Grandma’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

May 17, 2022
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea
If you're looking for that special birthday cake that Grandma use to put a whole lot of love and skill into, then this Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting is the right thing to bake! The secret: A little peanut butter in the frosting.

Grandma’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Grandma’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting is dense, moist, and fluffy and has a lot of warm memories to give. It’s also easy to make and is rich in flavor. A definite crowd-pleasing treat for the entire family on any occasion, especially Birthdays. Vegan + Gluten-free options available.

Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting with a slice put on a plate

Who doesn't love a good slice of cake, right? Whelp, I totally get it. I'm always ready for a nice fluffy slice of a good cake that's unique in flavor yet comforting and nostalgic.

I remember growing up in Florida and having my grandparents throw me a Birthday party every single year in their backyard, inviting friends and family, grilling up good food, and so much fun and laughter.

While my Grandmother would always get me the best store-bought birthday cake, I always felt like she knew me so well because classic vanilla with a perfectly whipped buttercream was my ultimate favorite that she got every time.

On the weekends, however, my Grandmother would whip together breakfast (mostly french toast or pancakes) and then our favorite dessert (banana pudding) during our scary movie nights together and those are the memories that I'll always cherish.

She wasn't the most well-versed baker or cook, but whenever she did whip something together----it was amazing to me!

So, this Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting is paying homage to my Grandma's yearly cake haul for my birthday and it reminds me greatly of something she would make if she was more advanced in baking. Haha. 

I know that cakes are all about aesthetics or whatever, but personally, it was always that recipe that Grandma use to make that'll take you to that comforting, nostalgic place while we indulge. You'll thank me later.

Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting, sprinkles, and birthday candles

How to Make Grandma’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This cake as I’ve mentioned before is super easy to whip together and doesn’t require anything special when it comes to ingredients. All you need to whip up this simple Vanilla Birthday Cake batter is:

  • All-purpose flour. I use organic flour from Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Baking powder for leavening.
  • Cane sugar. I use organic sugar.
  • Butter. I recommend using salted butter in this recipe or a nice touch of rich flavor, but unsalted butter works perfect too!
  • Eggs + egg yolk. These should be at room temperature so they mix evenly into the batter.
  • Vanilla extract. This adds great vanilla flavor to this cake.
  • Buttermilk. You can use dairy-free or regular with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to create the buttermilk.

 Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting with a slice pulled out

Can I use Pastry Flour?

Certainly! If you use cake or pastry flour, the texture of your cake will be even lighter and airier.

Cake Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour.

When it comes to the main ingredient of this entire recipe—-the flour, I enjoy using Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour, which is ideal for all kinds of baking, including this one.

However, I do occasionally use Super-Fine Cake Flour which adds a nice airiness and fluffiness to your cakes as well.

Can I Make this Cake Gluten-Free?

If you would love to make this cake gluten-free, then substituting all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour is the easiest option. It’s a special blend of gluten-free flours, starches, and xanthan gum, which makes these donuts just as soft, fluffy, and airy as the original! They also have a great All-purpose GF flour that works great as well.

Sliced Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting on an elevated serving platter

Can I Make this Vanilla Birthday Cake Vegan?

Yes! To make this cake dairy-free and egg-free, substitute the butter for vegan butter. Omit the eggs and use apple cider vinegar or ‘flax eggs’ as an alternative. To decorate your vegan vanilla birthday cake, use the chocolate buttercream recipe here.

Tips for Making Vegan Cake

When making this cake vegan means that it won't rely on eggs or dairy. Therefore, here are a few steps that are slightly different from your typical cake-making process that will be important:

  • Start by making vegan “buttermilk”. Combine the dairy-free milk with the vinegar and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to sour a bit.
  • Use melted butter for easier blending.
  • Make sure you let the cakes cool fully before trying to frost them. Otherwise, your frosting will melt right off.

Overhead shot of a sliced Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting with a Hint of Peanut Butter

The frosting on this cake is an airy, light and fluffy chocolate and nutty buttercream. It’s incredibly rich and airy. You’ll want to keep this frosting on hand for all of your chocolate infused baking projects. My secret to an even richer flavor is in the use of a small amount of peanut butter. Feel free to omit this if you have an allergy or don't like peanut butter. Here’s what you need:

  • Powdered sugar. Granulated sugar will make a grainy texture in your frosting, so opt for confectioner’s sugar.
  • Cocoa powder. Cacao powder also works!
  • Peanut butter. Adds a deliciously, nutty taste with the chocolate. Greatly rich when used!
  • Butter. Salted or unsalted works. Let it soften to room temperature for easiest blending.
  • Vanilla. To contrast some of the decadent chocolate flavor.
  • Almond milk. Any dairy-free milk works as well as dairy milk.

