Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake

Much like pound cake, the 1-2-3-4 cake gets its name from the proportions of its base ingredients: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, four eggs. It’s so straightforward, you may not even have to write it down—making it easy to impress friends and family with, oh, just a little something you whipped up.

4.7 from 13 reviews
Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (370 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (200 grams), room temperature
  • 3 cups (300 grams) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
  • 1 cup (240 grams) milk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. (You can use baking spray with flour.)
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pans (smoothing tops if necessary). Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

 

119 COMMENTS

  1. Hi! Why are there weight difference in ingredients (quite a lot for the cake flour – 300g vs 384g) between this Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake vs the Chocolate Buttercream 1-2-3-4 Basic Cake? Thanks!

    • Hey Faithy,

      Thanks for reaching out! Turns out the grams measurement was for 3 3/4 cups flour, almost a whole cup more than our original recipe. I’ve fixed the grams to match the Chocolate Buttercream 1-2-3-4 Basic Cake because they are, essentially, the same recipe. Good eye!

      • Hi Owomughisha!

        Thanks for reaching out! We have not tested it by cutting the sugar in half. The sugar helps to make the cake light and fluffy and also prevents the cake from drying out. If you reduce the sugar, be prepared to have a cake that is likely more dense and that becomes within a day or two.

  2. Hi I want to use this for my daughter’s first b’day cake but would like to make it a lemon cake? Should I use lemon juice instead of the vanilla extract? Please help thank you.
    Mom in needed

    • Hey Ashley,
      Thanks for reaching out! Yes, if you want a hint of lemon to the birthday cake, you could add lemon juice or lemon extract in place of the vanilla.
      Happy Baking and Happy Birthday to your daughter!

    • Hi. I use the zest of two large lemons when inwant a lemon versiin of this cake. That way you dont change the moisture cobtent of the cake or need to adjust the cooking timw.

      • Hello does the golden ratio of 163% don’t get followed in cake cupcakes making? Because I noticed the sugar and leavening percentage is way off if to follow the golden ratio. Please enlighten me, im just a new mom trying to make great bread and cakes for my family. Peace.

        • Hi Hazel!

          Thank you so much for reaching out! The baker’s percentage is a good jumping off point for recipe development regarding breads. Our 1-2-3-4 cakes are an example of ratio baking as well. Although ratio baking makes fun recipes that are easy to remember, they are not hard set rules! We develop all of our recipes in our test kitchen and they undergo rigorous testing until they create the recipe that works wondrously! If you are new to baking, we recommend using a kitchen scale and following well-tested recipes to a “T” until you gain confidence. It takes a little time, but once you get baking down, your kitchen will transform into your very own test kitchen!

    • you can use the lemon juice if you want, you can also bake the cake and cut it in half through the middle and put a lemon cream filling in the middle.

      example: bake the cake, cut in diagonally through the middle, remove the top and place it to the side, place the lemon cream filling in the bottom of the cake then place the top back on and ice with a lemon icing.
      hope this was helpful.

      thanks
      Ruby

    • HOW did this cake turn out? I would like to use it for my son’s 1st birthday, too. Thinking about trying it out first, of course!

  3. Hi
    I would like to use this recipe for my sons first birthday party but in pineapple flavor.. do I need to add juice or pineapple extract?

    • Hi Tiea,

      thank you for reaching out! Yes, you can make these into cupcakes! Just be sure to not fill the cupcakes all the way in the pan but 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Also, be sure to keep an eye on the cooking time as it will vary for cupcakes. Cupcakes usually bake anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. To check for doneness, insert a tooth pick into the center and if it comes out clean, they should be ready. Happy baking!

  4. awesome food blog you have placed here. I have read it and it was really nice and informative. Thanks for placing it here. I have bookmark this site for future visit. Your content was really resourceful reached. Thanks for such a nice creation.

    • Hi Nati, we have a conversion for 5 cups of flour:
      1 1/3 cups butter
      2 1/2 cups sugar
      5 eggs
      4 cups cake flour
      1 1/3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
      1 1/3 cup of milk
      2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

      Happy Baking!

    • Hi Blessins- we spoke with our test kitchen and this is what they provided for you.
      for 5 cups of flour use:
      1 1/3 cups butter
      2 1/2 cups sugar
      5 eggs
      4 cups cake flour
      1 1/3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
      1 1/3 cup of milk
      2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

      Happy Baking!

    • Hi Nicki! Thank you for reaching out. yes, you can use a 11 x 13 dish- just keep an extra eye on baking time. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Happy Baking!

    • Hi Jackie,

      Thank you for reaching out! Yes, you can substitute all-purpose for cake flour. Use 262 grams all-purpose flour plus 48 grams cornstarch. Whisk together well before using. Happy Baking!

