Well it looks like we're batting two for two with this cake so far and another one set up for January when my younger son turns four. Admittedly the almost four year old could care less what's under the frosting as long as I load the top up with dump trucks and rescue vehicles as he's requested. But boy do we chow down on this cake whenever I make it.
I was on one of my odd little pointless google searches one night. Sometimes with no occasion or purpose in sight I'll will go on the search for a specific recipe. That night I was looking for the perfect yellow cake. I didn't want to deal with only using egg yolks since I have this little OCD/symmetry issue with keeping unmatched egg parts in the freezer. Until I find the perfect recipe that will use the other egg whites in direct proportion to the ones I stash then I refuse to put in regular rotation a recipe that requires only the egg yolks. Okay, go ahead and laugh. We all have our ticks (or at least that's what I like to tell myself).
Whenever I search for recipes there are a few terms/forums that call to me in the middle of a page full of results from google. Anything from Chowhound, eGullet, the NY Times food section, Cook's Illustrated forums, Cooking Light forums, Cooking for Engineers and some other well written blogs means I automatically click through. In my search for a perfect yellow cake that would be easy to throw together, taste like an authentic birthday cake and would leave me with no mismatched egg parts I found the Restaurant Eve recipe mentioned on Chowhound and clicked through to the Washington Post article featuring this well recommended confection. I finally got to give it a whirl for the baby's birthday since at the tender age of one she really had no preference for her birthday cake flavor. It was a hit! The kids loved it as did Mr. Maricucu and I. My then five year old immediately proclaimed that this was to be his birthday cake too. Still a hit and we can't get enough of it. This is not a fancy cake to gussy up with brandy and hazelnuts or intricate sugarwork. It's an earnestly sweet, buttery, yet tender yellow cake with a heady vanilla scent that will definitely take you back to the prebakery days of birthday cakes.
adapted from Restaurant Eve
2 sticks butter - 8 oz, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk - you could get away with lowfat but substitute nonfat milk at your own peril.
Before you start mixing, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep two nine inch round cake pans. I typically coat them in a heavy layer of palm oil (aka organic shortening) then dust in flour.
Next place your sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in the mixer's bowl. A word about measuring flour. When I bake bread I use a scale but when I'm using smaller amounts of flour like for a cake, biscuits or pie crust I use measuring cups. Most people scoop the flour with their measuring cup and then plop it in the bowl. Doing this, you'll end up with almost half a cup more of flour per scoop and a tough cake. Instead, with a large spoon or scoop fluff flour into your measuring cup then sweep across the surface of the cup to level the flour as shown here on the King Arthur Flour site. You'll have a more accurate measure and thus more tender cake.
Mix the dry ingredients on low then slowly drizzle in the butter. Once you're done adding the butter, scrape up the sides and bottom of the bowl, then give it another minute to mix.
The ingredients in the bowl should now resemble course ground corn meal or a fine crumb topping. This cake uses the two-stage method of mixing vs. the creaming method like my poundcake. The dry ingredients are mixed with the melted butter and then the eggs/milk beaten in last. This step of mixing in the butter first coats the flour and prevents it from forming gluten in the final batter, thus a tender cake. I love the science of cooking. Understanding the why and how allows you to tweak recipes to your advantage.
Now the wet ingredients. In a measuring cup mix the milk, eggs and vanilla.
With the mixer still on low, add your wet ingredients a third at a time.
At first, the batter will look absolutely wrong. Goopy, slightly separated and oily. Not too appetizing but we're not done yet. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Crank the mixer up to medium-high and let the batter whip for about 2-3 minutes or until it's fluffy, lighter in color and smooth.
See? Now that's cake batter. The siren call of all beings under five feet tall in my home.
Divide the batter equally between your two pans, smoothing the tops.
Then tuck them into the oven for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mmmmmmm. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then run a knife around the edges and flip over onto cooling racks to cool completely.
Moist, sweet cake. Beware stealthy hands that like to appropriate cake pieces.
Next up, what I did for a cheater's frosting.