This vanilla cake with chocolate frosting is the perfect classic birthday cake! This soft and fluffy vanilla cake is covered in the best chocolate buttercream. This tastes so much better than a box mix!
Everyone needs to have a classic yellow cake recipe in their back pocket, and this is mine! My vanilla cakes are usually butter based, but after reading about cake recipes with a combination of oil and butter, I knew I had to try it! The butter is going to give us that buttery flavor, but the oil is going to keep the cake super soft and fluffy.
Then the cake is covered in a classic American buttercream! You can get a bit fancier if you wish with a swiss meringue buttercream! But I think for a birthday party or celebration, a classic chocolate frosting does the trick.
Why you'll love this vanilla cake with chocolate frosting!
- Soft and tender - thanks to a combination of butter and oil, this vanilla cake is soft, tender, fluffy and moist.
- Perfect for birthday parties - this yellow cake with chocolate frosting is really the perfect vanilla birthday cake!
- Simple - both the cake and frosting recipes are very simple, you just need a stand mixer or handheld mixer.
- Super chocolatey frosting - the frosting has both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, so it's perfect for chocolate lovers!
- Eggs: we're going to be using whole eggs here! Using both the egg white and egg yolks is what gives yellow cake that yellow color, compared to white cake which usually only uses egg whites.
- Flour: I'm using all purpose flour here.
- Buttermilk: this is going to make the cake extra moist.
- Oil: make sure to use a neutral oil like sunflower oil or vegetable oil.
- Butter: I always use unsalted butter.
- Almond Extract: a dash of almond extract is going to help give that cake mix taste!
- Melted Chocolate: make sure it has cooled before adding to your frosting!
- Cocoa Powder: having both cocoa powder and melted chocolate is going to amp up the chocolate flavor for the buttercream.
- Heavy Cream: adding some heavy cream to your frosting will make it extra smooth and spreadable.
Substitutions and Variations
- Don't have any cocoa powder? This frosting recipe works with just melted chocolate!
- Feel free to use whatever type of chocolate you like for the frosting, I used a dark chocolate but you can use semisweet chocolate or milk chocolate. I don't recommend using chocolate chips here, due to the emulsifiers used in them it might be harder to melt them down and the melted chocolate won't be super smooth.
- You can use dutch processed cocoa powder or natural unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Swap out this American buttercream for a chocolate sour cream frosting or chocolate cream cheese frosting.
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: In a large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with the oil and sugar. Mix on medium speed until fluffy.
Step 2: Add the eggs one at a time, making sure you scrape the bowl after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract and almond extract.
Step 3: In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and baking powder.
Step 4: Add ⅓ of the dry ingredients and mix, followed by half of the buttermilk. Repeat this once more, then finish with the dry ingredients.
Step 5: Pour the cake batter into two 8-inch cake pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake in an oven preheated to 350°Fahrenheit/175°Celsius and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let them cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Step 6: In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the confectioners' sugar on low speed. Once combined, increase to medium speed until light, fluffy and thick.
Step 7: Stop the mixer and add the cocoa powder, melted chocolate, salt and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until combined and then increase to medium high speed until very thick - usually 1-2 minutes. Decrease to the lowest speed and slowly pour in the heavy cream until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Step 8: Place one cake layer down on your cake stand or plate and cover the top with chocolate frosting. Add the second layer and then cover the top and sides with frosting. Add sprinkles!
Expert Tips & Tricks
- Room Temperature - make sure you pull out ingredients like butter, eggs and buttermilk an hour or so before you start baking.
- Weighing Scale - using a weighing scale makes all the difference! It is so easy to add too much flour to your cake, leading to a dry layer cake.
- Make Ahead - make the cake layers up to 1 day in advance to make your life easier! Once cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
- Frosting - make sure the cakes are completely cool before you start frosting them, otherwise the frosting will melt off.
- No Cocoa Powder - if you don't have cocoa powder for the frosting just use melted chocolate! I've tested it with melted chocolate and it is just as delicious and chocolatey.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a few reasons why the cake might be dry. You may have added too much flour - which is why I always recommend using a weighing scale. Next, you may have over-mixed the cake batter. Finally, you may have overbaked the cake!
Yes you can! You can either freeze the cake and frosting separately, or once assembled. Make sure it is wrapped very well, and let thaw completely once ready to eat.
Keep the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. I recommend letting it come to room temperature before eating!
Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Frosting
- 2 8-inch cake pans
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 ⅔ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 oz chocolate melted and cooled
- ½ cup dutch process cocoa powder
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/175℃. Grease and line two 8-inch baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the room temperature butter with the oil and sugar until creamy on medium speed. This will take about 2-3 minutes, and it'll look a bit grainy and fluffy.⅓ cup unsalted butter, ¼ cup neutral oil, 1 ⅔ cup white sugar
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition.4 large eggs
- Mix in the almond and vanilla extract.3 teaspoons vanilla extract, ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour with the baking powder and salt.2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Add ⅓ of the flour mixture, then mix on low. Add ½ the buttermilk. Repeat once more, then end with the flour mixture.1 cup buttermilk
- Pour the smooth cake batter into the prepared pans.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes before removing and letting them cool completely on wire cooling racks.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, combine the butter with the confectioners' sugar on low speed. Once fully combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until very thick.1 cup unsalted butter, 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- Stop the mixer and add the cocoa powder, melted chocolate, salt and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until combined, then beat on medium-high speed again for 1-2 minutes.¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 4 oz chocolate, ½ cup dutch process cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Turn the mixer to your lowest speed and slowly pour in the heavy cream until it is the desired consistency.¼ cup heavy cream
- Place one of the cooled cake layers down on your cake stand or serving plate. Cover the top with frosting, then place the second layer on top. Spread the rest of the frosting on the top and sides. Decorate with sprinkles!