This deliciously easy birthday cake from scratch features creamy frosting and multiple fluffy yet moist rainbow cake layers.
This is a no-fuss, old-fashioned easy birthday cake recipe made from scratch. Call it whatever you like: a butter cake, yellow cake, pound cake, or vanilla birthday cake. No matter what you call it, this cake is bound to be a hit at your next birthday party.
First, you have to make the cake from scratch, which is super easy, I promise. The end result is a buttery vanilla cake that’s fluffy, moist, and melts in your mouth. Now, I add sprinkles to make a fun rainbow effect, but you don’t have to. It will still have the same irresistible taste. On top is a delicious buttercream frosting. It’s the perfect creamy complement to the birthday cake.
Before we make this recipe for easy birthday cake, did you ever wonder where the idea of using cakes to celebrate birthdays came from? It sure goes back further than I thought! According to Wikipedia, birthday cakes have been a part of European celebrations since the mid-19th-century. But Germans appeared to have been selling cakes for weddings and birthdays since the 15th century. Imagine that!
Now no matter how that tradition began, I, for one, am as happy as a pig slopping around in the mud that we keep celebrating with easy birthday cake recipes like the one you are about to learn today.
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Sprinkles if you’ve got a hankering for a rainbow-flecked cake.
Birthday Cake Icing Recipe Ingredients
- Confectioner’s Sugar
- Vanilla flavoring
Helpful Kitchen Tools
How to Make An Easy Birthday Cake From Scratch
Place sugar and softened butter in a large mixing bowl.
Cream together with an electric mixer until it is nice and fluffy looking like this.
In a separate bowl, use a spoon to stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another small bowl (the hardest part of this recipe is the dishes afterward), stir together the vanilla, milk, and eggs until well combined.
Now add a little of the wet mixture and a little of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and mix that well.
Then add the rest of each and continue mixing until it is smooth and fully blended, about 2-3 minutes.
Prepare two cake pans by either greasing and flouring them or by spraying the living mess out of them with cooking spray as I do.
I am using 9-inch cake pans but if you can find 8-inch you’ll have a taller cake (good luck with finding them though). You can also cut down on a whole lot of fuss by just baking this in a 9×13 pan and icing and serving it from the pan. That is my usual course of action but I went the extra mile for this birthday.
The Trick for Pans that Like to Stick
If you have a cake pan with a reputation for sticking, then grease it with shortening and powder it with flour. If you have a pan like 90% of all other cake pans, a generous dousing of cooking spray will work just fine. A lot of people use a product like Baker’s Joy as well, which is shortening and flour in one spray. That works great but is a little more expensive so I just stick with my cooking spray that I buy in big old bulk cans at Sam’s. It takes ten forevers to use one of those up.
This is our fully blended cake batter.
Optional: Add in a handful of sprinkles.
You want to gently fold these into the cake mix because they will bleed their color pretty fast.
Now divide the cake mix up between your two prepared cake pans.
Bake these at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cakes sit in their pans for 10 minutes.
Then turn them out and allow them to cool completely.
How to Make The Icing
One of my secret ingredients that I love to add to my easy birthday cake icing is butter flavoring. You can use it in addition to vanilla or in place of vanilla extract, depending on your personal taste or mood on any given day. A lot of bakeries use this, too. This is completely optional though and vanilla extract does just fine on its own.
Place your room temp butter and a little bit of powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.
Add flavoring and half of the milk and then the rest of your sugar.
Most recipes will call for you to gradually add in the remaining powdered sugar but in my world, we have things to do so dump all that in there and set the mixer going again until it’s mixed up real good.
Scrape down sides and add more milk during the mixing if needed.
When you are done, the cake frosting will be all prettified, fluffy, and creamy.
Place the first level of your cake, top side up, onto a cake pedestal. Add a big old wallop of icing.
Spread that around a bit. Be careful not to let your knife or spreader touch the actual cake because that will pull up crumbs into your icing. Just keep it smoothing over the top of the icing itself.
Place the other cake layer top-side down on top of the first.
Add another glob of icing on top of that and start spreading.
Eventually, you’ll spread it to the sides as well. I always add the globs to the top and spread them to the sides from the top of the cake. That is just the easiest way for me to do it. You do it however is easiest for you. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to ice a cake written in any federal document that I am aware of.
