This buttery yellow sheet cake is simple and straightforward. Made from basic ingredients, it’s soft, tender, and perfectly moist. Baked in a half sheet pan or quarter sheet pan, this classic birthday cake doesn’t require any special assembly or decoration. Top with my creamy and rich chocolate fudge frosting.
Is there truly a better birthday cake? This buttery yellow cake with rich chocolate frosting is the quintessential treat for your birthday candles this year. After plenty of recipe testing, I landed on a simple combination of basic ingredients that yield a tender and flavorful cake crumb.
You know the super moist cakes that stick to your fork? That’s what this is!
This Yellow Sheet Cake Is:
- Simple to make, assemble, and decorate
- Flavorful and moist
- Extra buttery and soft
- Perfect for a half sheet or quarter sheet pan
- Covered in fudge-like chocolate frosting
Best Ingredients to Use for Yellow Sheet Cake & Why
- Cake Flour: Cake flour produces a wonderfully light and cakey crumb. I highly recommend it. If you don’t have cake flour, you can use this DIY cake flour substitute.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda: I used to make this cake as written below, but with 1 teaspoon of baking soda. (No baking powder.) In recent years, I began using a particular mix of baking powder and baking soda. This change is in the recipe below. The crumb was instantly lifted and the cake was even fluffier. Note: I use a *touch* extra baking powder here than in my layered yellow cake.
- Salt & Vanilla Extract: Flavor.
- Unsalted Butter: Like vanilla cake, creamed butter and sugar is the base of this yellow sheet cake. There’s simply no other way to achieve the same cakey and soft crumb. (For denser cakes, such as carrot cake, we use oil since we’re looking for a different texture.) Make sure your butter is at proper room temperature. If you’re interested, review Here’s What Room Temperature Butter Really Means.
- Granulated Sugar: Sweetens the cake.
- Eggs: My yellow layer cake uses whole eggs, plus additional egg yolks. In that recipe, I also whip egg whites into peaks before folding into the cake batter. Layer cakes require a little more finesse because you’re stacking cakes on top of one another, squishing them down. I don’t find either addition (more egg yolks and whipped egg whites) necessary here. However, feel free to mix in just the egg yolks where you add the whole eggs in the written recipe below. Then whip the egg whites separately before folding into the batter after you add the milk. I don’t take that extra step here though.
- Sour Cream: Sour cream promises a tender cake crumb. Plain yogurt works as a substitute if needed.
- Whole Milk: Liquid is key in most cakes because it thins out the batter. You can use nondairy or lower fat milks in a pinch, but the cake’s texture isn’t as rich or moist.
I use the same ingredients in my yellow cupcakes, too.
Check out this chocolate fudge frosting! It’s the same frosting I use for my piñata cake. (Another cake that’s perfect for a birthday celebration.) What I love most about this particular frosting is that it’s dense and smooth, not whipped or fluffy like I usually make it.
The recipe yields enough for a thick layer of frosting.
The Many Benefits of Sheet Cakes
I love sheet cakes because they feed a large crowd, bake up fast, and cool pretty quickly. There’s also no assembly required or special decorating techniques needed.
I call sheet cakes the fuss-free cakes.
You can use a 9×13 inch cake pan for a quarter sheet cake or a 12×17 inch sheet pan for a half sheet cake (pictured below). The quarter sheet cake, which is pictured above, is thicker and requires a little longer in the oven. Both bake times are included below. If sheet cakes are your preference too, try this cookies and cream cake next!
The ultimate birthday cake is right here! This yellow sheet cake with chocolate fudge frosting is the only yellow cake recipe you’ll ever need.
- 2 and 1/4 cups (266g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature*
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, at room temperature*
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 and 1/2 cups (540g) confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 cup (62g) natural unsweetened or dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup*
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- optional: rainbow sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Generously grease and lightly flour a 12×17 inch half sheet pan or a 9×13 inch quarter sheet pan. Set aside.
- Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Turn the mixer down to medium-high speed and beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the sour cream.
- Add 1/2 of the cake flour mixture/dry ingredients and 1/2 of the milk and beat on low speed until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and milk and beat on low speed until combined. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl.
- Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan. Smooth it out into a thin, even layer. For a 12×17 inch sheet cake, bake for 20-22 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For a 9×13 inch sheet cake, bake for 36-40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. With either size, make sure you rotate the cake pan once or twice during bake time.
- Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan placed on a wire rack. As the cake cools, make the frosting.
- Make the frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until pale, smooth, and creamy, about 2 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer or sieve, sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together. Add the sugar/cocoa mixture to the butter, then beat on low speed for 20 seconds. Stop the mixer, then add the milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. If the frosting is too thick, beat in an extra splash of milk.
- Frost cooled cake and top with sprinkles. Slice and serve. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Cake can be made 1 day in advance, covered tightly at room temperature, and then frosted right before serving. Frosting can also be made 1 day ahead of time. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Bring frosting to room temperature, then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. Adding a splash of milk will help thin the frosting out, if needed. Frosted or unfrosted cake can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Cake Flour: Cake flour produces an extra light cake. I recommend it, especially if making the thicker 9×13 inch cake. If desired, you can use the same amount of all-purpose flour instead. The original recipe was written with all-purpose flour. Or you can try this cake flour substitute.
- Sour Cream: Full-fat sour cream lends the best flavor. You can substitute plain yogurt in a pinch. I suggest a full-fat variety.
- Milk: For a rich and moist cake, I highly recommend whole milk. You can use lower fat or nondairy milk in a pinch, but the cake won’t taste as rich or moist. You can use buttermilk instead, too. I recommend whole milk or even half-and-half in the frosting, but lower fat or nondairy milk works in a pinch.
- Corn Syrup: A little corn syrup makes the frosting uniquely glossy and shiny. You can leave it out if you’d like.
- Yellow Cupcakes: You can use this cake batter to make about 20 cupcakes. I also have a yellow cupcakes recipe that produces the same buttery moist texture and flavor. If using this cake batter, follow the same baking instructions as the yellow cupcakes.
- Yellow Layer Cake: Here is my layered yellow cake recipe.
Keywords: yellow sheet cake, yellow cake with chocolate frosting