yellow cake with chocolate frosting sliced

My Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting

My best yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe is made with three layers of an incredibly buttery and moist buttermilk yellow cake, all topped off with a creamy, dreamy chocolate fudge frosting. The chocolate fudge frosting is made with REAL chocolate, with a texture and flavor similar to your favorite chocolate fudge candy. This is the perfect yellow cake recipe for birthdays, special occasions, and other celebrations!

yellow cake with chocolate frosting

Why You Should Make My Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting

Here are all the reasons to may my best yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe:

My best yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe makes an incredibly moist, buttery yellow cake.

To me, a good yellow cake is extremely moist, with lots of butter and buttermilk flavors. Its texture should be halfway between that of an angel food cake and that of a pound cake—specifically, it shouldn’t be too light or dense. Unfortunately, most yellow cake recipes miss these benchmarks! Many are too dense, with no flavor.

But not this yellow cake. It’s the ideal yellow cake I described above. What’s my secret? Well, there are several. First, brown sugar (in addition to white sugar) gives the cake extra moisture AND a subtle butterscotch flavor. Next, the cake contains oil, butter, AND buttermilk. All those ingredients keep the cake extra moist, while buttermilk gives the cake its signature tang. Like I said—it’s perfect!

My best yellow cake with chocolate frosting has an easy, chocolate fudge frosting recipe that does not require a candy thermometer.

Truthfully, the hardest part about developing this yellow cake recipe was deciding which chocolate frosting to pair with it. I’ve made yellow cakes with classic American chocolate buttercream frosting, French chocolate ganache, and chocolate sour cream frosting. All were delicious. But for my BEST yellow cake recipe, I wanted to go with something less fancy, and more nostalgic—like this chocolate fudge frosting!

This chocolate fudge frosting is the next level up from classic American chocolate buttercream frosting. It isn’t quite as sweet as buttercream, but not quite as sophisticated and bitter as ganache. It’s the perfect in-between. It uses real chocolate, melted and mixed into butter and confectioners’ sugar. The ingredients combine to create a frosting with the texture of chocolate fudge, but without the fuss of candy making.

My best yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe is adapted from my cookbook, Weeknight Baking, and fits easily into your schedule.

I first developed this recipe for my cookbook, Weeknight Baking. My book focuses on teaching bakers how to fit involved recipes—like ones for layer cakes, pies, and more—into their busy schedules. How? By splitting the recipe up and making some of its components ahead of time. Doing so ensures that you’re not in the kitchen for hours straight!

Although I wrote this recipe to be made all at once, I’ve incorporated plenty of tips throughout the post to help you fit the cake into your schedule more easily. And if you like my advice, be sure to check out my book!

My best yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe stores well.

Because of all the moisture in the yellow cake, it keeps extraordinarily well. It stays moist and fresh for several days after baking. The best part? The chocolate fudge frosting “crusts” incredibly well, hardening to a fudge-like texture. This candy-like shell locks the cake’s moisture, too! Cool, right?

my best yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe

My Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Ingredients and Substiutions

Now that I’ve convinced you to make my best yellow cake with chocolate frosting, here’s your shopping list for the recipe:

Shopping List For My Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Recipe

Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for the exact ingredient amounts and quantities:

  • cake flour
  • baking powder
  • kosher salt
  • unsalted butter
  • granulated sugar
  • light OR dark brown sugar
  • large eggs
  • canola oil
  • buttermilk
  • pure vanilla extract
  • unsweetened chocolate
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • whole milk

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

Cake Flour

You need 3 cups cake flour to make the yellow cake.

Cake Flour versus All-Purpose Flour

In the grocery store, you’ll likely find an aisle of more flour varieties than you would have thought existed: all-purpose, bread, cake, pastry, and many more. These varieties are defined by their protein percentages. Cake flour contains less protein than all-purpose flour. As a result, using cake flour in a cake recipe results in a cake with a softer and more tender crumb. If you need a brand recommendation, my favorite cake flour is Swans Down Cake Flour.

Can I use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour in this Kentucky bourbon butter cake recipe?

Yes! But it’s not a 1:1 volume substitution. 1 cup of cake flour (4 ounces or 113 grams) tends to weigh less than 1 cup of all-purpose flour (4.5 ounces or 128 grams). So if you’re planning on using all-purpose flour instead, you need to swap out the 3 cups (12 ounces or 340 grams) of cake flour with 2 ⅔ cups (12 ounces or 340 grams) all-purpose flour.

Kosher Salt

You need 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt to make the yellow cake, plus another ¼ teaspoons kosher salt to make the chocolate frosting.

