This past weekend we celebrated our daughter’s 15th birthday. Yes, 15! It seems like only yesterday that she was turning 13 and now here we are two years later, just like that. She is still an amazing girl and the light of my life. I know the teen years can be tough, and I’ve witnessed first hand how hard it can truly be with some of my friends, but I couldn’t have asked for a better kid with which to navigate these treacherous waters. Of course in true mama fashion, I asked her what kind of birthday cake she wanted this year. She very tentatively asked for a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which is her favorite. I’ve had a bad run with white and yellow cakes recently. I’ve always turned to my trusty Cake Mix Doctor book for birthday cakes because I think they turn-out nice and sturdy for the purpose. However, since the cake mix manufacturers have started making cake mixes smaller, while telling us they bake-up just the same, which is a outright lie, my white and yellow cakes have been shrinking. I’ve searched and searched for the cause because I never had the problem before but so far I’ve been unable to find a reason. Last year K asked for a yellow cake and I ended-up having to re-make the whole thing the day of her party because the one I’d made shrank to a dense piece of rubber. It was very frustrating to say the least. This year I decided to forego the Cake Mix Doctor and make one from scratch. I’ve made many, many cakes from scratch so it’s not a stretch for me (or anyone really because it’s not hard to bake a cake). I think I kept using the Cake Mix Doctor recipe because I was determined to conquer the shrinkage problem but I’ve finally come to grips that the problem is not mine and I’m ready to move-on to another yellow cake.
I decided to try the Taste of Home test kitchen yellow cake recipe, which is a pretty straight-forward cake. In fact it’s a little too straight-forward. It came out slightly on the dry side and a little lacking in flavor. If I’d read the online reviews before I made it, I would have known these things but I went old-school and pulled it out of my big cookbook. It was okay but not great. At least it doesn’t shrink on you, which is a huge plus. I’m sharing the recipe with you anyway because I think this cake has potential. It just needs some more butter and maybe a dash of almond extract to give it greater depth of flavor, or something.
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/4 cups 2% milk
- 2-1/2 cups frosting of your choice
- Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
- Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
- Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake. Yield: 12 servings.
I used my favorite chocolate buttercream frosting recipe which comes out perfect and delicious every time. In fact, the frosting is so good that the bland cake is a pretty good vehicle to deliver all that chocolate goodness. I use a KitchenAid stand mixer but you can also use a hand mixer if you like.
Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature – DO NOT use margarine or shortening if you want it to taste good.
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
In a large bowl combine the softened butter and cocoa powder until smooth and well-blended. Add the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and salt. Turn the mixer on low to combine (otherwise you’ll have clouds of powdered sugar everywhere). Once the butter/sugar mixture is combined, turn-up the speed and let ‘er rip until you have something that looks like frosting. It should be fluffy and smooth, not creamy and grainy. If it’s still creamy and grainy, whip it some more until you have fluffy and smooth. This makes enough to frost a two layer cake, the top and sides of a 9×13 sheet cake or 30 cupcakes provided you don’t eat half of it before you get to the cake.
Overall K was pleased with her cake or at least the effort of the cake. One of these years Mama’s going to get it right, I promise! Does anyone have a good yellow cake recipe they would like to share? I’m still searching for ‘the one’.