    • Hi,

      I have made this cake twice now…absolutely moist sponge perfect cake i have tasted so far.
      thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

  5. I used one tablespoon of vanilla and one tablespoon of almond extract. Haven’t tried yet but it smells amazing!

  6. HI, I’m seeing in your previous replies you mentioned you can use 5 cups of flour, but in the recipe you only used 4 cups of flour. Is this correct? Am I to use 4 or 5 cups?
    ” Hi Blessins- we spoke with our test kitchen and this is what they provided for you.
    for 5 cups of flour use:
    1 1/3 cups butter
    2 1/2 cups sugar
    5 eggs
    4 cups cake flour
    1 1/3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
    1 1/3 cup of milk
    2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

    Happy Baking!”

    • Sonia,

      Thank you for reaching out! We suggest using the 4 cups of flour stated in the original recipe. Please disregard the comment as this was a change for her specific request to use 5 cups of flour. Thank you!

  7. Hi, this recipe looks really good but I want to bake a cake for my husband birthday and he’s really doesn’t like sweet stuff. Can I use 1 cup or 3/4 cup of sugar instead in this recipe? Thanks

    • Hi Jennifer! We don’t recommend decreasing the amount of sugar in this recipe because it’s part of that 1-2-3-4 ratio that’s essential to making this cake! You just need this precise amount of sugar when creaming with your butter to create the needed structure for the cake to rise and be fluffy and tender. We recommend working from a recipe that uses less sugar rather than removing sugar from this one. We hope this helps!

    • Hi Hollace! This is usually the case when your cake is underbaked. Always check for signs of doneness before removing your cake from the oven. The bake times we give you can vary depending on your oven, so we always recommend going by signs of doneness over bake time. If you insert a pick in the center of your cake, it should come out clean. Hope this helps!

  8. this cake…from my earliest memories of my mother’s kitchen, she used it for every cake variation. it came out in the old searchlight cookbooks and my mother used it with bananas and whipped cream for a banana cream layer cake. I’m so happy I found the precise recipe here (it’s now bookmarked). I don’t remember if she ever tired it in a pound cake pan, though. do you have any thoughts on using the batter this way?

    thanks again for this superior recipe

    • Hi EnCee,

      WONDERFUL! We love hearing stories like this. We haven’t yet tried this cake in a pound cake pan, but please let us know if you try it! Our only thoughts are to scale up or down appropriately depending on the pan size that you have.

  9. Hi, can i substitute butter with vegetable oil? If possible what is the ratio? Can I also use this to make a confetti cake for my baby?

    • Hi Catherine,

      Adding sprinkles shouldn’t be a problem! We have not tried substituting the butter with oil, and it would be more difficult to get the cake to be fluffy. When you whip butter with sugar, you are adding volume for the cake, which translates to a fluffy texture. We may recommend a butter-substitute like Earth Balance before using vegetable oil, but the conversion would be 12 tablespoons (168 grams) oil for every 1 cup (226 grams) butter. Hope this helps!

  10. Made this in one batch with the Epicurious all purpose flour substitute, took a bit more than 80 minutes in the oven. My mixer died after mixing the butter and sugar, I folded in the flour and milk by hand. I had to turn the tray halfway due to silly oven. Turned out great. Very consistent and forgiving recipe, thanks.

  11. I used this recipe and at the time I realized that I didn’t have any vanilla extract but I had some vanilla pudding and the cake came out so delicious my husband and I ate the whole thing in two days, He begged me to make another.

    • Hi Mary,

      Great idea! What size vanilla pudding mix box did you add? Also, did you add instant vanilla pudding or cook & serve vanilla pudding? This will be my first attempt at baking from scratch .

  12. How many cup cakes can I get from 3 cups cake flour and what temperature it should be
    left in the oven and approximately how long?
    Maybe someone else this is my first attempt.

  13. OMG. Was just making this cake and read
    “Stir together dry ingredients” so I did, WITH THE SUGAR!

    So I just added the flour, sugar, baking powder to the egg mixture. Don’t know if this will turn out okay.

    The cake is in the oven. Will it taste okay??

    • Hi Renee,

      I always think butter, sugar, and flour end up tasting ok no matter what… but I may be biased! How did it taste with this mix-up?

  14. Tried this Recipe ,the best cake ever. We did one with the milk and one without ,added a little cherry brandy, it was came out great . This is my old Home Econ recipe,I enjoyed making it. Thanks.

  15. Made this using lemon extract in place of vanilla extract, a little extra squirt of lemon juice, and because I’m at elevation I added two heaping spoonfuls of flour. Turned out wonderful topped with whipped cream and fruit!