Why You Should Use Kosher Salt When Baking

I like to use kosher salt (as opposed to table salt) when baking. Its larger crystals make it difficult to confuse with granulated sugar. However, not all kosher salts are created equal. Some kosher salts have smaller granules than others, which will result in saltier tasting baked goods.

For consistency, I recommend sticking to one brand, and one brand only: Diamond Crystal kosher salt. It’s the only brand of salt I use when I develop recipes for Hummingbird High. Why? Diamond Crystal kosher salt is one of the few 100% pure salts in the grocery store. Other brands have additives that can add unexpected flavors to your desserts.

I can’t find Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Is Morton’s Coarse kosher salt okay?

Yes, with reservations. Morton’s Coarse kosher salt granules are much smaller, denser, and crunchier than Diamond Crystal. According to this Food52 article, the two are different shapes and sizes because of how they’re made. Morton’s is made by flattening salt granules into large thin flakes by pressing them through high-pressure rollers, whereas Diamond Crystal is formed by a patented method in which “upside-down pyramids [are] stacked one over the next to form a crystal.” You can even see a visualization of the different sizes in this Cook’s Illustrated article.

Okay, but what does that mean, exactly? 1 teaspoon of Morton’s will taste saltier than 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal. Wild, right? So if you follow my recipes exactly as they are written but use Morton’s instead of Diamond Crystal, the results will come out saltier. In fact, sometimes they will come out TOO salty. So if you’re using Morton’s instead of Diamond Crystal, reduce the salt in the recipe by half.

Want to learn more about Diamond Crystal versus Morton’s Coarse kosher salt? Definitely check out the Food52 and Cook’s Illustrated articles I linked to above, as well as this Taste article.

I can’t find Diamond Crystal OR Morton’s Coarse kosher salt. Can I just use table salt?

Yes, with reservations. If you use table salt, you’ll need to reduce the recipe’s salt quantity by half.

If you read my little essay about Diamond Crystal and Morton’s, you learned that Diamond Crystal kosher salt granules are larger than Morton’s kosher salt granules. The same principle applies to table salt versus kosher salt. Table salt granules are much smaller than kosher salt granules. As a result, 1 teaspoon of table salt tastes much saltier than 1 teaspoon of kosher salt… simply because it can hold more granules! Wild, right?

So if you follow my recipes exactly as they are written but use table salt instead of kosher salt, the results will come out saltier. If you’re using table salt instead of kosher salt, I recommend reducing the salt in the recipe by half. 

Brown Sugar

You need ½ cup light OR dark brown sugar to make the yellow cake.

Light versus Dark Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is granulated white sugar with a touch of molasses to give it its signature color and flavor. Because brown sugar contains molasses, it adds more moisture baked goods than granulated sugar otherwise would.

Brown sugar is available in two varieties: light or dark. Dark brown sugar is my personal preference; because it contains more molasses, I find it to be more flavorful. However, you can use either in this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe without altering its flavor too much.

Can I use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar in this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe?

Yes! In a pinch, you can substitute out the brown sugar in the recipe and use the same amount of coconut sugar instead.

Canola Oil

You need 1 cup canola oil to make the yellow cake.

Can I use another oil in this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe instead?

Yes! You can use whatever oil you have on hand instead. Vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, and peanut oil work best to replace the canola oil because they are also neutral in flavors.

However, you can also use flavored oils like coconut in this recipe. Just note that your yellow cake might have a subtle coconut oil flavor to it, too.

Buttermilk

You need 1 cup buttermilk to make the yellow cake.

I don’t have buttermilk. What can I use instead?

Make your own buttermilk with whole milk. Whisk together ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) whole milk and 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice in a small liquid measuring cup. Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken, then use as directed in the recipe. Although you can technically use non-fat or skim milk to make buttermilk, I don’t recommend it. These non- and low-fat versions will lead to less flavorful baked goods.

Alternatively, you can also make your own buttermilk with yogurt. I learned this neat trick from my friend Izy at Top with Cinnamon. She thins out 1 cup natural, unsweetened, and unflavored yogurt with ½ cup water to use in place of buttermilk. She says that you can also use a thicker yogurt (like Greek yogurt), but you’ll likely need to use more water to get it to the consistency of buttermilk. Use whole yogurt if possible. Non- and low-fat yogurts will result in less flavorful baked goods.

Can I use powdered buttermilk?

Yes! Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make 1 cup buttermilk. Use as directed in the recipe.

Unsweetened Chocolate

You need 6 ounces (170 grams) unsweetened chocolate from a high-quality chocolate bar to make the chocolate frosting.

