The Best (Buttermilk) Birthday Cake You’ll Ever Have

What do you like to eat on your birthday? When we were little, my sister and I always begged for pumpkin pie (of all things) for our January birthday. But as an adult, I see the beauty of a classic cake with tall candles. Well, Nicole from Making It Lovely has agreed to share her recipe for the gooiest, richest buttermilk birthday cake…

The Best Birthday Cake You’ll Ever Have
By Nicole of Making It Lovely

I’ve never been a big fan of cake. Cheesecake, yes, but that’s technically a pie. I have two little kids who get very excited about birthday parties, though, and a traditional cake is highly anticipated (preferably something with at least two layers and heaps of frosting, with bonus points awarded for sprinkles on top). So I set about finding the best recipe, and I figured out the secret ingredient to a birthday cake that even I would enjoy: buttermilk. It’s like a simple yellow cake, but much tastier!

Recipe: Buttermilk Birthday Cake

You’ll need:
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Grease two 8″ round cake pans, and line them with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Measure out the buttermilk and add the vanilla to it, then set that aside, too.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Next, add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each. Add a little of the flour mixture and combine well, then do the same with a little of the vanilla-buttermilk. Keep alternating as you add more, blending well each time. Pour the finished batter into two cake pans and bake for 30 minutes.

The layers are done when the cake begins to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the pans, and let cool completely before frosting. The beauty of this cake is that it takes to any frosting, so choose your favorite!

Delicious. Thank you, Nicole!

P.S. More best recipes, including berry cobbler and caramel apple pie.

(Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series.)

  1. I was so excited about this cake, that even after a disaster episode baking it last night, I’m going to try again. : ) I think there may have been a typo with the 1.5 tsp baking powder (perhaps .5 tsp would do), and spending more time beating the butter and sugar might have helped. I’m in the process of comparing Ina Garten and Epicurious recipes so I can bake another with the buttermilk in my refrigerator.

    The baking process was a breeze, but the recipe must have a typo or two. I think your readers would love the updated recipe though, because it is so fun to make! Who doesn’t want frosted layer cake for a birthday? :) Happy baking!

  2. Great job posting this recipe I was trying a recipe called apple cake for my sister’s birthday and I stumble upon this beautiful birthday cake recipe, I will surely bake this for her birthday.

  3. Absolutely loved this cake. It always turns out great and tastes awesome!

  4. oh my goodness, I followed this recipe to the tee for my husband’s birthday and – it was perfectly awful. Like, too-thin layers/bland/blah/why-bother cake.

    Joanna, do you test out these recipes yourself before branding them to your faithful readers as “The Best ____ You’ll Ever Have”?

    My whole family was laughing at this sad-sack cake…thankfully I made my golden standby chocolate buttercream frosting. But still after everyone’s obligatory half-eaten slice, the rest of it went in the garbage. boo.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Looking good! I have pinned it so I can refer back. Maybe I’ll ask someone else to make it for me, I fear I might screw it up somehow :-( I can’t be trusted in the kitchen. Maybe here.

  7. My layers are in the oven right now!

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  9. A follow-up post: once frosted it looked to be more of a normal height. I guess frosting adds oompf and height. : )

    The cake was delicious and will definitely keep this recipe for all future birthdays. Thanks so much for posting!

  10. Really strange – but I followed to the tee, but the 2 layers that I got were so crazy thin. So when stacked, it looks more like 1 normal layer. I will have to double the recipe next time.

  11. Birthday cake is a part of the birthday celebrations. Many thanks for your post.I am very interested by reading this..
    Birthday Cakes

  12. I made this yesterday and it was delicious. But it needs WAY WAY more sugar than it calls for. The batter was pretty bland until i sugared it up.

  13. Awesome blog post and I’m definitely going to make one of these birthday cakes for my husbands 50th.

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  15. Looks delicious! I will attempt this on my next cake try. I’d also love to hear the frosting recipe!

    • Aliya Park says...

      Me too! The cake itself looks good but so does the frosting!

  16. I made it yesterday for the office and it was a huge hit! It is a super moist cake and I paired it with a chocolate buttercream frosting. Simply delicious! Thanks again!

  17. I made it yesterday for the office and it was a huge hit! It is a super moist cake and I paired it with a chocolate buttercream frosting. Simply delicious! Thanks again!

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  19. I truly love to bake and am always baking things for people for their birthday As such I am often asked what my favorite dessert and I just adore spicy desserts that are rich in cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice… that sort of thing. I recently came up with a new cake that I call a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake. It is a browned-butter pumpkin spice cake paired with a vanilla bean espresso Swiss meringue buttercream and it’s quite swoon-worthy! I bet your sister would love it! :) Here’s the recipe:

  20. haha! it’s my birthday today..wish someone had made me this cake!

    • Gosh, just make it for yourself if no one has made one for you! Is so fun and a cozy way to spend a birthday.

