This is the ultimate vegan birthday cake recipe!! Made with a secretly eggless yellow cake and topped with a decadent dairy free chocolate buttercream, this vegan birthday cake tastes just like the classic yellow cake mix!
What is the difference between yellow cake, white cake, and vanilla cake?
Today, we’re making a vegan birthday cake, aka a vegan yellow cake. But you might be wondering, what the difference between a yellow cake, a white cake, and a vanilla cake. Aren’t they all the same? Just a vanilla cake?
They’re actually slightly different per cake recipe, from ingredients to taste. Let’s start with vanilla cake. Typically, this cake is full of vanilla flavor and is light and tender to the crumb. Sometimes, a traditional vanilla cake will contain an egg yolk, but the key is the amount of vanilla. My vegan vanilla cake uses 2 full tablespoons of vanilla, which is the key to the most amazing flavor.
White cake and yellow cake, on the other hand, are slightly different. With both, there is actually a bit of vanilla in the cake batter. However, there won’t be as much. White cake is given its name since it just uses egg whites. Because of this, the texture is also slightly more “grainy” sometimes, and the vanilla one would use is often clear vanilla to keep the cake super white in color. Personally, this is not my favorite cake- I find it a bit bland!
With a traditional yellow cake, however, the cake would contain egg yolks, rather than egg whites. Sometimes, the batter will also use all purpose flour rather than cake flour. Because of the egg yolks, yellow cake is often considered very tender and rich, thanks to the fat content in the cake. However, like white cake, there is a reduction in vanilla used in the recipe. When you have a vegan yellow cake for a birthday, you won’t instantly think “vanilla cake.”
Honestly, this cake reminds me so much of the boxed mix we would have as kids! (I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but I have very fond memories of that cake mix, so to me, it’s a very good thing!).
Does vegan yellow cake exist?
Yes, vegan yellow cake DOES exist, and let me tell you, it is wonderful. This vegan yellow cake is absolutely delicious: light, fluffy, tender, sweet, and tastes just like a classic yellow birthday cake. Believe me, no one at the party will be able to tell that this birthday cake is vegan.
But you might be wondering, since we established that what makes yellow cake yellow is due to egg yolks, how do you make a vegan birthday cake? It’s about the use of ingredients that will mimic adding the additional egg yolks (applesauce), and then slightly tinting the cake batter yellow (using turmeric!).
That way, your vegan birthday cake is kept entirely vegan, eggless, and dairy free!
How to make the best vegan birthday cake ever
The beauty about this vegan yellow cake is that honestly, it’s not much extra work from a yellow cake mix from the grocery store, and it tastes just as good if not better. If you’re looking for an eggless birthday cake recipe that everyone can enjoy, then this is your recipe.
For this birthday cake, you’ll need:
- Flour: you can use gluten free 1:1 baking flour as needed. See below sections for my recommendations.
- Sugar: I used granulated sugar, but you can use coconut sugar to keep this cake recipe entirely refined sugar free.
- Vegan butter: for the best cake flavor, I personally recommend Flora Plant Butter. Their vegan butter just tastes and bakes identical to traditional dairy butter, so it’s easily my favorite. Plus it’s nut free, if nuts are an allergy for you!
- Dairy free milk with apple cider vinegar: this creates the vegan buttermilk, which is crucial to the success of this cake. Trust me, if you want a vegan yellow cake that doesn’t taste vegan (or homemade!), don’t skip this!
- Applesauce: this replaces the yolks in a traditional yellow cake recipe.
- Leavening agents
- Turmeric: this gives our yellow cake it’s color! You can also use a vegan liquid yellow food coloring if you’re concerned about a turmeric after taste. However, because of the amount of flour in this cake, you really can’t taste it.
- Vegan chocolate buttercream: this is my all time favorite chocolate buttercream recipe (and my mom’s too, which is saying something!). Trust me, you’re just going to love this!
With all of my recipes, the full instructions and measurements are found down below in the recipe card. I have included both gram measurements and cup measurements for your convenience. However, I will note, the gram measurements will yield the most accurate bakes.
If you’re choosing to bake your vegan birthday cake using cups, please don’t scoop the flour, but spoon and level. I’ve found this is a very common mistake that will yield a completely different cake if you scoop versus spoon and level! That’s because scooping yields way more flour than you actually need.
For this vegan birthday cake, you can use a bowl and hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment. You’ll make this cake very similarly to any cake you’ve made before (but if this is your first time, please don’t worry- this cake recipe is so incredibly easy!). We’ll start by creaming together the vegan butter and sugar, then adding in the remaining wet ingredients, save for the vegan buttermilk. Then add in the flour in increments, along with the buttermilk, mixing in between each interval.
Once the cake batter is mixed, you’ll divide the batter into the cake pans evenly, and bake! Then cool the cakes completely before frosting!
Birthday Cake Decorating Ideas
This is my absolute favorite part of any cake baking process: the decorating! I’ve mentioned my favorite cake decorating tools before, especially in my vegan wedding cake recipe. But typically, I recommend a cake turntable, bench scraper, offset spatula, and any piping tips and bags that you’d like.
Add a drip: I absolutely adore drip cakes. They’re so beautiful and actually so easy! I use my vegan chocolate ganache recipe for a drip. You can even use vegan white chocolate, and tint the drip as well.
