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Grandma’s (From-Scratch) Chocolate-Frosted Yellow Cake

French vanilla cake with chocolate frosting

In our family, Grandma was the type of woman who had a freshly baked cake sitting on the counter whenever company was expected. Even if that company was just the neighbor dropping by to return something, or a grandkid hanging out for the afternoon. A frosted sheet cake was a commonplace fixture in her kitchen and our all-time favorite was her moist yellow cake with chocolate buttercream. (Because, if you’re asking us, yellow cake and chocolate frosting just belong together.)

If memory serves, a box of mix never entered her kitchen. She believed to her core that a cake from scratch was really never too much trouble, and besides, she had made most of her favorites so many times that she probably knew the recipes by heart. And that kind of muscle memory does tend to make kitchen work go faster. This cake is a classic yellow cake that’s simple and reliable, and while we haven’t committed it totally to memory, it mixes up really quickly.

French vanilla cake with chocolate frosting

It’s fluffy and moist and has that hallmark neutral vanilla flavor that pairs so well with a chocolate frosting. The chocolate buttercream that tops it is easy; it’s based on cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate, so no melting needed here. The half-and-half that’s whipped in cuts through the sugary taste for a frosting that’s dreamy and creamy and oh-so-chocolatey.

A frosted sheet cake might not fit into our lives every single day, but there’s no reason we can’t be a little more like Grandma from time to time and whip up a cake when the mood strikes. This reliably classic combo lets us do that with ease.

Chocolate-Frosted Yellow Cake

1 hour to prepare serves 10-12

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the chocolate buttercream:
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3-6 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
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Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then mix in the vanilla.
  4. Alternately add in flour mixture and milk, mixing well between each addition, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
  6. While cake cools, make the frosting:
  7. In a large bowl, beat butter on medium-high with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Gradually add in cocoa powder and powdered sugar, mixing on low. Add 3 tablespoons of the half-and-half and the vanilla, and mix on low until thoroughly combined.
  8. For a thinner texture, mix in additional half-and-half as needed. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Spread over cake and enjoy!

Adapted from Cooking Classy.

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