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. If sheet cakes are your preference too, try this cookies and cream cake next!

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


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


  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.


  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


  1. Instead of using whole milk for the frosting what do you think about using heavy cream? I happen to have heavy cream so that is why I am asking! 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Eileen, heavy cream works great! It produces a richer, creamier frosting.

  2. Sonia Kabir says:

    Absolutely amazing recipe. If you are looking for a perfect yellow slab cake look no further. This is the best!

  3. Nancy Queally says:

    The cake was delicious but it came out pretty dense, more like a pound cake. I’m trying to figure out what went wrong as I followed the recipe exactly. Maybe I over mixed? Anyone else had the experience or have tips to avoid this happening next time? Thanks!

    1. Charlotte Andrew says:

      Hey there. The first time I made this cake I used all purpose flour( a little less- about 2 tbsp less per cup of flour,because cake flour is fluffier volume wise) and I found the cake to be tasty however it wasn’t nice and fluffy. I made it again today in a 9×13 glass pan and I used cake flour. It turned out nice and fluffy and baked up in a about 26 minutes! Hope that helps!

  4. Just made this for my mom’s birthday and it was a hit! I didn’t have cake flour so I used the recommended method of swapping flour for some corn starch. It came out fluffy and and not dense at all. This cake took some effort for a newbie like me but I would gladly make it again!

  5. Can I halve this recipe for a 8 x 8 baking dish? It’s just my husband and I. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christie! We don’t see why not, though it may be slightly thinner. Would love to hear how it goes.

      1. Ginger Houck says:

        Would heavy cream be okay in the cake instead of whole milk?

      2. Hi Ginger, do not use heavy cream in the cake batter. It’s too thick and heavy and will weigh down the cake.

  6. This recipe worked so beautifully!! I had to bake a little longer (I used a glass pan for the larger size), and I didn’t use a full batch of frosting because some people prefer plain cake in my house. I’ve tried to make “birthday cake” so many time with other recipes that didn’t work, but Sally’s recipe is awesome, tastes great, and is looks so classic!! Definitely recommend and will make again

  7. I need to make a 2 layer yellow cake for my daughter. I have a go to chocolate cake recipe I use but she is wanting a yellow cake recipe.
    I have over 50 people coming to her quinceanera on Sat. My question is, do I use the yellow birthday cake recipe or the sheet cake recipe? I know I’ll need about 15 cups of batter for the pan I’m going to use so I’ll need to make the 3 batches of the batter, my concern is regarding the layering. which recipe will hold up better and not collapse?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Denise, either should work fine, but our Best Yellow Cake recipe is just slightly heavier and would be sturdier for layering. For best results, be sure to make the batches of batter separately, too. Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Sally, for the frosting recipe, should I sift the cocoa powder and the confectioner’s sugar before I measure them or after? I was always taught to sift first then measure. As far as quantity, it makes a difference, sifting before measuring yields less ingredient.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shreya, in this case, you’ll want to measure and then sift the two together. It depends on the recipe, but it matters where the word sifted is in the recipe. We share more on that in our How to Properly Measure Ingredients post. Hope this helps and enjoy the recipe!

  9. TerriLin Pistorius says:

    The crumb on this cake is really fantastic. Well done. I usually tweak recipes but this is truly perfect as is. I make a ganache for frosting instead of the buttercream, only because it’s faster. Well done. Brava!

  10. As my cake cooled, the center sunk. I followed the recipe exactly, though I had to make cake flour using your substitution method (AP and cornstarch). Any ideas why the middle of the cake deflated?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Erica, There could be several reasons why a cake would sink in the middle. Usually it’s due to the cake being underbaked. But can also be from over mixing the batter, oven temperature, or not using fresh leaveners. Check out our top 10 Tips for Perfect Cakes for more details!

  11. Hi Sally, I made this as a test run for my nephews birthday party and it came out delicious! Perfect crumb and I plan to make two and layer them and this will be perfect. My only question is adding things to it. My nephew wants a chocolate chip cake so I added chocolate chips and since the batter was so thick, I thought they would hold up. However they all sunk to the bottom. I can’t ever seem to get chocolate chips to not sink! Even mini ones! Do you have any tricks or suggestions? Thank you in advance!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debra, for next time, you can try lightly tossing the chocolate chips in flour before adding to the batter. That should help prevent / minimize sinking. Hope this helps!