Now I want you to do me a favor…
You Can Keep This Easy Birthday Cake Looking Homemade
Do you see those spread-y lines and swirls on that cake icing? Please don’t smooth them. I’m not sure at what point we started trying to make homemade things look store-bought but I’ve been guilty of it more times than I can count. This is a beautiful homemade cake and it looks like a beautiful homemade cake. Trying to make it look like a store-bought cake just doesn’t make sense. It is gorgeous. You are gorgeous. You made a cake. Be proud of that. Now stick it on a gorgeous cake plate to show off your work!
If you want to add another sprinkle of sprinkles on top, do it as soon as you are done spreading the icing because soon the icing will set and the sprinkles won’t stick to it.
Here is your Easy Birthday Cake ready to dig into.
Mmm, Mmm! That’s going to be one heck of a birthday!
How To Store Homemade Birthday Cake
- When stored in an airtight container, your birthday cake will last in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- You can also freeze the unfrosted cake layers for up to 3 months. You’ll want to double-wrap them in aluminum foil before freezing and then thaw overnight before bringing them to room temperature and icing.
Additional Tips for a Perfect Easy Birthday Cake
- Flavor Variations: Experiment with different flavor extracts like almond, lemon, or coconut for a unique twist on this classic recipe.
- Filling Options: Consider adding a filling between the cake layers. Raspberry jam, lemon curd, or chocolate ganache are excellent choices.
- Decorative Touches: Customize the cake with decorations like edible glitter, chocolate shavings, or fresh fruit for an extra special presentation.
- Alternate Frosting: If buttercream isn’t your preference, cream cheese frosting or a ganache glaze can be wonderful alternatives.
- Layering Techniques: To achieve even layers, consider using cake strips or a cake leveler. This ensures a professional finish.
- Make-Ahead Preparation: You can bake the cake layers in advance and freeze them until you’re ready to assemble and decorate.
- Dietary Modifications: This recipe can be adapted for dietary needs. For example, use gluten-free flour and dairy-free substitutes for a gluten- and dairy-free version.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a different type of milk?
Yes, you can use alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, or even lactose-free milk if preferred.
Can I make this cake in advance?
Absolutely. You can bake the cake layers ahead of time and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to assemble and frost the cake.
What if I don’t have a stand mixer?
A hand mixer can work just as well for both the cake batter and frosting. It may take a little more effort, but the result will be just as delicious.
Can I make this into cupcakes instead?
Certainly! Adjust the baking time to approximately 18-20 minutes for standard-sized cupcakes.
How can I make the frosting more colorful?
You can add food coloring to achieve a vibrant hue that matches your party theme.
What if I don’t have cake pans?
You can use a single 9×13 inch baking dish for a sheet cake version. Adjust the baking time accordingly.
Here are more of my favorite cake recipes:
- Pumpkin Praline Cake With Cream Cheese Icing
- Vegan Sweet Potato Cake With Maple Cashew Icing
- S’mores Poke Cake
- Yellow Cake with Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Icing
- Texas Turtle Sheet Cake
- Sock It To Me Cake Recipe From Scratch
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3 eggs
Buttercream Icing (This is a double recipe for a layer cake)
- 2 sticks butter at room temperature
- 4 teaspoons butter flavoring can use clear vanilla extract instead
- 6 cups confectioner's sugar
- 4-8 tablespoons milk
For Birthday Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 and spray two 9-inch cake pans liberally with cooking spray, or grease and flour. (Can also use a 9x13-inch pan or line 24 muffin tins with paper liners for cupcakes).
- Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together with an electric mixer.1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt with a spoon. In a separate bowl, stir together the eggs, milk, and vanilla until well combined.2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups milk, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Add half of the wet mixture and the flour mixture to the creamed butter and mix until well combined. Add the remaining and continue mixing until fully blended and smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- If you want to add sprinkles, gently stir them using a spoon, once the cake batter is fully blended.
- Divide the cake mix evenly among the two cake pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned and center springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and about 1 cup of confectioner's sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the butter flavoring, half of the milk, and the remaining sugar, and beat again until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides and adding a little extra milk if needed.2 sticks butter, 4 teaspoons butter flavoring, 6 cups confectioner's sugar, 4-8 tablespoons milk
- Ice the cooled cake (see photos and instructions in this post if needed) and enjoy!
“Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.”