New Favorite White Layer Cake
Good morning and happy new year, sweet friends.
After what seems like an entire month of sugar, I figure today is the best day to share a giant white cake filled with creamy vanilla frosting and topped with rainbow– but mostly pink– sprinkles. Seriously though. I really want to start 2017 off the best way we know how: with a bakery classic. This is my new favorite white layer cake!
Creating a white cake that incorporates a soft and airy crumb, a sweet but not-at-all-muted flavor, moist but not eggy, tender crumbs that stick to your fork, all completely from scratch that is also EASY and approachable is a tall order. In fact, I didn’t even know if all of that together was even possible in a home kitchen. I was given some hope when I bit into my first simply perfect vanilla cupcake back in August, but work was cut out turning those cupcakes into a larger cake. It’s not as simple as doubling all the ingredients. No, a fluffy white cake takes a little more TLC.
Here is what I learned:
- To get a good rise, you need to properly cream the butter and sugar together. Of course we’ll have a crutch of baking powder and soda, but the recipe begins with that very first and imperative step: beating the butter and sugar together until creamy.
- After that, you’ll need 5 egg whites. This is sort of a pain with all those leftover egg yolks, but the most guaranteed way to achieve a fluffy and soft white cake is by leaving out the yolks. Not only will using only egg whites give us a pristine white cake, it will ensure that the crumb is not weighed down by the fat in egg yolks. Think about it: lighter confections such as marshmallows and angel food cakes only require egg whites.
- Sour cream is the cake’s security blanket; it keeps everything moist and tender.
- Cake flour is almost 30x finer than all-purpose flour. This means a light cake. Using it is a surefire way to achieve a delicate and delicious texture. It’s certainly not as common as all-purpose flour but it’s sold right next to it in the baking aisle.
- All room temperature! When ingredients are all the same temperature, they bind together more readily than if you had some cold + some warmer ingredients. Colder ingredients (especially egg whites) will produce a thicker batter and, since it’s cold, will take longer to bake. This changes everything.
To summarize, make sure you’re creaming the butter and sugar together properly, all your ingredients are the same temperature and you use egg whites, sour cream, and cake flour. Power ingredients!
The result is a fabulously ultra-light cake with buttery vanilla flavor, just like the kind you find at a bakery or from a box mix. And all made from scratch in your very own kitchen. Now THAT’S the way to start a new year!
While the ingredients in the cake batter don’t leave any room for substitutions, we can have some fun with a variety of frostings and cake pans. I went with a vanilla frosting, which I’ll include in the recipe below. But I also encourage you to play around with milk chocolate frosting or even a cream cheese frosting. Both remarkable on this beauty. Or rainbow chip frosting! 🙂
The vanilla frosting makes a lot, so expect a thick layer between the cakes. Alternatively, you can bake the cake in a 9×13 pan. This single layer size is much easier for not only preparing and frosting, but for serving as well.
Just as tasty right here. ↓ ↓
Check out that cake crumb! Snowy white, soft, sweet, with an airy crumb. ♥
Simple, yet glamorous. Happy happy baking.
Favorite White Layer Cake
- 2 and 1/2 cups (250g) sifted cake flour1 (measured correctly)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
- 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature2
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, at room temperature2
- 1 and 1/4 cups (2.5 sticks; 287g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 5 cups (580g) sifted confectioners' sugar
- 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or use clear imitation vanilla extract for stark white frosting)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- sprinkles for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch cake pans.
- Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites. Beat on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
- Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 24-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin, more cream if frosting is too thick, or a pinch more of salt if frosting is way too sweet.
- Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate top of cake with sprinkles, if desired.
- Slice, serve, enjoy!
Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake the next day when you are ready to serve. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
- If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it. Measure 1 cup. This sifted 1 cup equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 2 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.
- Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
To bake in a 9x13 pan: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9x13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
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