Moist yellow cake recipe that gives you perfect results every time! No more wondering how your cake will turn out — this recipe is easy and delicious! And you can use it for a layer cake or cupcakes.
For years I used my Granny’s Feather Cake recipe when baking a yellow birthday cake, but I always found it to be a little dry. The recipe worked great as a base for Granny’s Pineapple Cake because the pineapple juices soaked into the cake layers.
But if you wanted to make a simple yellow cake with chocolate frosting, that recipe wasn’t so great. So I started playing around and after tweaking the recipe MANY times over the years, I now have what I think is the BEST and consistently moist yellow cake recipe!
What is the difference between white and yellow cake?
It all comes down to eggs! White cakes rely solely on egg whites and usually even clear vanilla so there’s no tint from the vanilla. Some white cakes also sub in shortening or oil for some or all of the butter to keep the cake even more white.
Wedding cakes are usually white cakes and are a lighter, more airy cake.
I prefer a good, moist yellow cake myself. Yellow cakes are made with whole eggs and some (like this one) a mixture of whole eggs and some egg yolks. And you can use pure vanilla extract as well.
So what’s vanilla cake? Since both white and yellow cake recipes call for vanilla, then if the recipe calls for only egg whites (maybe one or two whole eggs) it’s basically a white cake. And if it calls for whole eggs then it’s a yellow cake. Also, a vanilla cake recipe typically calls for more vanilla so the flavor is stronger.
Our family loves classic yellow cake for a birthday cake, usually with simple Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, regular white Buttercream Frosting, or Cream Cheese Frosting.
This recipe is so versatile because you can use it for cupcakes or a sheet cake. And I’ve converted the recipe to a smaller amount in my One Layer Cake recipe if you’d like to make a smaller cake.
- Stand mixer – the reverse creaming method used in this yellow cake recipe is much easier if you have a good stand mixer. My favorite is this one from Kitchen Aid. This thing gets a workout in my kitchen because it’s good for SO MANY THINGS!
- Good quality cake pans – there’s no need to go to specialty food stores for good cooking equipment–you can get everything you need right on Amazon. Just make sure you get the best quality. I like these pans from Nordic Ware because they’re aluminum and consistently good quality.
- Round parchment paper liners – get yourself a pack of these babies and you’ll wonder what took you so long…no more measuring and cutting!
- Silicone cake pan strips – I bought these Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Heavenly Cake Strips a few years ago and now I never bake a cake without them. The strips help your cakes bake up more evenly.
- Cake flour
- Vegetable oil
- Whole fat buttermilk
- Vanilla extract (I use a mixture of pure vanilla extract and also this clear imitation vanilla because it gives a little of that cake mix flavor).
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
How to make yellow cake
Note: This moist yellow cake recipe uses the two-stage method of mixing, similar to my Best Chocolate Cake recipe. Here’s a great explanation of The Two-Stage Mixing Method from The Pastry Chef Online.
Step 1. Preheat oven to 350°.
Step 2. Butter and flour 3 cake pans or one half-sheet pan (12×18). (You can use butter or cooking spray.)
Pro Tip: I butter and flour my pans, then add a round of parchment paper and spray and flour that as well just to be sure nothing sticks. These inexpensive round parchment paper liners from Amazon make this job so much easier!
Step 3. In a large measuring cup or a pourable mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla and beat with a fork. Set aside.
Pro Tip: Allow the buttermilk, eggs, and butter to come to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
Pro Tip: If you sift flour onto a piece of parchment paper, it’s much easier to pour into the mixing bowl!
Step 4. Sift cake flour and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar and use the mixer on low to blend for about 30 seconds.
Step 5. With the mixer running on low, add the butter, one piece at a time and then pour in the vegetable oil. Mix until the flour and butter start to clump together and appear pebbly, about 30 seconds after the vegetable oil has been added.
Step 6. Pour in a little more than half of the buttermilk-egg mixture and mix on the lowest speed until blended, about 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until starting to appear light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Without turning off the mixer, add the remaining buttermilk mixture in a slow stream.
This method is what gives the moist yellow cake its tender crumb and keeps it from getting dry!
Step 7. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat at medium-high speed for about 15 seconds until well-mixed.
Step 8. Pour batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.
Pro tip: Drop the cake pans filled with batter on the counter several times, a trick which releases the air bubbles in the batter, and helps prevent the cake from cracking.
Step 9. Bake the layers for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them because you don’t want to overcook. Layers are done when they turn light golden brown and are springy to the touch, and of course you can always check with a toothpick, which I recommend doing at 20 minutes.
