Serves a Crowd

Moist and Light Yellow Cake

May  4, 2011
16 Ratings
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 10-12
Author Notes

One of my quests has been to find a yellow cake recipe that I love. I have tried what seems like hundreds and although some are really good they were not exactly what I was looking for. I wanted the cake to be tender and light and moist. I was speaking to my Mother on the phone and we always discuss food and recipes. I happened to mention that I have been searching for a great recipe for yellow cake and she said she had a recipe for me to try. This recipe is from the 1950's and she made this cake for our family. I remember her cakes were always amazing. This is my Mom's recipe, she said it took a very long time to get it right and It's one of the best yellow cakes I've tasted. The back story behind this cake means a lot to me, my favorite cake as a child (still a favorite now) is Boston Cream Pie, my Father always bought one at an Italian bakery in my hometown, the cake was light as a feather, everything about it was amazing. I always requested this cake for my birthday. When we moved my Mom in an effort to make sure I had my favorite cake developed this recipe.
When I made it my search was over. Its light, tender and moist. Holds well with fruit filling as well as a buttercream and any way you make it its delicious. The cake is a combination of a yellow cake and a chiffon cake. It rises beautifully and is very simple to make.

Test Kitchen Notes

Sometimes, you come by a recipe in such a backwards way that the only explanation must be that you were meant to make this dish. This was the case with Tender Yellow Cake.

Let me first state that I do not need any more cake recipes. Or cookies or pie or slumps or macaroons or confections of any manner. (Or is it nor? Someone will no doubt weigh in.) My point is that my folder of savory recipes is about 1/3 the size of my dessert one (this would be manila folders that I have been “organizing” for the better part of a decade) and I need not be on the troll for more sweet stuff.

But then I had this lovely little container of currants from the farmer’s market, the sort of thing one purchases with no plan at all and finds herself dismayed that one is not automatically revealed as the week goes on. I tried drying them in an oven. Fail. I put them on a tray outside, but nothing happened other than the growing sense of paranoia that a small animal or bird gave the berries an unsanitary lick.

Amanda, who tires of my late night instant message rants about ingredient confusion, suggested I put my currants in a cake. A mad search ensued, and this cake looked so incredibly delicious, I decided to make it instantly. Then, I came up with an even better idea–make the incipient do it.

I would like to report to you that she abandoned her Facebook page cheerfully to do so, but let’s settle for the fact that she was rewarded with the satisfaction of a cake well baked, and stopped grumbling once it came out of the oven.

This is truly a child’s cake in terms of ease; a few eggs whipped up are the only tiny small extra step you take. The results are truly amazing, especially given the effort: it has the light texture of a sponge cake, with the deep vanilla kiss of a heavier cake. I will take this moment to once again praise the use of oils in cakes, which I think often yield something far easier and delicious than my beloved butter versions.

The only things we did differently from sdebrango is make it in a sheet pan (baked for 30 minutes on the nose; your oven may vary) simply because we felt like it; use the standing mixer the entire time, because we’re lazy, and eat it while it was still hot, because we really could not stand to wait.

This cake was very fine on day two, when I covered it with the currant compote I made stove top (pint of berries, ¼ cup of sugar, and ¼ cup of water cooked for quite a while). As it turns out, the cake is a perfect vehicle for syrupy things. “The absorption rate is spectacular,” commented my colleague, C, as I presented him with the cake after a particularly tedious vote. This is true. But I would eat it plain, right out of the pan, happily. —Jestei

What You'll Need
  • 3 large eggs separated and at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons Baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup neutral oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 cup Half&half, whole milk (1 or 2% work also)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare three 8 or two 9-inch round baking pans, butter or use cooking spray the bottoms and line with parchment rounds, butter or spray again bottoms and sides and dust with flour.
  3. Beat egg whites until frothy then add 1/2 cup of the sugar (reserving the rest) a tablespoon at a time until egg whites are stiff and glossy. Set aside.
  4. Sift flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt into large mixing bowl if you are using a hand held mixer or into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add the oil, milk, egg yolks and the vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed, mixture will be quite thick. I actually prefer to use a hand held mixer for this recipe.
  5. Fold in egg whites and distribute into the baking pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 10-20 minutes in the pan then turn out onto cake rack to cool completely. Note; I highly recommend using a soaking syrup (simple syrup flavored as you like) brushed on the layers. The cake is similar to a sponge cake and needs a little extra moisture. If using a fruit filling like berries you can skip the syrup.
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  • farmgirl
  • boulangere
  • Selina
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    Ambika B Nair
  • Jill Taylor
    Jill Taylor
I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember, am self taught learning as I go. I come from a large Italian family and food was at the center of almost every gathering. My grandfather made his own wine and I remember the barrels of wine in the cellar of my grandfathers home, I watched my mother and aunts making homemade pasta and remember how wonderful it was to sit down to a truly amazing dinner. Cooking for me is a way to express myself its my creative outlet. I enjoy making all types of food but especially enjoy baking, I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I share my home with my two dogs Izzy and Nando. I like to collect cookbooks and scour magazines and newspapers for recipes. I hope one day to organize them.

