Perfect Yellow Cake

Well, the day is finally here. As many of you know, I’ve been on a quest to perfect the best yellow cake on the planet. And this is it. I’m sitting here wondering why the earth hasn’t stopped moving or why the President has called me personally yet (actually, scratch that, I’d rather have a call from Bobby Flay). I mean, this is a big day. Monumental, some would say. But probably only if they are a total baking nerd like me. So yeah, I’ll stop waiting around for any phone calls. While this post is a bit involved (I couldn’t help but share the testing results with you!), the truth is, the actual cake recipe is super simple so don’t let the explanations scare you. If you follow the recommendations thoroughly, you’ll end up with the fluffiest, most delicious yellow cake ever.

Perfect Yellow Cake

Sidenote

Many of you were shocked when I said I was on version #16 or something like that. Lemmetellyousomething: the perfect yellow cake didn’t just fall into my hands easily like I thought it would and I knew I couldn’t give you just an okay yellow cake. It took a ton of testing and my family and I have eaten more yellow cake in the last couple months than is probably legal. For some reason, yellow cake is a bit fussier to get just.right then, say, chocolate cake (my most beloved recipe for chocolate cake is a one-bowl recipe where you basically throw everything together without room temperaturing anything and it comes out completely divine).

I’ve been amused by all of you who have left comments and emailed me about what on earth I’ve done with all 16+ yellow cakes; apparently this is a source of much concern. There were two or three variations that honestly were inedible (either burned or so dry, even my toddler couldn’t choke them down). The others have been widely shared with friends and company and I even have a few unfrosted layers hanging out in my freezer for when we get the hankering to crumble it up and toss it on some ice cream. So rest your weary minds: the yellow cakes were well taken care of and devoured, although I don’t think anyone in my family will be requesting a yellow cake for his/her birthday for a long time. We are a little yellow-caked out.

Perfect Yellow Cake

I’d Be Lost Without Them

A special, super, huge thank you to two very important people (I kind of feel like I’m giving an acceptance speech at The National Convention for Perfect Yellow Cakes here): Nicole, a wonderful friend of mine, was the one who finally gave me the insight I needed for the last step in perfecting this cake (a huge blessing because I didn’t know if I honestly had another yellow cake in me and her advice resulted in the.perfect.cake) and Lisa, sweetest sweetie ever, who willingly tested this cake for me (multiple times) in order to provide all you high altitude dwellers with essential tips for success. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The Evolution of Testing the Perfect Yellow Cake

When I first set out to perfect the almighty yellow cake, I started with three recipes popular online (David’s Yellow Cake from allrecipes.com, Deb’s yellow birthday cake from smittenkitchen.com and Cook’s Illustrated Yellow Layer Cake). I made each of them as is. While I am a fan of each of these sites and resources, respectively, the cakes were all lacking to me. David’s Yellow Cake was a little dry with kind of a weird, spongy texture, the cake from Smitten Kitchen was reminiscent of cornbread and the Cook’s Illustrated yellow cake was by far the driest of them all.

I set about modifying ingredients and amounts and methods and while someone smarter than I probably could have pared the testing down to just a couple of cakes, what can I say, it took me a while.

For all of you interested in the ins and outs of testing, I’ve included probably more details than anyone wants below the recipe. If you don’t give a hoot (don’t worry, I still love you), the recipe is below just waiting for you to make it.

Perfect Yellow Cake

P.S. If you are wondering, that adorable little cake stand in a few of the pictures is from Rita Marie Weddings. The Audrey – Regular Size and I love, love, love it. Dana, owner of Rita Marie, sent it to me ages ago and I’ve been using it like crazy during the Yellow Cake Experiment.

One Year AgoSix Recipes the World Forgot {Part 3}
Two Years Ago: Paprika Chicken Stroganoff
Three Years Ago: Naan – Indian Flatbread

Perfected Yellow Cake

Yield: Makes two 9-inch layers or three 8-inch layers

Perfected Yellow Cake

Please read below the recipe for information on specific ingredients. I made and tested this cake over 16 times and have fine-tuned the ingredients and the methods. That isn't to say you aren't welcome to substitute and change, but in my yellow cake experience, this match up creates yellow cake perfection (substituting all-purpose flour, using cold eggs/milk, overly greasy soft butter, and a multitude of other factors can result in a dense, dry cake).

If you are making your own cake flour using one of the two simple methods I posted about, don't worry about making one cup of cake flour at a time, instead, use 210 grams all-purpose flour and 45 grams cornstarch; sift twice. Then add the other dry ingredients and sift once more.

For high altitude, add an additional 2 1/2 tablespoons cake flour before sifting (that would be about 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch if using a homemade cake flour substitute).

Update: I've heard from several of you that while the cake tastes amazing, it is sinking in the middle or is baking flat. I can't analyze the why's too much because it will make my head pop off since I dedicated months of my life to this cake anyway. When I had too much leavening in the cake (2 teaspoons baking powder + 1 1/2 teaspoons soda), the cake rose too much in the oven and then deflated so I scaled it back to what worked perfectly for me. But here's the deal, if you are worried about sunken layers, increase the baking soda. My suggestion would be 1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (13 ounces, 368 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour, lightly measured (9 ounces, 255 grams), see note for high altitude adjustments
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (1% or above), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light or regular), room temperature

