Basic Yellow Cake

To me, yellow cake is the little black dress of the cake world. It’s a must-have in your baking repertoire, and versatile enough to complement just about any sort of frosting, filling and/or toppings you throw at it. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

I think “yellow cake” is a little bit of a misnomer. I know it is a cake that’s yellow, but it gets its sunshine-hue from egg yolks. So if you happen to have really orange yolks, your cakes might come out more saffron than yellow; similarly, paler yolks are likely to yield a primrose-coloured cake.  So really, it should be called a sweet eggy cake, but that wouldn’t sound as nice, would it?

For those of your worries about this cake’s cholesterol-escalating 4 yolks, do know you can use 2 eggs in their place, although your final product will not be as satisfyingly rich. And if you decide to cast all health concerns aside and shoot for full-yolk glory, you might be wondering what to do with all the remaining egg whites. If no yolk has broken and leaked into the egg whites, you could freeze them in a resealable plastic bag and use them later in a pavlova. (I just happen to have a recipe for one!) Otherwise, omelette, anyone?


  • 80g butter, softened
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 175g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

 Makes a 2-layered 7-inch round cake


Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and line 2 7-inch round cake tins.

Step 2: Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

Step 3: Sift in the flour and baking powder. Add in the milk and vanilla extract, and mix to combine.

Step 4: Divide batter equally between the 2 tins and bake for 22 minutes. Cool and decorate.

For the yellow cake you see in the pictures, I used a basic buttercream icing (150g shortening, 50g butter, 400g icing sugar, and milk to thin) flavoured with a little vanilla extract and dyed lemon-yellow with a few drops of food colouring gel. There should be enough icing for you to fill and cover the cake.

This created a blank canvas for me. Since this cake was for a birthday, I had been requested to do something a little more festive. So with a tad more icing, food colouring, and a star-tipped piping bag, I created something from a movie that the birthday girl loved. (Hope you can see what I was going for.)

Of course, don’t be daunted by the prospect of decorating a cake. No piping is necessary for beautiful cakes – let my post on easy cake decorating give you some ideas.

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