like I’ll stick with it, especially if it works well over and over again. That’s how I feel about these recipes, the only time they’ve failed is when I did something I knew I shouldn’t, or….when my oven started baking everything 100 degrees hotter than it was supposed to.
This recipe is not mine, I found it on the internet nearly 5 years ago and have been using it exclusively since. I know I say, ‘Here’s my yellow cake recipe’, but I’ve made a couple changes to the recipe and because I’ve been using it so long I tend to feel like it’s really mine.
A few things before we get underway, I need to say that baking IS science. These recipes work the way they do because of how the ingredients work together. If you start swapping out items you cannot expect them to still work properly. It’s like putting square wheels on a bike and wondering why it’s much harder to pedal. There are variations and additions that do work though and I’ll list them as well.
Starting with the yellow cake, one thing I’ve noticed is that it bothers people that this recipe is called yellow cake but it turns out very pale. What makes a yellow cake yellow? It is not, as some people think, because butter is used, but rather the egg yolks. This is not my definition folks, it’s a fact! But then if you look at a box yellow cake mix, it lists yellow food dye as one of the ingredients. The question is, how important is it that the cake is pale and not a good deep yellow? I personally don’t care, and I can honestly say I’ve never had someone hand their slice of cake back to me and tell me it wasn’t yellow enough for them.
Another thing that kind of freaks people out is that this recipe calls for shortening. I’ll admit it bothered me at first too, but considering all the processed food nearly EVERYONE eats, including me, I just let it go. Granted, my diet has actually gotten better since I started baking but I still refuse to feel bad. And no, you cannot exchange the shortening for butter in this recipe, I’ve tried, it doesn’t work. Butter has a much lower melting point than shortening, it throws the whole thing off.
When I was searching for yellow cake recipes there were a few criteria that were necessary; everything listed in the recipe needed to be what I already had in the house, no hard to find ingredients, no crazy directions that involve only part of the egg be used, no making me use 10 different bowls to keep things separated. This recipe won because if done correctly I only needed 2 mixing bowls and a measuring cup, and bonus points that I could use all purpose flour. Over time I added sifting to it but it’s really not that difficult to wash a strainer :)
Ok, enough yapping, here’s the recipe, blow by blow:

1 c. (192 g) shortening
2 c. (400 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
3 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 c. (338 g) all purpose flour
3 tsp. (10 g) baking powder
1 tsp. (4.7 g) salt
1 3/4 c. (415 mL) milk (whole, 2%, skim, doesn’t matter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using dark pans). This recipe can make the following:
Round cake layers:
2 tall 8″
3 short 8″
2 short 9″

Square cake layers:
2 short 8″
1 short 9″x13″

28-30 cupcakes (start checking on these after about 13 minutes)

Prepare pans by using baking spray or grease and flour. Cream together sugar and shortening until fluffy and lighter, about 4 minutes. While that is creaming sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl. Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time to the sugar and cream mixture, allowing each egg to completely incorporate before adding the next. Now alternate adding the flour and milk in 3 parts, beginning with the flour. Pour into pans and bake 40-50 minutes, I say that but I like to start checking at 30 minutes just in case my oven goes berserk again and starts OVER baking my cakes. I try to get them out when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn onto a cooling rack. I have a video showing all this:

So now you’ve baked the cake, turned out just like in the video, but wait! It fell?!?! Take a breath….ok, listen closely….it’s OK. All of my cakes fall. So do my cupcakes. I’ve had people tell me everything needs to be room temperature, eggs, milk, etc. I’ve tried this..same result. Does it bother me? No way, again, never had a person hand their slice of cake back to me because the cake fell.
Here’s what’s fun about this recipe, this is what I call my base cake. Swap out some or all of the milk for buttermilk or sour cream, use a different extract (McCormick sells a lot of different kinds), add the zest of lemon or orange, it’s like a whole new cake! Here are some variations I get just by doing what I listed above:

French Vanilla
Banana
Lemon
Orange
Coconut
Raspberry
Raspberry Chocolate Chip
Peppermint
Peppermint Chocolate Chip
Butter Rum

Those are just by using different extracts, chocolate chips and in the case of the lemon and orange cakes, I like to add some zest. These variations require more than extracts:

Almond Sour Cream-use almond extract and swap out half or all of the milk for sour cream
Brown Sugar Buttermilk-I think the name says it all :D Use brown sugar instead of white and buttermilk instead of milk (thank you Sayhellojana from cakecentral.com!)

Peanut Butter-use brown sugar instead of white and replace half of the shortening with peanut butter
Fuzzy Navel-use orange extract, some orange zest, then when the cake is cooled brush the top with Peach Schnapps (this was my favorite until I made the one below)
Pina Colada-use a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, save the liquid and finely chop the pineapple even more. The saved liquid won’t be enough, use however much you get from the pineapple, then add milk for the rest making sure it’s a full 1 3/4 cup of liquid all together. Sprinkle shredded coconut between the layers and frost with coconut buttercream.

