Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake

From Cook's Illustrated | March/April 2008

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Why this recipe works:

We adapted a chiffon cake technique when devising our fluffy yellow layer cake recipe, using a large number of whipped egg whites to get high volume and texture. For moisture, we used a combination of butter and oil in our yellow cake recipe, and for tenderness we increased the amount of sugar… read more

We adapted a chiffon cake technique when devising our fluffy yellow layer cake recipe, using a large number of whipped egg whites to get high volume and texture. For moisture, we used a combination of butter and oil in our yellow cake recipe, and for tenderness we increased the amount of sugar and substituted buttermilk for milk.

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Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake

Box mixes are famous for making cake with ultralight texture. We set out to make an even fluffier cake without the chemicals and additives.

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Makes two 9-inch cake layers

Nonstick cooking spray can be used for greasing the pans (proceed with flouring as directed). Bring all ingredients to room temperature before beginning. Frost the cake with our Foolproof Chocolate Frosting (see related recipe) or your favorite topping.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature

Instructions

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.

    2. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.

    3. Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

    4. Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

    5. Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

    For High-Altitude Baking Problem: Chemically leavened cakes sink in the center. Solutions: Use less baking powder and/or baking soda. Increase the oven temperature and decrease the baking time. Problem: Egg-leavened cakes sink in the center. Solutions: Underwhip the whites and/or whole eggs. Increase the oven temperature and decrease the baking time. Problem: Cakes are dry and cottony. Solution: Use less sugar and/or add an extra egg. Problem: Cakes are greasy. Solution: Add an extra tablespoon or two of flour.

Recipe Testing

Turning Up the Volume

HIGH

The chief hallmark of a box-mix cake is a feather-light (and chemical-laden) crumb.

HIGHER

Our Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake has an even more ethereal texture—plus it tastes good, too.

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