137 Reviews

Cheryl September 11, 2023
This is very like angel cake. Very nice for not lots of extra effort. I will say that it needed longer to cook - did about 36 mins and there was still a slightly undercooked 'layer'. That may have been due to using the extra oil suggested by another reviewer (about 1/2 cup instead of 1//3) and may be why the cake fell as it cooled. Despite this, it was great served with pudding and fruit in simple syrup.
sdebrango September 11, 2023
Thank you so much Cheryl! Yes, ovens vary and so do cooking times. Adding the additional oil could be why it sunk and took longer to bake. You are absolutely right it’s like angel food or a chiffon cake crossed with a yellow cake, very light! Thank you so much for making my recipe and so happy you enjoyed!
Darla1423 February 12, 2023
I used this recipe to make a cake with strawberry filling and buttercream frosting. I poured half the batter into a 9x13 pan and the other half into another 9x13 pan. I cooked it about 20 minutes. Then I made strawberry filling. When the cakes were cooled, I poured the strawberry filling on the bottom layer and topped it with the other layer. I frosted the top with buttercream frosting and placed sliced strawberries on top. The cake was a perfect texture to absorb the strawberry filling and hold up to it. The cake was delicious. I’m making another one today.
sdebrango February 12, 2023
Thank you so much Darla!! That sounds delicious and I think it’s brilliant making two 9x13 layers!!! You are so right it’s perfect with a fruit filling it sops up those juices. Thank you so much ❤️
NessBird March 10, 2022
I agree with the posters who said it was a little dry. I tried doubling the oil, and it came out better. I think 2 1/4 cups of flour can hold more than 1/3 cup of oil. You could add butter too, I guess? Anyway it came out better. I'm going to try with even more, see what goes wrong. But 2/3 cup oil definitely works.
Renee January 6, 2021
Made this for my son’s 2nd birthday. It was perfect for him and for adults. I remember all the moist yellow cakes I had as a child (out of a box) and wanted to create something similar for him but from scratch. I added chocolate frosting made from melted chocolate (70% bar) and coconut cream to go between the layers and on top, then added colorful sprinkles. Also added a bit of orange zest to both the cake and the frosting. Am sure I’ll be making this cake again, whether for kids or grown-ups!
Renee January 6, 2021
I will add that it was much more dense and less moist than the ‘out of box’ yellow cakes of my youth, but it was still delicious.
sdebrango January 6, 2021
Thank you so much and I am very happy the cake turned out for you! Love the combination of flavors you used. You are right the cake has a very fine crumb and is not a very moist cake. When I don’t use a fruit filling I always make a soaking syrup to add moisture, dabbing it on with my pastry brush between the layers. Thank you again and Happy Birthday to your son!!
farmgirl October 29, 2020
I read the comments and decided to add orange juice to it, hope it comes out well. Still in the oven once done I'll comment below
sdebrango October 29, 2020
I have added orange zest but never juice please let me know how it
Turned out!!
farmgirl October 30, 2020
It turned out perfect!!!!!! it was delicious and I ENJOYED the orange flavor. Thanks for the recipe.
sdebrango October 30, 2020
That’s fantastic!! Did you sub the orange juice for the milk? 1 c juice? So good to hear that it worked and you liked the cake. Thank you so much!!
farmgirl October 30, 2020
No, I did three quarters of milk and half a cup of orange juice.
boulangere October 23, 2020
Suzanne, I am confused (a state in which I should be more comfortable than I usually am). The ingredients call for 3 eggs separated, but in step 4, the instructions mention adding just 1 yolk. Is that correct, or have I missed something (a state in which I should also be more comfortable)?
sdebrango October 23, 2020
Hi; there should be an s it should be yolks. I’m sorry and will correct that 😁😁😁😌
boulangere October 24, 2020
Thank you! I went with my intuition (the one held in place by my crossed fingers), and added all 3. I used this as the basis for a Boston Cream Pie birthday cake last night, and it was divine.
sdebrango October 24, 2020
My Mom developed this recipe to make my birthday cake which every year is Boston Cream my all time favorite cake. Is it your birthday? If so happy happy birthday❤️
boulangere October 27, 2020
Quelle coincidence! No, it was the birthday of a friend, who requested it.
sdebrango October 27, 2020
Happy Birthday to your friend❤️❤️
boulangere October 28, 2020
askalice September 13, 2020
I wasn't impressed with this one. The primary issue I had was lack of taste. It was blah. Maybe adding butter would help. The crumb was a little dry, adding butter (or more oil) might help with this as well. It was very easy and simple, so that's a plus. But, I think I'll keep looking
sdebrango September 13, 2020
Hi Alice; thank you for trying the recipe. It is very different than a butter based cake, more like a chiffon in flavor. I am sorry you didn’t like it.
Ali1981 August 1, 2020

