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


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

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

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

    happy birthday and congratulation! this cake looks amazing!

  • Reply 15 April 2013 at 1:46 PM

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

  • Reply kasandrabracken 15 April 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!

  • Reply Yohann 15 April 2013 at 2:08 PM

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

  • Reply Golubka 15 April 2013 at 2:09 PM

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

  • Reply Monica 15 April 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! :)


  • Reply kels 15 April 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 ;)

  • Reply Ashley 15 April 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

  • Reply Marie Matter 15 April 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!!!

  • Reply dervla @ the curator 15 April 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!

  • Reply Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough 15 April 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Reply Vanessa 15 April 2013 at 7:28 PM

    You rule! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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

    Happy birthday! I voted for you :)

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

    GORGEOUS! Happy Birthday :)

  • Reply Averie @ Averie Cooks 15 April 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!

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

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

  • Reply Nicole 16 April 2013 at 12:19 AM

    Great recipe and love the adorable gif!

  • Reply Tieghan 16 April 2013 at 2:52 AM

    This looks so good!

  • Reply Hannah 16 April 2013 at 11:05 AM

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

  • Reply Jo Hodson 16 April 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 ;-)

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

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

  • Reply stephsapartmentkitchen 16 April 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

  • Reply Lacie 16 April 2013 at 6:33 PM

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

  • Reply Elpoo 16 April 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.


    • Reply Ashlae 17 April 2013 at 3:52 AM

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

  • Reply Meg 17 April 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!

    • Reply Candace Felch 16 July 2016 at 10:14 PM

      Ok so I believe I followed your recipe exactly, and my cakes were incredibly flat, did not rise in oven.
      Please advise.

      • Reply Ashlae 17 July 2016 at 7:26 AM

        Hi Candace –

        Three possible things that happened: you over-beat the batter, your baking powder went bad, or your oven wasn’t the proper temperature.

        • Reply Candace Felch 18 July 2016 at 8:51 AM

          Thank you. The cakes still tasted good and my Mom and I loved the frosting,
          Thank you :)

  • Reply Teresa 18 April 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!

  • Reply Kathy 18 April 2013 at 4:46 AM

    Beautiful! Happy bday!

  • Reply GlutenFreeHappyTummy 18 April 2013 at 11:50 PM

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

  • Reply Sonja 19 April 2013 at 3:00 AM

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

  • Reply Rix 20 April 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:(

  • Reply Kristy 21 April 2013 at 8:07 PM

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

  • Reply Kathryne 23 April 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!!!

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

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

  • Reply sara forte 26 April 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!

  • Reply kickpleat 26 April 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!

  • Reply Megan Gordon 29 April 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!

  • Reply awesomeon20 30 April 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.

  • Reply becomingaudreyblog 9 May 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!!!!”

  • Reply Toni Hoffer 10 May 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!

    • Reply Ashlae 10 May 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).

  • Reply Lyndsay Sung 15 June 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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  • Reply Rachael 29 December 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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  • Reply Tara D 15 January 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!

  • Reply Joselle 13 February 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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  • Reply Keli 10 May 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).



  • Reply Madison Rae 16 May 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!

    • Reply Ashlae 17 May 2014 at 2:00 PM

      Hi Madison –

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

  • Reply Kris 19 September 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 !

    • Reply Ashlae 19 September 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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  • Reply Lauren 12 May 2015 at 10:41 PM

    Just as a note to any readers: I made this cake with boxed coconut milk and it worked out just fine. I also used safflower oil in place of canola, which I generally find can be totally interchangeable with canola in baking. I also added a touch of raw, organic, local honey to the cake and some ground chamomile. I followed all other directions exactly and it baked perfectly.

    Note to the author: Thank you. I am an avid vegan baker. Sometimes I make up my own recipes, other times I just want something reliable to bake or a reliable jumping off point for adaptation. Every recipe I have made from this blog comes up just right. You have my deepest gratitude, appreciation and respect for being so passionate about your craft and sharing that in this space. From reading this blog, I know you work hard to perfect these recipes and it shows in the finished product(s).

