For as long as I can remember, since starting to make my own scratch cakes, yellow cake has been my nemesis. I admit that I am pretty hard to please when it comes to a yellow cake because I always imagine a taste like a southern butter pound cake and a mouth feel like a fluffy yellow oil-based…(gasp) box cake. All of the chemicals in a box cake really make for a fluffy, delicious, tender soft crumb and I was determined to recreate that mouth feel sans the chemicals.
You might ask, why not just use cake flour? This, of course would solve a lot of problems but I can’t really sell my cakes as natural and/or organic by using a heavily bleached processed product, and personally I loathe the taste and smell of cakes that are made with cake flour. I can actually taste the bleach and the chemicals and it really takes away from that rich buttery flavor. I knew there had to be a way around this.
I can’t tell you how many recipes I have tested, because I prefer to stay in denial rather than admit how much money and ingredients I have thrown away due to my obsession with making the perfect yellow cake. I can tell you though, that if a method of making yellow cakes existed, I have tested it. I’ve tried hot milk cakes, mud cakes, meringue type cakes, pound cakes, reverse creaming cakes, simple yellow cakes, white cakes turned into yellow cakes…you get the idea. There were Australian recipes, European recipes, French recipes and countless numbers of American recipes and none of them have scored all 5 stars for me.
Here’s how I rate each recipe and thus award stars:
1 star for taste – I’m looking for a rich buttery taste here with a hint of vanilla
1 star for texture – Soft, velvety mouth feel with a tender, light crumb with no crusty edges – I do NOT want my cake to feel like a muffin in your mouth
1 star for moistness – The cake needs to stay moist without drying out when it cools
1 star for chemicals – The lack of them, I want the cake to work with all-purpose flour and NOT bleached cake flour
1 star for stackablity – I want the cake to be light, velvety and fluffy, but I don’t want it to crumble and fall apart and I need it to hold up to rich buttercreams, heavy ganache, and multi-level, multi-tiered fondant covered cakes
Whew! That’s a tall order. And anyone who bakes scratch cakes will tell you that this list is pretty close to impossible to achieve ALL five of those stars at once. But have faith because it can be done folks, read on…
At first I considered using oil rather than butter to achieve the moistness and lightness, but not surprisingly, it lacked the butter flavor and left an oily residue in your mouth…FAIL!
I got the texture perfect and got rid of the chemical taste by using self-rising flour instead of bleached cake flour, but then realized that the self-rising flour was also bleached…FAIL!
I tried using a combination of hot milk and butter tempered to a specific temperature (hot milk cake) then added to the A/P flour. The cake smelled and tasted seriously buttery and rich and delicious but the crumb, when cooled, was too coarse and resembled a muffin rather than cake…FAIL!
I tried an A/P flour and corn starch combination and the cake sunk in the middle…FAIL!
I have produced many cakes that taste perfect with a wonderful fluffy texture and buttery taste but every single one, and I am not exaggerating here, has sunk in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. Were talking anywhere from “looks like someone sat on the cake” to deep meteor craters sent down from the evil cake failing gods. Can I blame the altitude and climate of Colorado for this sad disaster of: mix, cross fingers and say a prayer, bake, rise, sink, fail, scrape into trash? Probably. But that wont stop me from trying though and quite possibly becoming the best scraper-of-cake-into-the-trash-bin-while-the-cake-pan-is-burning-your-hand chick…ever!
The good news for you though, is that my past failure can now be your yellow butter vanilla cake saving grace. Why? Because I would say that if a cake recipe works and is awarded all five of those stars AND is baked in the unforgiving location of the rocky mountains, you can pretty much bet it will work for you too.
Why this recipe works:
This recipe actually happened by accident. It was a busy day making both my go-to yellow buttermilk cake and my double chocolate sour cream cake. I accidentally added the sour cream for my chocolate cake into my yellow buttermilk cake and realized what I had done half way through baking. To my delight, the cake was the most luscious, buttery, fluffy and moist yellow cake I had ever baked. After a couple of small tweaks to the recipe, it was absolute perfection. The combination of both sour cream and buttermilk is what I believe to be the culprit…that, and the addition of potato starch. Potato starch can be used as a thickener in place of corn starch. It is also used a lot in gluten free baking to soften the crumb of otherwise dense and tough baked goods. The potato starch in this recipe works wonders and lightens up the all-purpose flour and produces a tender soft crumb like cake flour would. You can find potato starch in most grocery stores in the baking isle (Bob’s Red Mill) or natural food stores.
Note: I use weight measurements when baking, but I have tested this recipe with the volume amounts below and it was just as perfect 🙂 If you don’t want to use the potato starch or you cant find it, you can use 3 ½ cups of regular bleached all-purpose flour instead.
Perfect Yellow Butter Vanilla Cake
(Makes 3-9 inch rounds, one half sheet cake, or 3 dozen cupcakes. Recipe can be scaled in half if necessary)
The following link will provide access to downloadable and printable recipe files