small batch yellow cake

About This Small Batch Yellow Cake Recipe

This small batch yellow cake recipe is VERY small batch and a part of the Small Batch Baking Recipes collection on Hummingbird High. But what does VERY small batch mean?

The yellow cake is baked in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, similar to the kind you use to make loaf cakes and quick breads like banana bread. It’s the perfect amount for 2 hungry (or 4 more reasonable folks)!

Unlike other small batch cake recipes that are baked in an 8 x 8-inch pan, the result is a very small sheet cake that’s an eighth of the size of a typical 9 x 13-inch sheet cake!

What Does This Small Batch Yellow Cake Taste Like?

The small batch yellow sheet cake recipe is loosely based on the yellow cake recipe in my cookbook, Weeknight Baking.

The yellow cake is super moist, with a tender and buttery crumb that tastes slightly tangy from a buttermilk substitution in the ingredients.

The cake is paired with an easy chocolate buttercream frosting that comes together in less than 5 minutes.

Looking for a yellow cake recipe to feed a crowd? Check out My Best Yellow Cake Recipe With Chocolate Frosting (which makes an 8-inch, 3-layer cake) or this Yellow Sheet Cake With Strawberry Frosting (which makes a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake).

Why You Should Make The Recipe

In addition to making delicious a delicious and VERY cute scaled down cake, this recipe also has other advantages:

One Amazon reviewer described it as her new default birthday cake recipe thanks to its super soft and extra moist cake crumb. Another friend of mine made the cake for her boyfriend, a James Beard Award-nominated chef. He heartily approved of the recipe and claimed that it was the best yellow cake he’d ever had. Need I say more?

This small batch yellow cake recipe uses ingredients that are likely to be in your pantry/fridge—no extra shopping trip required!

Although I love the original yellow cake recipe in my cookbook (which is very similar to My Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Recipe), it uses specialty ingredients like cake flour and buttermilk. So I’ve adapted the recipe below to use ingredients that are more likely to be in our current pantries. The new version now uses staples like all-purpose flour, whole milk, and white vinegar!

small batch yellow cake

Ingredients and Substitutions

Now that I’ve convinced you to make this small batch yellow sheet cake, here’s everything you need to make the recipe:

Shopping List For Small Batch Yellow Sheet Cake Recipe

  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • kosher salt
  • whole milk
  • pure vanilla extract
  • white vinegar
  • unsalted butter
  • granulated sugar
  • light brown sugar
  • large eggs
  • canola oil
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • natural unsweetened cocoa powder

And let’s talk about some key ingredients and potential substitutions:

Common Ingredient Substitutions For The Recipe

Here are common substitutions for the ingredients in the yellow sheet cake recipe:

  • All-Purpose Flour. Substitute the all-purpose flour with your favorite 1-1 Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I like the ones by Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Baking Company) to make the cake gluten-free!

  • Kosher Salt. Replace the ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in the recipe with a pinch of table salt.

  • Milk/Vinegar. You can replace the milk and vinegar in the recipe with buttermilk.

    As for the milk: You can also substitute the whole milk for 2% or skim milk (but your cake might be less flavorful). You can also use any plant-based milk to make the cake dairy free (though you’ll need to swap the butter out for a plant-based option too). Flavorful plant based milks (like coconut or oat) will make the cake taste like that flavor, too.

  • Unsalted Butter. You can substitute the unsalted butter with salted butter without any noticeable difference in taste. You can also use vegan butter sticks to make it dairy-free (though you’ll need to swap the milk out for a plant-based option too).

  • Brown Sugar. Either light or dark brown sugar works in the cake recipe.

  • Canola Oil. You can replace the canola oil with any other neutral flavored oil like grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, and more.

  • Cocoa Powder. Either natural unsweetened or Dutch-processed cocoa powder works in the frosting recipe. Dutch-process cocoa will result in a darker colored frosting.
small batch yellow cake

Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ

Do I really need a stand mixer to make this small batch yellow cake?

No stand mixer? No problem. If you have a handheld electric mixer, use it for this recipe! In fact, it may even work better—because the recipe uses such a small quantity of ingredients, the ingredients have a tendency to get stuck at the bottom and sides of the bowl. You’ll need to use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl often. This isn’t as much of a problem if you use a handheld mixer instead!

Want to learn about the best baking equipment for small batch baking recipes? Check out my post on the Best Small Batch Baking Tools you can buy!

Help! I made the cake but it’s too short/thin. What did I do wrong?

Absolutely nothing! The sheet cake is on the skinny side, and is about as thick as my favorite brownie recipes. If you want a thicker cake, feel free to double the recipe. However, you’ll likely need to increase the recipe’s Bake Time.

Can you freeze yellow cake?

Yes! You can freeze the cake AFTER BAKING and BEFORE its frosted, as well as any leftovers after its frosted. Simply wrap the entire cake before its been frosted or the leftovers in two layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting and/or re-eating.

Best Recipe Tip

As tempting as it is to save yourself time by frosting the cake while it’s still warm, please don’t! The frosting will melt over the warm cake, leaving you with a chocolate puddle for frosting. Wait until the cake is completely cooled before frosting.

Other Yellow Cake Recipes

Other Small Batch Recipes

Get the Recipe: Small Batch Yellow Sheet Cake With Easy Chocolate American Buttercream Frosting Recipe

This small batch yellow cake is baked in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. It makes a yellow sheet cake that's the perfect serving for a household of 2 to 4 people!
(5 stars) 3 reviews
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Ingredients

For The Yellow Sheet Cake

  • ½ cup (2.25 ounces or 64 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) whole milk, at room temperature
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon white vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 7 Tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons tightly packed (1.45 ounces or 41 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) canola oil

For The Easy Chocolate American Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 Tablespoons (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if necessary
  • 2 Tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if necessary
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons whole milk

Instructions
 

  • First, make the sheet cake. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the pan's two long sides. Spray the parchment, too.
  • Prep the dry and ingredients for the sheet cake. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
    In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and vinegar.
  • Beat the butter and sugars, then add the egg, oil, and milk mixture. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary.
    Reduce the mixer to low and add the egg, oil, and milk mixture, adding the ingredients only after the previous one has been fully incorporated. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Prep the batter for baking and bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
    Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake bounces back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with few crumbs attached.
  • Cool the cake. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack before frosting.
  • When the cake is cool and you're ready to assemble the cake, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
    Reduce the mixer to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder, beating until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
    With the mixer on low, add 1 Tablespoon of the milk, beating just to incorporate the liquid—if it still seems dry, add the other 1 Tablespoon of the milk. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, then beat on medium-high until the frosting is creamy and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Assemble the cake. Use an offset spatula to cover the top of the cake with the frosting completely. Garnish with sprinkles.
  • Serve and store. The cake will keep, loosely covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Notes

  • As tempting as it is to save yourself time by frosting the cake while it’s still warm, please don’t! The frosting will melt over the warm cake, leaving you with a chocolate puddle for frosting. Wait until the cake is completely cooled before frosting.
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Michelle holding Weeknight Baking cookbook covering her face.

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Weeknight Baking:
Recipes to Fit your Schedule

Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.