Classic 1,2,3,4 Cake TSLC

This Classic 1,2,3,4 Cake has been handed down from generation to generation.  It is a wonderful basic recipe that is good for any occasion such as holidays, birthdays and anytime you just want a good cake.

1 cup butter or two sticks or 16 tablespoons ( I use sweet cream butter that is unsalted)

2 cups white granulated sugar

4 eggs

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour or you can use cake flour, too. (Sift the flour first and then measure 3 cups. If using cake flour, sift it, too.)

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract



Cream butter and sugar with mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Sift the flour you have already sifted again with the salt and baking powder. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract to the creamed eggs and sugar.  Alternately add milk and flour to eggs and mix just until everything is wet.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Add your cake mixture.  Cook in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until brown on top and tests done in middle. Let cool before frosting.  This cake is traditionally baked in three 9 inch cake pans for about 20 minutes per layer.  You can do it in the cake pans or in a bundt pan, too. It will take about 40 minutes in a bundt pan. Frost with your favorite frosting or the frosting recipe below.  Enjoy!


Classic 1,2,3,4 Cake - TSLC


1  stick butter or margarine or 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons, softened

3 cups powdered sugar (not granulated)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup 100% cocoa

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (You can use more or less milk to get the consistency you like in the frosting)

Mix all ingredients with mixer.  Spread on cake.  Makes enough for 1 cake.  You can double the recipe.

If you like this recipe, you might also like my recipe for German Chocolate Cake.

Be sure and PIN for later: the-southern-lady-cooks-classic-1234-cake



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  1. I have made this cake several times and when I made it today I put three sticks of butter in on accident. Scatter brained! It came out awesome though! Love your site and thank you for sharing all of your lovely recipes.

  2. Can you use buttermilk in this recipe?

  3. My sister made 1,2,3, 4 cake for years. Need to check with her to see if this is the same one. Have lost so many of my recipes.

  4. Can’t wait to make this simple cake. Sounds delicious! TY

  5. Will try, but why is this called 1-2-3-4 cake?

  6. Thanks for the delicious recipe!! When you use milk in your recipes, do you use whole milk? Or does it matter? What about fat free?

    • The Southern Lady says:

      I usually use 2 per cent unless I use evaporated milk. If I use anything other than the 2 per cent I will say so. I never use fat free. Hope this helps and happy to have you on the site, Jane.

  7. Can I use sweet ground cocoa or do I need the unsweetened?

    • The Southern Lady says:

      I think you could use either, Sherry.

      • Would I need to cut back on sugar since cocoa has sugar in it?

      • The Southern Lady says:

        Since the recipe calls for powdered sugar and not granulated sugar, if you cut back on the powdered sugar it won’t make as much frosting. You could probably cut back a little but not much. Maybe 1/4 cup.

  8. Question: I would like to make this cake in one round pan. Which size round pan should I use? Thank you.

    • The Southern Lady says:

      You would have to cut the batter in half if you make it in a regular sized 8 or 9 inch round cake pan. It would be too much batter for one.

  9. I make this cake often. I call it the 1-1-2-3-4 cake because there is 1 cup of butter and 1cup of milk. Liquid non-dairy creamer works for the milk if you are lactose intolerant. I make icing with chocolate chips.

  10. I’ve never made a cake from scratch but I made this along with your caramel frosting and my family was blown away! I’m so glad to have found your website. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipes. Im also making your Brown Sugar Meatloaf as we speak. My husband is a very happy man and he thanks you as well!

    • The Southern Lady says:

      So happy you all are enjoying the recipes, Kenya. Thank you for letting me know and hope you continue to enjoy. Have a great week.

  11. Does the cake need to be refrigerated, I never know with milk being in the frosting. I’m baking the cake now to take on our family camping trip! What a special treat for my boys 🙂

    • The Southern Lady says:

      I have refrigerated this cake. I have left it out a couple days in cool spot, too. You can refrigerate it if you want.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipes. I have found so many of my husbands favorites that he remembers from his childhood in the 1950s and 60s. He grew up in very rural communities, Blue John and Sloan’s Valley, in Pulaski County Kentucky near Somerset. We went there on our honeymoon four years ago. My folks are from Tennessee and some recipes I remember my Mother making. Thank you again for sharing!

  13. debbie ann says:

    Yum, this reminds me of my Grandma’s cake she made for our birthdays. I enjoy all your recipes so much. Real food for real people! thanks Debbie Ann

  14. hmmmm can you say Every Day is a Holiday Cake??? MMMM definitely going to make this very soon. Thanks for sharing

  15. I just made this today. Sure tastes a lot better than a cake from a boxed mix.

  16. Chiming in to say that I LOVE COLD CAKE. It’s seriously one of my favorite things on earth. 🙂

    I’ve pinned this for the next occasion on which I need a cake. It looks and sounds delicious!

  17. I am going to go make this cake right now. Judy, I LOVE your site and I have made many of your recipes. Please keep up the great work.

  18. Love this recipe, I like to splash the almond extract in last. It just takes this cake to a new level.

  19. Martha Simpson says:

    My go-to recipe! Excellent with chocolate frosting, 7 minute frosting with coconut sprinkled on (and lemon curd between the layers), caramel, banana-you name it. I grew up with this recipe in the 50s and 60s. My mother made it almost every Saturday.

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