What is unsweetened chocolate?

Unsweetened chocolate is chocolate made with 100% cocoa with no added sugar. Folks like to use unsweetened chocolate in baking for the intense flavor it can bring to baked goods like brownies, cookies, and chocolate frostings. However, on its own, it tastes quite butter.

I don’t have unsweetened chocolate. Can I use dark or milk chocolate to make the chocolate frosting instead?

Yes, with reservations. If you don’t have unsweetened chocolate, you can use dark chocolate with at least 60% to 70% cacao instead. However, your chocolate frosting will likely be sweeter than mine—maybe even too sweet! There’s a reason why I used unsweetened chocolate for the recipe.

In general, I don’t recommend using chocolate with under 60% cacao (which automatically disqualifies most milk chocolate, since milk chocolate cacao percentages typically range between 30% to 40% cacao). I think it will make the frosting recipe far too sweet!

What about bittersweet and/or semisweet chocolate? Can I use that in this chocolate frosting instead?

Many manufacturers make chocolate bars that are specifically for baking; these are often labeled “bittersweet”, “semisweet”, or “unsweetened”. You’ll notice that “bittersweet” and “semisweet” typically don’t include cocoa percentages. That’s because there’s no official benchmark for each designation. Specifically: it’s up to the manufacturers to determine how much cocoa to use, and cacao percentages for each type will vary greatly between brands.

That’s why in my cookbook, I advise folks to ignore these bars and instead stick with the ones that list their cocoa percentages. That’s truly the only way to know what you’re getting!

What kind of unsweetened chocolate did you use for your chocolate frosting?

I used Ghirardelli’s Unsweetened Chocolate 100% Cacao Baking Bar. It’s readily available in most grocery stores!

Whole Milk

You need 6 Tablespoons whole milk to make the chocolate frosting.

Can I use skim, low-fat or non-fat milk instead of whole milk in this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe?

Yes, but with reservations. Skim, low-fat, and non-fat milks will lead to less flavorful baked goods.

Can I use non-dairy milk like almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or oat milk instead of whole milk in this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe?

Yes! You can use alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and/or oat milk in this recipe without altering the results.

However, be mindful that using an alternative milk with “strong” flavors (like coconut or oat milk) will impart their flavors into the frosting, too. Specifically, your frosting might have a subtle coconut or oat milk flavor to it, too.

yellow cake with chocolate frosting slices

How To Make Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting

Here are the basic steps to make the yellow cake with chocolate frosting from scratch:

First, make the yellow cake.

  1. Prep the ingredients for the yellow cake. (Prep Time: 5 minutes)
    Prepping the ingredients for the yellow cake is a breeze. All you need to do is measure out the quantities needed for the recipe. For best results, I recommend that the butter, eggs, and buttermilk are at room temperature. They’ll mix together faster and more easily!

  2. Make the yellow cake. (Work Time: 15 minutes)
    To make the cake batter, you do the following: first, mix together the dry ingredients. Then, beat the butter and sugars together, add the eggs, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. After 5 minutes, mix in the dry ingredients. That’s it!

    After that, divide the batter between three cake pans. I like to use a digital scale to weigh out the batter into each pan, ensuring perfectly even cake layers. Check out the Baker’s Tips section for more specifics on how to do so!

  3. Bake the yellow cake. (Bake Time: 40 minutes)
    The cakes need 40 to 45 minutes in the oven. When done, the cakes will be a light golden brown color. Their surfaces should bounce back when gently pressed with your finger. Don’t panic if the cake tops didn’t dome—that’s by design! The cake recipe bakes up flat so you don’t have to level the cakes when assembling them. Cool, right?

    Let the cakes cool completely to room temperature before frosting and assembling the entire yellow cake.

Next, make the chocolate frosting.

  1. Prep the ingredients for the chocolate frosting. (Prep Time: 5 minutes)
    When making the chocolate frosting, pay attention to the temperature of the ingredients listed in the recipe! You want the butter and milk to be COLD when you make the frosting. These cold ingredients will ensure that your frosting won’t come out too runny or melty.

    And for best results, I recommend that you sift the confectioners’ sugar for the frosting. Doing so will ensure that your frosting will be completely smooth and lump-free. The easiest way to sift confectioners’ sugar (especially the large amount needed for this recipe) is to place a large fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl. Dump the confectioners’ sugar into the sieve, and whisk it until it completely passes through the sieve.

