Perfecting a Basic Yellow Cake

9 Jul

My first attempt at the yellow cake was an epic fail. I found a pretty general recipe that had five stars and basically followed it to a tee. The end result was a very dense, very dry yellow cupcake. I’m wondering how it had five stars, but I guess we’ll never know. The bright side here was that the flavor was good.

A yellow cake can’t be that hard!

I’m a Food Network junkie and have always heard cooks whine about how detailed baking is. I guess I never really understood what they were complaining about until this dry cupcake entered my life. After a little research I realized the actual importance of the way you beat the butter and sugar mixture as well as the flour, how sifting can change a cake and a secret ingredient that did miracles.

Thanks to Google, my second attempt was a complete success.

Yellow Cupcakes (makes one dozen)

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 package vanilla pudding
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of milk

As a beginner to this whole baking thing, I like to get all my ingredients set out before I begin baking. It just makes the whole experience less stressful. Plus, the butter and eggs need to be room temperature so you’ve got to be prepared! This is one of those little details in baking that can make a big difference. Who knew.

Start by creaming the butter in an electric mixer. Once it looks nice and fluffy go ahead and add your sugar. Okay, now this is important, take the time to beat this mixture now because once you add the dry ingredients you want to beat it as little as possible. Add the eggs one by one as well as the vanilla and beat well.

Now, add the flour, baking powder, pudding and salt mixture. Like I said, my first attempt was super dry so I found that many people made a moister cake with a package of pudding. This I had to try! To my surprise it worked very well!

Important: Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients followed by 1/2 of the milk and so on and so on. Also, be sure you scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl, you don’t want flour stuck to the sides when you think you’re finished. Pour batter into cupcake paper-lined muffin tins filling them 3/4 full.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. My current oven cooks super hot so be sure you get to know your oven.

I had a little extra batter and naively added more to a few of the tins. This resulted in a slight overflow and some edges to be a little overcooked. Don’t do this! If you have extra batter take the time and make the few extra cupcakes!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk (substituting one tablespoon of whipping cream makes for a fluffier frosting)

Beat the shortening, butter and vanilla together. Add sifted sugar and cocoa one cup at a time. You should now have a dry mixture, so scrape the sides and add the milk as you continue to beat. As listed in the recipe, adding whipping cream makes for a fluffier frosting which makes it just that much better!

(Typically I’ll be posting pictures of the good, the bad and the ugly, but the first failure and success weren’t documented.)

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