How to Store Grandma’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. Or freeze the cake for up to 3 months. To serve, defrost the cake for a few hours on the counter.

Plates with slices of Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Can I Make Vanilla Birthday Cake Cupcakes?

Sure! To turn this cake recipe into individual cupcakes, simply divide the batter between about 30 cupcake wells. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the centers are set.

More Grandma-inspired Recipes to Try


If you make this Grandma’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting, be sure to tag me on Instagram @orchidsandsweettea!

Slice of Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting with a fork

Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting with a slice pulled out

Grandma’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

May 17, 2022
4.86 from 7 votes
If you're looking for that special birthday cake that Grandma use to put a whole lot of love and skill into, then this Vanilla Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting is the right thing to bake! The secret: A little peanut butter in the frosting.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 8 servings



  • 4 cups organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups organic cane sugar
  • 2 ½ tsps baking powder
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened at room temp. (You can also use unsalted butter; Just add 1 teaspoon salt when using)
  • 3 large organic eggs, room temp.
  • 2 egg yolks, room temp.
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups "Buttermilk" (I use Almond milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice; Feel free to use whole milk, if desired)


  • 5 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened at room temp.
  • ¼ cup organic cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon organic peanut butter, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup Almond milk (You can use your fave plant-based milk or whole milk, if desired)


  • Rainbow sprinkles



  • Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease (with butter) AND line with parchment paper the bottoms of TWO 9-inch or 8-inch cake pans (for thicker layers) or THREE 6-inch cake pans.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the milk and lemon juice and set aside for 5-10 minutes until everything "activates" to create the dairy-free "buttermilk".
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder until combined.
  • In a bowl, add the butter and sugar, beating them together using a hand-mixer (on high-speed), until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the eggs (one at a time) followed by the egg yolks and vanilla, mixing until combined. On low-speed, add in the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk and continue to mix until combined and the batter is smooth, about 3-4 minutes. NOTE: The batter should be thick, yet slowly run off the whisk once lifted.
  • Divide the batter evenly into each of the cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick or butter knife comes out clean when tested in the centers.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and let them rest in the pan for 10 minutes or so before removing the cakes and placing them onto a cooling rack to fully cool. NOTE: Let them cool for at least 1-2 hours in a cool place.


  • Simply beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand-mixer) on medium-high speed, until smooth and pale. Add in the peanut butter and cocoa powder and beat until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, continuing to mix on medium-speed until you reach the desired consistency----smooth and fluffy. NOTE: Add more milk (1 tablespoon at a time if too thick) or powdered sugar (for more thickness).


  • Place the first cake layer on your cake stand and evenly cover the top with buttercream and a handful of rainbow sprinkles. Now, top with 2nd layer and add more buttercream atop that layer, spreading it over the tops and sides of cake, evenly and thinly. NOTE: If making a 3-layer, be sure to repeat step 1 of assembly once again before getting to the final layer.
  • Once fully frosted, add small little designs of the buttercream using a piping bag + tip around the sides and top of cake. Feel free to add handfuls of rainbow sprinkles to the tops and side of cake, if desired. Chill for 5 minutes to ensure that buttercream sets.
  • When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator. Slice and enjoy!
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Keep cake leftovers stored for up to 4-5 days in the fridge. Keep it in an airtight container to keep the cake from drying out. You can also freeze the cake tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost the cake on the counter.
  • FLOUR: You can also use cake flour in place of all-purpose flour for a fluffier texture. 
  • VANILLA CUPCAKES + CHOCOLATE FROSTING: This recipe yields about 30 cupcakes. Simply bake for 18-20 minutes instead, until centers come out clean.
  • DAIRY BUTTERMILK: Add 1 cup of organic heavy cream + 1 tablespoon lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes, until it thickens.
  • VEGAN OPTION: To make this cake entirely dairy-free + vegan, simply omit the salted or unsalted butter and eggs and use vegan butter instead and add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to milk instead of lemon juice. Ensure that all ingredients are vegan-friendly, including cocoa powder and rainbow sprinkles.


Calories: 853kcal | Carbohydrates: 168g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 32g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 245mg | Sodium: 594mg | Potassium: 239mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 1660IU | Calcium: 178mg | Iron: 4mg


Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea


Script text: Xx, Shanika

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Love this Recipe?

  1. This cake brings back such great memories. It was all about the frosting and licking the spoon. I definitely need to make this for my kids.

  2. This is the perfect birthday cake! Love the simple instructions and all the helpful tips. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. How yummy! I love the vanilla and chocolate combination and that hint of peanut butter in the frosting is just enough!