"Everything else falls into place when you get the basics right."
- Lewis Pugh
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 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
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 bits of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix. Continue to mix until no large lumps of butter are visible, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated. Stir in the buttermilk 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 (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
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 and break.
(Recipe inspired from LivForCake, ChelSweets, and Martha Stewart's vanilla cake recipes)
Favorite Vanilla Cupcakes
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 let it cool - this ensures it won’t cook your eggs when you add it!)
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F, and prepare 24 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine and 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. Don't overmix! The batter will be fairly thick; this is normal.
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 a dozen 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 decorating.
(Recipe inspired by TwoSugarBugs & PreppyKitchen)
Chocolate Cake / Cupcakes:
(makes 3 8-ich layers or 24 cupcakes)
2 ¼ cups (350g) all purpose flour
2 ¼ cups (450g) granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup (100g) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 c /250g /16 T unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups (350mL) buttermilk (buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Of note...you'll need a kitchen scale if you want to measure ingredients in grams.
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 allow it to mix for a couple minutes to help everything combine well (or sift the ingredients together). Add in the softened butter until it’s well incorporated into the dry ingredients and no lumps of butter are visible.
Next, add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla together and whisk until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until no dry ingredients are visible. Scrape down the bowl and beat for another 20 seconds.
Fill the pans/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 15-20 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans, and cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
(Recipe inspired from Nick @TheScranLine and the Stay At Home Chef)
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!
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined.