Good Old Fashioned Yellow Birthday Cake

Posted by Christine Eriksen

Something might be wrong in the baking world today. Bakery shelves are stacked high with the trendiest dessert, filled or flavored or “kissed” with the latest popular ingredient, and hidden under a crazy design. These are delicious and fun to look at, but somewhere along the line, we have to ask ourselves, “Where is the cake?”

Look friends, birthdays happen and nothing hits the spot like a good old-fashioned sugar-eggs-flour-butter birthday cake. Every decent baker should have a good cake recipe as his or her trump card. If someone tells you they don’t agree, they’ve never had a from scratch birthday cake, and since you are reading this, it is now your responsibility to make them the birthday cake of all birthday cakes—Yellow Cake.

Yellow cake is a cake Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation would appreciate. It’s no nonsense, has a couple ingredients, and tastes like cake. Let’s remember that on a birthday, it should be ok to indulge. This cake requires a couple more eggs and some more butter than most which gives it a rich taste while keeping the texture airy and moist. Paired with a simple fudgy frosting, which can be whipped together in a food processor, yellow cake is a marriage of kid birthday party nostalgia and adult sophistication. Adding touches like neon dinosaur shaped nonpareils (a friend of mine picked these up for me at Home Goods) or an assortment of colorful jimmies makes the decoration even more fun.

In my experience, if you show up to a birthday with a messy, handmade cake, you’ll be forgiven of faults and suddenly attract many more friends.

Yellow Cake

Makes two 9 inch round cake layers


4 cups + 2 Tablespoons of cake flour (Or 3½ cups + 2 T of flour + ½ c of corn starch)
2 tsp of baking powder
1½ tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter, softened.
2 cups of sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups of buttermilk, well shaken


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two cake pans by buttering the pans, lining with parchment paper then buttering the parchment.

Measure flour (or flour & cornstarch if you’re using the substitute), baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Beat butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl on medium seed until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping down the bowl each time. Switch the speed of the mixer to low and add a third of the flour mixture, half of the buttermilk, another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour until just combined.

Split the batter evenly between two pans (you can do this by measuring on your scale if you would like). To eliminate any air bubbles, drop the pans from a few inches above the counter a few times. Bake until golden brown & passes the toothpick test—about 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for ten minutes, then invert onto a rack and discard the parchment. Cool completely before frosting.


6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.

Christine Eriksen takes the pictures, tries the recipes, and eats the food mentioned in the post above in her miniature Philadelphia kitchen. Her other hobbies include knitting, comics, and a Futurama marathon that never ends. Check out her food obsessed tweets @crumblebakery and find more recipes on

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