  2. Make the chocolate frosting. (Work Time: 15 minutes)
    I’ll admit that there are easier frostings to make out there. But the payoff for this one is worth it, I promise! To make the chocolate frosting, melt the unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler. Let it cool slightly, then combine it with the rest of the ingredients for the frosting in a food processor. Blitz until a creamy, dreamy chocolate frosting forms.

Then, assemble the yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

  1. Assemble the cake layers. (Work Time: 10 minutes)
    Place one of the cake layers on a cake board (or a serving plate) in the middle of the rotating cake stand. Take an offset spatula and drop about ½ cup of the frosting right in the middle of the top of the cake. Spread it evenly all over the top, just like you would spread butter on toast. Repeat the process with a second layer of cake. Then, stack the third and last layer on top. There’s no need to frost this layer… yet.

  2. Crumb coat the cake. (Work Time: 15 minutes)
    A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that’s spread over the naked cake to trap crumbs. If you’ve ever tried to frost a cake without a crumb coat, you’ll know that crumbs can shake loose from the cake and get caught in the frosting, leaving your cake with unsightly bumps. The crumb coat seals in any crumbs, allowing you to apply thicker and smoother layers of frosting later.

    To apply a crumb coat, follow the instructions to stack the cakes, layering frosting between each cake to “glue” them together. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting—this is the crumb coat. Use just enough frosting to cover the entire cake completely. There’s no need to spend the time to make it look pretty! You’ll end up covering the crumb coat later.

    Then, refrigerate the whole thing for 10 to 15 minutes, just enough for the frosting to harden. You won’t need to refrigerate the cakes for too long because, in theory, the cakes are still chilled from the freezer.

Finally, finish frosting the yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

  1. Make the cake pretty. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
    Use an offset spatula to cover the cake with the remaining chocolate frosting. Then, use the spatula to make large, random sweeping motions across the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. The sweeping motions will create swirls. Don’t overthink it! For this method, a little work goes a long way. I promise it’ll be beautiful no matter what you do.
hands holding slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting

Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ

FAQ: Tools to Make Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting

Do I need special tools to make this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe?

Sort of. If you bake cakes regularly, it’s likely that you already have the main tools you need for this chocolate cake: a round cake boarda rotating cake stand and an offset spatula.

You’ll also need a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and three 8-inch cake pans to make the cake batter, and a food processor to make the chocolate frosting.

What’s a cake board?

A cake board is a stiff piece of cardboard that’s placed underneath the cake. The cake board makes it easy to transfer the cake from the rotating cake stand (which we’ll get to in a hot second) and onto a different serving plate or cake stand.

Cake boards come in different sizes to match the most commonly used cake pans. Professionals like to match the size of their cake board to their cake pan—that is, professional bakers will place an 8-inch round cake on top of an 8-inch round cake board. That being said, it’s easier for beginners and novice bakers to use a slightly larger cake board (e.g. pairing an 8-inch round cake with a 9-inch round cake board). Doing so makes it easier to pick the cake up for transfer. You can cover the rest of the cake board with a piped frosting border, or leave it as is—nobody will mind, I promise!

Do I really need a cake board for this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe?

No, you don’t really need a cake board. This recipe instructs you to place the cake on a cake board, and then place the whole thing in the center of a rotating cake stand. However, you can place the cake on its serving plate instead (and then place the serving plate on the rotating cake stand). If you’re opting for this method, it’s best to use a plate that’s completely flat—like any of these plates from Crate and Barrel’s Mercer collection (which I love and have, BTW). A flat plate gives you a level surface that makes it easier to frost the cake evenly and smoothly.

What’s a rotating cake stand?

A rotating cake stand, or a cake turntable, is a cake stand with a plate that rotates 360 degrees. This function allows bakers to smooth the sides of cakes evenly and efficiently. The best cake stands are sturdy, with a heavy base that doesn’t easily move when accidentally nudged. I found my rotating cake stand at a local restaurant professional supply store; however, this Ateco model is very similar. If you’re on a budget, opt for this cheaper, lightweight plastic version by Wilton. I also like this rotating cake stand from Food52. It looks like a regular cake stand, so there’s no need to put yourself through the scary task of moving your beautiful, finished cake onto a serving platter!

Can I make this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe without a rotating cake stand?

Yes, but I don’t recommend it. In a pinch, you can use a lazy Susan by setting the cake on a serving platter, then placing it on an upside-down bowl on the lazy Susan’s center. You’ll be able to rotate the cake this way. That being said, it’s likely that you’re going to have a much harder time crumb coating your cake. Learn more in the next section!

Okay, now what’s an offset spatula?