Note: If baking in a half-sheet pan, you’ll need to bake 25-30 minutes.
Step 10. Remove the layers from the oven and cool on racks for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then flip layers out of the pans and onto a plate and peel off the parchment. Cover the wire racks with a sheet of parchment paper and then re-flip the layers from the plate back to the rack.
Allow to cool completely and then frost. Easy and perfect every time!
- Don’t use dark or non-stick pans. Aluminum cake pans like these from Nordic Ware are the best for baking cakes!
- Have all your ingredients measured and ready. Allow butter, eggs, and buttermilk time to come to room temperature.
Storing your moist yellow cake:
- You can make this cake days or even weeks ahead of time and freeze the unfrosted layers. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap, then tightly with foil. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- If you just want to make the cake 1-2 days ahead, wrap the unfrosted layers in plastic wrap and then again with foil and leave on the counter until ready to use.
Moist Yellow Cake Recipe
- 4 whole large eggs, room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups cake flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, softened
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans, then line each pan with parchment paper. Spray and flour the parchment paper, shaking out the excess flour.
- In a large measuring cup or pourable bowl, add the buttermilk, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla and beat with a fork until blended. Set aside.
- Place the sifted cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and blend on low for about 30 seconds.
- With the mixer running on low, add the butter, one piece at a time. Pour in the vegetable oil. Mix until the flour and butter clump together and appear pebbly, about 30 seconds after the vegetable oil has been added.
- Pour in a little more than half of the buttermilk-egg mixture and mix on the lowest speed until blended, about 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until starting to appear light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Without turning off the mixer, add the remaining buttermilk mixture in a slow stream.
- Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat at medium-high speed for about 15 seconds until well-mixed.
- Pour batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
- Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen. Invert each layer onto a plate, peel off the parchment, then invert back onto the wire rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
- Make sure your butter is room temperature but not too soft. It should not be squishy.
- Don’t overcook the cake layers. Keep a close watch.
- Use good quality butter in this recipe. Cheap store-brand butter will affect the taste and texture.
Update Notes: This post was originally published December 3, 2012, and on August 7, 2019, was updated with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, new tips.
More Cakes You’ll Love:
- Southern Caramel Cake
- Red Velvet Cake
- White Chocolate Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- Salted Caramel Sheet Cake
- Strawberry Cake
- Red, White, and Blue Cake
Cake mixing method adapted from Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker by Cook’s Illustrated.
Thanks so much for your reply. I made the cake for my birthday. I followed your directions step by step. It came out perfectly! The yellow cake was super moist and the chocolate frosting was delicious. Everyone enjoyed it.
Thank you for sharing your time and talent.
Take care and stay safe.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I always make my own birthday cake too!
Hi, Lucy. Have you made this recipe with all-purpose flour instead of cake flour? I have never had that specialty flour in the house and use only organic flours. Thoughts?
I have not but I’m sure it would be ok, just not as tender. Try adding cornstarch to the AP flour.
I’ve been looking for a yellow cake-chocolate buttercream recipe. Your recipe sounds wonderful. I have a couple of questions concerning baking in my gas oven (I find it bakes differently from electric). Do you suggest rack position 3?
How many pans (layers) do you normally bake at one time and in what arrangement?
I’m looking forward to trying out this recipe.
Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
I bake on the middle rack typically, but if baking all three pans at one time then you can just switch them around during the baking process. I will switch rack to rack and front to back.
I would like to make cupcakes .. any alterations?
I actually have not made cupcakes using this recipe, but I think it would be fine with no changes.
Hi Lucy, I need to make this recipe into a half sheet cake. Please provide baking tips to make sure we cook the proper time for a really moist cake.
In a half-sheet pan, you would bake 25-27 minutes. Definitely test after 20 minutes or so as different ovens may cook differently.
I made this cake and it was fabulous! Very moist and flavorful! I was very careful not to overbake! Everyone loved it! It’s now my go-to recipe for yellow cake. I suggest following the recipe as the author suggests…thank her later!
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it!
Can you use all butter instead of the combination or oil and butter. I the the flavor of butter how much of a differences it will make
Using all butter will affect the texture of the cake. The oil helps make it more tender and moist. I like the flavor of butter cakes also, which is why this is does have 1/2 cup of butter. I promise it tastes great and you will not miss any butter flavor!
Does this recipe call for salted or unsalted butter?
I always use unsalted! Sorry for the confusion–I’ll update the recipe! Thanks 🙂
Does this recipe call for salted or unsalted butter?