slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting being removed from cake

This yellow cake recipe starts with yellow cake mix but no one would know, it tastes like it’s made from scratch! Yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting comes together fast, make a 2 or 3 layer cake with all our tips!

The Best Yellow Cake Recipe

Every baker needs a yellow cake in their recipe book! 

This recipe with yellow cake mix is easy to make, moist and topped with a creamy chocolate buttercream frosting. It’s the kind of cake you’ll want to make for birthdays, holidays and family dinners. 

Below we’ll cover:

  • Making yellow cake with a box mix
  • How to Make a Box Cake Taste Homemade
  • How to properly measure flour
  • Recommended cake baking tools
  • How to prepare a cake pan
  • How to bake flat even cakes
  • Making this cake ahead of time
  • Total time required to make this cake
  • How much frosting to put in between cake layers
  • How to make gluten free yellow cake
a whole yellow cake with chocolate frosting on white plate the white subway tile in the background

Why Start with a Box of Yellow Cake Mix?

Our yellow birthday cake starts with a box of cake mix because this recipe is all about ease! 

This box cake recipe is perfect for all of us who like the ease of a box mix, but  want to doctor up the cake mix for more of a homemade taste. Plus, this  doctored up version comes together just as quick as the box mix because you can still put everything into one bowl and beat it together.

How to Make a Box Cake Taste Homemade

It’s all about adding ingredients to the cake mix to give the cake better texture & taste. In our case, we’re adding ingredients with moisture.

ingredients to make yellow cake from yellow cake mix on white background

Yellow Cake Ingredients

  • yellow cake mix: the base of the recipe! Be sure to use a 15.25 oz box of yellow cake mix. Some brands have different sizes so be sure to get the correct size. 
  • all purpose flour: flour is necessary to build the cake structure 
  • granulated sugar: adds sweetness and flavor
  • salt: just a pinch to balance the sweetness and enhances the other flavors
  • eggs: binds the batter together by providing structure
  • vanilla extract: adds that classic vanilla flavor to the cake
  • milk: adds moisture 
  • buttermilk: adds moisture and acidity 
  • sour cream: adds moisture and acidity 

This recipe yields about 6 & 2/3 cups of batter. I used 3 & 1/3 cups of batter in each 8 inch cake pan. 

Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients

  • unsalted butter
  • unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • powdered sugar
  • heavy cream
  • salt
  • vanilla extract 

Butter, cocoa powder and powdered sugar make up the bulk of the frosting. Heavy cream is used to make the frosting extra smooth and creamy.

a single slice of yellow cake with chocolate on white plate

How to Properly Measure Flour

  • Fluff the flour with a fork
  • Use a spoon to scoop the flour into your measuring cup
  • Use a butter knife to level off the flour in the measuring cup

Sticking the measuring cup straight into the bag of flour will result in too much flour to be packed into the cup, which can result in dry cookies.

process collage of how to prepare a cake pan

How to Prepare a Cake Pan

I recommend greasing your cake pan with butter or shortening, not non-stick cooking spray. Liberally butter the entire pan. I find that butter works better to grease the pan to ensure the cake doesn’t stick. 

Place your hand inside a ziplock bag or paper towel, use 1/2 tablespoon of butter or shortening and liberally butter the pan. The bag or paper towel will prevent the butter from getting all over your hands. 

For super easy cake removal, cut out a circle of parchment paper that is the same size as your pan and place it in the bottom of the pan after you buttered it. I trace the bottom of my springform pan onto the paper, then cut it out. 

a  close up shot of whole yellow cake with chocolate frosting on white plate the white subway tile in the background

Recommended Cake Baking Tools

How To Bake Even Flat Cakes

I use bake even cake strips around the outside of my springform pans to ensure that my cakes bake with flat even tops. It works every time and a 2 pack is about $10 on Amazon! 

You can also use a cake leveler or serrated knife to level your cakes before assembling them. 

slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting being removed from cake

How To Make Ahead of Time

Make the cake layers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap them well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 days. Alternatively, you can freeze them for up to 3 months. 

Chocolate buttercream can also be made ahead of time. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 days. When ready to use, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature and briefly beat with a mixer. 

How Much Frosting Between Cake Layers

 For an 8 inch 2 layer cake I recommend 3/4 to 1 cup of frosting between the cake layers. The remaining frosting will be used to frost the sides and top of the cake. 

Total Time Required

  • 15 minutes to prep the cake batter
  • 35-40 minutes to bake
  • 1+ hour to cool the cake completely
  • 5 minutes to make the frosting
  • 10-20 minutes to assemble and frost the cake
a single slice of yellow cake with chocolate on white plate

How to Make Gluten Free Yellow Layer Cake

Use a gluten free yellow cake mix in place of the regular cake mix. I recommend using the Betty Crocker one (15 oz) or the Pillsbury one (17 oz). Follow our instructions as written. 

More Cake Recipes

Yellow Cake Recipe

Yellow Cake Recipe

Yield: 8 INCH 2 LAYER CAKE
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 55 minutes

This yellow cake recipe starts with yellow cake mix but no one would know, it tastes like it’s made from scratch! Yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting comes together fast, make a 2 or 3 layer cake with all our tips!

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 box yellow cake mix, 15.25 oz (I prefer Duncan Hines)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (skim, 1% or 2%)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup sour cream

Chocolate Frosting

  • 4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease two 8 inch springform pans with butter (butter the sides and bottom) and line each pan with a parchment paper circle for easy cake removal. Set aside. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the cake mix, flour, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla extract, milk, buttermilk, and sour cream, beat with an electric mixer until combined, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Evenly divide the batter between the 2 pans, with 3 & 1/3 cups of batter in each pan. If using bake even cake strips, secure them around the outside of the pans. 
  4. Bake both pans on the same rack in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Baking times will vary depending on your oven and size of pan you’re using. 
  5. Allow the cakes to cool for 20-30 minutes in the pans before removing them and allowing them to cool completely on a cooling rack. 

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on high for 3 minutes. 
  2. Sift in the cocoa powder and 3 cups of powdered sugar. I like to sift these in because it helps break up clumps, creating a light and fluffy frosting. Beat the frosting on low speed until combined and thick.
  3. Mix in 3 tbsp of heavy cream, vanilla extract and salt. 
  4. Add in the additional powdered sugar (1-2 cups), mix on low. If the frosting is too thick, beat in an additional tablespoon of heavy cream. 

ASSEMBLE

  1. If needed, level the cooled cakes using a cake leveler or serrated knife. Spread a small amount of chocolate buttercream on the bottom of your cake plate / stand, this acts as “glue” to prevent the cake from moving. Place one cake layer over the frosting. Measure 3/4 to 1 cup of frosting and evenly spread that on top of the first layer. Top with the second cake layer and spread the remaining frosting around the sides and top of the cake. I use about 1 cup of frosting on the top of the cake. Top with chocolate curls if desired. 
  2. Slice and serve. Cover leftover cake tightly with plastic wrap and store on the counter for up to 3 days. 

Notes

For a 3 layer cake, divide the batter between 3 pans, about 2 & 1/4 cups per pan.

HOW TO MAKE AHEAD OF TIME

Make the cake layers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap them well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 days. Alternatively, you can freeze them for up to 3 months. 

Chocolate buttercream can also be made ahead of time. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 days. When ready to use, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature and briefly beat with a mixer. 

HOW TO MAKE GLUTEN FREE Yellow CAKE

Use a gluten free yellow cake mix in place of the regular cake mix. I recommend using the Betty Crocker one (15 oz) or the Pillsbury one (17 oz). Follow our instructions as written. 

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.