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This Homemade Yellow Cake is simple to whip up any time you need a quick dessert. Pair this classic cake with the frosting of your choice or top it with berries and whipped cream. No matter how you enjoy it, you’re sure to want to make this again and again.

Plated slice of yellow cake with a bite taken from the corner. A fork holding the bite of cake is next to the slice on the plate.

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A couple of weeks ago we stopped by my in-laws’ on a Sunday afternoon. My father-in-law was out of town so my mother-in-law had spent the morning puttering around the kitchen.

I walked in to find a pan of cake cooling on the counter, with a small bite already taken out of the corner.

“I made a little yellow cake. It’s my mother’s recipe; she used to whip it up whenever she needed a quick and easy dessert.”

I, of course, immediately cut myself a piece. I took one bite and declared that I had to have the recipe.

So into the recipe box we went, grabbing this recipe so I could share it with all of you. Because believe me when I say – this may be the best yellow cake I’ve ever had.

Yellow cake ingredients arranged in a marble countertop.

WHITE CAKE VS. YELLOW CAKE

If you’ve ever found yourself standing in the middle of the cake mix aisle at the grocery store, you might have wondered, “What the heck is the difference between all of these cakes?”

You’ve got white cake, yellow cake, vanilla cake, lemon cake, Funfetti cake…the list goes on.

The two main non-chocolate cakes you’re likely to come across are white cake and yellow cake. So what’s the difference between them?

Wet ingredients for homemade yellow cake mixed in a glass mixing bowl.

What is white cake?

White cake is so named because of its stark white color. It is so white because it only uses egg whites instead of whole eggs. 

White cake also often uses a mixture of shortening and butter to help keep it white. It’s also not uncommon for it to use clear (imitation) vanilla.

Funfetti cake is a type of white cake. It uses a white cake base since the colorful sprinkles really pop against the white color.

Angel food cake is another type of white cake, although it is one that doesn’t use any fat in it at all.

A lot of vanilla cakes from bakeries, especially wedding cakes, are white cakes. The white color is thought to be more elegant, and the fillings and frostings really stand out with a white cake.

Yellow cake batter being stirred in a glass mixing bowl with a gray spatula.

What is yellow cake?

Yellow cake, on the other hand, is made using both egg whites AND egg yolks. It also relies on butter as the fat.

It’s the combination of the egg yolks and the butter that gives yellow cake its color. The egg yolks also make yellow cakes more tender than their white cake counterparts.

As you might imagine, this also means yellow cakes are more buttery, moist, and often have more vanilla flavor, since you can add as much pure vanilla as you’d like without worrying about the color of the cake.

It’s also easy to make different flavors of yellow cake! Peanut butter cake and pineapple upside-down cake are two of my personal favorites.

Yellow cake batter in a square cake pan, ready to go in the oven.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE YELLOW CAKE

Grandma Jeanette’s yellow cake recipe is so simple to throw together. I can totally see why it was her go-to easy dessert. 

This recipe makes one 9-inch cake – perfect for serving a small handful of people.

Baked homemade yellow cake in a cake pan, cooling on a marble countertop.

Ingredients

As you’d probably expect from an easy recipe, the ingredients list for this cake is very straightforward:

  • 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

Odds are good that you have everything you need to make this recipe already on hand. 

Because I’m bougie, I like to use vanilla bean paste in this cake, but you can certainly use whatever vanilla you have on hand.

Slice of yellow cake dusted with powdered sugar on a white and black plate

Tools

As I mentioned above, this homemade yellow cake recipe makes one 9-inch cake. Jeanette always baked her cake in a 9-inch square cake pan, but you could use a 9×2-inch round pan if you prefer.

I also like to use my electric hand mixer for this recipe. It’s quicker for me to pull out and use than my stand mixer, and I’m all about quick and easy here.

Slice of homemade yellow cake on a white and black plate, topped with strawberries and whipped cream.

Making this recipe

I am able to have this cake batter mixed and in the oven in about 10 minutes. Yes, that quickly! And with this cake’s 35-minute bake time, that means you can have fresh-from-the-oven cake in well under an hour.

Start by creaming together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. This is the part of making this batter that will take the longest – about 3-5 minutes. 

Don’t try to skimp out on that time, though! Making sure the butter and sugar are fluffy makes for a great texture in your cake.

Add the egg and beat well.

Close up of a bite of yellow cake on a golden fork, set on a plate.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a measuring cup, add the vanilla to your milk.

Now add half the flour, then all of the milk, then the rest of the flour. Make sure you mix until just combined after each addition.

I actually like to stir in the last addition of flour, just to make sure I don’t accidentally overmix the batter.

Grease and flour your cake pan and spread the batter into it. Bake for about 35 minutes. The cake is ready when it is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Overhead view of a slice of yellow cake with a bite taken from the corner.

WAYS TO SERVE THIS SIMPLE CAKE

Want to know a secret? Our family doesn’t usually frost this cake.

We like to serve it with some macerated strawberries and a bit of whipped cream. It’s reminiscent of strawberry shortcake when served this way, and it is so good.

But you can absolutely frost this cake however you like. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is obviously the most popular option, but it’s not the only one!

Try topping your homemade yellow cake with your favorite vanilla buttercream, a strawberry frosting, or even a tangy cream cheese frosting.

If you’d like to make this into a layer cake, you can double the recipe and bake it in two 9-inch pans. Then you can fill it with anything your heart desires! Fresh berries, jam, lemon curd, or a simple ganache are all great options.

Whether you’re making this yellow cake for a last-minute dinner guest or whipping it up for a birthday celebration, this is one recipe that’s sure to become a favorite in your rotation.

Plated slice of yellow cake topped with whipped cream and strawberries. A fork with a bite of the cake on it is on the plate.

Homemade Yellow Cake

Yield: One 9-inch cake, 8-9 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This Homemade Yellow Cake is simple to whip up any time you need a quick dessert. Pair this classic cake with the frosting of your choice or top it with berries and whipped cream. No matter how you enjoy it, you’re sure to want to make this again and again.

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9x9-inch cake pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the egg and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and the vanilla.
  4. Slowly add in half of the flour, mixing until combined. Add the milk; mix until combined. Add the rest of the flour, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool before cutting and serving.

Notes

  • This cake can be baked in a 9x2-inch round cake pan.
  • Top this cake with the icing of your choice or dust with powdered sugar and serve with macerated berries and whipped cream.
  • For a layer cake, double the batter and bake in two 9-inch cake pans. Let cool before turning out of the pans and filling and frosting as desired.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1 slice
Amount Per ServingCalories 370Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 56mgSodium 214mgCarbohydrates 59gFiber 1gSugar 35gProtein 5g

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