Saturday, February 7, 2009

Basic 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake

This classic, old fashioned, homemade from scratch 1-2-3-4 cake, gets its name from the use of 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs. It's a great homemade cake for a birthday, or for any day!

Basic 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake

Now I gotta tell ya, while I certainly do use them like anybody else, I'm not real big on boxed cake mixes - not that there's anything wrong with them - not at all. I have a few of those recipes that specifically have always called for boxed cake mixes, and in those cases I use and love Duncan Hines brand cake mix. It was the brand Mama used and the one that I have always preferred. Generally speaking, most boxed mixes just come off far too sweet for me and homemade is always best, plus I just prefer being able to control the sugar myself. But I totally understand the convenience of box mixes for sure.

This old fashioned 1-2-3-4 cake is such a cinch to make and really not any more trouble than a box mix in my opinion. The name comes from the mix of ingredients - 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs. Simple to remember. Classic in flavor. It's really the only yellow cake recipe you'll ever need because it's the perfect flavor, texture and crumb. The quintessential classic birthday cake and the perfect vehicle for chocolate buttercream icing as I have done here, though it ain't bad with that old fashioned boiled peanut butter icing or even a caramel icing either.

Here's how to make it.

Recipe: Basic 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 12 servings


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour or spray two or three (9-inch) or a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan with Baker's Joy non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream the butter by itself until fluffy, than add the sugar, beating on high for about 8 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mixing in well before adding the next one. Start adding the flour and alternate adding in the flour and the milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Distribute evening into the prepared baking pan(s) and place into oven with a baking pan covered with aluminum foil on the rack just underneath to catch any potential spills.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake begins to draw away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack, allowing to rest in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cook's Notes: I use Land O'Lakes unsalted butter and White Lily self-rising flour. Self rising flour is traditional for this cake however you may substitute cake flour or all purpose flour. Add in 3 teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt. If using a 9 x 13 inch pan and the peanut butter icing, the hot icing will go immediately on the hot cake as soon as you prepare it.

Tip: To help level the batter lift the pan several inches off of the counter top and then drop it. Do this several times; it's noisy but it really does help to spread the batter out and bring air bubbles to the surface, which helps to make the cake bake more level.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on February 7, 2009

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  1. Oh Mary, that looks so good! I'm really hungry right now anyway.
    I thought your cake looked a little white so after readin' that you didn't use a yellow cake mix I realize my eyes are ok. hee hee
    You always have such good recipes. Thanks.

  2. LOL, yeah it's a yellow cake because it does have whole eggs in it, but you're right it's very light yellow. Do they add food coloring to cake mixes? I never thought about that!

  3. What a great resource!

  4. Perfect I love this cake.. It's my go to when some ask for a birthday cake (yellow cake with choc. icing) & I just make my own icing. Thamks

  5. Do you measure the flour before or after you sift the flour? I am planning on using this recipe for a graduation cake.

  6. Thank you for posting this cake recipe. It is a favorite. But do not apologize for boxed cakes because there is a lot wrong with them. There is barely any food substance in them.

    1. You're welcome! It's an old fashioned cake recipe that has certainly held it's own!

  7. I have a question about the amount of butter. 1 stick of butter would 8 oz equaling 1 cup? 2 sticks would then be two cups? Or maybe I am dense and don't know it, lol. Could you clarify this for me. I would hate to mess the cake up as its for Labor Day this weekend.

    1. 1 stick of butter is 1/2 cup. For this cake you need 2 sticks equal to 1 cup of butter. Enjoy the cake!!

  8. Can I bake this in a 9x13 pan?

  9. I made this cake in a bundt pan so I adjusted the time just a little. I ended up cooking it for about 60 minutes at 350 degrees in the bundt pan. Turned out just right....perfectly moist. For a dryer cake, probably adding another 5 minutes of cook time would be about right. Great recipe with the chocolate buttercream icing.

  10. This recipe is the worst! Cake came out like a sponge. This cake desperatly needs baking powder and baking soda!

    1. Alan, gosh I'm so sorry for your experience however I beg to differ!

      This cake is light and airy and not at all dense or spongy!! You can see the result in the photograph above which I assure you, is a cake made from this exact recipe. This is also a very well known recipe for many, many years that has been successfully made not only by me, but by millions of others. Please don't fault the recipe - I certainly stand by it as I've made it many times myself with perfect results! It is our family birthday cake.

      Please note that the recipe does call for self-rising flour, not all-purpose, and has never included separate baking powder or baking soda, although if you want to substitute all-purpose flour there are directions for adding baking powder in the cook's notes of the recipe.

      Is it possible that you used the wrong flour? If so did you sift it as instructed, and measure it accurately? If not, you likely used too much flour which would result in a dense cake.

      Hope that helps!

  11. In order to make a white cake, would this recipe work with egg whites only?

    1. You know, I haven't used this recipe to make a white cake but yes, that's how you would do it! I think the ratios would work fine, the only thing I would recommend doing is to change to a clear vanilla extract, which unfortunately is imitation, or I would personally use pure almond extract, in order to avoid coloring the batter.

  12. This recipe looks very easy to make. Can this recipe be converted to cupcakes? A really good cupcake recipe is hard to find!!!! I really like Deep South Dish recipes because they're so homemade like when I was growing up. Thanks, Mary for sharing!!!!

    1. Yes, absolutely! A full recipe will probably give you about 2 dozen standard sized cupcakes, so if you only want a dozen, you could halve the recipe. Timing should be around 20 minutes depending on your oven so give the center ones the toothpick test then to check them.


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