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Yellow Butter Cake

This is the kind of classic, all-American layer cake that birthday memories are made of. It's guaranteed to please a crowd. To make an 8-inch layer cake, as featured on "Martha Bakes," use 1 teaspoon salt and finish with Mrs. Milman's Chocolate Frosting. Adapted from "Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook."

  • Yield: Makes two 9-inch cake layers
Yellow Butter Cake

Source: The Martha Stewart Show


  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.

  3. Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Reviews (44)

  • Hershee35 23 Aug, 2014

    Anybody not too enthused about the heaviness of the cake can easily reduce flour to about 2 1/4 cups and beat the butter and sugar for about 20 minutes. That will give you a lighter, fluffier batter.

  • angelicagracilis 15 Aug, 2014

    Excellent taste but the cake is too dense, it looks pretty fluffy in the pictures but it doesnt turn out like that, and I have done it several times.

  • crazyboutmartha 21 Apr, 2014

    I made the cake this past weekend and everyone loved it. It was moist and delicious, but personally I was a little disappointed in the texture of the cake. I prefer lighter fluffier layer and they were really pretty dense. More like a pound cake. Martha has always been my go to girl, but I will probably use a different recipe next time.

  • mvhyde 13 Feb, 2014

    Made this cake for my hubbies birthday. It was very tasty, smelled delicious and was not dry. I can't say it was extremely moist, but 3 days later (of sitting on the counter on a covered cake stand) the cake is still reasonably moist.
    I followed most of the instructions but I used a quick substitute of Corn starch and AP flour for the cake flour.
    I frosted this with chocolate frosting and it is delicious. Better than a box, but I am still looking for a recipe with more moisture in the cake.

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  • Faaterehau 7 Oct, 2013

    I freaked out when I read the negative reviews because I was gonna bake this for my friends bday. Well, the cake was moist and very delicious. I didn't have many options for flour so I baked with the all purpose flour only. It was scrumptious indeed and will definitely bake that again! It was very easy. I dunno what went wrong with the negative reviews but mine was super good!!!

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  • Sophie Grenier 16 Sep, 2013

    This recipe is more of a genoise than a yellow cake. I am a pretty experienced baker and followed the recipe, but it did not result in a springy, spongy cake. Instead, we ended up with something resembling a French madeleine, but less dense.

  • swampnana 12 Sep, 2013

    Also forgot to add, you must do the toothpick test on this cake, mine definitely did not look done but tested done. Again turned out beautiful and very moist. I didn't read the reviews until after I baked mine, not really sure why so many said it was dry, because mine was very very moist. I do cream my butter and sugar until it is very light and fluffy and make sure you just mix until everything is combined. Good Luck! God Bless!!

  • swampnana 12 Sep, 2013

    Excellent very moist cake and easy recipe. Didn't change a thing and it was the most moist yellow cake that I have ever made, and I have been searching for years for a really moist yellow cake. Will definitely be my go to yellow cake forever more!

  • CDNSMFNS 8 Aug, 2013

    I made this batter for cupcakes, adding natural maraschino cherries, and it was delicious. I followed the recipe, making my own cake flour, and I made sure not to over mix. I don't know how these cupcakes will make it to my son's Birthday party without being eaten. Delicious! I baked the cupcakes for 22 minutes.

  • cmj14 14 May, 2013

    Oh I forgot to add to my review what might have made the texture of the cake dry - they could have over mixed their batter. The trick is to beat all the ingredients but not to over beat them.

  • cmj14 14 May, 2013

    I made this cake the other night and it was SCRUMPTIOUS! I know that a lot of the reviewers say that their cakes were dry, but mine turned out moist and very, very good. I did however use "Cake Flour" instead of the "All-Purpose" which gave the cake a light and airy texture, but other than that I did exactly as Martha Stewart recipe directed. Thanks Martha for yet another WONDERFULLY Delicious Recipe:-)

  • henn11 27 Apr, 2013

    Can not wait to try this recipe. I like the idea of doing basic cooking. Not alot of planning and work. Plus I don't really know alot of basics. so I really enjoy the classes. Keep them coming.

