Yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting | a birthday cake

Birthday cake

Two weekends ago we celebrated a birthday. My birthday. A quarter of a century birthday. There was an intimate dinner with my favorite man at my favorite restaurant, a party with all of my favorite people, and one of my favorite bands – Sigur Rós – in the flesh. It was a soul soothing three day stretch that I will carry deep in my heart for the next 12 months. And then I’m sure there will be another celebration of epic proportions because, as it turns out, my people know how to have a good time.

Despite the streak of awesomeness that accompanied my special day, it wouldn’t have been a birthday celebration without cake (or pie, if you’re Thom). So I’m here to share the recipe for the best (seriously) (no, really) vegan yellow cake with chocolate frosting – and if you’re skeptical, I’ve got about 20 people who can back me up on that claim. I’m also here to tell you about HOW AWESOME IT IS when you finally work up the courage to get all of your random groups of friends together in 400 square feet of living space; the entrepreneurs, the ones who just moved from Ohio, the feminists, the ones who don’t drink, the bacon eaters, the ones with big people jobs, the ones who don’t have jobs – you get the picture. For a long time I hesitated amalgamating all of these people because, well, it seemed like a recipe for disaster. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of disasters.

Icelandic sprinklesPerfect round topFrosting in the makingWe be icin'Birthday cakeBirthday cakeBirthday cake

Except on my birthday, apparently. Because when it came time to send the invites (and by invites I mean create an event on that one social networking site on which we all spend too much of our precious time) I said fuck it – it’s my party and although it’s likely the only thing a lot of them will have in common is the fact that they’re friends with me (I’m happy to report this was disproven the night of my party), I couldn’t imagine celebrating my birthday without the feminists and the bacon eaters and all of my other favorite people. So we crammed about 20 of them into our living room and devoured cake and ice cream, and drank too much whiskey – and some of them hung around until 3 in the morning before the birthday girl decided it was time for bed because OH MY GOD I HAVE TO WAKE UP IN THREE HOURS. And I did. Without a hangover, even.

I trucked through the final day of celebration just fine until about 8PM when we settled into our seats at the show. After 30 minutes of waiting patiently, Sigur Rós came on and the voice of one thousand angels sang me into a 15 minute slumber. Which leads me to believe that maybe the secret to getting tiny humans to sleep is to play them ambient post rock instead of lullabies. Because if that shit can knock out a grown woman – upright in an uncomfortable plastic chair, at a concert – I’m pretty sure it’ll soothe a milk drunk babe into evening hibernation.

Parents, play your little ones Sigur Rós at bedtime and let me know if my hypothesis is correct.

And since I have you here – with cake – I figured now is the appropriate time to do a little shameless self promotion because HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW BADGE IN MY SIDEBAR? SAVEUR nominated this little site as one of the Best Special Diets Blogs of 2013, and if you have the time to register (it literally takes one minute) and vote before Friday 19 April, I’d kinda sorta love you. I’m up against some pretty big names so, even if Oh, Ladycakes doesn’t reign victorious, I’m just stoked to be nominated among some of my favorites. I mean, what a super awesome kickass honor.

Notes: Recipe can be doubled to make two 8-9″ cake layers. The recipe below makes one 8-9″ layer or two 6″ layers. If doubling the recipe to make 8-9″ layers, you’ll need to bake the cake for upwards of 30 minutes. Maybe a few minutes longer. If you don’t have cake flour, sift together 1 1/4 cups and 1 tablespoon unbleached flour + 3 tablespoons potato starch. You’ll need to sift the mixture several times before using it. If baking cupcakes, add 1/4 cup of batter to each liner and bake for 16-20 minutes. If you want a bit more rise out of your cupcakes, add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder (I stick on the lower end for cakes because I don’t like leveling). Using turmeric as coloring is kind of tricky – if your turmeric isn’t superfine, it’s not going to be a good route to take for food coloring, so just skip it.


