Friday, August 19, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake. And Let It Be Moist.

I love to bake. Oh, I sure do. Put me in the kitchen, hand me a bowl, a wooden spoon, a couple of ingredients, and I'm in heaven. Love it.

I'm always on the lookout for some stellar new recipes to add to my repertoire; always seeking out new ways to make my favorite things even better.

My current search has been for a yellow cake recipe that stands up for itself with some pride. I'm not knocking the boxed mixes (they're great), but sometimes only homemade will do. There's just something irresistibly homey about from scratch vanilla cake. So good. And yet, so incredibly coarse and completely unlike what I've come to associate with Yellow Cake.

I know that thanks to the folks at Betty Crocker I have been programmed to believe their version of yellow cake IS yellow cake, but I've always felt there is something else out there calling to me. Some yellow cake recipe that is greater than the mighty Betty which could stand up to her and her boxy old ways.

I was aiming to knock Ms. Crocker down a peg or two.

For awhile, I was starting to think Betty had won.

But today, Eureka!  A bakery success worthy of accolades and much glad tidings. Using a combination of recipes and techniques, I may just have stumbled upon one of the quickest, easiest, and tastiest from scratch yellow cake recipes I've encountered yet.

It was light, yet had a moist, tender crumb. Hallelujah. Bring out the forks and plates. No ice cream for me; this cake deserves to be enjoyed un-a-la-mode, thanks.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

What You'll Need:
1 cup butter OR you can also use a 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of shortening
(Shh, fat haters. This is cake. Cake has fat. Cake has calories.
 If you're balking, go eat a rice cake.)
2 cups white sugar
(Sugar-haters can join the fat haters in rice cake bliss).
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
(Use the good stuff here, please.)
1 package (small) Vanilla Instant Pudding
2 3/4 cup cake flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup milk
(Don't use skim for this. Fat helps in cakes so go for 2% or higher. You've already got all that butter going on, might as well finish the race, right?)

What You'll Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cake pan (9x13 or 2 9 inch round pans), line with parchment, then grease and flour. (I know that sounds redundant, but it works, okay? Why must you always question me? Geesh).
In a mixer, beat together butter (or butter/shortening) and sugar till creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and pudding. Turn the mixer to medium, and let it go to town on the mixing for 8-10 minutes. Sound like alot? Maybe. But the longer you beat the sugar, the more it will mix into the fat and the less grainy your final product will be. Grainy cake = boo. Keep on mixing, my friend.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk until very well blended and light.
Add flour mixture to the now fluffy and beautiful wet mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix until well blended.

Pour batter into your prepared pans. Stand back and take a moment to admire your handiwork. You just made a cake, darn it! From scratch, no less. Lick a beater, pat yourself on the arm, and say "Well done, self. Well done."

Bake for 30-45 minutes until cake tests done, depending on your pan size.
Note that if you've gone the all butter route (which I did), you'll want to watch for browning after about 15-20 minutes. Cover cake with foil to stop that from becoming over browning.
When done, cool completely and frost.
Note: Be very careful with 8 inch pans with this. 9-10inch round pans work better. If you use 8 inch, watch carefully for overbrowning. I'd let it get the color you like and then cover with foil for the rest of the time.

Why yes, I'll have a piece.

Don't be a hater, Betty Crocker. You had your day in the sun.

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