  21. That looks delicious! When I was a kid, I only wanted dirt cake for my birthday…some things never change

  22. LV says...

    I have always been a huge fan of butter cake. This type of cake is what I grew up eating. Buttercake with chocolate frosting or with southern caramel frosting that my grandmother stood over a stove cooking. Nothing like it. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

    • I’m making that very thing this weekend for a first birthday cake, complete with penuche frosting! :)

  23. I, too, would take pumpkin pie over cake anytime! There is nothing better (although this cake looks mighty delicious!)!

  24. This sounds delicious! I’ll have to make it soon (even if it’s not for a birthday….)

  25. I’ve never had butter milk in any way, shape, or form, but I’m thinking this might be the best way to try it!

  26. Perfect! My husband’s birthday is coming up. :)

  27. i might have to try making this for my daughter’s first bday in april!

  28. What! No photo of the inside?

  29. Oh I’d have this for breakfast Joanna! I love whipped frostings (any flavor–just want the sweet, creamy sugar rush) and for the last few years have enjoyed a fruit cake with royal icing (just like a traditional caribbean wedding cake)with 2 large number candles. It goes real fast as it’s my Gram’s recipe and loved by all. Thanks for sharing this birthday cake recipe; I am gonna try it!

  30. Mmmm cake!

    Ever since I was a kid I’d ask for a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Not sure if DQ is common in the States, but it’s everywhere here in Canada. Their ice cream cakes are to die for. I’m 27 and I still suggest ice cream cake for my birthday :)

  31. You just made my day! I have to attempt to make my first birthday cake ever and I wasn’t too happy about it until I found this. Thank you!!!

  32. gosia–are you polish? buttermilk is the liquid left behind when you make butter from cream. it is usually a little more acidic then regular milk or cream and is thicker. I went to poland when I was young and when I got milk at a milk bar it was a lot more like buttermilk than the regular milk that we have in the states.

    • you’re right – i’m from poland! you explained what buttermilk is in a brilliant way really:) we call it ‘sour milk’ here and i had no slightest idea you could use it in a cake actually. thanks!

  33. I always wanted pound cake for my birthday (my family’s timeworn recipe), but my sister, born in August, always wanted pumpkin pie! I never looked forward to her birthday, since I’m not much for any kind of pie…more for the birthday girl, I suppose!

  34. Jo, I’m a January baby who loves pumpkin pie for my birthday “cake” too! Usually my mom would make a tradition cake, but my dad would always make me my birthday pie, which I didn’t have to share with anyone and that I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I wanted :)

    You’re right though, there is something fun and even elegant about a really great homemade cake, so maybe I’ll have to give this one a shot! Thanks for sharing :)

    -Megan K

  35. omg this is beautiful!!! i totally wanna take a bite of it… how does it look inside?
    and love the simple yet lovely decor <3

    rachel x

  36. In my family, nobody actually eats “birthday cake” on their birthdays. Instead, we eat whatever the birthday person likes to eat. For my dad, that’s key lime pie, for my sister tiramisu. I’m an October baby so I always requested and received pumpkin pie for my birthday :)

  37. I always ask for yellow cake withc chocolate icing! Its my absolute favorite and this may be the perfect grown up version!! I cant wait to try it myself

  38. i know ‘butter’, i know ‘milk’ but can anyone explain what ‘buttermilk’ is???

  39. lovely! i am all about traditional birthday cake – yellow cake with chocolate icing. this recipe speaks to me :)

  40. Just seeing this makes me wish it were someone’s birthday this week!

  41. Yum – looks good enough to eat! :-) My sister and I also share a birthday, we’re not twins though, I’m four years older. So when we were little our mom would always make two angel food cakes, to keep it even. Still my fave …

  42. I can’t bake. Or at least this is what I tell myself. Too afraid that if I learn how easy it is to make a cake (or cookies, or pie, or muffins, or bread) then I will constantly make these things and weigh a bajallion pounds.

  43. Ohhh, my son’s first birthday is coming up in 3 weeks…dare I try to make this? I dare!

  44. love this ‘best of’ series

  45. I totally have to make this. When I was little, my sister and I always got Carvel ice cream cakes – we especially loved the creepy-looking Cookiepuss.

  46. When I was little I always asked for lemon meringue pie, minus the lemon custard. It always surprises me my daughter wants carrot cake, every year, I might have to convince her to try something a little more buttermilky. :)

  47. Sounds good! Might have to try this one.

  48. I like pumpkin pie too, though the cake I preferred for my birthday when I was little was my grandma’s pound cake. This looks like a good way to use up buttermilk.

  49. this looks awesome! i always asked for either strawberry cake (the kind with the strawberry jello mixed in ;)), or white cake with white frosting. my boyfriend, on the other hand, prefers pie, too! so funny.