I like cooking for my friends. They’re a good bunch of folks who know that at any given time, they may be subject to testing a new recipe that I’m trying. It’s kind of an understanding that we have – I gladly cook but new recipes may or may not work as planned. Convict me for the sin of Pride but I don’t want people to think I’m a bad cook when the reality may be a bad recipe so I try and stick to a rule of not making untested recipes for people who have never had my cooking. Yet, I unknowingly walked into that very situation during this cake quest.
The Mistah and I had been invited to dinner with friends who have gladly tested my recipes in the past. I was looking for a reason to test yet another cake and figured I’d found tasters, so I said we’d bring dessert. Little did I know that there would be eight other guests in addition to us, and that this was a combined birthday celebration for three of them. Talk about pressure. I’m glad I didn’t know that as I was baking and frosting.
I had seen this cake on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen and promptly went online for the recipe. I had a sense from watching the show that this cake was going to be fussy with melting butter and whipping egg whites but I decided I was up to the challenge. Even though fast, easy dishes are what I like best, I’m not going to lie, I get a real sense of accomplishment from getting a more challenging recipe to work. If the result is good, I don’t mind working to get it.
So after dinner, the time came to serve the cake. To people who mostly didn’t know that I can rock a recipe. The worst case scenario would be if it only got a polite comment or no comment at all. Best case would involve lots of lip smacking and fork licking. The reality was that I barely had a chance to snap the less than beautiful picture above because the cake was a hit. With EVERYONE. Forks were licked, plates were cleaned, and there was all around yumming.
I have not gotten over my anxiety of cooking for new people. But I think I have come to the end of round 1 of the cake quest. This recipe gave me everything I wanted but thought I’d never find – moist cake, soft frosting, lots of flavor, no freakishly artificial ingredients, and a huge sense of accomplishment.
BAH’s Favorite Yellow Cake
Cook’s Illustrated / America’s Test Kitchen
Makes two 9 inch cake layers.
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, grease parchment rounds, and dust pans with flour, shaking out any excess.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a large bowl. Whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form (ATK says this should take 30 to 60 seconds but mine took something more like 2 minutes). The whites will hold a peak but appear moist. Transfer whites to a separate bowl and set aside.
In the now empty mixing bowl, add flour mixture. Still using the whisk attachment, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix on low speed for about 15 seconds, until almost incorporated. Stop mixer and scrape down whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium low speed and beat for approximately 15 seconds until smooth and fully incorporated.
Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into the batter. Add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Lightly tap the pans against your table or counter 2 to 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until cake begin to pull away from the sides of pans and a toothpick inserted in the centers come out clean. Cool cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes then invert cakes onto a wire rack and remove parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
Foolproof Chocolate Frosting
Cook’s Illustrated / America’s Test Kitchen
The recipe says that the frosting can be made up to three hours in advance. For longer storage, refrigerate the frosting, covered, and let it stand at room temperature for one hour before using.
- 20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
Add butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Process about 30 seconds, until smooth. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. Add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Frosting can be used immediately.