I used to have a Vanilla Cake on the blog. It was a one bowl cake and as with many blog recipes I tested it twice before posting and loved it. Then something happened that made me take it down. I made it once and it was ok. A friend made it once and it was ok. Not bad, not great, just ok. I try to avoid the business of ok. I figured out what was wrong. For one, because it was a dump and mix one bowl kinda cake it was too easy to over mix. It was also too easy to mess it up with a smidge more flour. Overmix a cake with a little more flour and congratulates you now have an edible brick. Okay so maybe I am exaggerating, but point is that cake had to go. This Perfect Vanilla Cake though - this is here to stay.
America's Test Kitchen Birthday Cake Adapted
Sometimes I make up recipes, like this Apple Snack Cake here (SO dang good). Some times I take them from the recipe books that my mother handed down to me like this Orange Cake here. This cake falls into neither of those categories. It is adapted from the America's Test Kitchen cake magazine. While I have considerable faith in their recipes this one seemed too fiddly to start with.
So then I made small changes, I nixed the Cake Flour (like hello these days it's hard enough to get regular!) and added cornstarch instead. What that does is make the cake nice and tender. I also eliminated the separate whipping of whites. If I am making a cake then let's be honest I am making enough of a mess and don't need to wash another bowl! Despite both these changes the recipe still works and it is undoubtedly going to be the only Vanilla Cake I will ever make.
Chocolate Frosting with Melted Chocolate
I am going to confess something. You may find this funny, you may find it relatable. When I was growing up buying chocolate for baking was a luxury. We didn't do it routinely and for a kid like me who was forever baking I would always use cocoa powder and oil/butter where recipes called for chocolate. It seemed totally natural to me at the time. The only exception I made was this classic Chocolate Mousse . I always bought chocolate for that.
Recently I was browsing through my old recipe books and found this recipe for frosting that used chocolate. I do not know why I wrote it down. I certainly did not make it back then, but I thought I'd throw younger me a bone and melt some chocolate.
It's good guys, really good. This recipe does not make a ton of frosting, just enough to pipe the center and sides. That is fine by me because I have noticed that more often than not people will leave the sides anyway. No waste here folks. I do urge you to use a bittersweet or dark chocolate because it pairs so well then with this Perfect Vanilla Cake.
Cocoa Based Frostings I Love
If you are looking for a cocoa based frosting then I have made and liked both this one from Joy the Baker and this one from Add a Pinch. I also think a Vanilla cake is pretty much heaven with a ganache and I have a recipe for that here.
- 2 ¼ cup All Purpose Flour
- ¼ cup Cornstarch
- 1 ¼ tsp Baking Powder
- ¼ tsp Baking Soda
- ½ tsp Salt
- 10 tbsp Melted Butter
- 3 tbsp Oil
- 2 cups Sugar
- 3 Eggs
- 3 Egg Yolks
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup Buttermilk (see notes)
- 150 g Bittersweet or Dark Chocolate (or ¾ cup chocolate chips) Melted in the microwave
- 2 cups Icing Sugar
- ½ cup Butter (8 tbsp) room temperature
- ½ tsp Instant Coffee
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ⅓ cup Whipping Cream
- Chocolate sauce or Caramel sauce for drizzling
- Chopped candied / honey roasted peanuts
- Sprinkles (for the top)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease and flour two 8-inch pans (or two 9-inch ones)
Whisk the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter, oil, and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed till well combined then increase the speed and whip for 3-4 minutes.
Add the eggs and egg yolks in three additions, whipping for a minute between each addition. The mixture should look nice and fluffy.
Mix in the Vanilla Extract
Now with the mixer on low add the dry ingredients and buttermilk in two additions each, alternating between the two. So: first half the flour, then half the buttermilk, then the remaining flour and remaining buttermilk.
Mix until JUST combined and then stop. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to stir in any streaks of flour.
Divide the batter between your pans and bake for 30-35 minutes for an 8-inch pan or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. For a 9-inch pan this should be somewhere between 25-28 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a medium sized bowl till just smooth.
Add the icing sugar first then the butter and coffee powder and mix on low until well incorporated. This will take 3-4 minutes
Now add the vanilla extract, the salt and the cream and whip on medium speed. The icing will become nice and fluffy. Taste - if it is too sweet you can adjust the taste with a little cocoa powder or coffee and if it is too dark for you then add a little icing sugar. Mix just enough to incorporate.
Once the cakes have cooled completely use a large knife to remove the domed tops.
Now spread half the icing between the first and second layer. You can also pipe large stars on the outside rim and then just fill the middle like I have.
If you are using any of the optional add ins put them in now.
Place the second cake layer on top and decorate the top with the remaining frosting finishing with your toppings of choice
This recipe works well with a quick DIY buttermilk. Before you start baking put 1 tbsp of Vinegar in a measuring cup and top it up with regular milk to the 1 cup mark. Let it sit until you need to use it - it will look a little curdled and that's just fine!