Yellow Sheet Cake with Chocolate Frosting

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.

9x13 inch yellow sheet cake in pan

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

slice of yellow sheet cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

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.

yellow cake batter for sheet cake

yellow cake batter in a glass cake pan

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.

spreading chocolate frosting on a yellow sheet cake

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.

slice of yellow cake from a 12x17 inch sheet pan

yellow sheet cake topped with chocolate frosting

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9x13 inch yellow sheet cake in pan

Yellow Sheet Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: half sheet serves 25, quarter sheet serves 12
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (260g) 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 (65g) 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Frost cooled cake and top with sprinkles. Slice and serve. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Sour Cream: Full-fat sour cream lends the best flavor. You can substitute plain yogurt in a pinch. I suggest a full-fat variety.
  4. 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.
  5. Corn Syrup: A little corn syrup makes the frosting uniquely glossy and shiny. You can leave it out if you’d like.
  6. 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.
  7. Yellow Layer Cake: Here is my layered yellow cake recipe.

Keywords: yellow sheet cake, yellow cake with chocolate frosting

97 Comments

  1. I have made this cake before and it was delicious! Has anyone tried it with an American buttercream frosting? I have a non-chocolate person in the group 🙁

    1. Yes! It was great!

  2. Archana Ramachandran says:

    Hi Sally,

    I am not a regular baker but wanted to bake a cake for my Sister-in-law’s birthday and I attempted the Yellow cake with fudge topping. I must say it turned out very well and was a great hit. Thank you very much for the excellent instructions which made it easy for a novice like me to churn out a good cake

  3. Just made this in a 9×13 pan and it came out perfectly moist; frosted with your chocolate cream cheese recipe. I used a little less than 1 cup of sugar in the cake batter and only 200g of confectioner’s sugar in the frosting—nobody complained about it having less sugar. It was wiped clean! So feel free to add less sugar, taste the batter or the frosting as you go (helps if you’re watching your diet/health). The frosting I have leftover could probably cover another 9×13 pan cake so I’ll just freeze it and smile because now I have an excuse to make this all over again 🙂

    1. I’m glad you were able to make it work for you, Bern!

  4. Ashika Singh says:

    HI Sally! I’d like to make this cake for my nephew’s birthday. Does it remove easily from the pan, with greasing and flouring? I’d like to serve it whole, outside of the pan. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Ashika – I haven’t tried it, but it should remove easily.

  5. Oh. My. God. This cake! This cake was AMAZING. So moist, so delicious, and the frosting was to DIE for. I live in Colorado at 6000 feet, so adjusted a bit for high altitude and it worked just fine. I added an extra 1/4 cup flour, reduced the baking soda by 1/8 tsp. and reduced the sugar by 2 Tbsp. I also used buttermilk instead of the whole milk and increased the amount by 2 Tbsp. It took 40 minutes at 350 for the middle to be done, and it was a bit browner than I would have liked on the top, but the cake was still moist and once you cover it with frosting nobody sees it anyway. BTW, the frosting makes about twice as much as needed, so I froze the extra. Hoping it will thaw well and I can use it later because it really was fabulous. Thank you for this wonderful recipe – I know I’ll be making it again and again!

  6. This cake is so good and easy to make in sheet cake form! That fudge frosting…YUM!

  7. Sharon Burghauser says:

    I made this cake and forgot to add the milk. I was thinking the batter was very thick. It tastes more like a sugar cookie. Lol. I will never forget the milk again. I don’t bake often but I loved your very specific directions. That is extremely helpful.

  8. I crave this cake! I’ve made it so many times. It’s perfect with all flavors of buttercream but I prefer chocolate.

  9. Kathy Goldie says:

    Yes, really, this cake is that good. Made it with my 9, 6 & 3 year old granddaughters today (well – they made it and I supervised), and we were all absolutely giving it 2 thumbs up. So moist, delicious and tasty. Absolutely everything you want in a cake. Made it in the 9 x 13 cake pan and it was perfect.

  10. The cake is perfection…truly epic. My only issue was that there was no way the volume of batter was going to bake in the suggested pan size. Am I the only one who has run up against this problem? I have never once had to modify any of Sally’s recipes (and most of my go-to’s are now from here), but I had to switch to a 9×13 pan in order to ensure that I didn’t end up with a cracker. Also–I had a glut of buttermilk and used that instead…highly recommend!

    1. Hi Matt! Thank you! This is a very thin sheet cake (as pictured!) and definitely works in a 9×13 pan for a thicker cake. Thank you so much for trying it. We love this cake!

  11. Virginia Araoz says:

    Excellent cake! Rich and buttery but still a light texture. Creaming the butter as directed makes this cake taste like bakery goods instead of homemade. The chocolate buttercream frosting was to die for! Never again will use cans of frosting when this is easy and so incredibly delicious. I halved the recipe and baked it in an 8 inch square pan, since it’s just us two and dare not have so much cake calling me! A big thank you to Sally!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe, Virginia!

  12. This cake was amazing! Easy enough that my 4 year old was able to be involved. Thank you!

  13. I have always volunteered to make the birthday cake for my co-workers on their birthday. Once I started making this cake, it is the one everyone requests that I bake for them! It is a hit every time! I have found most people just love a simple, basic cake and this one is that but just tastes so good! I always do the larger sheet pan as it feeds a crowd easily and then there are leftovers! And I always use sprinkles for decoration, so no stressing over that! Great recipe as usual!

  14. I’m giving this 4 stars because I follow all of your recipes and I know it’s sensational. I don’t know what I did wrong. For some reason, my cake came out overly moist and slightly greasy. And the bottom is crunchy almost like a sugar cookie. Is this a result of letting the butter sit out too long at room temperature? Something is off with the texture.

