Classic 1-2-3-4 Cake (With Variations) Recipe

4-3-2-1 Cake with Lemon

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Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 55 mins
Total: 70 mins
Servings: 12 to 16 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
402 Calories
17g Fat
60g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 16
Amount per serving
Calories 402
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 21%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Cholesterol 88mg 29%
Sodium 207mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 60g 22%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 39g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 81mg 6%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 68mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This cake gets its name from the ingredient quantities: 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs. Make this cake a few times and you won't need to look at the recipe.

The cake can be baked in layers or in a Bundt cake pan or tube cake pan.


  • 3 cups cake flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup (8-ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 4 large eggs

  • 3/4 cup milk

Glaze (Optional, for Bundt Cake or Tube Cake): 

  • 1/4 cup (2-ounces) unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • 2 tablespoons milk, or cream

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Cake

  1. Butter and flour a Bundt cake or (10-inch) tube cake pan or two 9-inch round cake pans (or three 8-inch round cake pans).

  2. Heat the oven to 350 F for Bundt or tube pan, or 375 F for layers.

  3. Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder; set aside.

  4. Cream the 1 cup of butter until light. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar; continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

  5. Add the sifted flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until the batter is smooth; do not overbeat.

  6. Turn into the prepared pan(s).

  7. Bake a tube or Bundt cake at 350 F for about 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until the cake bounces back when touched lightly with a finger. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes then carefully remove to cool on a rack.

  8. Bake layers at 375 F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched lightly with a finger.

Make the Glaze

  1. For a Bundt or tube cake glaze, combine the powdered sugar, melted butter, 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth; add more milk, as needed, for drizzling over the cake.

  2. If you made a layer cake, use your favorite frosting.

Recipe Variations

  • Orange Cake - Use orange juice in place of the milk and add 3 tablespoons of grated orange zest along with the vanilla. Glaze or frost as desired. This orange frosting would work well.
  • Bourbon Cake - Make the Orange Cake variation in a Bundt or tube cake pan. In a saucepan combine 4 tablespoons of butter with 2/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of bourbon. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Gradually brush over the cake as soon as it is removed to the cooling rack.
  • Lemon Cake - Add 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest with vanilla or lemon extract. In a saucepan combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup of water, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Brush over the hot cake a little at a time until it is all used.

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