The other day I just wanted cake. I never want cake, even though I love baking them for others, but something made me stop everything and bake myself one. The household was not mad about it one bit! In fact, the entire thing was gone in less than 48 hours (oh the shame…kidding, there’s no shame in loving cake). 

So what kind did I make? I was craving the classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I really don’t know who made that cake the national anthem of cakes, but everyone I’ve ever met has a soft spot for that combination. They don't, however, know how to get it except via box mix. 

Let me be the first to say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making that box mix combination. It is so good and easy and has the nostalgia we’re after. But sometimes it’s about the process and putting something together yourself that you’re after. That’s exactly why I started baking; I loved the process of making something from scratch.

If you’ve just had one of those days — and I think we might be neck-deep in them — then give this a try. This is a recipe I’m constantly tweaking because I just want it to taste perfect. Depending on the humidity, I may need to add a little extra flour, but not too much because yellow cakes are famous for drying out.

Another important tip is to use brown, cage-free eggs. They tend to have a darker yellow yolk that helps bring out the color we want. The timing might also vary depending on if your oven runs hot or cooler. I start checking the cake about five minutes before the "done" time frame and adjust the time accordingly. If you feel you over-baked the cake, let it cool, place a couple of slices of bread on top and place everything in an airtight container. The gases from the bread help keep the cake from drying out.

 

Moist Yellow Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp. cake flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. butter flavoring (optional)
  • 4 large brown eggs + 1 yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two nine-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. 

  4. Add in oil. Add eggs one 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.

  5. Spread batter evenly in cake pans, then tap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 25-35 minutes depending on oven. Be sure to start checking at the 25 minute mark. Bake longer if necessary.

  6. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about one hour.

 

Fluffy Whipped Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 to 1 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla 

Directions:

  1. Whip butter until for a few minutes. Slowly add in powdered sugar and whip for a minute or two.

  2. Add in cocoa powder and salt and whip again for a couple of minutes.

  3. Lastly add in whipping cream and vanilla and mix at medium-high speed for five minutes or until fluffy.

 

From Z to A with Zara Abbasi

Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer for Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit