Fine, I’ll admit it. I had a hankering for cake batter a couple of weeks back. Not cake-cake batter. Yellow cake batter to be exact. A few licks of a batter-coated rubber spatula, I reasoned, and I would be a happy woman. Simple pleasure. And then it dawned on me that one of my kid’s birthdays was the next day…so I actually had a legit excuse to mix up some batter, do some covert spatula-licking, and wind up with a birthday cake in the process!

First recipe I thought of called for buttermilk, which is not something that I happened to have in my fridge. And I wanted the cake batter licking to commence as soon as possible, so instead of running to the grocery store, I just moved on to the next recipe: Magnolia yellow cake. If you’ve never been to Magnolia Bakery in New York City, you’re missing out on what our family deemed the city’s best cupcakes. Yes, we literally did an extensive blind cupcake tasting and picked Magnolia’s yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting as hands-down the best. The cake is buttery, moist and fairly dense (not quite like pound cake, but not airy and ethereal.) The frosting is rich, creamy, smooth, and chocolatey. And they use just the right proportion atop their cupcakes. (They also make a sensational pistachio cake with pistachio meringue frosting too-but apparently only on Thursdays or by special order).

I happened to have all the ingredients for the Magnolia recipe in my house, and so there I stood in my kitchen a few minutes later, shamelessly satisfying my cake batter craving. I knew I couldn’t sacrifice too much batter since I had to stretch it to fill three cake pans. My cakes didn’t rise very much at all, and I thought it might’ve been because of the old, impotent self-rising cake flour I had in the pantry. But I remade the cake last weekend with brandy-new flour and got the same result. That’s okay, though, since there are three layers and it was plenty high. I found that for my oven, 23 minutes was the perfect baking time. The cake tasted exactly like the bakery cupcakes.

Chocolate buttercream frosting was next, and it was positively luscious. No, it’s not officially buttercream. I’ve made traditional buttercream before, where you whip gently- warmed egg whites and sugar and then add a ton of butter. This ain’t it. This is your standard butter and confectioner’s sugar frosting, but damn! It’s delish!

So in the end everyone was happy. My kid got a nice birthday cake. The rest of the family got to dig in too. And I got to lick the rubber spatula. Which is all I really wanted in the first place.


Magnolia Yellow Cake


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups self rising flour
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350 °.

2. Grease and lightly flour three 9″ round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment.

3. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.

4. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition.

7. Divide batter among the cake pans.

8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. (For cupcakes, line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake paper. Spoon the batter into the cups about 3/4 full, and bake for 20-22 minutes until the tops spring back when lightly touched.)

9. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.


Magnolia Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 9 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar


1. To melt the chocolate, place in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5-15 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the milk carefully and beat until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat well, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat on low speed until a desire consistency is reached.


Leave a Reply