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All-American, All-Purpose Yellow Cake recipe

Most American-style cakes are variationsof a basic yellow cake, the ‘yellow’ referring to the use ofegg yolks in the batter, as opposed to ‘white’ cakes, which useonly the whites. This simple recipe can be slightly varied tocreate spice cake, lemon cake and orange cake, to name just afew.

Recipe: All-American, All-PurposeYellow Cake

Butter and flour for preparing cake pans
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (see tips)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Remove butter and eggs from refrigeratorabout 2 hours before starting recipe. Heat the oven to 350°F(175°C). Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Buttertwo 9-inch cake pans, cover the bottom of each pan with a circleof parchment, butter the parchment and coat the pan with flour,shaking out the excess.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder andsalt.
  • Beat butter in a large bowl with an electricmixer at medium speed for 30 seconds. Continue beating and graduallyadd the sugar. Beat until light-colored, about 3 minutes. Addeggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. The mixtureshould appear thick and dull. If it appears separated or grainyand shiny, the butter and/or eggs were too cold. To remedy this,wrap the bowl with a kitchen towel soaked with hot water andcontinue mixing. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  • Add about 1/3 of both the flour mixtureand milk and beat on low speed or by hand until just incorporated.Add the vanilla and then the remaining flour and milk in twobatches, beating between additions. Scrape down the sides ofthe bowl and stir by hand to finish.
  • Divide the batter between the preparedpans. Twist the pans back and forth on the work surface to distributebatter and then smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Place pansin oven a few inches apart, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotatingthe pans 180 degrees after 15 minutes. Check the cake after 22minutes. The top of the cake should be golden brown and springback when lightly pressed in the center, and a cake tester shouldcome out clean. The cakes should start shrinking back from thesides of the pan.
  • Remove the pans to a cooling rack. Letrest for 5 minutes. Run a small knife or metal spatula aroundthe sides of the pans and invert cakes onto lightly greased racks.Remove parchment paper. Reinvent cakes onto cooling rack. Letcool for at least 1 1/2 hours or until completely cooled.

    Makes one 2-layer cake; serves 12.


    • Spice Cake: Follow the master recipe,making the following changes: Sift together with the dry ingredients2 teaspoons Dutch processed cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and 1/8 teaspoon groundcloves. Reduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon.
    • Lemon Cake: Follow master recipe, butreduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon. When adding the vanilla, add 1tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest from 1-2 lemons and 1 teaspoonnatural lemon oil or extract if you cannot find the oil.
    • Orange Cake: Follow master recipe, butreduce vanilla to 1 teaspoon. When adding the vanilla, add 1tablespoon finely chopped orange zest and 1 teaspoon naturalorange oil or extract if you cannot find the oil.


    • Make sure that the butter is at the propertemperature before creaming. If you have an instant-read thermometer,the butter should read 67°F (approximately 20°C). Ifnot, bend the stick of butter. It should be malleable but notsoft. Cold butter will not cream properly, and the batter willappear separated when the eggs are added.
    • Cake can be baked in a 13 x 9 x 2-inchcake pan for 30 to 40 minutes or for cupcakes, bake for 15 to25 minutes.

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