Traditional Birthday Cake Recipe

If there's ever a worthy celebration that calls for cake, it's most definitely a birthday. Sure, weddings, anniversaries, and retirements are perfect cake-worthy occasions as well, but it's practically the rule when it comes to celebrating a birthday.

Ordering a cake from your local bakery, or even picking out a design at your nearest grocery store is definitely an option. Local gourmet bakeries will do a fabulous job, while grocery store bakeries will offer a great, quick solution when you're in a time crunch. But when you truly want to celebrate a loved one's birthday (or even your own!) to the fullest, baking a birthday cake from scratch is certainly the way to go. Plus, preparing will be so much fun before the celebration even begins.

To help with the process, we here at Mashed have the ideal, surprisingly simple recipe for you. A 9-inch by 13-inch cake, also known as a quarter sheet cake, will serve up the classic squares of cake with plenty of frosting and sprinkles we've all known and loved for years. And with easy, step-by-step directions, you'll certainly be able to follow this recipe with no issues, leaving you more time for decorating and celebrating!

Gather the ingredients to make this beautiful birthday cake

To get started on making the simple vanilla cake for this birthday quarter sheet cake recipe, you'll want to gather all of your ingredients first and foremost. You will need 2 cups of white sugar, 2 cups of flour, 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder, 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, three eggs, ¾ cup of oil, 1 cup of milk, and 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.

Let's be honest: The best part of every cake is the frosting on top. In order to make the delicious vanilla frosting for this birthday cake, you'll also need 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened, along with 8 to 10 cups of powdered sugar, an additional two tablespoons of milk, and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

Mix the dry ingredients to prepare the batter for this birthday cake recipe

To start baking a birthday cake from scratch at home, you'll first need to preheat the oven. Allow it to preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit while you prepare the cake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, add all of the dry ingredients. Add in the white sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix all of the dry ingredients until well combined. Be sure the mixture is free of any large clumps before moving onto the next step.

Add the wet ingredients to finish the batter for this birthday cake recipe

Once all of the dry ingredients are mixed and well incorporated, it's time to add in the eggs. You'll want to mix in the eggs one at a time, incorporating them fully into the dry mixture.

Next, add in ¾ cup of oil, and then the cup of milk and 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Mix the cake batter until just combined. Be sure not to over-mix so you don't end up with a dry, heavy cake.

Bake the cake batter for this birthday cake

Once the birthday cake batter is prepared and the oven is heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, it's time to bake the cake. Prepare a 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan by spraying it with cooking spray. This will prevent the cake from sticking to the pan. Pro tip: To be absolutely sure the cake doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, add a small rectangle of parchment paper into the bottom before pouring the batter in.

Once the batter is poured, put the pan in the oven. Bake the birthday cake for 30 minutes until the top is lightly golden brown and fully set. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven to cool.

Make the frosting for this birthday cake

To make the vanilla frosting for this festive birthday cake, add 2 sticks of softened butter into a mixing bowl. Whip the butter until fluffy, and then add in 2 cups of powdered sugar and the 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix the butter and sugar with the milk, and then add in the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Continue gradually adding in the remaining powdered sugar, and mix until the frosting comes together. Once formed, turn the speed up on the mixer to whip the frosting until fluffy.

Assemble, frost, and decorate the birthday cake

Once your cake is fully cooled, carefully remove it from the cake pan. Place the cake on a large rectangular cake stand, a platter, or a cardboard cake board. If desired, it can remain in the pan as well. Frosting just the top is definitely an option.

In order to frost the cake, add a generous amount of frosting on top, and then frost the sides. Frost your cake using a flat spatula or use a piping bag fitted with an icer tip to fully cover it. Smooth the frosting with an icing scraper or flat spatula. Use food coloring to color a portion of the frosting, and put the frosting in a piping bag. Cut off the tip, and carefully write "Happy Birthday!" in the middle of the cake. Top the cake with plenty of sprinkles, and add a top and bottom border with a piping tip to finish decorating. Just like that, you have yourself a beautiful quarter sheet cake for a special birthday.

Traditional Birthday Cake Recipe
5 from 48 ratings
This quarter sheet cake will serve up the classic squares of birthday cake with plenty of frosting and sprinkles you've known and loved for years.
Prep Time
20
minutes
Cook Time
30
minutes
Servings
12
slices
birthday cake
Total time: 50 minutes
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup oil
  • 1 cup milk (plus 2 tablespoons for frosting)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (plus 1 teaspoon for frosting)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (for frosting)
  • 8 to 10 cups powdered sugar (for frosting)
Optional Ingredients
  • food coloring
  • sprinkles
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients. Add 2 cups of white sugar, 2 cups of flour, 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder, 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt, and mix until well combined.
  3. Mix in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Mix in ¾ cup of oil, and then 1 cup of milk. Continue mixing, and add in 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Be sure not to over-mix the batter.
  5. Once the batter is ready, prepare a 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Add a rectangular piece of parchment paper into the bottom of the pan before pouring the batter over top.
  6. Bake the birthday cake for 30 minutes until the top is lightly golden brown and fully set. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and set aside to allow it to fully cool.
  7. To make the frosting for the birthday cake, add 2 sticks of softened butter into a mixing bowl. Whip the butter until fluffy, and then add in 2 cups of powdered sugar and the 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix the butter and sugar with the milk, and then add in the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Continue gradually adding remaining powdered sugar and mix until the frosting comes together. Once formed, turn the speed up on the mixer to whip the frosting until fluffy.
  8. Once your cake is fully cooled, place it on a large rectangular cake stand, a platter, or a cardboard cake board. If desired, it can remain in the pan as well. Add a generous amount of frosting on top, and then frost the sides. Frost your cake using a flat spatula or use a piping bag fitted with an icer tip to fully cover it. Smooth the frosting with an icing scraper or flat spatula. Use food coloring to color a portion of the frosting, and put the frosting in a piping bag. Cut off the tip and carefully write "Happy Birthday!" in the middle of the cake.
  9. Top the cake with plenty of sprinkles and add a top and bottom border with a piping tip to finish decorating.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 841
Total Fat 30.8 g
Saturated Fat 11.4 g
Trans Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 82.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 140.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Total Sugars 122.5 g
Sodium 488.7 mg
Protein 4.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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