I'm a simple kind of girl, once I've found something I like I'll stick with it, especially if it works well over and over again. That's how I feel about these recipes, the only time they've failed is when I did something I knew I shouldn't, or....when my oven started baking everything 100 degrees hotter than it was supposed to.
These recipes are not mine, I found them on the internet nearly 5 years ago and have been using them exclusively since. I know I say, 'Here's my yellow cake recipe', but I've made a couple changes to the recipe and because I've been using it so long I tend to feel like it's really mine.
A few things before we get underway, I need to say that baking IS science. These recipes work the way they do because of how the ingredients work together. If you start swapping out items you cannot expect them to still work properly. It's like putting square wheels on a bike and wondering why it's much harder to pedal. There are variations and additions that do work though and I'll list them as well.
Starting with the yellow cake, one thing I've noticed is that it bothers people that this recipe is called yellow cake but it turns out very pale. What makes a yellow cake yellow? It is not, as some people think, because butter is used, but rather the egg yolks. This is not my definition folks, it's a fact! But then if you look at a box yellow cake mix, it lists yellow food dye as one of the ingredients. The question is, how important is it that the cake is pale and not a good deep yellow? I personally don't care, and I can honestly say I've never had someone hand their slice of cake back to me and tell me it wasn't yellow enough for them.
Another thing that kind of freaks people out is that this recipe calls for shortening. I'll admit it bothered me at first too, but considering all the processed food nearly EVERYONE eats, including me, I just let it go. Granted, my diet has actually gotten better since I started baking but I still refuse to feel bad. And no, you cannot exchange the shortening for butter in this recipe, I've tried, it doesn't work. Butter has a much lower melting point than shortening, it throws the whole thing off.
When I was searching for yellow cake recipes there were a few criteria that were necessary; everything listed in the recipe needed to be what I already had in the house, no hard to find ingredients, no crazy directions that involve only part of the egg be used, no making me use 10 different bowls to keep things separated. This recipe won because if done correctly I only needed 2 mixing bowls and a measuring cup, and bonus points that I could use all purpose flour. Over time I added sifting to it but it's really not that difficult to wash a strainer :)
Ok, enough yapping, here's the recipe, blow by blow:
1 c. shortening
2 c. granulated sugar
4 large eggs
3 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using dark pans). This recipe can make the following:
Round cake layers:
2 tall 8"
3 short 8"
2 short 9"
Square cake layers:
2 short 8"
1 short 9"x13"
28-30 cupcakes (start checking on these after about 13 minutes)
Prepare pans by using baking spray or grease and flour. Cream together sugar and shortening until fluffy and lighter, about 4 minutes. While that is creaming sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl. Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time to the sugar and cream mixture, allowing each egg to completely incorporate before adding the next. Now alternate adding the flour and milk in 3 parts, beginning with the flour. Pour into pans and bake 40-50 minutes, I say that but I like to start checking at 30 minutes just in case my oven goes berserk again and starts OVER baking my cakes. I try to get them out when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn onto a cooling rack. I have a video showing all this:https://www.youtube.com/user/SeriousCakes#p/u/36/fYQ-drytewwSo now you've baked the cake, turned out just like in the video, but wait! It fell?!?! Take a breath....ok, listen closely....it's OK. All of my cakes fall. So do my cupcakes. I've had people tell me everything needs to be room temperature, eggs, milk, etc. I've tried this..same result. Does it bother me? No way, again, never had a person hand their slice of cake back to me because the cake fell.
Here's what's fun about this recipe, this is what I call my base cake. Swap out some or all of the milk for buttermilk or sour cream, use a different extract (McCormick sells a lot of different kinds), add the zest of lemon or orange, it's like a whole new cake! Here are some variations I get just by doing what I listed above:
Raspberry Chocolate Chip
Peppermint Chocolate Chip
Those are just by using different extracts, chocolate chips and in the case of the lemon and orange cakes, I like to add some zest. These variations require more than extracts:
Almond Sour Cream-use almond extract and swap out half or all of the milk for sour cream
Brown Sugar Buttermilk-I think the name says it all :D Use brown sugar instead of white and buttermilk instead of milk (thank you Sayhellojana from cakecentral.com!)
Peanut Butter-use brown sugar instead of white and replace half of the shortening with peanut butter
Fuzzy Navel-use orange extract, some orange zest, then when the cake is cooled brush the top with Peach Schnapps (this was my favorite until I made the one below)
Pina Colada-use a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, save the liquid and finely chop the pineapple even more. The saved liquid won't be enough, use however much you get from the pineapple, then add milk for the rest making sure it's a full 1 3/4 cup of liquid all together. Sprinkle shredded coconut between the layers and frost with coconut buttercream.
There's 15 different variations just from the ONE recipe! I have at least 2 more variations I want to try and of course I'll post about it. I think I can make this into Red Velvet and chocolate by making a few changes....
Anyway, hope you try it, hope you like it :D