Directions

  1. To prep, whisk together the milk and sour cream together in a liquid measure and let come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and make sure an oven rack is placed in the middle of the oven.
  3. In a large bowl of an electric stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer, whip the butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat for 4-5 minutes on medium speed. Mix in the vanilla.
  4. One at a time, add the eggs and egg yolks, mixing just until combined in between additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. Combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift them together through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 1/2 of the milk/sour cream mixture and mix. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Add the last 1/2 of the milk/sour cream mixture and beat until just combined. Add the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix just until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Give the batter one good, final stir with the rubber spatula.
  7. Grease the cake pans and line the bottoms with a parchment round. Grease the parchment and sides of the pan again very well. I use regular cooking spray but you can also use butter or cooking spray with flour. If your cake pans tend to cause sticking, consider also flouring the pans.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Drop each pan from about 3-inches onto the counter to minimize air bubbles while baking.
  9. Bake for 25-28 minutes (high altitude: 28-30 minutes) until lightly golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Resist the urge to open and close the oven to check on the cake - this can cause the center of the cake to fall and never recover. And as with all cakes, don't overbake or the cake will be dry.
  10. Let the cakes rest in the pans for 5-10 minutes before gently turning them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/perfected-yellow-cake/
Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Ok, let’s talk…

I’ve jotted down all the details of why the type of ingredients/method matters for this cake. Read on, read on!

the butter

I’ve mentioned it before, but I rarely use unsalted butter. I tested this cake with both unsalted and salted and adjusted the salt amount accordingly. In the end, there wasn’t a difference in outcome, so I stuck with my go-to: salted butter. I use the Land o’ Lakes brand mostly (sometimes the Sam’s Club brand). If you want to use unsalted butter, increase the salt to 1 teaspoon. Also, butter temperature really matters. It should be soft enough to gently slide a finger through with a bit of pressure but not sludgy, greasy or overly soft. The time I accidentally used overly soft butter (uh, it somehow stayed on the counter for, like, 12 hours because even though I love baking, my five kids still take precedence over making a yellow cake), it resulted in a greasy, weirdly spongy cake. I did not test this cake with margarine, coconut oil, shortening or the like so you’ll have to experiment with those if desired. Also, whipping that butter for a good 1-2 minutes is extra important. And beating the heck out of it and the sugar for another 4-5 is non-negotiable. Doing this creates air which helps create fluffiness in the baked cake. The cake(s) that I tested where the butter was minimally whipped were not nearly as fluffy. And fluffy = greatness.

the eggs

I know, I know. Using room temperature eggs is a total pain in the behind. I’m right there with you! I hate recipes that require it. And so when I first started testing cakes, I refused to do it. And my cakes were looking like this:

fallen cake

So I crumbled, no pun intended, and used room temperature eggs the next time I made a cake and the difference was remarkable. Light and fluffy where before the cake was slightly dense and a bit crumbly. There may have been other factors at play, but as I messed around with the recipe, it was very, very clear that room temperature eggs are important. If you are like me and often forget to plan in advance, don’t fret – place those chilled eggs in a bowl or liquid measure filled with very slightly warm water for 15-ish minutes and you’ll be good to go.

Speaking of the eggs, it was my friend, Nicole (as mentioned above in the post), who encouraged me to scale down the whole eggs from four to three and add an egg yolk or two to replace the missing whole egg – two egg yolks managed to be the perfect answer. Egg whites add structure but can take away moisture from baked goods, hence the three whole eggs + two egg yolks in the recipe. Don’t be like me and get tempted to sub a whole egg for the two egg yolks. You’ll get a pretty decent cake but not a fantastic, best-ever cake. Know what I mean? I was quite in awe of the difference two egg yolks made. However, when I used all egg yolks and no whites, the cake was slightly gummy and not as fluffer-fluffy as I wanted.

milk + sour cream

I was sure that plain old milk was the only liquid I needed in my cake. At about cake #10, I was fairly positive it needed to be one cup of whole milk, even though the thought made me cringe since I never have whole milk on hand. However, I knew perfection was the goal so I put my whole milk annoyances behind me and moved on…until my friend Nicole (yes, she’s brilliant and I want to be her when I grow up), helping me troubleshoot my cake conundrums, suggested that a bit of acid in the recipe would create the tenderness I was after. I was befuddled why I was getting a really, really good cake that was still just so, very slightly dry. In the end, it wasn’t necessarily dryness but a lack of tenderness I was noticing. And the adjustment of sour cream to compensate for the reduced milk did just the trick (plus adding baking soda in for the acidity in combination with the already present baking powder, which took a couple rounds because I misjudged the amount of baking soda at first and there was so much leavening power in the cake that it sank in the middle…badly…however, once the baking powder and soda were adjusted accordingly, the cake was magnificent). The real plus was that after I added sour cream, I used 1% milk instead of whole without sacrificing any moisture or tenderness.

weighed flour

As much as my heart wanted a fabulous yellow cake without having to use cake flour, it didn’t happen. The cakes I made with all-purpose flour were dry and dense with a much coarser crumb, slightly reminiscent of dry cornbread. And uh, I don’t want cake that tastes like dry cornbread. Cake flour is lower protein than all-purpose flour and also has a finer texture (thanks to the starch in it) which results in a much finer crumb in a baked cake. The good news is that even though the recipe requires cake flour, you can make your own (my kitchen tip from yesterday gives you two super easy methods). If you have a kitchen scale, use it. You’ll get very precise results. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, buy one. Ok, just joking. Kind of. I know not everyone can do that (but you should really put it on your wish list). If you are measuring using cups, measure with a light hand. Spoon the cake flour into the cup and gently level off with a flat edge.

For this recipe, if you are making your own cake flour, don’t mess with making one cup at a time, instead, I’ve done the math for you: you’ll need 210 grams of all-purpose flour and 45 grams of cornstarch. Sift it twice. Then add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and sift once more. Make sense?

