Perfect Vanilla Cake
This is my inspiration for this blog, finding the perfect vanilla cake. I decided to approach it as logically as I could: different vanilla cakes with 2 or three different ingredients to make them special, from sources that were excellent. The first was Best Yellow Layer Cake by Smitten Kitchen (one of MY favorite blogs), Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Birthday Cake and Frosting (Magnolia’s being one of the most famous bakeries around) and Rose’s Favorite Yellow Layer Cake (Rose Levy Beranbaum the authority on cake and who wrote the Cake Bible, this recipe is from her website).
Smitten Kitchen’s cake had sour cream, cake flour and just egg yolks, Magnolia’s had self rising flour (something I never use, but was curious about) and milk, and Rose’s cake had sour cream, cake flour and just egg yolks. Rose’s cake also mixed very differently: adding the butter and egg yolks last instead of my usual butter/eggs/sugar first until light and fluffy and then adding alternately dry and wet ingredients until just mixed. So the baking and tasting began. I made all 3 in one day, this was very exciting, I felt like a test kitchen! After I was finished I knew which one I liked but I was curious on what other people might think.
My auto mechanic is right down the road and several times I have brought him Pound Cake or Coffee Cake because he’s been so helpful to us. I decided to use him and his employees (all of whom are male) as a testing ground during their coffee break and brought them 1/2 of each cake labeling them A, B, and C. They were more than happy to help me out, of course! I told them to be honest and let me know which one they liked. The next day I got the results: boy was I surprised.! They liked C the best; B second and A the worst ( which they said seemed a bit burnt, though my mechanic liked it best) Very interesting.
I was also keeping my daughter (who lives and works in Boston) informed of all that was going on and decided after this first test that I would send her and her co-workers (all female) 1/2 of each cake as well, labeled the same (A,B & C) to see what they thought! I also told my daughter to save some of each for her fiance so he could taste test as well. So I packed the cakes up as carefully as I could and sent them UPS to arrive the next day. The next day, after lunch, my daughter told me they had received the cakes and all agreed that they liked Cake A the best! Then she took them home where her fiance declared that he too liked A the best!
I concluded that I liked A the best as well. Cake A was the Perfect Vanilla Cake. Not to keep you in suspense any further: Cake A was Best Yellow Layer Cake by Smitten Kitchen!! Below is the recipe. I also encourage you to go on her site as well. She is an excellent writer and she tests her recipes very thoroughly. Enjoy!!
Best Yellow Layer Cake (adapted from www.smittenkitchen.com)
Yield: Two 9-inch round cakes.
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut circles of parchment paper or waxed paper to fit two 9-inch round cake pans. Spray pans with canola oil, put waxed paper onto pans. Spray pan again with canola oil. Put a small amount of flour in each pan, and shake the pan carefully until it is evenly coated with flour, including the sides. Tap out excess. (If you can, to speed this process up, you can also just spray with a flour/butter mixture, available in most bakery sections of grocery stores. The parchment paper or waxed paper still needs to be used.)
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Put eggs and vanilla in another small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale, light and fluffy. Add eggs with vanilla, 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk alternately with flour mixture in 3 batches, until just incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pans. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. (try 30 min first: every oven is different) Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.