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1-2-3-4 Cake is a classic that has been handed down from generation to generation.

1-2-3-4 cake

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 is an old-fashioned classic.

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.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
    1/4 mashed banana for each egg.
    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.

  4. Suzanne Newsom says:

    1234 cake was printed in 1928 Southern Cooking cookbook by Mrs. S. R. Dull. Mrs. Dull was Home Economics editor for the Atlanta Journal Sunday magazine. Mama said she thought the recipe may have originated at the company that made Swans Down cake flour. I have no idea. All I know is Swans Down make any good cake better.

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

    • 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.

  6. 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)

    • 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.

  7. 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!

    • 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.

  8. 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???

    • 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.

  9. If you use cake flour do you still add baking powder and salt?

  10. Made this and loved it!!

  11. 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.

  12. Can you use buttermilk in this recipe?

  13. 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.

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

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

  16. 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.

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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

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

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

  26. 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!

  27. 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.

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

  29. 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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