While spatulas for cooking have a wide rectangular or square head, offset spatulas have a thin, blunt blade. This blade enables you to easily spread and scrape sauces, fillings, frostings and more when baking. If you don’t already own one, I recommend investing in both a short and long offset spatula with sturdy metal blades. These ones from Ateco are my favorites.

Can I make this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe without an offset spatula?

Yes, but your life will be infinitely easier if you invest in an offset spatula. But without one, you can use a baking spatula, a butter knife, or the back of a spoon to cover the cake completely in frosting. Then, use a bench scraper or a (clean) ruler to smooth the sides of the cake for the crumb coat.

I don’t have three 8-inch round cake pans. I only have two 8-inch round cake pans. Can I still make this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe?

Yes, with reservations. I recommend adjusting the ingredient quantities so that you have a 2-layer cake as opposed to a 3-layer one. The quantities for a 2-layer, 8-inch cake are below:

  • 2 cups (8 ounces or 227 grams) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup (5.35 ounces or 152 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ⅔ cup (11.65 ounces or 330 grams) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup tightly packed (2.5 ounces or 71 grams) light OR dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup (5.35 ounces or 152 grams) canola oil
  • ⅔ cup (5.35 ounces or 152 grams) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Follow the recipe instructions to make the cake batter. However, your version of the recipe will only make around 43 ounces (1219 grams) cake batter instead. Pour 21.5 ounces of batter into each 8-inch cake pan. Follow the recipe instructions to bake the cake layers, make the chocolate frosting, and assemble the cake accordingly.

Note that you will likely have leftover frosting because the frosting is designed to assemble and cover a 3-layer cake. Use the extra frosting for decorating the cake, or freeze it for another use.

What about 9-inch cake pans? Can I make this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe in two or three 9-inch round cake pans instead?

Yes, with reservations.

If you only have two 9-inch cake pans, follow the adjusted quantities and instructions in the question above to make a 2-layer, 9-inch cake. However, Bake Time will change slightly. The 9-inch cake will bake slightly faster than its 8-inch version. I would check for doneness 5 to 10 minutes ahead of the Bake Time in the recipe.

If you have three 9-inch cake pans, follow the original recipe’s quantities and instructions listed in the recipe card below. Again, Bake Time will change slightly. The 9-inch cake will bake slightly faster than its 8-inch version. I would check for doneness 5 to 10 minutes ahead of the Bake Time in the recipe.

I don’t have a food processor. Can I still make the chocolate frosting?

Yes, with reservations. A food processor will make the creamiest, dreamiest chocolate frosting. But in a pinch, a stand mixer with the paddle attachment can work too!

To make the frosting in a stand mixer, follow the recipe instructions to melt and cool the unsweetened chocolate accordingly. Then, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, and salt in the stand mixer bowl and beat until creamy and combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chocolate, milk, and vanilla and beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, at least 5 minutes.

FAQ: Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Recipe Techniques

Why do you recommend freezing the yellow cakes overnight before assembling and frosting?

Why do I recommend freezing the cakes overnight? Well, I already mentioned how doing so gives me more control of my time. Typically, you need to wait for cakes to cool completely before frosting them. Otherwise, the frosting will melt! And it can take a while to bring cakes down to room temperature. So making the cakes a day ahead means I don’t have to sit around for hours waiting. Instead, I can just frost and assemble the cakes any time I want on the next day!

Additionally, I advise you to frost the cakes when they are still chilled from the freezer. Doing so keeps the cake and its crumbs in tact while you frost the cake.

Okay, but I don’t have room in my freezer. Can I refrigerate the cakes instead?

No, please don’t! Refrigerating unfrosted cakes makes them stale faster (even when wrapped in plastic wrap!). Freezing them, on the other hand, locks in moisture in the crumb. If you don’t have room in your freezer, it’s better to leave the cakes out on the counter overnight (wrapped in plastic wrap, of course). However, I still recommend freezing them for at least 10 minutes before frosting and assembling the cake. If you can spare it, remove some things from your freezer to make room for these cakes for 10 minutes.

Do I really need a crumb coat for this yellow cake with chocolate frosting?

If you don’t care about the appearance of your cake, by all means, skip the crumb coat! However, if you’re making this cake to impress someone, I highly recommend crumb coating this cake.

Why? If you didn’t freeze the cake overnight, it’s VERY likely that crumbs will shake loose from the cake and get caught in the frosting. However, the crumb coat will help seal crumbs from the cake, allowing you to apply thicker swirls of frosting later.

That being said, if you froze the cakes overnight, your yellow cake will hold its crumb better. It’s easier to skip a crumb coat with frozen cakes… but I still don’t recommend it.

