Vanilla Layer Cake

 This blog hit fifty posts last week which, considering that I only started blogging in October, is pretty crazy. Looking through my Recipe Index, I have a ton of cookie recipes, three pies, a bunch of different breakfast items and savory things, but only one measly cake recipe. Granted, it’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcake recipe that is really delicious, but how is it possibly the only one?!

See, I make a lot of cake. Like, a minimum of five every month for the various birthdays and celebrations that all my friends (and their friends) have. I’ve made everything from chocolate biscuit cake to chocolate peanut butter cake to the vegan carrot cupcakes I baked last night. But the one that everyone really loves? The one that people get excited about when I walk in the room with a white cardboard cake box? It’s this Vanilla Layer Cake. 

This cake has been through many iterations over the last two years as I learned more about baking chemistry and made adjustments. All of them were delicious, but this is the best by far. It’s moist and buttery, a little bit dense (but not pound cake-dense), and has a prominent vanilla flavor. 

The cake is made with room temperature butter and eggs so that it stays extra rich. Buttermilk keeps everything moist. The dry ingredients involve a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch to mimic cake flour’s lightness and tenderness. Light brown sugar is used in addition to granulated sugar for a little extra moisture and complexity of flavor. And there is plenty of pure vanilla extract so that this cake is undoubtably vanilla. The batter is simple to put together, and will be thick and beautiful (or at least, I think it is). It’s divided into two pans and baked until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
      The frosting is made while the cake layers are cooling. It’s a simple vanilla buttercream, and will come together in just a few minutes. Beat room temperature butter and confectioner’s sugar together until combined. Add in vanilla and salt, followed by a few tablespoons of heavy cream. You may use whole milk or half-and-half in place of the heavy cream, but the frosting won’t be nearly as rich and creamy. You see, the cream whips within the buttercream and makes it so light and fluffy, it’s ridiculous. Don’t skip it! Fill and frost the layers to your preference, and sit back while your friends and family ooh and ahh!

This Vanilla Layer Cake is anything but plain vanilla! Between the buttery, rich cake, and the fluffy, gorgeous frosting (not to mention the vanilla flavor!), it’s a total showstopper! 

 
Vanilla Layer Cake
makes 1 two-layer 9″ round cake*

To Grease the Pans:
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour*
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk*, room temperature

Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
sprinkles or decorative sugar, if desired

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together greasing mixture ingredients. Use a pastry brush to paint mixture onto the entire insides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating completely after each addition. Beat in vanilla and buttermilk. Add dry ingredients in three installments, beating just until combined. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Tap each full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 32-37 minutes, rotating top to bottom and back to front at the halfway point. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for fifteen minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edges of the pans and invert the cakes onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

Transfer one layer of the cake to a cake stand or plate. Frost and layer cooled cakes. Top with sprinkles or decorative sugar immediately after frosting, if desired.

Layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Notes:

1. This recipe can also be made into 24 cupcakes. Skip the greasing, and instead line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners. Fill each muffin cup 2/3-3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
2. Cake flour may be substituted for the all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Just use 3 1/3 cup cake flour in place of the all-purpose flour and cornstarch.
3. If you don’t have buttermilk, put one tablespoon of white vinegar in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup, then pour milk up to the 2 cup mark. Stir and let sit for five minutes, until curdled. Use as instructed in the recipe. Do not use skim or fat free milk.

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