  12. Jamie Hiles says:

    Sally NEVER disappoints! I made this cake today and it was a hit!! Followed the directions as written except for milk used 1/2 2% and 1/2 coconut milk because it’s what I had on hand. I made it into two smaller 8×8 cakes. Halfed the frosting to frost just one of the cakes.
    It was amazing and everyone loved it! Definitely a go-to birthday cake!!

  13. I love this cake! It reminds me of my moms yellow chocolate cake growing up. It’s so good. I made it today for the first time and followed the recipe exactly. I will definitely be making it again!!

  14. Brooklyn Danny says:

    Agree with previous commenter who observed that this cake lacks lift. Flavor was fine, but like that person, mine was short and squat…and yes, I weighed all the ingredients, ensured that the temperatures were correct, didn’t overmix, and all the other obvious remedial actions the yardbirds will surely suggest. I don’t make enough cakes to justify an experiment, but has anyone tried (1) replacing the milk and sour cream with buttermilk, and (2) increasing the baking soda and decreasing the baking powder? To be sure, it’s not apples-to-apples, but buttermilk and baking soda certainly function to give pancakes a nice rise.

  15. Can you substitute buttermilk for the sour cream?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lorraine, The best way to use buttermilk in this recipe is to replace BOTH the whole milk and the sour cream – so you will use a total of 1.5 cups of buttermilk. Enjoy!

  16. How much batter does this recipe make?

    1. About 5 cups of batter.

  17. I know it’s blasphemy but I substitute mayonnaise for the sour cream and get nice results. I’d like to try adding both to see what happens.

  18. Laura Catherine says:

    Can I flip this over on a cake sheet after baking to decorate the sides in addition to the top or is it best frosted in the pan?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura! You can definitely frost the sides as well as the top. Happy baking!

  19. So I found this recipe today…looking for a good one to make “pizza themed” cake. Its baking nicely right now and the batter smelled incredible. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  20. I want to make 2 9×13 cakes and stack on top of each other. Should I use this recipe and whip egg whites separately or should I use your yellow layer cake recipe? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna! We would use this sheet cake recipe – make the batter twice instead of doubling to avoid over or under mixing the large amount of batter. Enjoy!

  21. Hi Sally!

    Is there any reason why I can’t use this for a 2-layer cake? I know you have a separate 2-layer recipe, but that includes ingrediates (tartar etc) that I don’t have and don’t really want to get.

    I’ve made this before as a sheet cake and I don’t see why I couldn’t just use two round pans and layer it.

    Am I wrong?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jenna, that should work just fine, but our Best Yellow Cake recipe is just slightly heavier and would be sturdier for layering.

  22. This cake has very nice flavor and I have made it several times. Unfortunately, each time I get gelatinous-looking streaks in it. Very disappointing. Am I over mixing? High speed is called for in a couple of steps. I use 6 on my Kitchenaid stand mixer. Is this too high?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Andrea! Yes, that does sound like the cake batter could be over-mixed. Once wet and dry ingredients are combined, make sure to only mix until the batter is *just* combined.

    2. 6 is definitely too high! I do 4 when it calls for high for cakes. Are you maybe having the opposite problem… are you not mixing the eggs in enough? Or is it underbaked?

  23. I just made this twice for a 9×13 2 layer cake… baked for 36 minutes both times. I added yellow food coloring since people are odd about yellow cake 🙂
    It’s perfect! It is light and fluffy and moist and the perfect flavor. I am so happy to have found an easy (and not dense!) yellow cake recipe.

  24. Excellent sponge as a base of so many tray bakes however this is incredibly sweet. When I make this again I will cut the sugar to max 250g I cant work out why 250 butter/250 flour why 350 sugar its mega mega sweet. I kept wet ingredients and dry separately and gently folded. I baked at 160 fan but took 40mins. Foil over the top. I made a fudge topping with condensed milk, butter and dark chocolate. Great sponge but too sweet for my palette.

  25. I made this cake and everyone loved ❤️❤️ It!! I couldn’t find cake flour so I used King Arthur and I added the corn starch to it. The cake was lite and fluffy. The chocolate icing was sooo good and fluffy. I will definitely be making this cake again

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