1 cup minus 1 tbsp non-GMO soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups unbleached cake flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Small pinch ground turmeric, for color
3/4 cup cane sugar
6 tbsp non-GMO canola oil
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract

1 cup vegan butter, room temperature
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered cane sugar
3/4 cup cacao powder

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two 6″ spring form pans with parchment paper; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar; set aside for 10 minutes. In another small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and turmeric; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and extracts. When the buttermilk has formed, alternate between mixing the flour and buttermilk into the sugar mixture in halves. Add the flour first, then the buttermilk. Once all of the flour has been added (but you’re still left with 1/2 of the buttermilk) whisk the crap out of the mixture until most of the clumps have disappeared. (Don’t whisk too much or else you’ll overwork the gluten.) Whisk in the remaining buttermilk.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake at 350˚F for 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Once the layers have cooled, cover with plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to frost (cold cakes are easier to frost).

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by creaming the butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla extract, using a hand mixer on high speed, until creamy. Sift in the powdered sugar and cacao powder; mix until creamy. If you’re going to pipe the frosting on the cake, you’re going to want something a bit thicker. If you’re just going to spread it on, add a tablespoon or two of non-dairy milk and beat until fluffy. Cover the frosting until ready to use.

To ice the cake, line a cake stand (or plate) with four pieces of parchment paper that overlap at the ends; set aside. Remove the cake layers from the freezer (level if needed) and place one of the layers in the middle of the prepared cake stand. Spread 1/2 cup of frosting onto the top of the cake, then sandwich with the second layer. Spread about 3/4 cup of frosting on the top of the cake and smooth it out to cover the cake with a light crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake for 45 minutes, until the frosting is solid. Once solid, spread the remaining frosting onto the cake. I like to do a second coat, covering the cake completely, then I refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Once the icing is hard, I use the remaining frosting to cover the cake and use the back of a spoon to create the appearance of a messy cake. Cover cake with plastic until ready to consume. Cake will keep for 3-4 days.

Yield: 6-8 slices

  • london bakes April 15, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Yes to birthdays and celebrations and cake and you getting all the honours and awards that you deserve.

  • Jenny @ BAKE April 15, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    happy birthday and congratulation! this cake looks amazing!

  • April 15, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    What a lovely to celebrate with. New to your blog and love it already xo

  • kasandrabracken April 15, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Congrats Ashlae, what a cool present with the nomination! Your cake looks incredible and sounds like the celebration was just as beautiful. Can’t wait to see what you have to offer us in this year to come! Happy quarter-century!

  • Yohann April 15, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    I just discovered your blog! It is amazing and your photos are lovely! Love it

  • Golubka April 15, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    Big congratulations and Happy Birthday to you! I just discovered your site recently and am completely taken by it.

  • Monica April 15, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    yellow cake + chocolate + colorful sprinkles = the best birthay cake ever. it looks so delicious! icing is definitely my favorite part.

    happy birthday! and i’m so happy to see another Sigur Rós fan! :)


  • kels April 15, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    I like your people, I’m glad I get to be part of your people :) xo
    ps… Fran and Freba go to Vegas? I see a reality tv series in our future… jk ;)

  • Ashley April 15, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Girl. This cake is 110% amazing. The chocolate frosting is swirled to perfection! I adore the 2 little flags, the vibrant sprinkles, and the amazing light in these photos. You + your awesome blog are so worthy of that nomination. I’m rooting for you [and voting for you]!!! Hope you had the happiest of birthdays with your eclectic group of friends. Sounds like a blast! xo

  • Marie Matter April 15, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    A few things. a) Happy birthday!!! b) This cake is absolutely glorious. My birthday is two weeks from today and this. is. happening. c) Voted for you this weekend! Huge congratulations on the nomination – totally deserved!!!

  • dervla @ the curator April 15, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    awww happy birthday and congratulations on the nomination! I’m going to try that Sigur Ros tip tonight with my little ones!

  • Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough April 15, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Happy happy birthday, lady! This looks like the perfect cake. I’m also fairly certain that when I have littles, I will lull them to sleep with the magical sounds of Sigur Ros. That band is brilliant.

