Yellow cake gets its color from egg yolks.

Am I Supposed to Use Water When Baking a Yellow Cake?

by Rachel Lovejoy

Most standard yellow cake batters need some type of liquid to moisten their ingredients and bind them together. While packaged yellow cake mixes usually call for water instead of other liquids, you should use whatever liquid is called for in the recipe if you are baking a yellow cake from scratch, as milk provides certain substances already contained in cake mixes.

Yellow Cake Description

Cakes are categorized in several different ways, including how they are baked, types and amount of ingredients, and the color of their batter. A standard yellow cake is produced from a flour and shortening-based batter that uses whole eggs. The batter is a pale yellow color that deepens slightly during baking, producing a finished outer crust that is a bright golden-yellow. As opposed to angel food batter or a white batter that uses only the egg whites to produce a pure white cake, the yolks in the eggs are what give yellow cake its distinctive color. The butter or butter-flavored solid shortening used to bake a homemade yellow cake also contribute to its color.


Recipes for basic homemade yellow cakes generally call for milk as the moistening ingredient, but this varies greatly depending upon the recipe. Yogurt, sour cream, heavy and light cream, or half-and-half may also be used based on the instructions for the particular cake you are baking. While yogurt and sour cream can sometimes be used interchangeably due to their flavor and texture similarities, substituting heavy cream for milk may produce a denser cake. You can use canned milk directly from the can or dilute it using a ratio of 1 part milk to 1 part water. Mix powdered milk according to package directions before adding it to your batter. Yellow cake recipes also sometimes call for other liquids, such as juices or liqueurs, that impart a particular flavor to the batter.


Yellow cake can also be baked as a pound cake, which traditionally calls for 1 pound each of basic ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar and eggs. This combination results in a heavier, denser cake with a fine texture obtained from longer beating. Most basic yellow pound cakes rely on the traditionally basic ingredients and contain no leavening agents or liquids. While many of these recipes provide moisture in the form of the eggs and butter, others do call for milk, which is usually added toward the end with any liquid flavorings such as vanilla or almond extract. Other liquid ingredients often called for in yellow pound cakes include cream cheese, liqueurs or juices.

Cake Mixes

Many packaged cake mixes contain all of the necessary basic dry ingredients and generally only need the addition of oil, eggs and water. Yellow cake mix is composed of flour, sugar, shortening, food thickeners such as cellulose gum, leavening agents such as baking powder or baking soda, cornstarch, salt and food coloring. The oil and eggs act as binders to hold the batter together, and the water supplies the moisture. You can substitute other liquids for the water in a yellow cake mix, such as skim, low-fat, whole milk, buttermilk, or light, medium or heavy cream, as long as you use the same amount. You can also use juice as long as it's fresh and not concentrated, as the methyl silicone in frozen juice may interfere with the cake rising.

About the Author

Rachel Lovejoy has been writing professionally since 1990 and currently writes a weekly column entitled "From the Urban Wilderness" for the Journal Tribune in Biddeford, Maine, as well as short novellas for Amazon Kindle. Lovejoy graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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