This birthday cake is a classic two-layer yellow cake topped with fluffy chocolate frosting and colorful sprinkles. It’s the perfect cake for a birthday celebration!
Why buy a birthday cake at the grocery store when it’s so easy to make your own? While you can make any cake into a birthday cake (try my Copycat Portillo’s Chocolate Cake or Strawberry Cake!), if you’re looking for that classic birthday cake recipe for kids and adults, this is the one! It’s made with two layers of light, fluffy yellow cake, then encased in the creamiest, dreamiest chocolate frosting.
And, of course, you have to add sprinkles! It is a celebration, after all.
Homemade Birthday Cake Recipe
While I share lots of cake mix hacks here on All Things Mamma, this birthday cake is made from scratch! Cake flour makes the layers light and airy, while extra eggs and yolks make it richer than your typical cake recipe. Buttermilk adds a slight tang to balance the sweetness, and it also makes this birthday cake extra moist!
When it comes to the frosting, you can swap it out for a classic vanilla buttercream, strawberry frosting, or even cream cheese frosting if you feel so inclined. Or, if you’re in a rush, a can of store-bought frosting will work too—a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract will help it taste homemade!
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
For the cake:
- Unsalted butter – Let this come to room temperature.
- Cake flour – Cake flour is important for getting a light texture.
- Granulated sugar
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Kosher salt
- Large eggs and egg yolks – Both should be at room temperature. Here’s the best way to crack an egg!
- Buttermilk – This should also be at room temperature.
- Vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- Powdered sugar – Also known as confectioners’ sugar.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – Natural cocoa powder or Dutch process will work here.
- Unsalted butter – Let the butter soften so it’s easy to whip into a smooth, creamy frosting.
- Kosher salt
- Buttermilk – This buttermilk needs to be room temperature, too.
- Sprinkles – Optional, but highly recommended!
How to Make Birthday Cake
Preheat your oven to 350ºF and butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Place a parchment round in the bottom of each pan, then butter the parchment. This will allow the cake to come out easily when you invert the pan!
2. Mix the Dry Ingredients
Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are combined.
3. Add the Butter
Keep the mixer on low speed and add the butter. Once it’s added, increase the speed to medium and mix until a sandy consistency forms.
4. Finish the Batter
Turn off the mixer and add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Then, beat on medium-high speed until the batter is pale yellow and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Don’t mix any more than this, or your layers won’t be light and airy!
5. Bake the Birthday Cake
Divide batter into the two prepared pans and use a spatula to smooth the tops. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pans to loosen the cakes. Turn them out onto wire racks, then remove the parchment paper and let them finish cooling. Use a serrated knife to remove the dome from the cakes.
7. Make the Frosting
Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into a small bowl. Add the butter and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, then cream until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add half of the powdered sugar mixture and beat on low speed to incorporate. Then, increase the speed to high and beat in the remaining ingredients until smooth. Beat in additional buttermilk a tablespoon at a time if you’d like a thinner frosting.
8. Assemble the Birthday Cake
Place the first cake layer on a large plate and spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Set the other cake on top and use an offset spatula to frost the sides and top.
How to Store Birthday Cake
If you have leftovers, this birthday cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days; it needs to be refrigerated because of the buttercream frosting. You can also freeze the cake for up to 3 months and let it thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
Any type of cake can be used for a birthday cake, but yellow cake is definitely the most popular option! Its vanilla flavor and light, fluffy texture is one almost everyone enjoys. It’s the perfect birthday cake!
There are a number of things that can make a cake moist and fluffy. Buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt can be added to make a cake moist, while eggs, baking powder, and baking soda will add lift. Creaming the butter and sugar will also incorporate air into the batter to make the cake fluffy.
Yes, birthday cake can be made in advance, but for maximum freshness, I don’t recommend making it more than a day ahead of time. If you want more of a head start, you can bake the cake layers and freeze them for up to 3 months, then let them thaw, make the frosting, and assemble the cake.
Birthday cake can be left out for a few hours, but because it has buttercream frosting, it will need to be refrigerated beyond that.
More Cake Recipes
- ¾ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 cups cake flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks room temperature
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter room temperature
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ cup + buttermilk room temperature
- optional: sprinkles for the top of cake
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9” round cake pans and place parchment round in the bottom of each. Butter the parchment. Set aside.
- Add flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
- On low speed, add the butter. Increase the speed to medium and continue mixing until you reach a sandy consistency.
- Turn off the mixer and add the remaining ingredients. Beat on medium-high speed until pale yellow and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to overmix.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes to loosen and turn them out onto racks. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely. Using a serrated knife, remove the dome from the cakes.
- For the frosting, sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a small bowl. Add the butter and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add half of the powdered sugar mix and beat on low speed to incorporate. Increase the speed to high and beat in the remaining ingredients until smooth. If the frosting is too stiff, thin with more buttermilk one tablespoon at a time.
- Place one cake on a large plate and spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Place the other cake on top and continue to spread the frosting on the top and sides, smoothing with an offset spatula.