Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yellow cake croppedLet Them Eat Cake

This Sunday, My dad will turn 70 and we will have a big celebration which is tradition. There will be the usual grilled fatty meats, adult beverages and, of course, there will be cake.

In my family we take birthday cake pretty seriously. We all have our personal favorites. Growing up, my mother’s mother would make sure that we all got “our cake” for our birthday dinner. A few years ago though I learned that a great travesty had occurred. The usual death by chocolate cake that Gam made for Dad every year was, in fact, not his favorite cake. (Gasp! Say it ain’t so!)

The running joke when I was growing up was that Dad was Gam’s favorite despite the fact that he was a USC grad (Gam went to Cal) and married her only child. Every year Dad got a promise from Gam that she would someday buy him the red Ferrari he always wanted. Alas, it never happened and instead, every birthday Gam would give Dad the biggest piece of his “favorite” chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. As it turns out though, it wasn’t his choice, and Dad being Dad never said anything. (Or maybe it was the promise of the Ferrari?)

Turns out Dad’s favorite cake is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. And if it comes from a box, so much the better! Since I have learned of his preference, I have tried to make up for the many years of incorrect cakes by making sure that there is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting at Dad’s birthday celebration. Though, the food snob in me can’t handle doing it from a box.

Yellow Cake is the epitome of a classic birthday cake. For me, when I picture a slice of birthday cake, the picture of a yellow cake with chocolate frosting quickly comes to mind. But you just don’t see it served all that often which is a crime. Yellow cake is moist and tasty and is the perfect compliment to a good chocolate frosting recipe.

Interestingly enough, there aren’t a whole lot of yellow cake recipes even in the so called “baking bibles”, but I have found a few. The best one is from The Joy of Cooking. (Of course it is.) I also give you Gam’s Chocolate Frosting which was legendary—especially when she added some instant espresso to it. 

Four-Egg Yellow Cake
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Yields three 8 or 9 inch round layers
This is a slightly modernized version of the old 1-2-3-4 Cake.

Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour three 8 x 2-inch or 9 x 2-inch round cake pans or line the bottoms with wax or parchment paper.

Whisk together thoroughly in a bowl:
2 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine in another bowl or in a liquid measure cup:
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Beat in a large bowl until creamy:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Gradually add and beat on high speed until light, 3 to 5 minutes:
1 1/2 cups sugar

Beat in one at a time:
4 large egg yolks
On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts, beating until smooth.

Using clean beaters, beat in a large bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form:
4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Gradually add, beating on high speed:
1/4 cup sugar

Beat until the peaks are stiff but not dry. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Divide the batter among the pans and spread evenly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes.

Gam’s Chocolate Frosting
In a heavy saucepan or double boiler over hot but not boiling water, melt 1 12 oz. package of semisweet chocolate pieces and 4 Tablespoons of butter. Remove from heat.

Stir in 3 Tablespoons light corn syrup and 1 Tablespoon milk. Beat on high until smooth.

*If you desire, add 2-4 tsp. (or to taste) of instant espresso before beating.


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