Also, for high altitude, I’ve got your back. Ok, actually, my friend, Lisa, has your back. She tested this recipe for me – she lives at 5,400 feet elevation. She made the cake twice, the first time it fell significantly. She added an additional 2 1/2 tablespoons cake flour (if using a homemade cake flour substitute, that would be about 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch) and the cake baked up perfectly (along with a slight increase in baking time and buttering the heck out of the pans).

sift the flour

This sifting action, called for in the recipe, is in addition to any sifting you may have done if you are making your own cake flour. You don’t need to sift twice, just give the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda a quick sift through a fine mesh strainer. This was one of the last variables to add to the recipe. The last few cakes I made were so good. But just not quite there. I should have considered sifting earlier on, but again, I was trying to minimize fussiness. Once I sifted the dry ingredients prior to incorporating into the batter, the results were far superior – lighter and fluffier (let’s see how many times I can use those two descriptors in this post).

the batter

Ah, the gorgeous batter. It may look just slightly curdled and that’s ok. Spread it evenly in the pan (hasn’t been done in the picture, just so you know – don’t leave your batter lumped up like that) and give it a quick tap or light drop on the counter. When I didn’t do this, there were significant air bubbles in the baked cake. You don’t want to drop it from the rooftop like a crazy egg-drop challenge and you don’t need to tap more than once, just a quick light drop will suffice. I only ever baked the cake in two 9-inch pans to keep testing criteria similar, however, I think it could also be made in three 8-inch pans. Cupcakes and sheet cakes will have to be an experiment until someone reports back. I have them on my radar also, but it may be a little while before I actually try them.

As for the cake pans, significant greasing (with butter and cooking spray and possibly flour, too) is needed for the cake not to stick. I also line the bottom of the greased pan with a parchment round that I’ve cut out and then grease the top of it. My magic number for baking was right at 27 minutes; however, keep in mind that all ovens vary slightly. Lisa, my awesome friend who tested high altitude baking for me, needed more like 30 minutes for her cakes (she made the recipe twice).

Phew! I’m tired! If you made it this far, you seriously deserve a big huge kitchen nerd award (from one baking nerd to another).

Now, the big question…

What should I perfect next?

222 Responses to Perfected Yellow Cake

  1. Hilary says:

    WOW!!!!! I am so impressed!!!!! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all of your effort going into this extraordinary feat!!!! I CANNOT wait to try this, and being that we are supposed to get 10 inches of fresh snow in the next couple days, I think this will be the perfect treat to drown our winter blues in :) as far as what to perfect next….. My vote is for tortillas…specifically whole wheat tortillas :) thanks again and I will let you know how much we all loved it!!!

  2. Michelle M says:

    I love hearing the whys and what fors. Thank you!

  3. Sheila says:

    Congratulations, Mel, on this yellow cake achievement. What a witness to your little ones as they witnessed your determination through multiple failures to keep diligently trying to achieve excellence! I have changed my mind about wanting you in my presence to receive wonderful, neighborly gifts of food (or Bobby Flay). I would much rather prefer for my family to be constantly exposed to a steady dose of your character. Like Hillary, I too am incredibly impressed, as I laughingly read through this post. Delightful reading! Thank you Nicole and Lisa for coming along side of Mel to support and encourage her in her work!

  4. judy werner says:

    You are amazing! All that plus 5 kids, and a husband??? You go girl.
    As for what you should perfect next: that coconut tres leches looks might tempting. Love getting your daily blog. That and a cup of coffee starts my day just right. Thanks.

  5. Nita says:

    Thanks for the detailed post! I will be making this cake tonight for sure. :)

  6. Betsy says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! My son is getting married next spring and they want several “homemade” cakes on stands at the reception instead of a big, fancy cake. I’ve been gathering recipes, but I was afraid I’d have to do several trial runs and, frankly, I feared I wouldn’t be able to fit into my dress after all that experimenting! You’ve done all the work for me and I truly appreciate it! One question: do you use the paddle or whisk attachment on your stand mixer? I always feel like I should at least use the whisk for the butter, but most recipes call for the paddle. Thanks again!!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Betsy – I usually use a handheld electric mixer because I don’t have a KitchenAid and my Bosch is super great at making bread but too big for a cake recipe. Could you use the whisk attachment the entire time? That’s similar to the little beaters on my handheld mixer.

  7. Beth says:

    I am very impressed as well; congratulations! I do have a question as I tried a yellow cake recipe a few weeks ago and it was WAY TOO DENSE for my taste. Is that a yellow cake thing (I’m not a huge fan) but want to try your recipe…?

    • Mel says:

      Beth – this cake is definitely not dense. It has a different texture than a cake mix so if that’s what your after, this isn’t it, probably, but this cake is definitely on the tender, fluffy end of the spectrum and not the dense, cornbread spectrum. Hope you like it if you try it!

  8. Heather M says:

    I am so very impressed!! That’s nothing new when it comes to you and this here blog, but seriously…wow! This looks so delicious! Thanks for all your hard work!

  9. Brandy says:

    Thanks for all your hard work! I cannot wait to make this. My middle child is turning 3 in two weeks so I will be giving this one a try for her birthday.

  10. Teresa R. says:

    Thank you! I will be making this cake on Friday for my son who loves yellow cake and chocolate icing. Like you, I have baked the Cooks Illustrated yellow layer cake and was a little disappointed. As for what recipe to perfect next, everything I can think of is already on your site and tastes perfect to me.

  11. Nicole Hunn says:

    YOU DID IT, MEL!! I’ve seriously been crossing my fingers every day since you said that you finally developed the Holy Grail of Yellow Cakes that it would be the day. And today’s it!! You’re too sweet to give me those shout-outs, but you know I enjoyed the troubleshooting more than a normal person ever should. Kitchen science geeks unite!

