Easy Recipe: Basic Homemade Birthday Cake (White Butter Cake)

21 Mar

Several years ago, when we were celebrating Jamie’s first birthday, I decided to bake him an upright, teddy-bear-shaped cake. How hard could it be? “Takes one standard cake mix” — if your bear doesn’t mind being a deformed mutant with a missing arse. Sadly, I was still living in the “cake-comes-from-a-box” phase of my life, and didn’t realize that store-bought cake mixes have gotten smaller over the years. So, when my thirty-year-old cake pan (and directions) called for one cake mix, I stupidly filled the pan with one modern, store-bought mix and assumed oven-rising would take care of the gap left over in the pan. An hour later, I had guests already on their way to my house when I unmolded the vanilla-flavored beast only to discover he was missing an entire left butt cheek. To this day, the legend of the “Half-Assed Bear of ‘Ought-Seven” lives in infamy at the Red Kitchen. And ever since then, I’ve made sure I had real cake flour on hand for emergency homemade batter. This particular recipe makes 7+ cups of batter, which is generous enough to fill most cake pans, or (2) thick 9″ rounds. And because it’s made from simple ingredients, you can always whip up a little bit extra if you want to be on the safe side. After all, excess batter can be poured into cupcake tins for lovely sidecars, and I’m here to tell you — better safe than sorry! Cake flour: so worth it. ***Chef’s Note: Cake flour is one of those staples that’s great to have around, even if you can’t get it at your local ALDI or Save-A-Lot. It’s worth picking up on your next trip to a regular grocer, and keeping it in plain sight in your cabinet or pantry will likely inspire the baker in you more often than you know. Cake flour is more than 20x-finer in texture than regular flour, so it comes in very handy with airy, delicate baked goodies. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe: 2-1/2 cups cake flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract 4 egg whites 1 cup milk Cream butter and sugar. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease/flour cake pan(s) or line with sprayed parchment paper. Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until grainy in texture. Add milk and vanilla, mix well. Batter will be thick. Yum! Add the egg whites one at a time to the sugar mixture, beating lightly between additions. Milk and butter make a denser cake batter than oil and water. Once all egg whites have been incorporated, gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until batter is uniformly mixed. The batter’s texture may look slightly more coarse than boxed cake mix batter, which is perfectly fine. Pour the batter into prepared pan(s) and bake at 375 degrees. Two 9-inch round pans will bake 15-18 minutes; a solid 9×13 rectangle may take a few additional minutes. Start checking shortly after the heavenly smell fills your kitchen. Beautiful. Cake is done when inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean. Cool on wire rack before frosting and decorating. Happy Birthday to you!

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