  • Lovecooking4you 21 Aug, 2012

    I made this cake today following the recipe exactly. The cake came out nice. It's light and fluffy. I like it, but I can understand some people think it's dry. They like really moist cakes. I guess it's all up to your preference. I will make this cake again.

  • sheshefoofoocards 17 Aug, 2012

    I just took the cake out; it took 30-35 min to bake. It's not a golden brown as my 7 up cakes are; the color is lighter, but I tested it with a toothpick and it's done - glad I did it, because it didn't look like it was done. I'll let you know how it tastes after I add the frosting and eat it, but it looks good.

  • Elizabeth Bailey 25 Jul, 2012

    If you have a problem with dryness consider your cooling method. If possible leave this cake in the pan while cooling and drape a towel over it to prevent it from drying out. Also make sure not to overcook. I love this recipe. It has worked out much better than all the other yellow cake recipes I've found on the internet. If you need the pan immediately find some other method to cover your cake.

  • vanessa30 13 Jun, 2012

    Did everyone cook it for only 30 min at 350? mine was not cooked at all i had to cook it for almost an hour.

  • amberUNA 9 Jun, 2012

    I love this cake! I bake this cake for almost every occasion, my son's birthday party, etc.. I am really suprised there are so many bad reviews. I have never had a problem with the cake being dry. Everytime I make this cake everyone loves it. Watching foodnetwork and other baking shows I know they say if you over mix the batter it can make the cake dry along with over cooking it so that could be a problem? I always mix the batter just until the ingredients are mixed well and no more. Great cake!

  • vspra6 20 Apr, 2012

    Just made this for the first time for my great nephew's birthday cake. It is light and fluffy and full of old time, yellow cake taste. If you follow the recipe as written, I don't know how you could get anything other than a yellow cake to rival any that my grandmother used to make. It's delicious and easy to make.

  • mkmeier 5 Feb, 2012

    The secret is - cream butter and sugar really well - must be light and fluffy, have ALL ingredients at room temp, mix in dry ingredients until JUST incorporated - over-mixing will result in tough/dry cake. I used 1 C milk and 1/4 C buttermilk, watch closely - do not overbake! It was moist and light - very tasty!

  • JohnK 31 Jan, 2012

    This recipe was a huge disappointment. I tested the cake at 30 min and the center was a bit underdone so I left it in an additional 3 minutes. Once the tester came out clean I took out of the oven straight away. It was an awful crumbly, dry mess. My time is valuable and I could have done better with a box mix. So, this will not be my go to yellow cake. Shame.

  • SusalME 26 Dec, 2011

    Not exactly a review - a question. Martha uses a bowl sifter - a terrific idea for a person with awful arthritis. But where can you get one like this, without little knobs and handles to hit your hands when you pat it to sift? thanks!

  • Jenboo67 7 Oct, 2011

    Great simple recipe. Using fresh eggs and butter will make the flavor amazing. Lovely, delicately flavored cake, perfect for a birthday cake!

  • mimi204 10 Sep, 2011

    I think this is an excellent recipe and I have now idea why so many people found this to be dry. It's light and moist and holds up well to slicing and filling. The dryness in a cake is usually as a result of overcooking or cooking at too high a temperature. I didn't follow the timing in recipes, as i always judge when a cake is ready by sight. I have an oven that runs a little hot; had I left it for 30 minutes, it would have been over-baked. I can't wait to try the other variations.