I want to make this for my husband’s birthday as a single layer cake and only have 1 9x9 pan. Can I cut the recipe in half?
sdebrango August 1, 2020
Hi Ali; yes you can half the recipe the only part that could be tricky is the eggs since the recipe calls for 3 eggs separated. You can measure or weigh. It’s not exact looking it up because eggs vary in size and volume. Best thing is to separate the 3 eggs and use half of each. Hope it works out please let me know. I have never halved the recipe before and Happy Birthday to your husband.
Selina June 6, 2020
This recipe was my favourite yellow cake to date, and that includes my very first baking endeavour from the "New Junior Cookbook" that I had memorized by the age of 8. The crumb was moist, but the bubbles cooked well into it, leaving a dense sponge with a not-too-sweet subtle flavour (though I did run about 1/8 cup short on sugar, so that may be the reason.) My ex-husband's birthday cake was perfection because of it, and it worked well in a rectangular pan as well, since I used this to be the body of a "camera birthday cake." Thank you!
sdebrango June 6, 2020
I am so happy to hear this. Thank you so much and very glad the birthday cake was good. You just made my day!’ Thank you again.
Ambika B. April 30, 2020

First of all, thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. I made it for my daughter's 2nd birthday and absolutely loved it. Fast forward to 7 years later, I plan to bake it today for her 9th birthday tomorrow. So I was wondering if any one has tried to make it as a marble cake? Please advise me as to how much cocoa to add to make some nice swirls? I am a chocolate fan but the birthday girl & the dad are vanilla fans.
Thanks in advance.
Ambika B. April 30, 2020
First of all, thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe :) I have made it for my daughter's 2nd birthday 7 years back and absolutely loved it. It works well for a lazy, occasional baker like me & holds well for frosting. I was wondering if anyone has tried to make this into a marble cake? Please let me know ASAP as I plan to bake it today for my daughter's 9th birthday tomorrow. Yes, I know, last minute ;)
Thanks in advance!
sdebrango April 30, 2020
Hi and thank you for your kind words. I have never made this into a marble cake before but in looking at a recipe from Nigella Lawson she simply removes a portion of the batter about half and add 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, whisk well and swirl into the vanilla batter. Please let me know how it goes and Happy birthday to your 9 yr old. Be safe, be well!
Jill T. July 8, 2018
I varied this recipe to make chocolate cup cakes - substituting some of the flour for good quality cocoa, and sank a chocolate piece in the middle. Turned out well.
Jill T. July 24, 2018
I think that I probably did the usual and took out 1 heaped tablespoon of flour and substituted it with a rich cocoa.
Vidya July 6, 2018
Love is cake. I made this 6 years ago and still remember how good it tasted. Can you recommend a light and not too sweet frosting that can go with this cake?
Suzanne S. July 6, 2018

1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups (360 grams) powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt adjust to taste


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.
Add in the powdered sugar and mix on low speed at first, then increase to medium speed and continue mixing for another 1-2 minutes until the mixture starts to come together.
Add in the heavy cream (start with 2 tablespoons and add a little more if needed), vanilla extract, and salt and continue mixing on medium-high speed for another minute or until everything is well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. THE KEY IS TO LET THE FROSTING WHIP 5 MINUTES.
Vidya July 7, 2018
Thank you so much
Vidya July 7, 2018
Thank you
Annie C. June 20, 2018
Truly outstanding. I made this for my daughter’s birthday, and it was a crowd pleaser. For the first time ever, there was no cake left at the end of the party, so I may need to make it again next week!
Jill T. June 16, 2018
What a beautiful cake! This will be one of my go-to regulars. It is so tender and light. Can be eaten with cream, fruit, with just icing on top, etc etc. Thank you sdebrango
Susan June 8, 2018
Love this recipe - the cake turned out lovely, light and tender. Very versatile, but I find we're just eating it neat or with a couple of strawberries. Freezes very well too!
Sammy A. April 3, 2018
This has been my go-to cake recipe for a few years now! It's flavorful, light, tender, and moist. I love how versatile it is too- I can change the flavor with different fillings and frostings. Thank you for sharing!!
Debra December 27, 2017
I made this cake substituting Daonuts Flour (gluten/grain free) and added 1/4 tsp Expandex. I used hemp milk for dairy free along with a combination of Truvia and organic sugar to lower the glycemic. It was superb! Beautiful texture throughout, very firm so easy to handle. Thank You!
Debra December 28, 2017
Suzanne, such a lovely comment! I am the creator of Daonuts flour. It's patent pending because it attains all the texture variations of glutinous flours; better than wheat, better than gluten free. That said, everything you need to know about Sugar Alternatives, For Expandex, go here: For Daonuts Flour, go here:
Debra December 28, 2017
Suzanne, I was just on your blog. I want to try the chocolate thumbprints. They look so inviting! I'm making your yellow cake recipe as cupcakes for a NYearsEve yoga event. It was soooo good; topping with chocolate buttercream again. Daonuts flour IS available for purchase on website. BUT I can send you some to play with, if you'd like to write something about your baking experience. Very, very new startup with very little $$'s trying to get the word out. BTW, I can totally relate to the transistion to a new oven. My GF bread was sinking in the middle for months. I tried everything to remedy but it turned out to be my old crappy oven. :D
Opa October 31, 2017
So I accidentally used lukewarm coconut oil and it solidified when the milk hit it. I tried to break it up and incorporate it the best I could....dare I bake it?
grace July 21, 2017
This cake also sank in the middle!