"Everything else falls into place when you get the basics right."
- Lewis Pugh
On an increasingly frequent basis....
As I've taken more and more orders and begin to grow my client and blog base a bit more, I frequently get requests for my favorite cake / cupcake / frosting recipes.
Full disclosure here - I have 'invented' none of these completely from scratch. Being a 'self-taught baker' means I've pulled a bit of everything I know from a ton of different sources, from classic family favorites to Pinterest recipes to Instagram posts to baking bloggers. Although I've tweaked them to suit my needs and style, I'll link to the original recipe sources - credit where it's due! The recipes that are my personal favorites and the ones I pull out of my pocket on a regular basis are below!
Vanilla Cake Recipe
This is a slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
3 1/4 c. all purpose flour
3 c. granulated sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.
Not long ago, I tried out a new vanilla cupcake recipe for these – adapted slightly from Two Sugar Bugs’ ‘Simply Vanilla Cupcakes’ recipe! Check out Tasia’s site; she is an amazing lady with a beautiful blog!
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk - I used whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
First – melt your unsalted butter and set aside to cool. This ensures it won’t be too warm and cook your eggs when you add it!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 24 muffin tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, milk and sour cream until well combined. Add the cooled melted butter and whisk again until well combined.
Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. You want to be careful not to over mix the batter. The batter will be quite thick.
Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 full. I didn’t want my liners to overflow, and I found I had enough leftover batter for about 16 mini cupcakes, so I made some of those as well!
Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate Cake / Cupcakes:
I 'borrowed,' doubled, and slightly modified this recipe from Nick at @thescranline, and it's *amazing.* Also a tad less labor-intensive than the one I'd been using, which I'm always a fan of. Check out Nick's site and his Instagram feed if you haven't already; he does some incredible work!
Of note...you'll need either a kitchen scale to measure ingredients in grams OR - you can use this fancy ‘grams to cups converter’. Or just use the conversions I ballparked for you. You’re welcome.
(makes 3 8-ich layers or 24 cupcakes)
350g all purpose flour (roughly 2 ¼ c)
450g caster sugar (roughly 2 ¼ c)
100g cocoa powder (roughly 1 ¼ c)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c /250g /16 T unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
350ml milk (about 1 ½ ; I used a 2c pyrex liquid measuring cup with mL marks on the back)
2 t vanilla extract
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (180C) or 320 FC (160C) for a fan forced oven. Grease 3 8-inch pans with baker's floured spray and/or line pans with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar. Turn mixer on low speed and mix dry ingredients together. Add in the softened butter gradually, until it’s well incorporated into the dry ingredients and no lumps are visible.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla until well combined. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients in a slow stream, mixing until no dry ingredients are visible. Scrape down the bowl and mix for another 20 seconds.
Fill the three pans (or 24 cupcake liners) evenly - I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part, and each of mine weighed out to about 700g. Bake cake layers for 30-35 min (cupcakes for about 17-23 min) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
Cream Cheese Buttercream frosting
It didn't take long when I started baking to realize that the most frequent complaint about buttercream icing was that it was "too sweet." I found that the tang from adding a bit of cream cheese added a bit of depth to the flavor and helped mute the 'overly sweet' taste of pure buttercream icing. Below is an adaptation of my mom's cream cheese frosting recipe!
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.