    It looks … like a thing a true beauty. And the best part for you? No more yellow cake for at least a little while!

    xoxo Nicole

  12. Gail says:

    At last…I’ve been waiting for this post since you hinted at it recently. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is hard to do well! How many of us who love this combination have tasted a lot of bad yellow cake and been so disappointed! But when you get it right it’s amazing and so worth the calories as a special treat. All of us baking nerds appreciate you, Mel! I have also tried the versions mentioned in your post and have been disappointed as well. A version I did like used beaten egg whites but was so fussy to make (which I’m wiling to do for great yellow cake) so I’m looking forward to trying your version soon. I trust your taste buds. To answer your question above…I myself would love to perfect breaded pork chops. My mom and grandma used to bake these and I’ve never gotten it right….they used bone in pork chops and cracker meal. Ever made them?

  13. susanj says:

    Reminds me of the fun in my food science class. It’s a fun process, thanks for writing about it for us kitchen science geeks.

  14. Cindy says:

    Appreciate all you hard work on perfecting the yellow cake. Enjoyed reading all the details. Also, is the recipe for the chocolate on your website? Thanks.

  15. Maureen says:

    Hi Mel!

    Hurray for us that we get to enjoy all your hard work — thanks! I can’t wait to try it — sounds like it will be perfect for a birthday cake I’ll be making in a couple of weeks. Anyhow, you asked about what you should perfect next — how about fruitcake? I’m serious here — I love a tasty, moist fruitcake around the holidays, but a good one is very hard to come by — that’s probably why they get such a bad reputation. You could be the cook who creates a fruitcake that no one would ever regift! :o) If anyone could do it, it would be you.

  16. You are a total trooper for putting this much effort into getting the perfect yellow cake! From all of us way too lazy to do that – THANK YOU!!!

  17. Megan McClen says:

    I had the exact same experience with Smitten Kitchen’s yellow cake and thought I did something wrong! I was so sure it would be the best but it totally underwhelmed for my birthday cake last year. I will be trying this one this weekend for my mom’s birthday, it looks and sounds amazing. It’s incredible how much time and thought you put into it! I imagine I’ll have a tough time getting the cakes into the oven though, that batter looks deeeelicious

  18. Isabelle says:

    Could I ask you to share your secrets for staying skinny in spite of doing things like making 16 yellow cakes??? This is seriously the secret I desperately need perfected. haha.

  19. Laurel says:

    Best! Post! Ever!

  20. You are amazing Mel!! Thank you for all your hard work. 16 times! Way to not give up! I’m excited to try this recipe now. And I am sure you won’t be trying it again for a LONG time!

  21. Michele says:

    If any of you, like me, hate hassling with the parchment rounds, a flattened coffee filter (basket style) is a handy substitute.

  22. Cammee says:

    Your kids and husband are pretty lucky to have you, you have FAR more patience than I. You are amazing! I can’t wait to reap the rewards of all your hard work. This looks so good!

  23. Leah says:

    What next? How about a lemon meringue pie? Or if you want to back off sweets, how about pimento cheese? Or since Mother’s Day is coming, how about the best breakfast casserole ever?

  24. Yellow cake always has been and will remain my favorite cake flavor. You have no idea how much this is calling to me right now! I’d love to try your recipe, Mel. Thanks for sharing!

  25. J_b_ird says:

    Been anxiously awaiting this recipe for my twins’ upcoming birthday! From one baking nerd to another, I had given up finding that perfect yellow cake recipe…I am confident my search is over :) ever grateful for all you do!

  26. Katherine says:

    What should you perfect next? You should poke some holes in that there yellow cake and pour milk (or coconut milk or whatever other variations that you have the patience to try, but I don’t), and make the perfect tres leches cake. It would be awesome if I could get those results before May 5th :-) Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  27. I love this post! I’ve had similar experience with yellow cakes (was really surprised when I had the same thoughts on Deb’s!) and have found only a couple of recipes that are pretty decent. I’ll definitely be trying your recipe soon.

  28. Wowzers! I appreciate all your effort. I’d have never made it through that many trials. I can’t wait to give it a try.

  29. Katie Brooks says:

    Thank you so much for perfecting a yellow cake recipe for us! I loved hearing how you got to the perfect recipe. I recently made the Cooks Illustrated yellow cake (my first layer cake from scratch) and was so disappointed, I’m glad that it was the recipe and not me. After reading this post, I can’t stop thinking about cake…. :)

  30. rmd says:

    Mel, I’ve visited your site often in the past, but when you mentioned that the perfect yellow cake was coming soon, I had to sign up for regular emails. And, I’m glad I did! I am obsessed with finding the perfect recipe for many different things and while I’ve gotten close on yellow cake, I’ve not made anything I could crown, “the one.” I deeply appreciate all the baking geek talk and read every word of this post at least once. I can’t wait to try your perfected recipe….and enough time has passed from my last attempts to present yet another yellow cake to my family. I’ll let you know how it goes…Thank you for all of your efforts. Love your blog!

  31. Anna S. says:

    Not to make you scream after all your hard work…but would this batter do well as cupcakes? Easter is around the corner and it just begs for yellow cupcakes with pastel swirls of frosting…however, you were very specific about having a yellow CUPcake recipe and a perfect yellow LAYER CAKE recipe. And I have to say, the tender texture of this cake in your pictures is enchanting!

  32. Mel, can I give you an award for your efforts at perfecting this recipe? You surely deserve one! I love this!

  33. Tricia says:

    Thanks for perfecting the yellow cake. Personally, I’m not a regular cake eater, I like pies instead. But, my daughter & grandson will only eat yellow cake. So, the next time I make them a birthday cake, I’ll try your recipe.