    1. Hi Tara! My guess is that the cake was under-baked perhaps? I’m unsure about the bottom tasting like a crunchy sugar cookie, though. Was the batter over or under mixed? Anything at all that you changed? Did you use a dark metal baking pan?

  15. I’m not sure what happened. The cake is delicious but the texture is moist and bubbly like a pudding. I measured the ingredients with a scale. Also the batter overflowed the pan…

    1. Hi Megan, I’m just seeing this comment now, my apologies. Did you use a different size pan than 9×13 inch or 12×17 inch? If the pan was smaller, the batter will over-flow and won’t bake properly. Did you follow the baking powder and baking soda amounts as well? The moist, bubbly texture makes me believe that something could have been off there.

  16. This is the best cake ever!!So moist and fluffy!Also I’m eleven years old so this is a kid-friendly recipe. Thanks for a great recipe; I totally recommend it!!

  17. Also I baked it as a layer cake if anyone else would like to try that!

  18. Margaret McAree says:

    Can I ask…I have the Sally’s Baking Addiction Book and I can’t find the Yellow cake recipe. Can you help?

    1. Hi Margaret, This yellow sheet cake recipe lives here on my website. Just about all of the recipes in my books are only found in my books and vice versa 🙂

  19. Thank you for the most beautiful recipe. Taste, flavor, all out of this world. Not a baker, but wanted something simple to impress my 19yrs old on his birthday. Shuuu I was blown out. This is definite five star.

    Thanks once more Sally.

  20. Margaret McAree says:

    Thank you Sally for your quick reply. I thought I already had the recipe in the cookbook as I was looking through. Ta

  21. Heather M. Whipple says:

    Hi Sally . This looks good.
    Do you have a chocolate sheet cake recipe like this? I really like chocolate quarter inch sheet cake with chocolate whipped frosting on top. It would be fantastic if you have a recipe for a chocolate quarter inch sheet cake version of this. With whipped chocolate frosting to go on top with sprinkles. Please let me know by e-mailing me at [email protected]

    1. Hi Heather, I have this chocolate sheet cake recipe that you can certainly use with chocolate frosting instead!

  22. This cake is delicious! If anyone is thinking about trying this, I definitely recommend!

  23. The fluffiest cake I’ve ever made!

  24. I made this as a test run by halving everything and baking in an 8×8 pan. It was perfect! Then I made the full 13×9 version with the recipe exactly as written and I got dense, gluey streaks toward the bottom. What causes that kind of compression in a cake? I followed all instructions….mainly I want to learn the science of that kind of failure so it doesn’t happen again. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Wendy! That will happen in cakes if they’re under-baked. No matter what size or type of cake– pound cake, round cakes, even banana bread. I recommend a few extra minutes in the oven next time.

  25. Chameli Aulakh says:

    Hi Sally,
    I have a question about the container for baking. In your pictures above did you use a glass sheet pan? I read on another site that baking in glass will take longer. So is your timing in your instructions for metal sheet pan or glass? Thank you.

    1. Hi Chameli, I did bake this in a glass pan. If baking in a metal cake pan, begin checking your baked good for doneness early as metal cooks recipes much quicker.

      1. Chameli Aulakh says:

        Thanks. It turned out really well. I did not add the frosting on the top but sprinkled cinnamon sugar as it was for Corpus Christi.

  26. Hi Sally, can I reduce the amount of confectioners sugar, say to half, for the frosting? What will happen if I do so?

    1. Hi Mayette, you can reduce the confectioners’ sugar, but keep in mind that the more you leave out, the greasier the frosting will be. Confectioners’ sugar soaks up the moisture from the butter. You may enjoy the chocolate version of my Swiss meringue buttercream instead– chocolate is detailed in the post!

      1. Thank you for your advise… I just baked a perfect yellow cake for the first time following your recipe. The cake was moist and simply delicious…my family loved it. I’m going to try making the frosting too.

  27. I would like to make a three-layer quarter sheet with strawberry cheesecake mousse filling between layers. With this recipe, can I cut one cake in half to fill? Or would it be better to make two half sheet cakes instead and just use one layer of filling? Any advice is appreciated!

    1. Hi Mary Beth, this cake is rather thick and I don’t recommend making 3 and layering each on top– it would end up tasting quite dense and being rather tall. Two cakes would be better. Or after cooling, you can carefully cut this cake in half to fill for a shorter cake.

  28. Hi sally! I’m doubling this recipe (making it two times like you suggested) and I wanted to make vanilla buttercream. Can I use your vanilla buttercream recipe and double it?

    Thanks!

    1. Definitely! If making two cakes, I would make two batches or double the vanilla buttercream.

      1. Thanks!

  29. Heather M. Whipple says:

    I looked at your chocolate sheet cake recipe. It did not have any sour cream in it like this one does. Only buttermilk.It only had baking soda in it , I think 1 teaspoon. Thank you though just the same. I appreciate the suggestion all the same.
    I think I will try this yellow sheet cake recipe then if I want chocolate I will add Dutch process cocoa to the flour ingredients in this recipe

  30. Sally Im going to make this next week for a friend but I need to stack it. He had diabetes so Im going to try to use truvia and then Ill be frosting with buttercream He said his favorite cake is yellow cake and its his birthday so I hope it turns out

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Terri, For a layered cake you can use the recipe Best Yellow Cake. We haven’t tested it with truvia but let us know if you do!

      1. I was wondering This is going to be a HUGE CAKE It is going to be a pontoon boat half yellow cake half carrot cake and I have made fondant characters of the man and his wife driving and all his grandchildren riding–anyway- I was going to bake 2 yellow cakes in 9 x 13 and stack next to 2 9 x 13 carrot cakes stacked– which of your recipes would you recommend I use? Terri

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