Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Classic Birthday Cake

Written by Becky

I originally posted this cake on the blog in 2010 and after years of making if for friends and family I thought it was worth reposting with new photos and a few recipe changes. This classic birthday cake we continue to make over the years is a simple but perfect yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

My dear friend, Matt, who some call Danny Tanner,( for he played the dad role among all of our friends growing up) used to bake me a birthday cake every year for my birthday. It was always yellow cake with chocolate icing and never plainly decorated. He commonly found random small toys or decorations to place on the top, probably found in the toy isle at the local grocery store. Ever since then I have it in my mind that a birthday cake must be exactly that: a yellow cake baked with love and smothered in chocolate frosting with some whimsy element for the top.

One of the great things about this dear friend of mine is that he didn’t just remember my birthday but he remembered all of his friends’ birthdays and still to this day calls me on my birthday or texts me something ridiculous to make me laugh. I hope I can be that kind of a friend to others.

Since Danny Tanner won’t give away his secret recipe, most likely found on the side of a Sara Lee box, I decided to venture out and find my own. I started with the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, a food blog I often rely on, then over the years altered it after finding my grandma’s yellow cake recipe. The chocolate frosting is from The Kitchn website and I think you’ll enjoy it too!

If you’re celebrating a friend’s birthday or just on a search for the best birthday cake, this one will do just the trick!

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Perfect Yellow Cake

A rich, buttery, yellow cake that everyone will love!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings


  • 2 sticks butter 1 cup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


  • Preheat oven to 325 and grease extra well (or line with parchment and grease parchment) 2 9 inch round cake pans, 3 8 inch round cake pans, or one 8 x 12 oblong pan or one standard bundt pan*.
  • In a stand mixer, cream butter and add in sugar gradually. Cream until sugar is smooth. Add in one egg at a time and mix until fluffy.
  • Mix the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  • Alternate adding in the flour mixture and milk.
  • Stir in vanilla.
  • Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then tap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.


This cake can be made in a variety of pans. You can use 3 8 inch round cake pans, 2 9 inch round cake pans, one 8 x 12 oblong pan, or one standard bundt pan. Make sure to grease the pans well especially if you're using a bundt pan!!

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

For the Frosting  you’ll need: 1/2 cup butter, 5 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 cup milk, 16 ounces powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan, and whisk in the cocoa powder. Whisk in the milk and heat just until bubbles appear around the edges. Pour over the powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until smooth and glossy. If it seems extremely runny, add more powdered sugar. Be careful, though; as it cools it will firm up considerably, so wait until the icing cools before adding too much more. Beat in the vanilla.

Use immediately, or let in cool in the fridge, then whip again until fluffy.

If you’re using immediately, pouring it over the cake is the easiest way. If you have a layered cake pour it over the first layer then top with another layer then pour over the second and repeat for the third.

This will keep for several days the fridge, but make sure it’s tightly covered. It will dry out and form a thin crust when exposed to air.

TIP FOR ICING CAKES: to accomplish a smooth iced cake, let cake cool completely then secure the crumbs by applying a very thin layer of icing all around the cake. Then refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes. This should secure all of the crumbs on the exterior of the cake. Then apply a second layer of icing for the finished look.

Some other great ideas for Birthday Cakes:
Double layered Tres Leche Cake
Layered Italian Cream Cake
Spice Cake with Maple Icing
Hot Cocoa Cake

Previous photos of this recipe using a layered cake pan :

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Comments (27)

  1. i would totally let you make that cake for me 🙂 i will say though that i don't typically like "birthday cakes" as much as something like cheesecake or dump cake 🙂

  2. I usually request cookies for my birthday treat:) Josh likes lemon cake. This one looks like a winner though! Great way to celebrate a special occasion.

  3. What a great tip for frosting a cake! I haven't heard that before, and I'm pretty old . . . . thanks for sharing. I love birthday cakes as well. There are a few that are on the rotation at my house. Birthdays are just meant to come with cakes!

  4. What a pretty cake! I love the cake tin as well. Danny Tanner is the dad's name on 'Full House' so I laughed when I first read that!

  5. Tiff, I love that you understood my Danny Tanner reference. We used to call my friend Danny Tanner bc he was like the dad of our group and always cooked and cared for everyone else.

  6. pretty much i'm in love with that cake tin. my ideal birthday cake isn't a cake at all really, but a special dessert that is the birthday being's very favorite. i tend to choose things with strawberries.

  7. my idea as of late for birthday cakes has been layers! they are so fun, fancy and just scream celebration!

    (I say that yet, I totally requested cupcakes for my birthday this year. 😉 )

    What a beautiful cake! And that recipe for the chocolate frosting sounds wonderful, I'd love to try it.

    Gorgeous pictures!

    I want to go to that eclectic shop. That cake carrier is just so unique!

  8. The cake, the tin…. just absolutely lovely! New to your blog and love it! I am a transplant from the East Coast and love baking! Except I have had fear and horror in trying to bake at this altitude! Actually, I've tried and it has only been a disaster! Did you make adjustments to this recipe for high altitude? I really want to try it but the last cake experiment ended up a "blowout" in my oven! 🙁 Other than that really like your blog and I will definitely take a trip to the Retro Rose!! 🙂 Annie

  9. Hi Annie! I baked this cake exactly as the recipe called and it turned out perfect. Are you in the mountains or the valley of Salt Lake? I am in the valley so most recipes don't have much change to them. I you try it, please let me know how it works for you!

    Also, I hope you enjoy Retro Rose! There are actually several great antique shops in Salt Lake…here is a link to my favorites:

  10. Stumbled by today from 24Carrot and this is one heck of an awesome looking cake – I have to try this one! What a sweet friend Danny was – I think we all wish we could be that good a friend to the people we meet. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Hi there! I just tried this recipe and made cupcakes, but sadly the cake turned out really really dry :/ is it just me, or have you tried this with cupcakes with good results? The batter tasted delicious at least! 😉

    • If you’re making cupcakes the bake time would need to decrease by a lot!! I’m so sorry it turned out dry! I made this cake again just yesterday and it turned out perfect so you should definitely try it again!

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