Press sprinkles up the sides: many people wonder how to do this, and it’s shockingly easy. You don’t need to roll your cake (although that could actually be less of a mess!). I just gently press the sprinkles up the side before I set it in the fridge again. The sprinkles do go everywhere, but just keep a vacuum near by 😉
Pipe decorations on the sides and tops: I love collecting a bunch of piping tips (Wilton is my favorite) for this very reason. For my carrot cake, I piped carrots, for my water color cake, I piped flowers. You can do anything!
Here’s a more complete list of some of my favorite ways to decorate a birthday cake.
FAQs about baking vegan birthday cake
Can I make this vegan birthday cake gluten free? Absolutely! Simply swap out the regular flour for gluten free 1:1 baking flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour in the blue bag for this recipe test). The rest of the ingredients are gluten free, so you are good to go!
Do I need to make the vegan buttermilk? Can’t I just use regular dairy free milk? For this cake recipe, you really do need to make the vegan buttermilk for this cake recipe. Not only does it help the cake rise when incorporated with the leavening agents, but the acidity will also help to yield that super tender texture we think of with classic birthday cakes. Trust me, if you want a phenomenal vegan birthday cake, please please please do not skip the vinegar!
Can I make this vegan birthday cake into cupcakes? Absolutely! To make this vegan yellow cake into vegan cupcakes, simply bake the recipe in a cupcake tin. The recipe will yield about 24 cupcakes, so if you need less, you can cut the recipe in half.
Can I use a 6″ cake pan instead of an 8″ cake pan? Yes definitely. You can easily make this into a 6″ cake rather than an 8″ cake. Keep in mind, if you’re doing three layers, the cake will bake a bit longer in the oven.
Is it possible to make this vegan yellow cake sugar free? If you’d like to swap in a sugar free granulated substitute, you definitely can.
Do I need cake strips for my pans? I’ve actually never had to use cake strips, and my cakes turn out perfectly leveled each time. It might be something to do with my oven, but if you worry that you’ll need to level your cakes, you can use cake strips around your cake pans for extra insurance. It won’t hurt the recipe!
What vegan sprinkles did you use? I get all of my vegan sprinkles from Sweetapolita (not sponsored nor an affiliate, but man I wish we could work together ha! They are just wonderful!).
I hope you absolutely love this vegan birthday cake as much as I do! It seriously tastes just like the classic yellow cake mix, but even better. Perfect for kids parties and adults alike!
If you tried this vegan yellow cake, let me know how it goes by leaving a comment down below, as well as a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (which also helps others find the recipes more easily!).
Happy birthday cake baking!
More vegan cake recipes you’ll love:
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This is the ultimate vegan birthday cake recipe!! Made with a secretly eggless yellow cake and topped with a decadent dairy free chocolate buttercream, this vegan birthday cake tastes just like the classic yellow cake mix! Make it gluten free as needed!
Vegan Yellow Cake:
- 1 1/4 cups (300 grams) unsweetened dairy free milk, room temperature
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (to be mixed with coconut/almond milk)
- 3 2/3 cups (460 grams) organic flour or gluten free 1-to-1 baking flour, sifted (do NOT skip- add in 1 tsp arrowroot powder if using gluten free 1-to-1 baking flour, see Note)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1–2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (170 grams) salted Flora Plant Butter (vegan butter), room temperature
- 3/4 cup (190 grams) unsweetened applesauce, room temperature
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease three 8″ cake pans with cooking oil, and line them with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Prepare the vegan buttermilk. Combine the dairy free milk with the apple cider vinegar, and set aside to sit for 5-6 minutes. You can weigh and measure the remaining ingredients during this time.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and turmeric.
- Make the batter: In a stand mixer with paddle attachment or a large bowl with hand mixer, cream together the vegan butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed. Then add in the applesauce and vanilla extract. Mix again on medium speed until combined, scraping down the sides and at the bottom of the bowl as needed. Add in about half of the dry mixture, along with half of the vegan buttermilk, and mix on medium speed until just combined. Add in the remaining dry mixture and vegan buttermilk, and mix on medium speed until there are just no more dry streaks. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as well as the sides.
- Divide the batter between the cake pans evenly, and bake for 27-30 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once cooled completely (there is absolutely no warmth to the touch!), then you can prepare your chocolate buttercream.
- Prepare the chocolate buttercream: make the chocolate buttercream according to the directions in the post.
- Assemble the cake: on a cake stand or a cake turntable, spoon about 1/3-1/2 cup of frosting onto the first layer. Use an offset spatula to smooth the frosting to the edges. Then place the second layer on top and repeat. Place the third layer on top and frost the outside of the cake, creating a crumb coat. You can either smooth the edges even more after chilling the crumb coat layer, or you can make swoops in the frosting. Decorate with sprinkles and serve! Enjoy!
- Storage: store any leftover cake wrapped in parchment paper and tinfoil, and in the fridge for up to 4 days or the freezer for up to 3 months.
Gluten free: you can use gluten free 1:1 baking flour here as needed.
Making a 6″ layer cake: if you don’t have 8″ cake pans, you can use 6″ cake pans. Keep in mind that the cakes will be thicker, so they’ll need longer to bake. Alternatively, you can also use two 9″ cake pans.
Refined sugar free: you can use coconut sugar in place of granulated sugar.
Yellow coloring: if you don’t like turmeric, you can also use a vegan yellow liquid dye, such as the one by Whole Foods 365. They also use turmeric as the ingredient, I believe, but you won’t taste it at all. You shouldn’t taste the turmeric in this cake anyways, as there is such a small amount.
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