    • I made this cake for my Moms b-day, she LOVED it! Great for a simple, easy, and fun recipe! Great to make with kids!

  16. Hi , generally I see butter milk to be added ? What if difference between adding milk and butter milk . Can you please explain .

  17. I followed the recipe to the letter and yet my cakes are only one in thick at best! I made it for my daddy’s 88 birthday tomorrow

    • Hi Mercy!

      It sounds like one of two things may be happening: the butter and sugar were not whipped long enough, or the ingredients were not room temperature before adding. Also, make sure you alternately add the liquid and dry ingredients, to prevent curdling in the batter.

    • Hi Jack!

      If you use salted butter, just note that the cake may taste a bit saltier than if you were to use unsalted. However, some people prefer salted butter in recipes, reducing the additional salt when called for. Since this recipe doesn’t call for salt, you can directly replace the unsalted butter.

    • Hi Jenn,

      This won’t be a problem! Whole milk will add a little more richness, but the cake will be excellent with low-fat milk as well.

    • Hi Ann,

      Thanks for reaching out! It is possible that the cake flour may make this a bit too tender for a Bundt pan, but we have not tested it yet. Make sure that you have a pan that is coated evenly with baking spray (not cooking spray), and coat the pan right before filling to ensure success. We have so many delectable Bundt cake recipes on our site and in The Bundt Collection cookbook by Brian Hart Hoffman! We recommend checking them out if you have the time. Happy baking!

    • Hi Jeanette,

      You most likely can make this substitution, just note that evaporated milk has stronger caramelized sensory notes and the proteins and sugars were changed with the heating process. This may lead to a result that tastes different and has a texture unlike the original recipe. We suspect that the changes will be minimal however!

  18. Hi! I made this recipe from the magazine, but the cake came out dry for some reason. Do you know what could have caused that?

    The strawberry buttercream came out awesome!

    • Hello!

      Thanks for reaching out! We have a couple recommendations when the cake comes out more dry than expected. First, brushing the layers with a basic simple syrup can help add moisture and will retain the moisture longer. Next, as a general rule, cakes can become more dry for the following reasons: under-whipping the sugar and butter. This stage incorporates air that lends to a fluffy cake, but also disperses the hygroscopic sugar appropriately throughout the batter. Next, adding ingredients that are not room temperature, such as eggs or dairy, can cause separation and deflation. Also, adding the flour and liquid too quickly can cause a batter to break, and over-mixing the batter when adding flour may also create a tough cake, as gluten will be formed. As you can see there are many factors that go into a moist, fluffy cake, but we recommend making sure that the butter and sugar are very fluffy, and the ingredients are room temperature!

    • Hi Paula,

      Thanks for reaching out! This recipe will fit into one 10x10x2 pan, but be aware that you may have up to 25% more batter. You will want to fill the pan no more than 2/3rds full, or reduce the recipe accordingly.

  19. I followed the recipe exactly, and it came out dry! (And I’m a baker, so I don’t know what happened!)
    Any ideas re: what might’ve gone wrong?

    Also – by my notes, 1 cup of sugar is 200g, so 2 cups would be 400g. However, this recipe indicates 2 cups at 370g. Isn’t that 30g short? I used 400g, so maybe that’s the problem (?)

    Thank you!

    • Hi Stefany,

      Thanks for reaching out! You are absolutely correct with the sugar. This recipe was developed before we switched the standard units of measure. You’ll find that most of our 1-2-3-4 cakes will list 400 grams of sugar, but the 30 gram difference in this original recipe will not make a major difference. We have a couple recommendations when the cake comes out more dry than expected. First, brushing the layers with a basic simple syrup can help add moisture and will retain the moisture longer. Next, as a general rule, cakes can become more dry for the following reasons: under-whipping the sugar and butter. This stage incorporates air that lends to a fluffy cake, but also disperses the hygroscopic sugar appropriately throughout the batter. Next, adding ingredients that are not room temperature, such as eggs or dairy, can cause separation and deflation. Also, adding the flour and liquid too quickly can cause a batter to break, and over-mixing the batter when adding flour may also create a tough cake, as gluten will be formed. As you can see there are many factors that go into a moist, fluffy cake, but we recommend making sure that the butter and sugar are very fluffy, and the ingredients are room temperature!

    • Hi Onyebuchi!

      If the sugar is reduced too much, the cake will lose color and moisture, and it will also become denser. The sugar creates networks of air within the batter, which makes a light and fluffy cake. The sugar also reacts with protein in a reaction that creates color and flavor. Lastly, sugar is hygroscopic (meaning it will pull in moisture) which keeps the cake moist overtime. Hope this helps! Happy baking!

