Thursday, November 12, 2009

Best Yellow Cake

There are few words in the English language that intimidate me, but in the baking world there are two: Yellow Cake. As soon as I hear the words yellow cake, I scoff. Not because I don't like yellow cake. In fact, I love yellow cake! But because yellow cake is my kryptonite.

I mean yellow cake, it seems simple, right? Yeah, I thought so, too. And then last summer, my brother Mike, chose a yellow cake with chocolate frosting as his Birthday cake. My first initial thought was to previous yellow/vanilla cakes I'd made in the past up to that point, Italian Cream Cake and Caramel Cake. Both delicious, but both made even more delicious by their fancypants icings. The "cake" wasn't the star in either of those recipes. I soldiered on and ended up presenting him with an awful cake for his birthday.

Since that day, I've stayed as far away as possible from the yellow cake.

Until a few weeks ago.

Here's the backstory. So, back in September I went to brunch with a couple friends. I may have partaken in a screwdriver (I mean, I am supposed to drink orange juice with my high blood pressure medicine) and the bartender might have mixed us up a couple of complimentary shots (and doh! It's rude to say no to complimentary shots. Everyone knows that!). By the time I left the restaurant, I was approaching the perfect buzz. But, it was only 2pm! Which meant one of two things: I could either walk home and go to bed and wake up with a wicked hangover at 7pm... OR I could call every friend I have in town and see if they wanted to meet up at a bar for a beer or two.

I think you know which option I chose.

So, I convinced (pretty easily, I gotta say) a friend to imbibe with me and we hit up a local brewery in town. I'm sucking down the Dos Perros and we're having a good time and one of his friends shows up to the brewery as well.

The night continues... we switch venues and apparently at some point in the night, the friend of my friend starts talking about his birthday... to which I (allegedly) (in my happy, drunken state) slur ever so eloquently... "oooo a birthday! I'll plan your birthday! hiccup!" (to which I'm told a week later when my friend reminds me that I emphatically insisted on planning his birthday that night). Which, brings up a good point... who in their right mind believes a drunk chick??? I mean... what universe are we in?

Anyway, as a staunch believer in the Hemingway code of  "always do sober what you said you'd do drunk" (don't even ask about the other things I've had to do), I offer up to make this dude a cake as a surprise. (Incidentally, the guy is super nice, so I didn't mind).

What cake do you make when you have no idea what the recipient likes and you can't ask him cause it's a surprise? You make a yellow cake with chocolate icing, my friend.

So, my arch nemesis and I come face to face again in the kitchen. This time, I came equipped with what appeared to be a surefire bet... a recipe from Deb of Smitten Kitchen. A recipe that she in fact named as the BEST Yellow cake.

I entered into the recipe with extreme trepidation. I almost went out and bought a yellow cake mix as a back up. But, I instead decided to just go with it. And thank God I did, because this cake is THE BEST YELLOW CAKE ever! It's moist and flavorful! It's super easy to make! I was thrilled! Hell, it was so good, I felt like it was my birthday instead! And so, I say thank you... Thank You Hemingway, for making me make good on my drunken promises (when I probably normally wouldnt have) and thank you Deb, for sharing this great recipe! You've saved my ass and I'll no longer cringe when someone utters "yellow cake" to me again.

Best Birthday Cake

This cake comes together easily and is really moist and tasty. I went ahead and made the cake exactly as Deb has it on the website, the chocolate sour cream frosting and all, and I have to say, I was not a fan of the frosting at all. Next time, I'll stick with my regular chocolate buttercream favorite: Hershey's. (If you DO use the Hershey's frosting DOUBLE the recipe to frost this 2 layer cake).

Yield: 2 layer 9 inch cake or a single 9x13 inch single layer cake.

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

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans.

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

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack let cool completely (about an hour).

Hershey's Chocolate Buttercream

Like I said, double this recipe.

6 tbsps of butter, softened
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup Hershey's Cocoa (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat butter in medium bowl. Add powdered sugar and cocoa alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (additional milk may be needed). Stir in vanilla.

About 2 cups frosting.