There’s 15 different variations just from the ONE recipe! I have at least 2 more variations I want to try and of course I’ll post about it. I think I can make this into Red Velvet and chocolate by making a few changes….

Anyway, hope you try it, hope you like it :D

60 Responses to Yellow Cake Recipe

  1. rams says:

    Hi,
    I made this cake yesterday with so much confidence in a 9 x 13 pan. The cake is so moist but at the bottom of the cake in some places it didn’t rise and it is like wet. What went wrong? please help me…

  2. jade8 says:

    Hi
    I have been a fan for some time and have been dying to try this cake recipe. I have question about substituting the butter. I always have butter around the house but never had the need for shortening, so I dont have any. In your video you make a comment about Alton Brown and the creaming method. Thank you for that tip. In his video he claims that you can easily sub out butter for shortening by adjusting the amounts as well as the amount of liquid. Do you think it would work in this recipe or do you think it would still be greasy? Sorry about this being so long.
    Thank you
    Jade

    • I know other people have tried swapping out half without any problems but I haven’t tried it since that one time. The trouble is that butter has a much lower melting point than shortening. The recipe is set up to work with shortening, taking into account the higher melting point. If you do want to try it have your butter be only be somewhat soft, then maybe chill the butter and shortening after you cream them together.

  3. cecipastel says:

    I´m sorry, but I´m from Argentina, I do speak english but I´m not sure what did you mean by “All of my cakes fall”, does it mean that this yellow cake loses its volume (or high)? I´m trying your recipe on thursday. Thank you SC!!!!

    • Yes, the cake forms a small mound in the middle while in the oven then when I take it out the middle sinks. This isn’t a bad thing, it actually makes the cake more level and I don’t need to trim as much off the top :D

  4. cecipastel says:

    Ok, I understand, I don´t think that´s a bad thing (As long as it does not sink in the midle, I hate that). Thank you!

  5. rams says:

    Hi,

    does this recipe gives a moist cake or do i need to spray the layers with some sugar syrup to moisten it?

  6. rams says:

    I tried this recipe second time today and it came out super moist and fluffy. Thanks for the recipe.
    But i have one more thing ,the batter looked like curdled after mixing all the ingredients. Is that okay or did i do something wrong?

  7. ambar2 says:

    Well, I just want to say thank you very much for your recipes, I made a cake for christmas trying out some recipes and it wasnt very good, too sweet. I should have made your recipe. Ive had it for a while now, dont know why I didnt try it sooner. Its amazing. cant wait to try the other flavors. Here is the cake I made yesterday for my birthday using your yellow cake recipe. Thanks again! http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=gallery&file=displayimage&pid=1904212

  8. ivymeister says:

    Hi. I tried making this recipe tonight and I’m not sure it came out right. :( I was so excited too! My husband likes it but my son didnt like the taste. I tried it and it tastes ok, but i think something is missing. I used a high ration shortening because it was all i had. But everything else i followed exact. Do you think because i used the high ratio shortening that it came out a little different. I’m going to try making it again in a few days! Any advise you can give would be great. I would really like to get away from using box cake mix. Thanks so much! :)

  9. Brandie says:

    I just wanted to say I LOVE this cake recipe!! Its epically delicious, bakes well and carves very well! Thank you for posting it and the variations. I did the peanut butter one, epic~ Anyway, thankyou again for posting. No more box cake for me~

  10. mags4girls says:

    Just a note of thanks for your lovely recipe for the 9 x 13 pan, I need to make a car cake for a friend’s son’s birthday (my 1st one) and I think I need 4 of theses cakes. Anyhow, I watched your VW car on youtube and as you use the almond/ sour cream variation, I copied you! Just to let you know it has worked wonderfully despite my trouble of cup-ounces conversions! Only one question, what buttercream flavour would best compliment the almond for a filling, in your opinion?
    Thanks again, looking forward to trying that choc cake next :-) )

  11. maitino says:

    Hey D!
    May I know the importance of cooling on a cooling rack? What is the difference with cooling completely in the pan or on plastic/metal tray/board?
    Love all your videos and get well soonest!

    • The cake continues to cook as long as it’s in the pan, and it’s also more difficult to remove from the pan once it’s completely cooled. The cooling rack allows all sides and the bottom of the cake to cool at the same time.

  12. Bethany says:

    Hi, Serious Cakes!
    I’m 11 and I tried this out. I have been looking for a good cake recipe for quite awhile. This ended up being it! I was very happy with the results. Unlike most recipes, it didn’t harden after only five minutes out of the oven. I will use this again!

  13. mommycakes says:

    Hi,

    Love your website.. learned alot from it. I just finished baking your yellow cake recipe… AWESOME!! i haven’t even decorated it yet and it’s half gone… This is it from now on..But i would love to know if the cakes can be frozen for later use? I have two jobs and I bake for family and friends so it’s easier for me to bake ahead of time and decorate it when needed…

  14. narutobaka says:

    hi! can you explain this to me? i don’t have any oven so i bake cakes by rice cooker. With all butter cakes, when i put them in the fridge, they’re condensation. i don’t know why and i think maybe baking them by rice cooker made this thing… Please help me!!! thanks!

    • Any time you put anything in the fridge and take it out again you will have condensation. Doesn’t matter what the product is, a jug of milk, a bottle of ketchup, a cake. I never ever put my cakes in the fridge, I let them sit at room temperature until they’re cooled then wrap them in plastic wrap and leave them on the counter until I’m ready to use them :)

  15. narutobaka says:

    Thank you very much for answering my question! But with no-butter-cakes, they won’t be condensation hardly as butter cakes T.T ! No-butter-cakes are still soft but butter cakes are hard just like a block of butter! I live in Vietnam, it’s very hot here so after decorating cakes i have to put them in the fridge to avoid melted buttercream, and after that, they won’t be delicious as they were! I love butter cakes because they’re more delicious than no butter ones! Don’t you put cakes in the fridge after decorating them? Can you help me to solve this problem??? Thank you so much!!!

  16. narutobaka says:

    :) Thank you very much!!! I love all your videos! They inspire me to bake and decorate cakes :) You are so incredible!!! Love you from Vietnam!!! <3

  17. Sruthi says:

    Hii… I wanted to make a eggless cake… Can I skip the eggs and follow the rest of the recipe… Should I compensate anything for eggs…

    • Baking is science, if you take out an ingredient the end product won’t turn out the same. Each of the ingredients in this recipe work together to make the cake what it is. There are eggless recipes out there, it’s better to try one of those than to use a regular cake recipe and take the eggs out.

  18. Sruthi says:

    I have one more question… could I half the quantity of all the ingredients… and prepare a cake with that…

  19. Lise says:

    I know you said you were taking a year off, and comments are about that old too, but just found this site and hoping you check in once in awhile, so was wondering with all your (and every other decorated cake on youtube)cakes, why you would cut the tops off cakes and waste all that yummy? I leave them upside down, the top fits in the curved centre of the plate and the bottom is always level? Is there a practical reason for icing them right side up? Love you site and have been watching your videos for two straight days now! Thank you for all your work!

    • lol, I do check in every once in awhile to answer questions :)

      Whatever I cut off the top doesn’t go to waste, lol, we either eat it, give it away, store it in the freezer, or use it as part of the cake if I’m making a particular design. Also if I’m using a flat surface to put the cake on, then both sides of the cake need level. I’ve seen people put the flat bottom of the cake down, frost the curved top, place another layer upside-down and then frost the level top. The trouble with this that the top edge of the cake will begin to curve down and create a bulge around the middle of the cake. lol, does that make sense?

  20. Love2Bake says:

    when you say you can make 2 short 9″ layers, how thick is it? and how thick are the tall layers?

    • They are about an inch, maybe an inch and a half high. Two of those layers plus the frosting will give you about a 4 inch high cake. The taller layers are about 2 inches high, maybe a bit more giving you a cake height of about 5″.

  21. tdmorgan says:

    I love this recipe to make my cupcakes….I want to make a banana chip cupcake with this recipe. How many bananas would you use or do you think it would be to heavy?

  22. Lia says:

    How do i make coconut buttercrean? Have you tried?

  23. ZEN says:

    Hi,
    I’ve just come across your website.
    Your yellow cake recipie seems to be really famous, and i’m absolutely itching to try it.
    HOWEVER, could you please please please, give me the recipie in grams.

    I’ve tried recipies in cups before, but they always go wrong. In the UK we tend to use grams.
    I understand that you don’t come on regulary, however i would appreciate it if you could show me the recipie in grams when you have the time.
    Thank You

  24. sweet cream says:

    Hey thanks alOt for sharing if I add butter do I have to reduce baking time ?

  25. remnant3333 says:

    Just wanted to say that I finally got around to trying your yellow cake. WOW!!! I absolutely love it. I made it for my neighbor’s birthday and everyone loved it. I also made one for me!!! Thanks for the recipe. I can not wait to try it with different extracts!!!

  26. janisb says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe! Wondering if you use normal shortening or the butter flavored shortening? I’m assuming the former since butter flavor wasn’t specified in the recipe. Does it make a difference?

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