  34. Sherry says:

    This looks divine! Will you please share your chocolate frosting recipe also? If I’m going to go to the work of making YOUR perfect yellow cake, I want the perfect frosting as well. Thanks!

  35. Loved reading your process to get to the best end result and I’ve done a lot of them. Things I really loved. Using unsalted butter. I have NEVER bought salted butter; see no need for both and I’ve never had anything taste bad if I used salted.

    More significantly though, I live in Denver at 5680 feet and I’ve struggled with high altitude for 28 years. It’s a variable beast for sure but the past couple of years I’ve had more success than ever with a tip from a local celeb baker who owns a very popular dessert restaurant. He said to forget changing the leavening and other ingredients and simply increase the oven temp 15 degrees. This allows the heat to more quickly set the risen goods and prevent them from falling for having risen too fast in our lighter air. Made sense and works for me. It does mean cutting back a bit on time too so the end result isn’t overbaked so I start testing at 10 minutes less baking time. Just a suggestion because high altitude baking is such a pain. It varies from 2,000 to 5,000 to 10,000 feet and sometimes it really is on the baker to test and find the perfect fix.

  36. Sandle says:

    After all the work you put into perfecting this recipe, how could I not make it! This is going to make my family very happy!

  37. Barbara H says:

    A suggestion for what to perfect next? This might sound simple but how about the perfect french fry. I’ve tried the double fry method and different fry temperatures for each fry but mine never seem to come out right.

  38. Mary H says:

    So there’s no sour cream where I live… What would be the next best thing, creme fraiche, yogurt, something else?

  39. Adrienne says:

    This is next on my to make list!
    I would love it if you could give me a perfect recipe for Cherry Turnovers!

  40. Tami says:

    I LOVE this post!! Thank you for all the hard work in finding the perfect yellow cake recipe! I will be trying this recipe very soon! :)

  41. Sally says:

    Great post! So for how long do you leave out your butter? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Sally – It really depends on the temp of my kitchen but usually if I take it out and place it on the counter, it’s good to go in an hour or two (that’s judging by the cooler, winter kitchen).

  42. Hira says:

    WOohoo! Cant wait to try this! So u recommend using the whisk attachment? Hm…i think the paddle is best for creaming though. Anyway, i would love the perfect vanilla cake recipe. Something moist and fluffy but not a sponge cake ( i already have a great sponge cake recipe ). would this cake taste like a vanilla cake if i add a vanilla bean to it? THANKS AGAIN!

  43. Meghan says:

    Haha– so you guys ate a lot of yellow cake. I was mostly also curious if you just discard some of the cakes because that’s a lot of cake! I love the why’s of how to do specific recipes.

  44. Lindsey R says:

    Great. Now I will spend the rest of the day yelling at my chickens to hurry up and lay more eggs. I can not wait to make this cake, and I don’t typically make cake in the first place. Thanks Mel!

  45. Sally H says:

    You are fabulous. And I LOVE that you include all those details. One of my fav things about your recipes! This was perfect timing, son #’3′s 7th birthday is tomorrow and I was just sitting down to figure out what type of cake so I will be doing this one TONIGHT (mini cake for him; cupcakes for his class). He cannot have chocolate so I’m going to use a caramel frosting. Thank you thank you!

  46. Patti says:

    If you could take the time and trouble to bake 16 cakes and then write this awesome post, the least we could do is read it to the very end! It’s either that or I’m a big kitchen nerd too. I am putting this at the top of my baking to-do list! Thanks for all your experimenting on our behalf! Oh, and I love that you weigh your ingredients. LOVE, love, love!

  47. Karen says:

    I totally woke up this morning thinking: I need to try different yellow cake recipes, and attempt to find the best one.
    Then I go to your website and find out that you’ve already done it all! It’s a sign. Now I MUST try this recipe. Thanks for all your hard work!! I especially love the long explanation behind the recipe (I love knowing WHY I need to do things a certain way).

  48. bluebaker says:

    I am so going to try this soon! The photos look like a party just waiting to happen.

  49. Thank you! Wow, what a great resource! Pinning and hoping to try sooner than later. Quick question: How do you view your “homemade yellow cake mix” recipe now that you have tested so many yellow cakes and found “the” one. Will you still keep the cake mix on hand to use in a pinch?

    • Mel says:

      Jeanette – good question. I think the homemade yellow cake mix has its merits for certain recipes and I like knowing I have a dry mix option but this perfected yellow cake is better, in my opinion.

  50. Deb says:

    oh my I’m so happy — it’s cake week at our house and so far the results of a different cake each night have been so so — especially the yellow cakes! so perfect perfect timing – I will be making this cake next! Thank you for saving me so much pain and testing! Can’t wait for the perfect yellow cake! What frosting did you use??

  51. Megan Lemon says:

    Thanks for this amazing post, Mel! It is exactly what my husband wants for his birthday, yellow cake, chocolate frosting. I always go to your website so I am so excited that it came just in time. His birthday is this Sunday!! :) THanks!

  52. Kelli says:

    I would love for you to find the perfect recipe for breakfast, whether it be a breakfast casserole, pancakes or waffles. We love breakfast in this house!

  53. Catherine says:

    Thank you for describing steps you took too make the perfect yellow cake. I was interested in hearing about you test baking recipes.

  54. Dana says:

    Hi Mel- Your posting turned out great and I am so excited to not only make your perfect yellow cake, but to display it on my cake stand! Thanks a million for using my cake stand and linking back to me ;o) You are very thoughtful! Happy Baking!

  55. Viktoriya says:

    This just flew into my recipe box faster than the speed of light!!:))

  56. Jessica says:

    That read like a freaking novel! Nothing more interesting than the whys and hows of cooking/baking.

