This easy yellow sour cream cake is rich and golden with a decadent layer of creamy homemade chocolate frosting. We’ll use yellow cake mix for the ultimate anytime dessert that’s ready in under an hour.
The Best Yellow Cake With Chocolate Frosting!
Today we’re making the Clint Eastwood of cakes. It’s a real classic. It’s actually my grandma’s recipe, and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one to make a variation of an uber-retro sour cream cake once upon a time.
This EASY sour cream cake is semi-homemade. It starts with a boxed cake mix (I did say it was retro!), but otherwise it’s totally homemade, right down to the creamy chocolate frosting. I’m all for a traditional “from scratch” but there’s something majorly nostalgic about a box cake mix recipe.
Grandma’s sour cream cake will forever be one of my family’s favorite, best-ever desserts. The crumb is insanely moist, and full of flavor, with a hint of tang thanks to the sour cream.
Why You’ll Love This Sour Cream Cake
This easy dessert recipe has stood the test of time. Here are just a few reasons why we love this frosted yellow cake cake:
Made from cake mix. This sour cream cake takes a shortcut with a yellow cake mix. The addition of sour cream and an extra egg gives the crumb a slightly denser, totally soft texture.
Super easy. Mix all your ingredients in one bowl, then bake. If there was an official cake to make on weekends, this is it. (My grandmother also had a Sunday Chocolate Sheet Cake. I consider this the Saturday version!).
Covered in frosting. I mean, sure, you could enjoy this cake without frosting. But you can also have it smothered corner to corner with rich, creamy, mouthwatering chocolate frosting, too.
What You’ll Need
You only need 5 ingredients to make this delicious family heirloom of a cake! I go over them below, but remember to refer to the recipe card for the full details and amounts:
Yellow Cake Mix: You’ll need a 15 oz box of yellow cake mix. Choose your preferred brand from the store.
Eggs: Four large eggs bring richness and structure to this frosted cake.
Sour Cream: As mentioned, sour cream brings loads of moisture to this cake.
Oil: Vegetable oil is another key ingredient for ultra-moist, light, and tender cake. Since oil stays liquid at room temperature, cakes with oil stay much softer than cakes made with butter.
Sugar: Regular granulated sugar is best.
Vanilla: I highly recommend real vanilla extract over imitation vanilla. The flavor is just waaay better.
For the Chocolate Frosting
Butter: Make sure to take the butter out of the fridge ahead of time, so that it comes to room temperature.
Cocoa Powder: You can use any type of cocoa powder you’d like. I recommend Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder (or Hershey’s Special Dark if you prefer a darker color and fudgier flavor).
Evaporated Milk: Also known as unsweetened condensed milk. Emphasis on unsweetened! The sweetened kind will make your frosting far too sweet.
What Does Sour Cream Do In a Cake?
The question you should be asking is: why not add this secret weapon to your cakes? If you’ve never baked with sour cream before, prepare to be amazed by how delicious this cake is! The high-fat content in sour cream is the key to an ultra-moist, epically soft cake. I use sour cream in everything from this sour cream pound cake to my sour cream chocolate cake.
If you don’t have sour cream handy, you can make this cake with Greek yogurt instead. Another option is buttermilk, which you can make at home in a pinch (see How to Make Buttermilk). The flavor and texture will be a bit different.
How to Make Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
While the oven preheats to 350°F, get a 9×13 pan greased up with cooking spray. Here’s how easy it is to make this moist sour cream cake:
Combine the Ingredients: Add all of your cake ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a hand mixer or even a whisk. Beat everything together until the batter is just combined.
Bake: Transfer the batter to your greased baking pan. Bake the cake at 350ºF for 25-30 minutes, then leave it to cool completely before frosting.
Making the Chocolate Frosting
I use a scaled-back recipe of my best-ever Chocolate Frosting to frost the finished cake. The secret to this chocolate frosting is evaporated milk. It makes the frosting SO creamy. Here’s how to make it:
Prepare the Frosting: First, beat the butter until it’s nice and soft, then mix in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla, and lastly the evaporated milk. Mix the ingredients together on low to start, then give the frosting a good whip at medium speed until it’s smooth and creamy.
Frost the Cake: Using an offset spatula or a knife, spread the frosting all over top of the cooled cake.
Can I Make This In Another Size Pan?
I almost always bake this in a 9×13 pan, like a sheet cake. Generally, when I’m taking shortcuts and using boxed cake mix, I’m also after a simple cake to decorate. That being said, you can absolutely bake this cake recipe in two 8-inch round pans for a layer cake if you’d like.
Tips for Success
This cake recipe is practically guaranteed to come out great. Still, keep these tips in mind when baking homemade cakes:
Don’t over-mix the batter. This is rule numero uno for light, moist, and fluffy cakes! Overly mixing your cake batter (even when using cake mix) can lead to a dense, tough cake. Be mindful to only mix the ingredients until they’re just combined.
Try not to over-bake the cake. The second reason why cakes come out dry is over-baking. Check your sour cream cake as it nears the end of its baking time to ensure it doesn’t come out dense and crumbly.
How to check that your cake is done: Use the toothpick test. Stick a toothpick into the center of the cake, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready to come out of the oven.
Frosting and Recipe Variations
The beauty of such a simple cake recipe is that you can definitely jazz it up as you see fit! There are lots of ways that you can adapt this cake for different occasions. Here are some variations to try:
Birthday Cake: It honestly doesn’t take much to have this sour cream cake ready for a party. Cover it with rainbow sprinkles, or frost it with classic buttercream frosting or this festive party frosting.
Coconut: Stir shredded coconut into the cake batter, or sprinkle it over top of the frosted cake.
Lemon: Add a spoonful of lemon zest and swap out the vanilla extract in the cake with lemon extract for a citrusy twist. Orange or lime would also be delicious!
Toppings: Garnish the cake with fresh fruit, shaved chocolate, and crushed cookies, or top it with a swirl of whipped cream.
Ways to Serve This Yellow Cake
Serve this cake as is, or add garnishes depending on the season and occasion. We love this cake topped with fresh berries in the summertime or drizzled with hot fudge sauce or caramel sauce any other time. A slice of sour cream cake is just as delicious served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as it is paired with a hot cup of coffee. Plus, if you needed an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast, this cake is it.
Store your baked and cooled cake airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the fridge for 5 days.
Can I Freeze Sour Cream Cake?
Yes! This cake freezes well, either frosted or unfrosted, so you can store it airtight either whole or in slices, and keep it frozen for up to 3 months. You can also wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap, with a layer of foil to guard against freezer burn. Defrost your cake in the fridge before serving.
This easy sour cream cake is made with creamy chocolate frosting is my family’s favorite dessert recipe. Made from yellow cake mix, this cake is chocolatey, moist, and dangerously delicious!
1 (15.25- ounce) yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix all the cake ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for 2 minutes, scraping the sides as necessary.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool completely.
In the bowl of your stand mixer mix the butter until smooth. Add in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla and evaporated milk. Mix on low for 30 seconds and then turn the speed up to medium and mix for 1-2 minutes until it’s creamy and smooth.
Spread the frosting on the cooled cake.
store airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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