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  • Reply Laura 26 May 2015 at 1:00 PM

    hi! i came across this recipe and it looks awesome! i’m wondering…do you think i could add sprinkles to the batter to funfetti-ize it? i’m not sure if it would mess up the mixture at all.


  • Reply Barb 31 May 2015 at 10:37 PM

    I will make this cake this week for my soon-to-be (vegan) ex-husband’s birthday, as he comes over to celebrate with our kids. We fell in love to Sigur Rós, fell out of love to Sigur Rós, and I do indeed play it for our children. Thanks for the awesome recipes and amazing blog!

  • Reply Jo 19 July 2015 at 4:01 PM

    Hello! I’m excited to try this out! I am more of a weights over volume measurer. Can you tell me how you scoop your flour? Do you pour flour, scoop with a spoon, sift or just stick the measuring cup into the bag? Thanks so much!

    • Reply Ashlae 20 July 2015 at 8:54 PM

      Hi Jo –

      I fluff the flour with a fork then scoop and level with the straight edge of a knife.

  • Reply erin 8 October 2015 at 7:01 PM

    Hi, love your blog and actually made this recipe and it came out great. I have a question about the method for mixing the wet and dry ingredients together. I’m used to adding all of the wet ingredients to the dry for oil based cakes with no eggs, would this produce a different result or is it better to stick with the recipes instructions. I’m gonna experiment some more as I wanted it a bit more fluffy but all in all its a keeper. Thanks for sharing. Oh and maybe next time you make this recipe, can you scale the flour, please?

    • Reply Ashlae 8 October 2015 at 7:47 PM

      Hi Erin –

      When making cakes with buttermilk, the dry ingredients and buttermilk are alternated when added to the sugar mixture, to give the cake a bit more lift. If yours was dense, it’s likely because you were too heavy when measuring the flour (fluff it with a fork first) or you over whisked the mixture.

      • Reply erin 9 October 2015 at 6:45 AM

        Thanks, I actually use the same method to fluff or whisk before scooping and then leveling but weighing always produces the same result. Thanks for the note back. I’ll be keeping this recipe. Can’t wait to try some others.

  • Reply Carolyn 16 December 2015 at 1:50 PM

    Hi ashlae! I’m going to make this for my bosses going away party this week. I’m going to double it to make 8″ layers, but a quick question for you…would i need to double the frosting? I’ve also never used shortening before, can you recommend a brand that works for you? Thanks!!!

    • Reply Ashlae 16 December 2015 at 6:35 PM

      Hi Carolyn –

      I’d 1.5x the frosting recipe. Hope your bosses love it!

  • Reply Carolyn 9 January 2016 at 1:28 PM

    OK SO My boss stayed longer than anticipated, but I made the cake and brought it in today…he was totally stoked and ate 3 pieces. yes, 3. and I got to show my coworkers how delicious vegan food is, which is always satisfying. everyone loved it, one of them exclaimed “I’m eating motherfuckin’ healthy today!” which led me to explain that vegan doesn’t necessarily = healthy.
    Also, on a side note, I’ve been subscribed to your blog for a long ass time, but just recently made my first 2 recipes from it, and they are 2 for 2, let me tell ya, you are the real deal girl! keep up your hard work/creativity/general awesomeness!!!

  • Reply erin 20 April 2016 at 2:22 PM

    Can frosting be made ahead of time and is the recipe above sufficient to smear frost 24 cupcakes ?

  • Reply Sadie 15 April 2017 at 5:30 PM

    I am wanting to make this for my friend’s birthday, but she wants vanilla frosting. Could I use this recipe and just leave out the cacao or would you suggest following a different vanilla frosting recipe? Thanks!

    • Reply Ashlae 15 April 2017 at 10:15 PM

      Hi Sadie –

      I’d use this recipe for vanilla bean frosting (there are two options).

  • Reply Liz 4 September 2017 at 7:04 AM

    I love this recipe so much, I’ve made it twice! Just writing to say that I’ve made it as a two layer 9-inch round cake (doubled the recipe as specified in the notes), and it bakes in 24 minutes at 350F for me. Fairly certain my oven temp is accurate, thanks to my glut of oven thermometers. Thanks!

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