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar April 15, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    Aww so pretty! I love a good yellow cake :)

  • Beth @ Tasty Yummies April 15, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    So pretty!! Happy Birthday. What beautiful photos. Each and every one!

  • Alex-Rose April 15, 2013 at 6:28 PM

    This looks gorgeous! Congrats on the nomination you deserve it! xx

  • The Casual Baker April 15, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Good luck (and happy birthday)! You got my vote. : )

  • Vanessa April 15, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    You rule! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  • The Vegan Cookie Fairy April 15, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    Happy birthday! I voted for you :)

  • Katie @ Veggie and the Beast April 15, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    GORGEOUS! Happy Birthday :)

  • Averie @ Averie Cooks April 15, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    I saw your nomination over the weekend and CONGRATS!!!! You deserve it! And happy Bday. What a bday present that would have been!

    And the cake, gorgeous. Yellow cake with choc frosting is the best!

  • Jade Sheldon April 16, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    Gosh, super huge congratulations to you: for turning another year older AND for the incredible nomination.

  • Nicole April 16, 2013 at 12:19 AM

    Great recipe and love the adorable gif!

  • Tieghan April 16, 2013 at 2:52 AM

    This looks so good!

  • Hannah April 16, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    happy quarter-century, congrats on the nomination (so worthy), and this cake looks awesome.

  • Jo Hodson April 16, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Happy Birthday…love the candle/flags!! I have my birthday next month and I am so gonna steal that idea ;-)

  • Angela Walley April 16, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Happy Belated Birthday! Just celebrated my 27th Birthday yesterday, but could use some more vegan birthday cake!

  • stephsapartmentkitchen April 16, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Happy Birthday! I am so so happy that you were nominated because I was perusing all of those blogs and realized that I hadn’t stumbled upon yours before. What a great present :)

    steph @ stephsapartmentkitchen

  • Lacie April 16, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    Happy birthday & congrats on the nomination!!!!!! Now, how might one obtain those flags? They are adorable.

  • Elpoo April 16, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Happy Birthday stranger on the interwebs. The cake looks great and I will try this! But if it only makes 6-8 slices, how many cakes did you make for your party?

    I remember 25. I am old enough to be your mom. And not your I-Had-You-In-Highschool mom, either.


    • Ashlae April 17, 2013 at 3:52 AM

      I doubled (err, maybe tripled?) the recipe, stranger mama ;)

  • Meg April 17, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Happy birthday and congratulations on the nomination! I had to “delurk” (though I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now) to share: I was first introduced to Sigur Ros years ago when a camp counselor designated their song “Staralfur” as our cue that it was time to get ready for lights out. I remember so many nights of falling asleep to that music, and to this day when it pops up on my iTunes I inevitably start to yawn. I bet they were fantastic in concert!

  • Teresa April 18, 2013 at 2:23 AM

    Happy birthday! I also just turned the big 2-5. Not sure how I feel about it yet ;) The cake is gorgeous, and I love Root Down! Sounds like a good celebration to me!

  • Kathy April 18, 2013 at 4:46 AM

    Beautiful! Happy bday!

  • GlutenFreeHappyTummy April 18, 2013 at 11:50 PM

    happy birthday!!!! what a gorgeous cake to celebrate you!!

  • Sonja April 19, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    Gosh this cake is lovely. Happy Birthday!!! And so many congratulations on the Saveur nomination – what an honor!

  • Rix April 20, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    This looks so fantastic! And I also wish you happy birthday:) But this cake.. mmm.. I’m going to make up something for my boyfriend’s birthday.. Just hoping to get all this stuff even in Czech republic. I have no idea, if it is difficult to find special things for you, but here it is. Unfortunaltely:(

  • Kristy April 21, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Happy belated birthday, lady! Sounds like you did your quarter-century birthday celebration just right. xx

  • Kathryne April 23, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    Happy belated birthday, you lovely lady! Happy to hear that you had a proper celebration. This vegan cake looks exceptional. Got my fingers crossed for you in the Saveur awards!!!

