My cake quest continues and today’s adventure comes from Smitten Kitchen.  I get the sense that this may be Deb’s go to recipe for yellow cake.  And from the looks of the comments, many kitchens are giving this recipe a try.

I have no doubt that Smitten Kitchen rocked this cake.  And if she presented me with with the Best Birthday Cake straight from her kitchen, I’m sure it would be divine.  But my attempt was a little less heavenly.  For reasons that may have everything to do with me and nothing to do with the recipe, I thought it was a little on the dry side.  Damn you Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker for your artificial moistness.  Not even brushing simple syrup over the cooled layers brought any additional moisture to the final cake.  But I’m sure it didn’t hurt either.  And who knows, maybe if I had used more it would have had a greater impact.

Even employing her tip of cooking the cake at a slightly lower temperature for just a little longer to try and avoid uneven, domey layers, I got one honking big cake.  As I peeked through the oven door and saw the batter perilously close to spilling out, I had visions of scraping burnt batter off the bottom of my oven.  That is not my idea of fun.  Thankfully, there was no spillage and no scraping.

Deb, I do heart you but I’m going to keep searching for a yellow cake that knocks my socks off.  I’ve got my eye on a Cook’s  Illustrated yellow cake recipe from a recent episode of America’s Test Kitchen.  The  preparation is a little fussier but at this point, what do I have to lose?  I wonder how long I should wait before I ask my coworkers to polish off yet another cake?

Smitten Kitchen’s Best Yellow Layer Cake

Smitten Kitchen

According to Smitten Kitchen, this recipe will yield two 9 inch round, 2 inch tall layers or approximately 20 – 24 cupcakes or two 8 inch square layers or a 9×13 single layer cake.  Yikes.  She does the math so you don’t have to…thanks Deb.

  • 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk, well shaken

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment.  Then butter parchment.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.  At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined.  The mixture is supposed to look curdled.  Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing just until each addition is incorporated.

Spread batter evenly into cake pans, rapping pans on the counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes.  Invert cake onto rack and discard parchment.  Cool completely, at least one hour before frosting.

{Printable Recipe}

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

Smitten Kitchen’s Adaptation of The Dessert Bible Recipe

This is similar to the chocolate frosting I made after reading Cooking for Mr. Latte.  This variation has light corn syrup.  Of the two, I liked the CfML better.  It seemed to be a bit moister and I thought it had a better overall flavor.  Just remember that you want your sour cream to warm to room temperature and your melted chocolate to cool until tepid before you mix them together.

  • 15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (if you’re like me and use the 8 ounce Ghirardelli bars, save those last two squares for snacking on later)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 1/4 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder (if using) in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water.  Stir until chocolate is melted.  Remove from heat and let chocolate cool completely.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, and vanilla extract until combined.  Add the cooled chocolate slowly and stir to combine.  Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until you get the desired sweetness.

If necessary, cool the frosting in the refrigerator until it reaches a spreadable consistency (mine was ready to use without any time in the fridge), this should not take more than 30 minutes or so.  Should the frosting become too stiff, leave it out to soften.

{Printable Recipe}

14 thoughts on “Cakey

  1. It’s really not as wrong as it sounds.

    It’s fudgier than ganache and sturdier than buttercream. And it’s not tangy like you might imagine. But like I said in the Note, this frosting was on the dry side for my liking.

    My current favorite recipe for chocolate frosting will be up next month.

    1. Thanks Liz (or do you prefer Elizabeth?). I couldn’t believe how thickly I got that frosting on. That alone was worth the effort.

  2. hmm…i’ve made this twice now (once as cupcakes, once as a layer cake) and I thought it was moist-enough both times, although it did have an interesting crumb (almost like cornbread more than a regular cake). But people LOVED it. I thought it was okay. I did really like the sour cream icing, especially after it had 12 hours to sit.

    1. Beth, yes the crumb is kind of cornbready. Thanks for the description assist. Sometimes I forget how to use my words…bad for a blogger.

  3. I just thought of something else–do you have the sky high cookbook? I made their basic yellow butter cake as a base for a baby shower cake earlier this summer, and I think it’s actually better than this recipe. Just an idea for the quest!

    1. Sky High Cookbook is not part of my library….must investigate, thanks for the tip.

      What was the other cookbook that you were talking about Friday? Baked, does that sound right?

      I struggle with cookbooks. I get them, then I don’t use them or do use them and am seriously disappointed (I’m STILL looking at you Warren Brown). Then I end up looking like a cookbook hoarder because it’s hard to come to peace with getting rid of them.

  4. Sky High is all layer cakes, all the time. so it’s sort of a specialty cookbook, but if you do a lot a lot of party cakes, it’s totally worth it. the only recipe from it I have on the blog is the chocolate butter birthday cake, but I’ve made a lot of cakes from it and they’ve all been fantastic.

    Baked was the other cookbook 🙂

    Don’t even get me started on Warren Brown…

    1. Thanks Beth, I’ll have to search 990 Square for the cbbc post. 99% of my baking ends up at the office. I’m not sure the coworkers could take a steady deluge of triple layer cakes.

      My Warren Brown and general cookbook sagas were chronicled over at my old blog – Exit 51. Here’s some links:

      Starting in January, I’m doing Flashback Fridays where I move Exit 51 over to BAH one post at a time. These are just sneak previews. Enjoy!

  5. Saw a rum and pecan encrusted bundt cake recipe on FoodTv yesterday. It looks good. So naturally I will have to experiment. Bundt pan will be purchased as well as Bacardi golden rum and huge amounts of pecans for the study of SCIENCE! …..stay tuned for film at 11!

    1. Good luck with your experiment Emily. But remember, if you have a tube pan you don’t necessarily HAVE to buy a bundt pan. It won’t have the lovely bundt design but it would still work. If you do use a bundt pan, and if it is a chocolate cake recipe, you might want to dust the cake pan with unsweetened cocoa powder instead of flour.

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