Ah, the humble yellow cake. It sometimes goes by the more fanciful name of “golden butter cake,” but I don’t think it needs boasting. It’s that extremely versatile cake used for birthdays, office parties, barbecues, and other gatherings. Just like the traditional version, this dairy-free yellow cake has a classic tender texture and rich sweet flavor that pairs with almost any event. The recipe is from my flagship book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.
The Dairy-Free Yellow Cake Recipe for Almost Any Occasion
What’s so wonderful about yellow cake is it’s ability to appeal to so many different cravings. It has the texture and consistency of classic American-style cake, and a relatively neutral buttery vanilla taste. But I address different options in the FAQs below.
What’s the Difference Between Yellow Cake and White Cake?
White cake is typically made with cake flour, egg whites, and oil (or shortening) to maintain a whiter color. Consequently, it has a lighter and spongier texture. Yellow cake is made with whole eggs, all-purpose flour, and butter for both richness, color, and a lighter crumb. In this dairy-free yellow cake, buttery spread or sticks work great. But I do have other options below.
Is this a Dairy-Free Vanilla Cake?
In some ways it is. It has similar ingredients to a French vanilla cake and the base flavor is vanilla. But you might want to increase the vanilla extract if you are after more of a truly vanilla cake. You can use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract with good results.
What Butter Alternative do you Use?
Can I Substitute Oil for the Butter Alternative?
Technically, yes. You can substitute your favorite baking oil. Use the full 3/4 cup, or reduce the oil slightly to 2/3 cup and increase the milk alternative to 1 1/4 cups. But keep in mind, substitute oil will result in a lighter yellow hue and less buttery flavor. Also, I would increase the salt by 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon if using oil instead of butter alternative.
Which Milk Alternative do you Recommend?
Honestly, I just use whatever I have on hand, which is usually an unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk beverage. Most varieties should work just fine. In a pinch, you can substitute water for the milk alternative.
Do You Have to Whip the Egg Whites?
Whipping the egg whites results in a lighter, fluffier cake. If you’re in a hurry, or want a denser yellow cake consistency, you can simply blend in the eggs. Just keep in mind that it won’t be as fluffy!
Do You Have an Egg-Free Yellow Cake Recipe?
See the recipe notes! There is an egg-free and vegan version in the notes that was created and tested by my friend Hannah Kaminsky.
I Only Need 1 Cake Layer or a Small Cake. Can I Halve this Recipe?
Yes, you can make a half batch and bake it in one round cake tin or an 8×8 baking dish. The instructions stay the same, but the ingredients are as follows for a half batch.
For 1 Cake Layer or an 8×8-inch Cake:
- 1 cup + 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 6 tablespoons dairy-free butter alternative
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup + 1½ tablespoons dairy-free milk alternative
Can I Use this Recipe to make Yellow Cupcakes?
Yes! I have posted the Dairy-Free Yellow Cupcakes Recipe separately. It’s wonderful!
What Frostings do you Recommend for Dairy-Free Yellow Cake?
Since it’s really a vanilla cake, the sky is the limit in terms of flavor pairing. Of course, Dairy-Free Buttercream is a classic. But I also love my Dairy-Free Milk Chocolate Frosting with this dairy-free yellow cake. But you can try other fun flavors, like Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting, Lemon Frosting, Coconut Frosting, or Coconut Pecan Fudge Frosting. Let me know if there is a frosting you are craving, and I’ll try to help!
What Cake Fillings do you Recommend for Dairy-Free Yellow Cake?
I often just use the frosting for the filling, too. But yellow cake is also delicious with a raspberry jam filling or fresh strawberry filling. You could also go with a dairy-free lemon curd style filling, using lemon or orange.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Yellow Cake
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and vegetarian. There is an egg-free and vegan option in the notes. Make sure to choose a milk alternative and butter alternative that suit your dietary needs. See the post above for suggestions.
For gluten-free dairy-free yellow cake, you can try your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, like King Arthur. Please note that I have not tested this cake gluten-free, so I can’t guarantee the results. Also, I would use the main recipe (with eggs) if attempting this cake gluten-free.
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, separated (see egg-free option below)
- ¾ cup dairy-free buttery spread or sticks, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons dairy-free milk alternative
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and grease and flour a 9 ×13-inch baking dish or two 9-inch round cake pans.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Put the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl. Beat with your hand mixer until the whites fluff up and are stiff but not dry.
- Put the buttery alternative and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat with your hand mixer until creamy. Add the egg yolks, vinegar, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes, or until the mixture looks light and fluffy.
- Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the wet mixture in your large mixing bowl, followed by about one-third of the milk beverage and beat just to combine; do not overmix. Repeat two more times until the flour mixture and milk beverage are used up.
- Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the batter.
- Scrape the batter into your prepared pan(s) and even it out.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan(s), before removing the cake(s) to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Cover the unfrosted cake and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. Once frosted, it should be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or individual slices can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen to enjoy later.
Egg-Free & Vegan Option: Omit the eggs. Increase the milk beverage to a scant 1¾ cups, the flour to 3 cups, the baking powder to 2 teaspoons, and the baking soda to 1 teaspoon (only use ½ teaspoon at high altitude). Add ½ teaspoon ground turmeric to the dry ingredients to achieve a notable yellow hue. Bake as directed above. The vegan option will also fit into 8-inch round pans, but with the smaller pans, the baking time should be reduced to 20 to 28 minutes.