1-2-3-4 CAKE IS A CLASSIC!

1-2-3-4 Cake - The Southern Lady Cooks

1-2-3-4 Cake is a classic that 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.  I can remember my mother making this 1-2-3-4 cake when I was young.  Try this cake on your friends and family for a delicious treat they will love. 1-2-3-4 cake recipe will quickly become one you go to time and again.  You can use any kind of frosting on this cake and I have added all kinds of ingredients for variety.

1-2-3-4 Cake Simple Ingredients Needed:

Butter

White granulated sugar

Eggs

All-purpose flour or you can use cake flour, too.

Salt

Baking powder

Milk

Vanilla extract

Almond extract

Easy Chocolate Frosting Ingredients Needed:

Butter 

Powdered sugar (not granulated)

Vanilla extract

100% cocoa

Milk (You can use more or less milk to get the consistency you like in the frosting)

As you can see this cake is made with simple ingredients and the amount of each the eggs, flour, sugar and butter is where it gets its name.

Please remember that all ovens vary so don’t overcook your cake. Test it and make sure it’s done but don’t over cook it. Also, don’t over mix the cake, which is also a reason why cakes turn out dry. The ingredients are over mixed. 


“This cake had the perfect old fashioned church potluck flavor! Moist tender and delicious. I used buttercream frosting, but I was tempted to poke warm chocolate sauce on it and let it melt through. I just don’t see how anyone can get this wrong. Room temp, measure all items before mixing, and stir dry ingredients together. 250 stars and up!” G.King

“This is a classic recipe. When I think of a traditional birthday cake, this cake is it. It’s the best.” – Christy

“Easy cake to make with a nice texture. I am not a fan of chocolate cake or icing, but really liked this icing. The icing is what makes this cake.” – Marsha

“My grandmother, my mother and all of my aunts always made this cake. The only difference was, my mother used 1 Tablespoon of vanilla instead of any almond. I have been making this cake all my life also. It is just a wonderful tasting yellow cake. We have always loved it! My daughter now makes this cake for her family, either in cake form or cupcakes. So now we have 4 generations using this recipe for a delicious cake.” – Peggy


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

1-2-3-4 Cake - The Southern Lady Cooks

1-2-3-4 Cake - The Southern Lady Cooks

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1-2-3-4 Cake

The Southern Lady Cooks
This cake is a classic that has been handed down from generation to generation. It's a wonderful cake to take to any gathering.
4.87 from 29 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Cake
Cuisine American
Servings 1 cake

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Easy Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter or1/2 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Chocolate Frosting Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients with mixer. Spread on cake.

Notes

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.
Keyword 1-2-3-4 Cake
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Recipe Rating




67 Comments

  1. I look forward to all your recipes. Yes brings memories to my child hood also and family gatherings. Thank you. Always showering us with lovely delcious quick
    Recipes from the heart. Amen5 stars

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      We are thrilled you enjoy them!

  2. Diane, mississippi says:

    This is one of our all-time favorite cakes!! I usually make it as a layer cake but tried the 9×13 pan this time to save time and it came out just as scrumptious! It has such a soft, tender crumb and the chocolate frosting complements just perfectly. I didn’t use almond extract, just increased the vanilla.5 stars

  3. Jan Berger says:

    The 1 2 3 4 cake recipe I believe was in my mother’s 1920 cookbook. It makes a great strawberry shortcake. That’s what we usually use it for. Just mix the strawberries with sugar. Let sit until you have a nice juice. Poke the cake with a knife and pour the juice over the cake.5 stars

  4. This cake had the perfect old fashioned church potluck flavor! Moist tender and delicious. I used buttercream frosting, but I was tempted to poke warm chocolate sauce on it and let it melt through. I just don’t see how anyone can get this wrong. Room temp, measure all items before mixing, and stir dry ingredients together. 250 stars and up!5 stars

    1. My cake was so dry Everything was room temp and I used sifted cake flour. I had to throw out no one in family liked it. What did I do wrong?

      1. Doris Summers says:

        #1 You don’t sift cake flour.
        #2 You probably overbeat it when you used sifted cake flour.
        #3 When you have used the sifted cake flour, most likely then you even over cooked
        it. Just my opinion.
        I have made so many of these cakes, but never used cake flour. My mother-in-law always had this at Christmas, but we used fresh coconut with white 7 minute frosting. People loved this cake.

  5. Christy S says:

    This is a classic recipe. When I think of a traditional birthday cake, this cake is it. It’s the best.5 stars

  6. Easy cake to make with a nice texture. I am not a fan of chocolate cake or icing, but really liked this icing. The icing is what makes this cake.5 stars

  7. Can I use reg salted butter? It’s all I have. Would I leave out the salt if I use regular salted butter?

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      Yes, just leave out the salt in the recipe and it should be fine.

  8. My grandmother, my mother and all of my aunts always made this cake. The only difference was, my mother used 1 Tablespoon of vanilla instead of any almond. I have been making this cake all my life also. It is just a wonderful tasting yellow cake. We have always loved it! My daughter now makes this cake for her family, either in cake form or cupcakes. So now we have 4 generations using this recipe for a delicious cake.5 stars

  9. Krissy Slaton says:

    Very easy! Love the addition o f the almond extract BUT my husband says it has a different crumb that it seems to be a little dense. Could that be because I over mixed it?

  10. The Southern Lady says:

    If your cake was dry then you clearly baked it too long or you over-mixed the batter. I’m so sorry you had trouble with this recipe but the 1-2-3-4 cake has been around for at least 50 years, it is a wonderful dessert and has fantastic reviews. Every recipe is not for everyone.