  • dot777 5 Sep, 2011

    I followed the directions exactly and watched the time closely. It came out very dry and very dense. Can't think what could have happened. The flavor was good though. With ice cream piled on it was better. I used recipe from Martha's Baking Handbook which is exactly the same as this one. Wish I had read reviews here first :(

  • katerader83 3 Sep, 2011

    in reading the reviews, i saw that some people had trouble with this cake being too dry... so i added an additional egg yolk. i also substituted vanilla soymilk for regular milk, just because that's what i had on hand. i turned this into cupcakes (and the recipe basically makes 24 normal size cupcakes perfectly). they came out SO delicious, light and fluffy. i used a chocolate ganache instead of traditional icing and they are a huuuuge hit.

  • Ifeanyi 4 Jul, 2011

    Made this cake for the holidays and straight from the oven, it was an instant hit! It was delicious, soft and sufficiently moist. This receipe has become a family favorite and will surely be more than a season delight!

  • MTayl 1 Jul, 2011

    Not only dry, but salty! Too much baking powder perhaps? 1 Tbsp seems excessive. Also, the editor's note at the top of recipe is puzzling: it suggests increasing the salt to 1 tsp if using 8" pans vs. 1/2 tsp for 9" pans -- doesn't seem logical.

  • laurie0222 7 Jun, 2011

    It's too dry. I checked the cake at 30 mins (low side) and it was done! Probably too done because it was a little on the dry side. Comparing it to other recipes, I'm thinking I'll cut down 1/4 c. on the butter and add in 1/4 c. canola oil with the milk and trim 5-7 mins on baking

  • tomteboda 27 Apr, 2011

    I baked this cake today for a dinner party. It came out a bit on the dry side, even though I was careful to watch the time (and pulled it out a little early just in case).

  • BeckiKlauss 27 Feb, 2011

    This cake is delicious. It is very dense and holds up well for decorating or molding. I did not find it dry. Instead I felt it was a bit too sweet. So, I cut the sugar. It was a complete hit at my son's first birthday party.

  • angshink 23 Feb, 2011

    did not care for the texture or taste. VERY DRY. I would add some sour cream.

  • angshink 23 Feb, 2011

    did not care for the texture or taste. VERY DRY. I would add some sour cream.

  • Bakerete 2 Feb, 2011

    Hi Martha! Can you please give weight measurements in your recipes? Good luck with the new show, I'm hooked already

  • iamsabby 1 Feb, 2011

    I halved this recipe and made 14 cupcakes from the batter. I saw on America's Test Kitchen that they used bread flour when making cupcakes in order to make them a little sturdier for eating out of your hands, so I used AP flour and Bread flour instead of AP flour and Cake flour. They tasted wonderfully and weren't delicate for preschoolers hands. Perfect. I didn't think they were dry at all.

  • bakenmama 27 Apr, 2010

    A bit dry... good flavor though... but dry!

  • vjbobo 6 Apr, 2010

    This cake was tasty, but a little dry.

  • rjameslarsen 19 Mar, 2010

    Dear DessertFanatic, I too live at high altitude, if you reduce the baking powder to 2 teaspoons and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda you should have no problem with the cake sinking and the texture will be improved. Also, if the cake was a little dry you may have overmixed slightly or bake a little to long. I hope this helps.

  • lisalove07 14 Mar, 2010

    I tried this cake recipe and it is good. Moist and buttery tasting. It didn't blow my socks off but it was still good.

  • DessertFanatic 4 Mar, 2010

    I was pretty disappointed with this recipe. The crumb wasn't as fine and the texture wasn't as moist and light as I wanted it to be. Also, if you live at high altitudes, you'll probably need to make some adjustments in the ingredients, because my cakes sunk slightly in the middle. I just cut off the tops to level them anyway, but I just wanted perfection, and this cake didn't give me that.

  • autumnmd 5 Sep, 2009

    This cake is good.

  • cheftb 17 Jan, 2009

    Just used a hand mixer and everything turned out fine. I baked this with my 3 yr old's help. We used a bundt cake pan instead and topped it with icing and fresh strawberries. A very sophisticated 3rd bday cake (I must admit) but she loved that she made it herself.

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