Yellow Cake with Rich Chocolate Buttercream

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If you’re looking for a tried-and-true, old-fashioned yellow cake for birthday celebrations and other festivities, look no further – this is the one. Tender, fluffy, and buttery, with a nice hint of vanilla, it’s so much better than cake from a store-bought mix, and it’s hardly any more difficult to make (promise!). In contrast to white cake, which is a vanilla cake made with egg whites, yellow cake a vanilla-flavored cake made with whole eggs (and sometimes additional egg yolks). The fat from the yolks gives the cake its signature color and rich, custardy flavor. Yellow cake is good layered with any frosting, but it is especially delicious with my rich chocolate buttercream or cream cheese frosting, both of which can be whipped up in minutes while the cake cools.

If you’d rather make cupcakes or a sheet cake instead of a layer cake, go right ahead. The recipe makes 24 cupcakes (bake for 20 to 25 minutes) or a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake (bake for 30 to 35 minutes).

What You’ll Need To Make Yellow Cake

yellow cake ingredients

Mixing Method

This cake recipe uses a different mixing method than you may be accustomed to. Instead of the more common “creaming” method, where the butter and sugar are beaten together before the eggs, flour, and liquid are added, this recipe uses the “high-ratio” or “two-stage” mixing method.

First, all the dry ingredients, including the sugar, are mixed in the bowl of an electric mixer. Then all of the butter and half of the liquid ingredients are mixed in to coat and moisten the dry ingredients with fat. Finally, the remaining liquid ingredients are added and the batter is beaten for a few minutes until pale and creamy.

This method was made popular by pastry chef and cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum. It can be used for any cake where the weight of the sugar equals or exceeds the weight of the flour. It is not only faster and easier than the traditional creaming method, but it also yields incredibly tender, fine-textured, velvety cakes.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prep the Pans and Preheat the Oven

Preheat the oven to 350° and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Cut two 8-inch rounds of parchment paper and line the bottom of each pan; spray the paper with nonstick spray. (To measure the parchment paper, just trace the bottom of the pan.)

Step 2: Make the Cake Batter

In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.

eggs, buttermilk and vanilla in measuring cup

Whisk and set aside. (Note that the mixture will start to look curdled as it sits; that’s okay.)
whisked egg and buttermilk mixture

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt.

dry ingredients in mixer

Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine.

mixed dry ingredients

Add the soft butter and half of the buttermilk mixture.

adding butter and half of buttermilk-egg mixture

Mix on low speed until moistened but still a little crumbly, about 1 minute.

moistened batter

With the mixer running on low, gradually add the remaining buttermilk mixture.

adding remaining buttermilk mixture

Then increase the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should look pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, making sure the batter is evenly mixed.

yellow cake batter after beating

Step 3: Bake the Cake Layers

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans.

yellow cake batter in cake pans

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

baked yellow cake

Cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then unmold onto rack to finish cooling right side up (keep the parchment paper underneath the cake layers so they don’t stick to the rack).

yellow cake layers cooling on rack

Step 4: Trim and Frost the Cake

When cake layers are completely cool, use a serrated knife to trim off the domed tops; this will ensure the cake is level.

trimming domed top off of cake

Place one cake layer on a serving plate, cut side down. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread about ¾ cup of the frosting over the first layer. Top with the second layer, cut side down, then spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, swirling decoratively.

The cake is best enjoyed fresh on the day it is made, but it will keep nicely for 2 to 3 days stored in a cake dome at room temperature.


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