In his own words, my dad is a simple man. He likes instant coffee with lots of cream, his reclining chair at a certain angle, and muscle cars. He's also a big fan of classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting. For a recent lunch, I invited my parents over to catch up about my trip to Europe, and it happened to land on the two year anniversary of my dad's cancer surgery (he's now healthy and cancer free). So, of course, we needed a cake to celebrate.
Vanilla cake is a must-have recipe perfect for birthdays or any celebration, really. And if you're serious about cakes, I highly recommend two things. First, an icing spatula. It's key to smoothing your frosting in a way that a butter knife just can't handle. Second, the crumb coat. I first practiced a crumb coat with my parents anniversary cake last year, and it's absolutely essential if you want professional looking results. The crumb coat is a light layer of frosting that provides a smooth surface for the remaining frosting to be spread. To achieve this, dollop about a half a cup to a cup of frosting on the top of your cake and start smoothing it down the sides (don't worry if you think you used too much; as you smooth it around you'll pick up any frosting you don't need and can add it back to the bowl). After working your way around the entire cake spreading a thin layer down, finish with a light coat on the top. Chill for 30 minutes before adding the remaining frosting.
VANILLA CAKE WITH FUDGE FROSTING
This cake bakes up fluffy and tastes like a dream. Be sure to really cream the butter and sugar well; it will help ensure a light, airy cake.
Recipe courtesy SmittenKitchen
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan (I like using a small frosting knife), then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.
INSTANT FUDGE FROSTING
This frosting is instant because it comes together quickly in the food processor. You will be very, very amazed.
Recipe courtesy SmittenKitchen via Sky High
Makes about 5 cups
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar (not sifted)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.