    Only two obstacles standing in the way of making this: 30 lbs of baby weight from my 3 month old and the purchasing of a sifter. One might be easier to surmount than the other.

    You remain my favorite food blogger of all time.

  57. Moe Young says:

    What to perfect next? A cookbook. Please!

  58. I am new the last few weeks reading your blog. So I had no idea about your quest. Your blog was fabulous and very well written—-on top of being down right informative and even the adjective fascinating could be used. We should all be honored that you so kindly shared your recipe. Thank you.

  59. Suzanne says:

    Can’t wait to try this!! Would 1 c of buttermilk work in place of the milk/sour cream?

    • Mel says:

      Suzanne – I’d suggest using the milk/sour cream to start and then play around with it from there. The recipe I tried with just buttermilk was a bit too cornbread-tasting for my liking.

  60. Colleen says:

    Dang woman! I can’t wait to try this out since earlier today as I was gorging myself on your Decadent Chocolate Cake I told my mom I was totally over standard yellow cake. Guess I’m not after all! Thanks for all the awesomeness that your blogging has brought to my world and my kitchen. I can’t help but constantly throw shout-outs your way on my blog as I tell my readers what awesome new dish I cooked/baked up from your site. Cheers to you, Mel!

  61. Nita says:

    I just took this cake out of the oven and it’s not very fluffy. I’m not sure what I did wrong but it looks kind of flat. It smells great so I’m sure it will still taste good. I followed all the instructions except I didn’t have a scale so maybe my flour measurements were off? I just ordered a scale and I will try again.

    • Mel says:

      Nita – you can see from my pictures that the cake layers aren’t ultra-thick. Just pretty standard, I’d say. Was it still fluffy and moist? Weighing the ingredients definitely helps with precision…do you think you may have measured the flour with too light of touch?

  62. Kim says:

    You made my whole day – thank you! If you wrote a cookbook, I would buy a copy for everyone I know (including those people I hate). I love your blog!!!

  63. Jenn A says:

    Amazing!!! And I can’t wait to try this cake. Every time I have tried a yellow cake I have been disappointed and I think I’ve tried a different recipe every time. So glad you tested and tested this one. What a ton of work! and cake!

  64. Thank you do much for going through all the effort AND for sharing it!! I have the perfect occasion to make this for next weekend!

    PS ~ I love my kitchen scale. I’d be lost without it. I live in Australia where sticks of butter don’t exist so a scale is a lifesaver just for that alone. But I use it for so much more!

  65. Jodi says:

    I couldn’t resist trying this today. It is exactly how you described – light, fluffy and perfect! I pulled out my scale which I hardly use and even though I think weighing ingredients can be a pain, it totally paid off. It truly is the best yellow cake ever!

  66. Amanda says:

    My husband has been the cook in our family lately. (Joys of morning sickness…) And I’ve sent him to your site on many occasions. He made our 2 year olds birthday cake a few weeks ago–but the recipe wasn’t great and it turned out amazingly dense. Knowing that you had this on the horizon, I’ve been checking occasionally. Tonight he asked if it was posted–and we were so happy to see it was! He’s looking forward to redeeming his previous attempt. Thanks for your experimentation! You’ve saved us years of development on our own. :)

  67. Jill says:

    I can’t wait to try this cake as soon as Lent ends. I love every recipe I have made from your site. Thanks for all your effort to perfecting each recipe and providing helpful tips for us.

  68. stacie says:

    I might just have to make a cake today…I was going to make your French bread dinner rolls, I might have to make both :) I am always looking for the perfect cakes. Always trying new ones, I am right there with ya being a nerd about this stuff. Havn’t read through the entire post but WILL before I go ahead and bake this thing! Thanks for posting and I will come back and give you my thoughts :)

  69. Carly Pickering says:

    Mel! I know what you need to perfect next. Or, if you already have, and know the answer, please send it my way. ;) EVERY time I make a bundt cake, it sticks to the pan when I try to get it out. EVERY time. Seriously, it is going to make me crazy. Maybe I just need to conduct my own experiment. Do you have an exact science for it? Spray the pan? Spray and flour? Butter? I would use parchment paper, but it doesn’t work great with the grooves. Am I not letting the cake cool enough, or maybe too much?
    Thanks! :)

  70. Kim in MD says:

    Wow, Mel…the research you did to perfect this cake is very impressive! I have been waiting for you to post this recipe since you first hinted that you were working on it. I have never found a from scratch yellow cake recipe that I have loved. Like you, even my beloved CI recipe let me down. I am co-hosting a big party in two weeks, and I am going to make your yellow cake. I don’t even feel the need to test before making it, because I trust that this will be the best homemade yellow cake! As you know, I like to prepare as much as I can before the party. I am going to bake the cake layers this weekend and freeze them (well wrapped). I’ll frost them before the party. Thanks so much for devoting so much time to perfect recipes to share with us!

  71. Kim in MD says:

    Me again…I forgot to add that I think cake pops would be a fun way to use up some of your frozen yellow research cake! :-)

  72. Crystal says:

    I am making this today for my son’s 18th birthday. I’m going to try it in a sheet cake pan and hope it works. Thanks for all the work. I check in regularly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Love it!

  73. Sandee says:

    Mel, if ever you need a recipe tested at 7605 ft, im your gal (southern colorado). anxious to try this one out. thanks for your extensive testing!

  74. Nita says:

    Hi Mel, the cake was still fluffy and moist ,just not as high as I thought it would be. It had great flavor and it was delicious. I definitely think I was too light with the flour but I will be making it again for sure. I made it last night and it’s already gone! Thanks for all the great recipes. I make several of your recipes every week and we always love them.

  75. Pam says:

    Thank you so much for including high altitude directions!