How do I transfer the cake from the rotating cake stand onto a different cake stand for serving?

First, let me stress this: use a cake board!!! Doing so makes it much easier to transfer the cake from place to place. If you’re a beginner, I recommend getting a cake board that’s slightly larger than the size of cake you’re making (ie, using a 9-inch or 10-inch cake board for an 8-inch chocolate cake). A larger cake board makes it easier to pick the cake up by the board and move it place to place without messing up the frosting you worked so hard on.

However, I mentioned earlier that professionals tend to use the same size cake board as their cake. Like me! Though I’m not really a professional (I think I’m more akin to a contestant on The Great British Bake Off, maybe?), I used an 8-inch cake board for this yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe. To transfer it to its serving platter, I used this handy Wilton tool for lifting cakes. I wedge it carefully underneath the cake to pick it up and transfer it to its new cake stand. In a pinch, you can use a long and wide offset spatula.

FAQ: Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Recipe Troubleshooting

Help! My yellow cakes came out weird. They baked up pretty flat, without the traditional, slightly domed cake top. What did I do wrong?

Absolutely nothing! This yellow cake recipe is adapted from my cookbook, Weeknight Baking. In it, I specifically describe how I developed all the cake recipes in it to bake up super level, without any doming. Why? I personally hate leveling cakes—it can be a messy process, and mine usually come out uneven. So I figured it was best to come up with cake recipes that allowed me to skip the process entirely! Cool, right?

Help! I followed the recipe instructions for the chocolate frosting exactly, but my frosting came out melty and almost curdled. What did I do wrong?

Don’t panic—we can fix this! A melty frosting just means that the chocolate was still a little too hot when you combined it with the rest of the ingredients. Using cold butter and milk should help mitigate the issue (but it doesn’t always).

To fix the frosting, simply stick the frosting, still in the food processor bowl, in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes. After that, mix it around with a rubber spatula or pulse it once or twice in the food processor. It should come together just fine!

Help! I froze the cakes like you instructed but now water is beading through the cake and frosting. What did I do wrong?

To answer this question, we need to understand where that water is coming from. That water is condensation from the frozen cake thawing as it comes to room temperature. It’s similar to how the outside of a glass full of ice water is wet on a hot day. Luckily, the cake is still perfectly safe to eat. The condensation just makes an ugly cake (lol).

And in the recipe below, I instruct you to start the cake assembling process by first removing the cakes from the freezer. Doing so allows them to thaw slightly while you make the frosting, helping prevent this condensation issue. If you skipped this step, you’re more likely to have this issue.

If you DID thaw the cakes slightly first, let me ask you this: is it a really hot day? Because this is an issue that is more likely to happen in the summer! If you plan on making this cake on a really hot day again, simply let the cakes thaw for longer before frosting. I recommend setting them out 15 to 20 minutes before frosting.

FAQ: Storing Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting

How To Store Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

The assembled yellow cake can be stored at room temperature, under a cake dome or a large bowl turned upside down, for up to 1 day. Press a sheet of plastic wrap against any cut surfaces to prevent the cake from drying out. After that, cover the entire cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Can I make the yellow cake batter and save it for baking later?

Yes, but I don’t recommend it. The batter will keep, in the mixer bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap or a lid, in the refrigerator for up to 1 day after making.

However, I don’t recommend doing so. For best results, you’ll need to bring the batter back to room temperature before baking—otherwise, it’ll affect your Bake Time.

The refrigerated cake batter also tends to bake cakes with large domes (as opposed to ones that are flat and don’t need leveling—see the FAQ section above for more information!). There’s a scientific reason behind why this happens; you can read more about it in my recipe for Levain Bakery Blueberry Muffins and Small Batch Blueberry Muffins.

Can I make the chocolate frosting and save it for baking later?

Yes! You can make the chocolate frosting up to 3 days in advance of making the rest of the cake. Follow the recipe’s instructions to make the frosting. Then, transfer it to an airtight container with a lid. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the frosting to prevent a skin from forming, then cover with the lid. You can also freeze the frosting. Instead of an airtight container, scrape the frosting into a zip-top bag. Press as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing. Freeze for up to 1 year.

To use in the yellow cake recipe, bring the frosting back down to room temperature. Beat on medium-high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until soft and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Can you freeze yellow cake with chocolate frosting?

Yes! You can freeze the yellow cake in the following ways:

Freeze the baked, unfrosted cake layers.

Follow the recipe instructions for making and baking the yellow cake layers. Once the layers have cooled, tightly wrap each cake layer in its own individual sheet of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. To use in the recipe, there’s no need to thaw the cakes! Simply set the cake layers out on the counter as you make the frosting to let them thaw slightly. Use in the recipe as directed.

