A Baking Miniseries, Day Six: Blank Canvas Cake
These recipes are like a good pair of skinny jeans. You can switch out one or two elements and get an entirely new outfit or, in this case, recipe. Because if I'm going to make a cake, I don't want to have to try a recipe that might be a bust. Let's use one that always works and is a great blank canvas for any flavor that comes in an extract bottle.
P.S. I'm obsessed with Krista's Baking Co. packaging. I mean, come ON. If I was Oprah, it'd be pretty extracts for everybody!
Blank Canvas Cake
This is my favorite yellow cake for layer cakes and cupcakes. There's a slight variation depending on which you're making, but it's as simple as one more egg. Use whatever extract you like or even a combo depending on the flavor you want. Vanilla is never a bad choice.
This recipe makes a two-layer cake or about two dozen cupcakes.
- 1 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free is always worth hunting down)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 egg yolks (BUT ONLY IF YOU'RE MAKING CUPCAKES, NOT LAYER CAKE)
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla (or your preferred blank canvas extract)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 350 for layer cakes and 425 for cupcakes. Prep the right pans, too.
- Sift together the flours, baking powder, soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs (and egg yolks if you're making cupcakes) on medium speed for 30 seconds.
- Keep going on medium speed, and pour the sugar into the eggs in a slow stream. Once it's in, beat another 30 seconds.
- Pour the oil, melted butter, and vanilla into the mixture in a slow stream. Once it's in, beat another minute.
- With the mixer off, add half the dry ingredients and then combine them in low so you don't get covered in flour.
- With the mixer still on low, gently add the buttermilk until barely combined.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined. You don't want to see flour, but don't beat it past that.
- Pour the batter into cake pans or cupcake tins. For the cake, bake at 350 for 28-35 minutes depending on if you use 8-inch or 9-inch pans and how hot your oven actually is. When a toothpick comes out clean or with moist crumbs, it's done. For cupcakes, fill the tins almost to the top. Bake for six minutes at 425, and then drop the temperature to 350 and bake another 8-10 minutes. The same toothpick scenario applies.
- Cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack before removing to cool completely. Under no circumstances should you frost a cake until it's completely cool. Cold or frozen is my preferred situation. You won't regret it.
Extra tips: if your preferred flavor is something citrus (lemon, orange, grapefruit), go the extra mile and add some zest to your sugar before you add it to the batter. Use your fingers to work the zest into the sugar and taste how it transforms the cake even more. P.S. your hands will smell amazing forever and you'll want to bathe in citrus sugar until you die. Fair warning.
Extra extra tip: The same tip works with fresh herbs. Mint, rosemary, basil... if you love a flavor, work the fresh version into your sugar. With the herbs, you might not include the herbs; just use the sugar to bruise the flesh and grab some of the flavor. Take out the herbs before you bake.
Blank Canvas Buttercream
This recipe generously covers one layer cake. If you're making a small batch of cupcakes, halve it. Half it? Make only half of it.
- 4 sticks softened butter
- 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure first, sift second)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (whole milk will work in a pinch; skim of of the devil)
- 2 tsp preferred extract (you can always add a few drops more at the end of the flavor isn't strong enough)
- generous pinch of salt
- Beat the butter on high for about a minute to get to started on its fluffy journey.
- Add four cups of powdered sugar on low until mostly combined.
- Add the cream, extracts, and salt until just combined.
- Add the remaining two cups of powdered sugar on low until just combined, and then crank up the speed and beat the heck out of that buttercream for a few minutes until it's fluffy and amazing.
- Taste it. If it doesn't knock your socks off, add more salt. If it doesn't taste like your preferred flavor, add a little more extract and maybe even a little more salt. Salt makes everything sing.
- Use buttercream at this stage. If you're making it in advance, store in the fridge and bring to room temperature before using.
Previous posts in baking miniseries: