Eek, it’s been a long time! The Christmas season was busy busy busy. I baked up a storm of cookies and sent them in packages to my parents and my sister. Then there was a second flurry of baking so I could bring several different kinds of cookies with us to California when we went to spend the holidays with James’ family. We had two delightful weeks in California, and now that the holidays are safely behind us, I can get back to blogging without going crazy.

This cake has been on my mind ever since Deb of Smitten Kitchen (the most beautiful and drool-worthy food blog out there, in my humble opinion) posted it back in July. July! I can’t believe I waited that long to try it. I originally wanted to make this for my birthday in October, but James and I went to a charming bed and breakfast in New Hampshire that weekend for some leaf-peeping, and to make things easier on myself I whipped up a batch of vanilla cupcakes.

My apologies to Deb for the blatant and amateurish mimicry of her astonishing, peerless photography.

Anyway, I’ve been craving this frosted, delicious cake for a long time now, and it didn’t let me down. Deb says this cake will work every time, and I believe her. It went together easily and baked up beautifully (I may have overbaked it just a smidge but it doesn’t seem to have suffered for it).

Deb used a chocolate sour cream frosting with this cake, and recommends a fast fudge frosting as an alternative. I chose to go with the fudgy frosting because I was hesitant that the sour cream frosting might be too sour for my taste. I’m glad I did, because this frosting is awesome. It whirls together in a food processor in a flash, and when it’s room temperature it is light as air.

The cake is also light and airy at room temperature, but I found that I like them both much better when chilled. The cake seemed denser (I’m a big fan of dense – but not heavy – cakes) and the frosting went from mousse-like to fudge-fudge-fudgy. Yum!

Yellow Layer Cake

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

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.

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. (Deb recommends dropping it a few times from two inches up, which worked wonderfully.) 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.

Instant Fudge Frosting

Makes about 5 cups (I generously frosted my cake and still had a ton left over!)

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.

Don’t rush to the frosting step! I don’t think my layers were completely cool when I started slathering on the frosting. It was fine until after I cut out our slices, and I saw that the frosting in the middle was getting melty and oozing out. I popped it into the fridge to stop the melt, and the next day was when I discovered how tasty this cake is cold!

This slice was supposed to be just for the photo shoot while I had good light, and I swore I was going to put it back and wait until after dinner to eat it. You can see how well that plan went!