Joy the Baker's Classic Birthday Cake

This recipe is from the new “Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats" by Joy Wilson, the popular self-taught baker, author, photographer, and doughnut enthusiast behind the Joy the Baker website. 


Photo: Joy Wilson

I’m not sure if this cake is more about the tender cake, the vanilla-flavored buttercream frosting, or the amount of sprinkles. I’m betting it’s the sprinkles. Yeah…sprinkles always win. 

Frost the Basic Three-Layer Yellow Cake below with Classic Buttercream Frosting, also below, adding a generous dose of rainbow jimmies between each layer. Finish with a thorough sprinkling of jimmies all over the cake.

Basic Three-Layer Yellow Cake
Makes one 3-layer 9-inch cake

This is it! This is that basic yellow cake recipe that we should all just agree to commit to memory. It’s light and tender, but has enough girth and body to be stable and stackable. It’s a wonderful base for stellar fillings and toppings.

4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk

Put oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, and beat well. Add the buttermilk in a slow stream and beat well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

If you’re not using right away, double-wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 7 days. When ready to frost, remove from the freezer, unwrap, and frost frozen!

Classic Buttercream Frosting
Makes about 4 cups 

Editor’s note: This recipe makes cream-colored frosting. To change the hue, add a couple drops of food coloring.

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 to 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
About 1⁄4 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, the salt, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until the sugar is well incorporated. Add another 2 cups sugar and the cream. Add remaining 2 cups of sugar as needed to thicken the frosting. Beat on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

More cake: 
8 Things to Know About Joy the Baker
5 Ways People Mess Up Cake
Watch the World’s Cutest Bunny Bake a Carrot Cake

What kind of cake do you request on your birthday?