  76. britt says:

    Thanks again for the high altitude directions. There aren’t many of us but we really appreciate it when we’re not forgotten! At 6200 feet, homemade cakes are tough.

  77. Bet says:

    Wow. This cake is SO GOOD. I’ve tried a few other from-scratch yellow cakes and they have been dry even when they tasted good. But this is light and moist and the taste is amazing!!!!! I didn’t even ice it. (I’m pregnant and I just wanted cake, gosh.) I didn’t have the right pans, so I used a 9×13 and baked it for 38 min, which was maybe 1 or 2 too long. :) Thank you for the recipe!!!!

  78. Elizabeth W says:

    This is awesome! I was craving a yellow cake the last time I was pregnant and I tried the cook’s illustrated one since they have never let me down. It was good, but not exactly what I had hoped for. I was wondering if I had done something wrong. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was looking for more!

    As for perfecting, I would love a perfected deep dish pizza. I’ve tried a few recipes (including CI) but they are either incredibly complicated or incredibly tasteless.

  79. Thank you!!! I have forever been on the search for the perfect yellow cake and I have come pretty close, but can’t wait to give your recipe a try. I wish it wasn’t so late so that I could make it right now!

  80. Jenn A says:

    I have a cake idea that I’d love for someone to figure out! Maybe you’d want to try it. When I was in graduate school I ran wedding receptions as my part time job. There was one baker who was very popular for her chocolate groom’s cake. It was ah.maz.ing! Of course, she kept her recipe secret. I have looked and looked at chocolate cake recipes and have never come across anything that seems similar. It was very different from your description of your yellow cake above. It was VERY chocolate (I remember hearing from somewhere that she used multiple kinds of chocolate in it, but I don’t know if that is true or not). It was also very moist and very dense. It was so good! All my reception helpers would be so eager for the reception to be over so they could snag a piece of leftover cake. The frosting on it was very chocolate too and was almost like fudge in texture. The cake was intensely chocolate but not overly sweet. I would love to have someone figure out how to make a cake like this – or even point me to a recipe that would be similar. I’ve dreamed about it for years now. =)

  81. Anna says:

    Perfect Cake? Perfect timing! Thank you for your experiments!

    Dad’s got a birthday coming up, and I’ve had the same reservations about the cake recipes I’ve tried in the past, but wasn’t sure what to do when I saw a Martha Stewart birthday cake with an orange curd filling and a ganache icing. Dad likes that idea, but I wanted a tried and true recipe to try. (online reviews can be a bit limited without the details you’ve provided.) I’m thinking this cake will be a good place to start.

    Here’s hoping it’s not too delicate and fluffy to handle the filling. I’m making it in an 9×13 for simplicity, with only one layer to split.

    I’ll be trying the chocolate version of the frosting too. Per your experiments, I’ll be adding extra chocolate.

  82. Thanks Mel! You have done the world a great service by perfecting this cake! Can’t wait to try!!!

  83. Patience says:

    Yellow cake is so difficult! I haven’t made a decent one yet, so I can’t wait to try your method.

  84. Jen T says:

    wow. that is all I can say. wow!

  85. Carrie says:

    While I haven’t tried 16 recipes in the past two months… I definitely have in the past 2 years, including all the ones you mentioned! I had given up, even though yellow is my favorite cake. Thank you so much for persevering for us! I am so excited to try this. MUAH! Kisses to you!

  86. Stephanie says:

    So excited to try this! Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is one of my all-time favorite desserts. Ever. Thanks for all of your hard work to perfect this recipe! Some have asked about turning this into cupcakes. I have only ever made your Ultimate Chocolate Cake as cupcakes and they are AMAZING! The most moist homemade chocolate cucpake i have ever had (i frost them with one of your cream cheese frostings). I the recipe exactly, only adjusting the bake time since they are cupcakes. 13 minutes in my oven (it’s gas) is the perfect amout of time. Given how well that recipe works as cupcakes, I bet this one would too. I was all set to use your Light and Fluffy Yellow Cupcakes recipe, but I may try this one. What would you say is the difference in this cake’s texture from your yellow cupcakes?

  87. Stephanie says:

    Oh, and you asked about what to perfect next? I would to have a perfect moist and light fresh strawberry cake or cupcake recipe with a strawberry frosting. Often they are too dense or the recipes call for packets of instant pudding or strawberry jello. You would be my hero if you could give us the recipe for a delicious, moist and fluffy/light fresh strawberry cake/cupcake!!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Stephanie – the cupcakes, while delicious, aren’t quite as light as this cake. Either are delicious but hopefully this batter translates well into cupcakes, too (I’m guessing it will). Good luck if you try it!

  88. Laurel says:

    Perfect a cookbook? Ha! What do they think this blog is?

    Made the cake last night. I’m at a HA so I added the extra flour and it didn’t rise. Came out already sunk in the middle. I only cooked it for 25 min but it was super dark and dry too. I was sad. I weighed everything. Followed directions perfectly. Never fear! I’m attempting it again until it comes out perfect or until my newly purchased cake flour is all gone ;)

    • Mel says:

      Oh shoot, Laurel! That’s not what I like to hear. Darn! I’m sorry this cake didn’t work out for you. I can’t imagine what went wrong. This is a dumb question but you’re sure you didn’t leave out the baking powder/soda, right?

  89. Barbara says:

    How about perfecting crepes?

  90. Kelly G says:

    I can’t find cake flour, we have 3 grocery stores in my town and no one has it. Is it worth trying to make it with all purpose? Or is there a substitute? Self rising? I really wanted to make it tonight d

  91. Kelly G says:

    Hi, so I was on my phone sitting in my car in the 3rd grocery store parking lot when I posted that last (incomplete) message! It somehow posted before I finished, I’m sure it was some error of mine:) So anyways I just got home got on my computer and came to your blog to see right there on your home page your solution to make my own cake flour!! YAY! So happy now, you’re the best and I can’t wait to make this recipe for my husbands birthday tomorrow. THANK YOU!!

