It is all layer cakes all the time here in the kitch. But, aren’t you kind of glad about it? In my opinion, there are definitely a few things all human beings should know how to do, and that list includes knowing how to make a decent layer cake. There are a very small number of tricks that will make this task infinitely easier for you, and since I’m not only wise, but also generous and thoughtful, I’m going to share them with you.
1. Freeze your cakes! If you’re making them to be eaten that day, you can put them in the freezer right after they’ve cooled from baking. You don’t even have to take them out of the pan. After about 30 minutes, they’re ready to be frosted. If you’re baking the cakes a few days before use, you can wrap the cooled cakes tightly with plastic wrap and they’ll keep for DAYS in there. Freezing the layers makes it REALLY REALLY easy to a) slice them in half b) stack them and c) frost them. And it doesn’t make any difference to texture/taste/moisture content. So. Freeze them.
2. Level your cake tops. But only if you are aiming for a nice even top. You could go for the rustic sloping thing if you want, and really there’s nothing wrong with that. But also…leveling tops=cake scraps=delicious snack. And you’ve been working so hard on this cake, don’t you think you deserve a little snack? Yeah, you do, you go ahead and eat those scraps. That’s right, gobble them up. Cake baking is hard work and you’ve earned it.
3. Apply a crumb coat. This means that once you’ve filled and stacked your layers, ice your cake in a very thin layer with a little bit of icing. This will seal in all the crumbs. Stick that crumb-coated cake in the fridge for a little bit (even 15 min will do) and now you’ve got a nice smooth surface to apply icing to, and stray crumbs won’t infiltrate your nice pure frosting and you won’t want to pull out all your eyebrow hair.
4. This is personal taste, but: don’t go apeshit with your frosting. A nice ring of berries, some chocolate chips, or some handsomely-lettered message (if handwriting is your thing) does just fine. I mean, by all means, feel free to add a splash of color or some sprinkles or whatever the fuck suits your fancy, but beware the slippery icing-lined slope into the land of Cake Wrecks.
That’s it! Now go forth and volunteer to make cakes for your friends’ birthdays. I guarantee they’ll taste a lot better than most of the cakes you’d buy, they’re worlds cheaper, and then there’s that whole thing about the thought counting and it being a nice thing to do. Not that you’re into that sort of thing, reader. You selfish prick.
I kid! I love you. Most likely. (I love a lot of people.) I hope you’re having a good day! I am. It’s nice out! You look good in that shirt. Alright, see you later.
Yellow Layer Cake with Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting
from Deb, natch
Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.
15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.
Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.
Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.