Fluffy Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

by Melissa on April 9, 2008

I take any opportunity I can lately to bake a cake. This past weekend at work was one of my co-workers last day, so of course I volunteered to make the cake. I have wanted to make the America’s Test Kitchen Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake since seeing it in the March issue of Cooks Illustrated. 

I have to tell you, I have been in a bit of a baking funk lately- it seems like everything I have made, I have screwed some part of it up. This recipe continued that trend for me, I thought my ingredients had sufficiently come to room temp., but upon combining them, everything turned into a gloppy, greasy mess. But I was determined to make this cake, so a load of dishes and trip to the store later, I tried again and this time it came out perfectly. 

To me, nothing goes better with yellow cake than chocolate frosting. I adapted the chocolate buttercream frosting from the one given to me in my Wilton cake decorating class to frost and fill the cake. I wish I had a picture of the inside of the cake, but I didn’t want to bring my camera to work.

This classic combination of yellow cake and chocolate frosting was very, very good.

Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour , plus extra for dusting pans
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup buttermilk , room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks , room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites , room temperature

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.
In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.
Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.
Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening ( I was out of regular, so I used butter flavored)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-6 tablespoons of water, divided
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar (approx. 4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Cream shortening, vanilla and 4 tablespoons of water on low speed until combined. Sift together confectioners sugar, meringue powder, salt and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to shortening mixture, mix on low, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once ingredients have been thoroughly combined, add additional 1-2 tablespoons of water to create thin consistency icing to frost cake with.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy April 9, 2008 at 9:03 am

That looks yummy! My class is tomorrow for course 2..can’t wait, but OMG…that royal icing is a pain in the @ss to make! UGH…can’t get rid of the “sheen”


Carrie April 9, 2008 at 3:05 pm

This looks amazing! Good job!


katie102006 April 10, 2008 at 6:19 am

Looks GREAT Mel! You are really turning into a cake expert!


----HAYATCEMRESİ---- March 14, 2009 at 5:22 pm

very beautiful cake.


Pauline Minnich February 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I discovered your web site when I was looking for something entirely different, but this post came up as a top result, your site must be enormously popular! Keep up the awesome job!


Lisa February 11, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I can attest that this cake is AWESOME. I am baking a loaf cake and some cupcakes and already tried one of the cupcakes. Sweet, light, fluffy like a box mix but without the junk and weird aftertaste that some of those mixes have. I have been looking for a go to yellow cake and this will be it. Thanks so much for posting!!


Julie January 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Hi and thanks for the fantastic recipe! I have been hunting for one like this :)

I have just made the cake and it turned out great (although I haven’t cut it yet) but it took far longer to cook than you indicate.

I used an oven temperature so am certain my heat was correct.

Any ideas? I think it was in the oven for just over half hour!

Thanks – I am enjoying your blog soooo much :) x


Melissa January 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Hmmm I’m not sure why yours took so long, did you use a smaller pan? I hope it turned out well for you and that you enjoy it! Thanks for reading!


Julie January 13, 2012 at 2:39 am

The cake was superb! Yes, I had used the 8″ pan in error. Am sure it will be perfect in the correct size.

I make cupcakes – http://www.stuffyourfacecupcakes.com/ – and have had requests for a large celebration cake so have been keen to source a good recipe.

Thank you soo much!


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