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Yellow Butter Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Yellow Butter Cake

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Making Vanilla Buttercream and Decorating 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 16 servings


  • Two 9-inch (23cm) round cake pans
  • Parchment paper circles
  • Mixing bowls
  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment (or a hand mixer with large bowl)
  • Digital scale OR Measuring cups and spoons
  • Silicone spatula
  • Toothpick (or cake tester)
  • 10-inch Cake board
  • Offset spatula
  • Turn table


Ingredients for Yellow Butter Cake

  • 6 large (112g) egg yolks
  • 1 cup (242g) whole milk
  • tsp (9g) vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (300g) cake flour, sifted
  • cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (19.5g) baking powder
  • ¾ tsp (5g) salt
  • sticks (¾ cups or 170g) unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients for Vanilla Buttercream


Making the Yellow Butter Cake

  • Begin by preheating the oven to 350°F/180°C with the oven rack in the middle. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by greasing the bottom and sides and then dusting with flour. You can also put a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan to ensure the cake comes out without sticking to the pan. I like to use pre-cut parchment circles.
  • In a medium bowl combine the yolks, ¼ cup of milk, and vanilla and set aside.
  • In the bowl of the stand mixer (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), add the dry ingredients (i.e., flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and mix on low speed using the paddle attachment to combine. Add the butter and remaining milk and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  • Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1-2 minutes. This will add air to the batter and help the cake to rise. Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Add the egg mixture in 3 additions, beating well after each. Scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate all ingredients and then evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops. The pans should be about ½ full.
  • Bake the cake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out to finish cooling completely. The cakes are cooled in the cake pans initially to allow the cake to set slightly before removing from the pan. If you were to turn it out immediately, the cake might be too delicate and break apart.

Ingredients for Vanilla Buttercream

Making Vanilla Buttercream

  • Follow the steps on my Italian Meringue Buttercream post to make the base buttercream and after all of the butter has been added, mix in the vanilla. I used vanilla paste so I could get the black seeds throughout the icing, but you could also use vanilla extract.

Assembling the Yellow Butter Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

  • Use a long, serrated knife to cut the domed portion off each cake layer. Then, cut each layer horizontally into 2 for a total of 4 layers. This process is called torting. Using an offset spatula, spread a small amount of buttercream in the middle of a cake board to act as glue and place the flat side of one layer on top of the board. Smooth a generous amount of vanilla buttercream over the top and add another cake layer. Continue this process until the last layer of cake and finish stacking by adding the last cake layer upside down so the cake has sharp corners and a flat top.
  • Frost the sides and top of the cake with a small amount of buttercream to trap the cake crumbs. This is called the crumb coat. It’s ok if this layer has a lot of crumbs in it. That’s the crumb coat’s purpose. Place the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until the buttercream is hardened.

Decorating the Cake

  • Using a cleaned offset spatula, frost the sides and top of the cake using the vanilla buttercream. Smooth the sides slightly, but don’t worry if it’s not completely smooth. Wipe off the offset spatula and then place it at the bottom of the cake. While very gently pushing in on the bottom edge of the spatula, use your other hand to rotate the cake (I like to use a turn table for this). Each time you go around the cake, bring your hand a little higher without breaking the line (i.e., you should have an unbroken swirl all the way up the side of the cake). You shouldn’t get too much icing on your spatula, but if you are dragging too much and it’s leaving buttercream blobs, scrape the icing off your spatula and continue with the swirl.
  • After the sides, move to the top. Start at the outside of the cake, apply gentle pressure on the outside edge of the offset spatula, and use your other hand to rotate the cake. Move your hand toward the middle of the cake, without breaking the swirl line, until you reach the middle.
  • This design is super simple, looks beautiful, and is easy to re-smooth if you wanted to re-do the swirl.

Serving the Yellow Butter Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

  • Place the cake board on a serving platter and arrange fresh berries around the bottom edge for a pop of color.

Storing the Cake

  • Store the cake in an airtight container (e.g., a covered cake stand) at room temperature for 2 days. You can also store it in the fridge up to 5 days, just make sure to let it come to room temperature before eating so the cake texture is light and fluffy.


This recipe was adapted from the “All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake” in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.