  11. This recipe takes me back to a very happy childhood! It also reminds me of a delicious cake our school lunch ladies used to make back in the day! Thank you. I can’t wait to make this

  12. Hi! Can U Use This Receipe for3 8 inch pans?

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      Yes, that should work fine, I would just watch the baking time. Thanks!

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      I have never made this cake any way except the recipe, Regina. You might just use the search box and put in chocolate cake and make one of the chocolate cakes on the site.

  13. Jackie Spears says:

    Ian going to try this right away.

  14. Can i use whole chocolate milk??

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      You can try it!

  15. Pamela Graham says:

    I have used this recipe for cupcakes also. My mother had a secret “extra step” she took that makes this turn out even better. She separated the egg yolks and whites, then beat the whites until they were fluffy. She folded these i as the last step before pouring into pan. Makes a tremendous difference.5 stars

    1. Pamela, so your mom beat in the yolks 1st with everything, and then beat tge egg whites before folding them in? Or did she eliminate the yolks altogether and just used the egg whites in the recipe?
      Thank you for sharing that tip. ☺

      1. Doesn’t look like Pamela answered you, but I for sure think she meant what you said in your first sentence……beat in the yolks with sugar and butter, then beat whites before folding them in as the last step before pouring batter into pan.

  16. Chrys Foxdale says:

    I came across this recipe a few days ago, and saved it. Tonight, I was just craving something different, so I made a 1/2 cake. WONDERFUL ! Moist, light, lovely golden top.
    Couldn’t wait, and hubby and I ate half of it still warm, no frosting.

    I left out the almond, and doubled the vanilla, but that was the only change. Baked in an 8×8 for just about 30 minutes.
    I think next time I might line the pan with wax or parchment paper, as it stuck badly on the bottom, but that might have been too long a cooling or not enough pan-grease.5 stars

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      So glad you enjoyed this great cake! It’s one of our favorites too 🙂

  17. I realize this comment is well over a year old. But maybe someone will be here now and find this useful. For baking, you can try one of the the following substitutions.

    1/4 applesauce for each egg.
    Or
    1/4 mashed banana for each egg.
    Or
    1 tbsp ground flax seed plus 3 tbsp water for each egg. Mix until it’s fully absorbed and about the consistency of egg whites.

  18. Rebecca Dees says:

    I’m going to make this today! Just curious if there is a big difference in using evaporated milk instead of milk?

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      You can use regular milk. Evaporated milk has some of the water removed and is creamier, that’s all. I keep it on hand for if I run out of regular milk and use it in a lot of recipes.

  19. I made the 1234 cake today using the recipe provided, however, while bring tasty, the cake did not come out moist at all. Any suggestions on how to avoid it coming out dry? (My mom used to make this cake and I was addicted to it)

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      It sounds like you may have cooked it too long Jolene. Ovens do vary sometimes in temperature. Try cooking less time or even add a little more liquid to the recipe. Hope this helps.

  20. I haven’t thought about this recipe for years. Growing up in Kentucky, Mama use to make these for us in the 50’s and 60’s, and feeding and cooking for 7 people, she would probably make at least 4 of these a week. She used what she had on hand, and made this a very versatile recipe. If she were out of cocoa, she’d have to figure out what to do with it. Shortcakes, fried apples or peaches, fruit cocktail…brown sugar or vanilla icing, made cupcakes from it too. Marble cake. One of my favorites was when she made butterscotch pudding, poked holes in the cake, after it cooled and then pored the pudding over it and refrigerated it overnight. She was also a big fan of using evaporated milk when cooking or baking. Thanks for the memories. I’m baking one tomorrow after seeing your recipe. Love your recipes!5 stars

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      Thank you so much for sharing with us, Daisy. These old recipes do bring back lots of good memories. Always happy to hear from another Kentuckian and happy to have you on our site. Hope you have a great weekend and week ahead.

  21. Curious if you have ever made this using an egg substitute. My grandmother always made a 1-2-3-4 cake. It’s the only thing we make! However my newest granddaughter is allergic to eggs. I am forever desperately trying to adapt this recipe. So far they have been either to moist in the center and/doesn’t rise in the center. I have been so fed up with all the different trials. There had been many! This last time I used for #1 egg-1t baking soda+1T vinegar; #2 egg- 1/4c greed yogurt; #3&4 eggs mixture of egg replacer 2T whipped with aquafaba 6T.
    It turned out a lot less moist in center but didn’t rise as much as needed. Any suggestions???

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      Sorry, I have never made it using an egg substitute, Vicki, but am posting your comment on the site and maybe someone else will see this and help you out.

  22. The Southern Lady says:

    Yes, you do. Add whatever the recipe calls for, Carolyn.

  23. Carmen Moore says:

    Made this and loved it!!5 stars

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  24. 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.5 stars

  25. Can you use buttermilk in this recipe?

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      I have not tried it with buttermilk but I see no reason why you couldn’t.

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

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

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      Because of the ingredients. 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs.

  28. 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?

    1. 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.

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

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      I think you could use either, Sherry.

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

      2. 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.

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

    1. 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.

  31. 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!

    1. 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.

  32. 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 🙂

    1. 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.

  33. 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!

    1. The Southern Lady says:

      Thank you Jamie. So happy to have you on the site and happy you and hubby enjoy the recipes.

  34. 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

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

  36. I just made this today. Sure tastes a lot better than a cake from a boxed mix.5 stars

  37. 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!

  38. 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.

  39. Love this recipe, I like to splash the almond extract in last. It just takes this cake to a new level.5 stars

  40. 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.

    1. You have my mouth watering! Mudt make this cake this week!