Freeze the entire assembled yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

You can freeze the entire assembled cake, too! However, doing so works best if you use a cake board. Follow the recipe instructions for making all the different components of yellow cake and assembling them together on a cake board. Refrigerate the entire assembled cake, uncovered, for a minimum of 4 hours. Doing so sets the frosting and preps it for freezing. After 4 hours, test the cake by gently poking the frosting with your finger. Poke it gently! You don’t want to leave an indent, you just want to swipe it gently to see if any frosting comes off. If no frosting comes off onto your finger, the cake is ready.

Carefully cover the whole thing—cake board and all—in two layers of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, transfer to the refrigerator overnight to thaw, then let stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Freeze any leftover slices of yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Tightly wrap any leftover slices of cake in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Follow the instructions above to thaw and enjoy!

Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Recipe Tips

Best Tip To Make The Recipe Fit Within Your Schedule

  • When making any kind of layer cake recipe, I always make the cake layers a day ahead of assembling the entire cake. Doing so ensures that I’m not stuck in the kitchen all day waiting for the layers to cool in order to frost and assemble the entire thing!

    If you want to take this route, I suggest making the cake layers a day ahead of making the frosting and assembling the cake. Let the cakes cool to room temperature, then wrap them in two tight layers of plastic wrap. Freeze overnight. Freezing the cakes will keep them fresh, and make the cakes easier to work with when assembling the cake the next day. And when ready to assemble the next day, thaw the cakes slightly by placing them on the counter at room temperature while you make the frosting.

    PS—if you like this kind of make-ahead, splitting-the-work-up-so-you’re-not-stuck-in-the-kitchen-all-day, DEFINITELY check out my cookbook. Recipes for intermediate bakes like layer cakes, pies, and more are written this way to help you bake around your schedule!

Best Ingredient Tips

  • The yellow cake recipe instructs you to use 1 ½ Tablespoons of pure vanilla extract. Unfortunately, most teaspoon measuring sets don’t come with a 1 ½-Tablespoon measure (although you can buy one individually online). If your measuring set doesn’t have a 1 ½-Tablespoon measure, use its equivalent in teaspoons! 1 ½ Tablespoons of pure vanilla extract equals 4 ½ teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.

  • For this recipe, it’s especially important to pay attention to the temperatures of the ingredients, especially when it comes to the chocolate frosting. The frosting comes together best when both the butter and milk are still cold from the fridge. Why? You’re combining these ingredients with warm, melted chocolate. If they are already at room temperature, the frosting has a tendency to get too runny and melty. If you find yourself with this issue, check out the FAQ and Troubleshooting section on how to fix it!

Best Technique Tips

  • For even cake layers, I like to actually weigh out the layers with a digital kitchen scale to make sure they’re even. The easiest way to do this is to set a prepared cake pan on a digital scale and tare it to “0”. Pour batter into the pan until the scale registers the weight listed in the recipe (because yes, I’ve included the approximate weight of the batter needed for each pan!). Repeat with the second and third cake pans. 

  • For best results, use the chocolate frosting immediately after making it. The frosting will start out with an incredibly silky, creamy, and easy-to-smooth texture. However, as it cools, it will eventually harden into a fudge-like texture. It’s best to work with it when it’s still soft and creamy!

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Get the Recipe: My Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting Recipe

My best yellow cake with chocolate frosting recipe has three layer of moist buttermilk yellow cake, covered in an easy chocolate fudge frosting.
(4.58 stars) 14 reviews
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Ingredients

For The Yellow Cake

For The Chocolate Fudge Frosting

  • 6 ounces (170 grams) unsweetened chocolate, from a high-quality chocolate bar, hand broken into pieces
  • 4 ½ cups (18 ounces or 510 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks or 12 ounces or 340 grams) cold unsalted butter
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams) cold whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Equipment

  • A food processor
  • a 8-inch or 9-inch round cake board
  • a rotating cake stand
  • an offset spatula

