Classic birthday cake

This is homemade cake the way I remember it from birthday parties as a kid. Moist and fluffy vanilla cake layers smothered in chocolate buttercream frosting. So simple and so decadent. It's the kind of cake that's worth putting your scratchy party dress on for.

I have been working on creating this recipe for a while. It's surprisingly difficult to find a good basic cake recipe online. There's plenty of cherry-filled gateau this and that with fudge drizzle and chocolate shavings, sure. And those are yummy things. But when I'm prepping for a party I need the cake to be easy. Easy and totally delicious. After a little tinkering, I'm happy to say I'm going to stick with this as my go-to birthday cake. Fabulous doesn't have to be complicated.

Here's how I made it:
serves 8-10 party guests

1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
2 squares (2 ounces total) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

While my oven preheated to 350 degrees (F), I creamed the butter and sugar until fluffy. I added the oil, eggs, vanilla and milk and beat well until smooth. In a separate mixing bowl, I combined the flour, baking powder and salt, stirring well. The dry ingredients were added gradually to the wet ingredients, beating well between additions. The batter was beaten well for another couple minutes until smooth. Then I poured the batter into two well-greased circular cake pans (I used 9-inch but 8-inch would work just fine too), shimmying each pan on a flat surface to get the batter to fill the whole pan. The layers baked for 20-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centres came out clean. I let them cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then turned them out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

To make the frosting, I beat the butter and vanilla until smooth. I gradually beat in two cups of the icing sugar. Then I alternated additions of the milk and the final cup of icing sugar, beating well between. The melted chocolate was beaten in last.

To frost the cake, I smeared a little frosting on the centre of my pie plate to secure the bottom layer in place. Then I spread a third of the frosting on top of the bottom layer before laying on the top layer. A third of the frosting was spread onto the top of the cake, and the final third was spread around the edge. Sprinkle sprinkle. Lovely.

Birthday parties just got a little easier for me.

Do you have a favourite birthday cake? What's in it? Leave a comment and share your links!


  1. This came at a perfect time! My youngest has requested a pink cake for her birthday and I've been on the hunt for a simple white cake recipe that I can add food colouring too (am going to attempt an ombré layer cake).

    1. Oooh, I love those cakes!! Make sure to take some pics. I wanna see it! :)

  2. I feel like the quest for that perfect vanilla cake is ongoing for most bakers! Can't wait to try your version

  3. Do you use salted or unsalted butter?Also, is icing sugar the same as confectioners sugar?

    1. I prefer unsalted butter for cakes, but if all I had on hand was salted I wouldn't let it stop me making a cake :)

    2. Thanks Amy :) how about the confectioners sugar question? Is it the same as icing sugar?

    3. Sorry, forgot to answer that. Yes, they are one and the same.

  4. Using this recipe again for my oldest's 4th birthday this week. I will be turning it purple and attempting a checkered cake!

    1. Neat! Will you share a picture? I'd love to see it.

    2. Depends if I'm successful or not, ha!

    3. Oh ha ha! I can totally relate. Well, best of luck with bringing your creative idea to life.

  5. Can you please tell me how long you creamed the butter with the sugar for until it was fluffy? As I never know how long to mix it for and then I over mix it and my cake comes out really dense. Did you use an electric hand mixer? I really love how your cake turned out so fluffy and pretty! Did you leave your butter out over night so it could become soften?

    1. I cream the room temperature butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes with a stand mixer or electric hand beater. It should be creamy and smooth, rather than grainy, when you're done. To get the butter to room temp, I just leave it on the counter for a couple hours. If time's an issue, you can cube the butter or grate it to help it come to room temp quicker.
      Thanks for your questions!

  6. Personally i think such as the pursuit of which ideal vanilla dessert is actually continuing for many bakers! Cannot wait around to test your own edition.

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  7. This came at a perfect time! My youngest has requested a pink cake for her birthday and I've been on the hunt for a simple white cake recipe that I can add food colouring too (am going to attempt an ombré layer cake).

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  8. woooow that looks so delicious and yummy :D