  • Karielyn@TheHealthyFamilyandHome April 24, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Hi! Do you think coconut oil (melted/liquid) would work in place of the canola oil? Thanks!

  • sara forte April 26, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    my 25th year was my best year. I hope it’s the most fabulous one for you. Rootdown is still one of my top three best meals of my life. I cant even remember what I had, which was sad, but I remember saying it was the greatest things I ever ate, so it still counts ;) My plan is to make it to Vegas. So excited to hug you in real life!

  • kickpleat April 26, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Super cute post! And belated birthday wishes. I’m sure this feminist would have loved the cake. And congrats on the Saveur nod!!! Huge!

  • Megan Gordon April 29, 2013 at 3:27 AM

    Pretty much the perfect birthday cake (or, just cake) of all time if you ask me. Such beautiful photos — and I love your spin on it. Now I’ll just have to wait until we have some out-of-town visitors to inspire big cake baking around here!

  • awesomeon20 April 30, 2013 at 2:08 AM

    I’m not vegan, but your cake looked so lovely, I just had to add it to my “to bake” list. I’m glad I discovered your blog, and I’m excited to see what else you have in store for this bacon eater.

  • becomingaudreyblog May 9, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    Last week, I made my guy 2 dozen cookies and then left for the weekend. When I returned, there was nary a crumb in sight. Absolutely no self control! When I teased him about his cookie binge, he responded “I don’t think you understand Audge…I LOVE COOKIES!!!!”

  • Toni Hoffer May 10, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    Thanks for sharing! I am baking this cake for a birthday this weekend. Can coconut milk be a substitute for soy milk, and olive oil for canola oil? Thanks!

    • Ashlae May 10, 2013 at 3:06 PM

      I haven’t tried either so I cannot say with confidence. I originally tried making the recipe with almond milk, but it was reacting poorly with the vinegar (which coconut milk may, too).

  • Lyndsay Sung June 15, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    love your blog! just found it through emmadime… also… HAPPY 25th! this cake looks frigging awesome and i like how 20 people have backed up your claim… totally have to try this for my vegan friends. also, sigur ros as lullaby = genius! i love playing all sorts of music for my little guy (10 months old)… haven’t tried post rock yet… ^__^

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  • Rachael December 29, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    I just made this cake to celebrate our son’s first birthday. He has both a dairy and egg allergy. The only changes I made were substituting almond milk for soy and using a mix of whole wheat pastry floor and all purpose flour since I didn’t have any cake floor. I adapted the frosting to be vanilla and colored it blue. The cake was soooo yummy! Even my husband who usually does not like cake really enjoyed this recipe. Thank you for sharing!

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  • Tara D January 15, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    Wow! I made this yesterday for my son’s birthday and it was a huge hit. The frosting is freaking spectacular. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  • Joselle February 13, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    I am making this for my daughter’s first birthday as well. I made a test batch and it was delicious! Making the final cake now and I can’t wait to serve it to everyone.

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  • Keli May 10, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    Thank you so much for creating this recipe! I’ve made it for two birthdays so far and have a third batch in the oven as we speak. It’s a hit.. with vegans and non-vegans alike! Absolutely delicious and reminiscent of the cakes I had when I was younger (unhealthy versions of course).



  • Madison Rae May 16, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    Lovely cake, I’m going to try my hand at it tomorrow! I was curious…what are Icelandic sprinkles?! Are they vegan?! I’ve had wonderful luck with your recipes thus far so I am feeling confidant that this will be just great, thank you so much!

    • Ashlae May 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      Hi Madison –

      They’re just all natural sprinkles from Iceland. :)

  • Kris September 19, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Great vegan cake recipe ! I have a question, I am vegetarian , not vegan. Can I use regular milk in this recipe in place of soy milk? thanks !

    • Ashlae September 19, 2014 at 8:46 PM

      Hi Kris –

      I’m not 100% sure, but you should be able to replace the soy milk and cider vinegar with buttermilk.

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