Instructions
 

For The Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting

  • First, make the cake. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously spray three 8-inch cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of each with a parchment paper circle. Spray the parchment, too.
  • Mix the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Cream the butter and sugars. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars. Beat on medium until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 3 to 4 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. 
  • Add the eggs, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time, adding the next egg only after the previous one has been fully incorporated, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the oil, followed by the buttermilk and vanilla, and beat until the mixture is smooth, 3 to 4 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.
  • Assemble the cake layers for baking. Divide the batter evenly between the pans; if using a digital scale to measure out layers, note that this recipe makes around 66.5 ounces (1885 grams) of batter—pour 22.15 ounces (628 grams) of batter into each cake pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the cake batter evenly inside the pans and smooth their tops.
  • Bake and cool the cake layers. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. When done, the top of the cake should bounce back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pans on a wire rack before frosting.
  • Prep and melt the chocolate for the frosting. In a food processor, pulse the chocolate for a few seconds at a time until chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Transfer the chocolate to the top of a double boiler or to a heatproof bowl set over a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan filled with a few inches of simmering water (be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Cook over medium heat, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir the mixture and scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the chocolate has melted, about 10 minutes. Set the top of the double boiler or the bowl on a wire rack and let the chocolate cool while you prep the other ingredients.
  • Make the chocolate frosting. In the food processor, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk, vanilla, and salt. Pour in the melted chocolate and pulse briefly to combine, then process until the frosting is creamy, smooth, and light brown in color, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then process for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Assemble the cake. If necessary, level the top of the cakes. Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter in the center of a rotating cake stand. Use a rubber spatula or cookie dough scoop to drop ½ cup of frosting in the middle of this cake layer. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly all over the top, just like you would spread butter on toast. Place the second cake on top of this frosting, stacking it evenly on top of the first cake. Use the rubber spatula or cookie dough scoop to drop another ½ cup of frosting in the middle of this cake layer. Spread it evenly all over the top. Finally, place the third cake on top of this frosting, stacking it evenly on top of the first two cakes.
  • Next, crumb coat the cake. Use the offset spatula to cover the surface of the entire layer cake with a thin layer of frosting. Use just enough frosting to cover the entire cake completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes to stiffen and "set" the frosting.
  • After the crumb coat sets, finish frosting the cake. Use the offset spatula to cover the cake with the remaining frosting. Then, use the spatula to make large, random sweeping motions across the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. The sweeping motions will create swirls.
  • Serve and store. Serve immediately. The assembled yellow cake with chocolate frosting can be stored at room temperature, under a cake dome or a large bowl turned upside down, for up to 1 day. Press a sheet of plastic wrap against any cut surfaces to prevent the cake from drying out. After that, cover the entire cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Notes

  • When making any kind of layer cake recipe, I always make the cake layers a day ahead of assembling the entire cake. Doing so ensures that I’m not stuck in the kitchen all day waiting for the layers to cool in order to frost and assemble the entire thing! If you want to take this route, I suggest making the cake layers a day ahead of making the frosting and assembling the cake. Let the cakes cool to room temperature, then wrap them in two tight layers of plastic wrap. Freeze overnight. Freezing the cakes will keep them fresh, and make the cakes easier to work with when assembling the cake the next day. And when ready to assemble the next day, thaw the cakes slightly by placing them on the counter at room temperature while you make the frosting.
    PS—if you like this kind of make-ahead, splitting-the-work-up-so-you’re-not-stuck-in-the-kitchen-all-day, DEFINITELY check out my cookbook. Recipes for intermediate bakes like layer cakes, pies, and more are written this way to help you bake around your schedule!
  • The yellow cake recipe instructs you to use 1 ½ Tablespoons of pure vanilla extract. Unfortunately, most teaspoon measuring sets don’t come with a 1 ½-Tablespoon measure (although you can buy one individually online). If your measuring set doesn’t have a 1 ½-Tablespoon measure, use its equivalent in teaspoons! 1 ½ Tablespoons of pure vanilla extract equals 4 ½ teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.
  • For this recipe, it’s especially important to pay attention to the temperatures of the ingredients, especially when it comes to the chocolate frosting. The frosting comes together best when both the butter and milk are still cold from the fridge. Why? You’re combining these ingredients with warm, melted chocolate. If they are already at room temperature, the frosting has a tendency to get too runny and melty. If you find yourself with this issue, check out the FAQ and Troubleshooting section on how to fix it!
  • For even cake layers, I like to actually weigh out the layers with a digital kitchen scale to make sure they’re even. The easiest way to do this is to set a prepared cake pan on a digital scale and tare it to “0”. Pour batter into the pan until the scale registers the weight listed in the recipe (because yes, I’ve included the approximate weight of the batter needed for each pan!). Repeat with the second and third cake pans. 
  • For best results, use the chocolate frosting immediately after making it. The frosting will start out with an incredibly silky, creamy, and easy-to-smooth texture. However, as it cools, it will eventually harden into a fudge-like texture. It’s best to work with it when it’s still soft and creamy!
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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.