  92. Jess Lundahl says:

    What a timely post!! I had just spend two days testing several different yellow/white cupcake recipes. I do live at high altitude, so there’s always that to contend with :) I thought I had found THE yellow cupcake, but then I came across your post. So I figured I would give yours a try since I LOVE so many of your recipes!!! I followed all the high altitude directions as written. The first batch of cupcakes I made, I baked at 350 for 18 mins, as directed…the cupcakes didn’t fall but did spread a bit and were quite flat. I decided to raise the temp to 375 for 15 mins for the next batch. That batch didn’t spread quite as much but were still pretty flat. They weren’t bad by any means! However, they were a bit gummy or something. The texture was just a tad bit off. I thought I’d share my high altitude cupcake trial with you. Thanks so much for all of your hard work!!

  93. Jodi says:

    Of all the cooking blogs I have used, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe is the best out there! In my many years of trying new recipes from this blog they have all turned out…. unless I’ve made a mistake! I cook from it daily and I appreciate all the time and effort Mel puts into perfecting each recipe.

  94. rmd says:

    Dear Mel….I made the cake yesterday and, after so many attempts at perfect yellow cake, including the ones you mentioned in your post as well as many others that I tinkered with to try to achieve greatness…. I think, quite possibly this is really it!!! The flavor and texture are spot on. It is moist and fluffy with not too fine a crumb. It’s not eggy, it not cornbready, it’s not pound cake but also it’s not too fragile…. I agree that it didn’t dome as much as other recipes, but that did not detract from the texture. My husband declared after dessert last night that this is “the one.” As obsessed as I am with perfection, I will need to make it one or two more times just to make sure….but, with deep gratitude for your efforts, let me say thank you one more time for persevering and sharing your success with all of us! (now, fingers crossed that it works well for cupcakes and can also scale up for larger cakes for special occasions….if anyone tries doubling or tripling, please share what proportions work)

  95. Sylvia says:

    Perfect name for this perfect cake. Thanks for your hard work.

  96. Laura Clark says:

    Tried your newest recipe last night. I tried making them into cupcakes, and I’m not sure what happened, but they all sunk in the middle! Shoot! I WILL be trying them again because the batter is delicious! The cupcakes are actually still edible, just not pretty, and they are delicious! The flavor is perfect. I am a high altitude baker (6800 ft!), so recipes are always a little finicky for me. I’m probably going to try it with a scale next time to make sure I get enough flour to support the cake’s structure, and I’ll be trying that 15-degrees-higher oven tip mentioned earlier too! Thank you for your many trials and for succeeding in finding such a great final product!!

  97. Laurel says:

    Nope. I didn’t forget. Would it help to add a little more soda or more powder? Or maybe both? I’m going to try it again this week! Determined to get it perfect.

    • Mel says:

      Laurel – definitely worth a try. In one of my variations, I think I had 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon soda and my cake had so much leavening that it “popped” in the oven and deflated. So I scaled it back to the measurements in the recipe. So you might google some high altitude help about leavening to see whether to scale it up or down. Good luck. Keep me posted!

  98. Kathy says:

    I made this cake today…the taste is amazing BUT I baked them for 25 min, they did not seem done so I gave them 3 more minutes and tested with a toothpick, they were done. They looked beautiful, even etc. Left the pans on the cooling rack and came back 5 or 10 min later to turn them out and they were sunk in the middle. I followed your directions exactly…even bought a kitchen scale etc. Any ideas? My baking powder is not old…I just used it the other day with success. We loved the taste and texture and the chocolate frosting was to die for ;) Just not pretty layers like I would like.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kathy and others who have checked back in on this cake. The flat/sunk layers baffles me considering I dedicated my life to this cake for months. But I really, really, really want this to turn out perfectly for you like it does for me. I’m guessing it is a leavening issue. Here’s the update I just put in the recipe:

      I’ve heard from several of you that while the cake tastes amazing, it is sinking in the middle or is baking flat. When I had too much leavening in the cake during my experimenting (2 teaspoons baking powder + 1 1/2 teaspoons soda), the cake rose too much in the oven and then deflated so I scaled it back to what worked perfectly for me. But here’s the deal, if you are worried about sunken layers, increase the baking soda. My suggestion would be 1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon.

      Be sure to check back in!

  99. Carlie says:

    Just tried to make this cake and now I am on a mission to figure out how to make it well. It was a disaster. It sank horribly and had that sponginess you mentioned. I added extra cake flour for altitude and added extra baking soda as suggested. I was so frustrated! But I did my best to laugh and salvage it. Oh well.

    • Mel says:

      Carlie – so sorry about the disaster! It sounds as if the altitude is a problem for people even after the high altitude adjustments in the directions; since I don’t live at high altitude I can’t troubleshoot for you guys, unfortunately. Seriously, I’m so bummed it’s not working out since I really want this cake to be perfect for everyone! I think I know the exact texture/issue you are talking about because I had several turn out like that during my trials. I’d almost suggest adding a bit more flour and instead of increasing the baking soda, I wonder about leaving the baking soda at 1/4 teaspoon and increasing baking powder to 2 teaspoons. Just take care with the leavening since I had several cakes sink because of too much leavening.

  100. Megan says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have been trying to find the perfect yellow cake for a long time and yours is by far the best! I made it in a 9×13 pan for 38mins and it came out great. I used a cream cheese/whipped cream frosting and topped with strawberries. My family devoured it!!

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