    • Hi Cindy!

      Absolutely! Make sure the cake is wrapped tightly, as it can easily acquire flavors and aromas from the freezer if it exposed.

    • Hi Marinelli!
      We have not tested this particular recipe in a bundt pan, but we are all for experimenting. Looking at the volume, we suspect that it would be successful in a 10 cup Bundt pan. Just keep in mind that Bundt cakes are often more dense due to the volume of batter, and they often take much longer to bake. If you give it a try, bake at the same oven temperature, but check the cake at 45 minutes. Bake until until a cake tester comes out clean. We would love to hear how it turns out. Happy Baking!

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for reaching out! It all depends on how you cut the cake, but 9-inch cakes can yield approximately 10 to 18 servings.

  20. hello
    can this batter be devided into more than 1 round pan for layering?? i also saw above you changed the recepie is the one written the correct one? and can i use almond milk instead of milk
    1 cup unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups (370 grams) granulated sugar
    4 large eggs
    3 cups (300 grams) cake flour
    1 tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
    1 cup milk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    thank you.

    • Hi Molly,

      The batter is divided into 2 (9-inch) pans for a two-layer cake. Almond milk (room temperature) can usually be substituted, but be aware that results may vary!

    • Hi Jemimah,

      Thanks for reaching out! If you only have one cup of flour, you will need to divide every other ingredient by 3. I would then recommend using 1 (8-inch) round pan and filling it 2/3rds full, rather than 2 (9-inch) round pans.

  21. I used the recipe exact but it didn’t quite work out. The top of the cake was golden brown but the inside was liquid still. What do I do?

    • Hello Taylor,

      Thanks for reaching out! It sounds like the cake either needed to bake longer (until a wooden pick comes out clean), or perhaps the flour component was cut short. We recommend weighing ingredients to get the perfect measure. The other variable that we could potentially look at is oven temperature. If your oven is running too hot, then the outside will cook faster than the inside. To check oven temperature, you can pick up a small oven thermometer– they are usually pretty inexpensive (under $10). It’s hard to diagnose without being there, but I hope this helps!

    • Hi Dana,

      Thanks for reaching out! We would recommend brushing the layers with a basic simple syrup to add moisture. As a general rule, cakes can become more dry for the following reasons: under-whipping the sugar and butter (this stage incorporates air that lends to a fluffy cake) or adding ingredients that are not room temperature, such as eggs or dairy (which can cause separation and deflation). Also, adding the flour and liquid too quickly can cause a batter to break, and over-mixing the batter when adding flour may also create a tough cake, as gluten will be formed. As you can see there are many factors that go into a moist, fluffy cake, but we recommend making sure that the butter and sugar are very fluffy, and the ingredients are room temperature!

    • Hi Madhavi!

      The butter is necessary for the light crumb texture, the shelf-life, and also for adhering the cake together. The results would be poor if you reduce the butter to half, however, reducing the amount of icing may help with your taste.

  22. Can I use vegan butter and almond milk as a replacement? Also I want to use 3, 9-inch round pans to make a taller cake, should I double the recipe or triple it? Also I would like to add blueberries to the batter, would this be ok? Please let me know its my wedding anniversary thank you!

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for reaching out and we hope you have a happy wedding anniversary! Unfortunately, we have not tried these substitutions, so we can not say how it might turn out. We would recommend finding a tried-and-true dairy-free recipe if you are unable to test with these ingredients in time. Blueberries should be ok to add, however, take note that blueberries will often sink in the batter, baking on the bottom of the cake. For pan substitutions, we have an article that may help: https://www.bakefromscratch.com/popular_pan_conversions/

  23. Hello,
    Thank you for the recipe, I tried it and it was really good but I felt that I’ve put lots of butter. As I’m not used to use cup measurements, could you please precise the butter and the milk ingredients in grams/mL?
    Thank you so much!

  24. I made this recipe which does not have any salt. It was the worst texture ever, sunk in the middle and the taste was obviously missing that little bit of salt. I won’t make it without salt again

    • Hi BeBe,

      Thanks so much for your comments! We are so sorry you did not enjoy this recipe. For the cake sinking in the middle, there are several variables that can cause that scenario. I’ll list a few here in hopes that they help for future endeavors. Thanks again and happy baking!
      Incorrect oven temperature
      Underbaking the cake
      Expired baking powder
      Too much baking powder or baking soda
      Incorrect measurement of ingredients
      Opening the oven door too early
      Closing the oven door too sharply
      Overbeating the batter in the last stage
      Mixing the ingredients in the wrong order
      Incorrect moisture levels
      Incorrect pan size
      Cooling the cake too quickly
      Batter sitting too long before baking

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