Friday, September 21, 2012

All Scratch Yellow Cake

When making cakes I've always used cake mix for the actual cake spending more of my time on making the fillings, buttercreams and glazes from scratch. Seriously, cake is just a delivery medium for frosting and filling as far as I'm concerned. Duncan Hines mixes are my favorite. I've tried other brands but I just don't like them as much. And when you have some elaborate decorating to do, mixes just save time. I also think they taste pretty good. I've had no complaints. All that being said, I've always felt that I should migrate towards making the cakes from scratch as well. 

After the success of the Blue Velvet cupcakes (the cake was so moist and flavorful) I though I'd give another scratch cake recipe a try. I had seen Bakerella's post about the perfect moist yellow cake and decided that was as good a place as any to get started. Because I wanted the whole cake to be "from scratch"* I paired it with a fudgy homemade chocolate icing. A classic All American Cake. Not a fancy schmancy bakery cake but one like your grandma might have made back in the day. See what you think.
*My son quickly pointed out that it wasn't ALL from scratch because I didn't make the sprinkles. Can you forgive me?

Here's whatcha need to get started: butter (at room temperature), sugar, whole milk, eggs, self-rising flour, vanilla extract and butter flavoring.

Start by greasing (I use Crisco) your pans. Line the bottoms with parchment, grease the parchment then dust with flour. (See this post for more on pan prep.) The recipe called for 3 8-inch pans but I only have 2, so I used this one oval pan.

Be sure to sift your flour before measuring.

Start by creaming the butter until it's light and fluffy. You can use the whisk or paddle attachment. Add the sugar and cream for about 7 minutes. The mixture should be very light in color. Go the full 7 minutes, this incorporates lots air so you get a light and fluffy cake.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.

Next alternate adding flour and milk. Start with a cup of flour and mix well, then. . .

1/2 cup milk. Mix well. Then another cup of flour, mix; the remaining milk, mix; then end with the last cup of flour, mixing until you have a nice smooth batter. Be careful not to over mix.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and level out with an offset spatula. Whack the bottom of the pan on the counter a couple of times to settle the batter and force any bubbles to the top. I'm also using the bake even strips for a more even rise to the cakes but that's optional.

Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes at 350F. I actually went 35 minutes because of the bake even strips. Just test for doneness with a toothpick. Let the layers cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes.

Remove from the pans and immediately wrap in plastic wrap. I ran out of plastic wrap so I turned to my old friend, wax paper, to finish the job. Let the wrapped layers cool completely on a wire rack. After they cooled, I wrapped the oval layer tightly in more plastic wrap (I went to the store.) and parked it in the freezer for another time. I put the two round layers in the fridge. The cake turned out so moist that it almost fell apart. Refrigerating the layers firms them up a bit and makes them easier to frost.

I went with this recipe because it came up first when I Googled "fudge icing". I'm still not a fan of powdered sugar/butter based icings but I wanted to keep this cake simple. And this icing is simple. First sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa.

Then add the butter, milk and vanilla and whip until light and fluffy. It's about as easy as you can get.

Put a small dab of icing on your plate and lay down the first cake layer. Spread with about 1/3 cup of icing and place the 2nd layer on top. Then ice away. Don't get fancy. I just used a plain old rubber spatula to spread the icing. The recipe makes just enough for a two layer cake.

All and all this cake was pretty easy to make and tasted good. I though the butter flavoring was a bit overwhelming and gave the cake an "artificial" flavor. I'd probably leave it out next time and increase the vanilla a bit. I also didn't like that it used self-rising flour. Until this cake, I'd never used it before and now I'm left with almost a whole bag of it to try and use up. It was nice and moist and delivered on that promise but, I'm not sure that it's all that much better than Duncan Hines Yellow Cake. For now I think I'll stick to a mix. My husband and kids remarked right away about how much they liked the icing. I thought the frosting was good, but honestly I really prefer Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. You just can't beat the texture. But I'm kind of picky when it comes to icing. 

Here are the links to the recipes:

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