This is a stunning masterpiece of a cake. I mean, I just could not EVEN with this cake (and throwback to post #1, where I mention how I hate the phrase “I can’t even” but acknowledge that sometimes you can’t even). Nothing this beautiful comes easily though, so of course it’s a faff and a half. If you are the kind of person who enjoys a lengthy food-based project AND the satisfaction of making things with great visual appeal, then it will be well worth it (also, let’s be obsessive food friends!) The good news is that should you put in the work for this cake, you will be richly rewarded. The cake itself is super plush and moist (shudder) while the icing is perfect in its sweet-yet-tangy, creamy perfection. Honestly, how satisfying is it when the venn diagram of ‘beautiful food’ and ‘delicious food’ overlaps?
BA’s Best: Yellow Cake
Taken directly from BA’s Best arsenal, with just a hair of tweaking
4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
6 large egg yolks
3 large whole eggs
Icing + Assembly:
14 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or roughly 2 ¼ cups of the larger, dark chocolate chips that Hershey sells)
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 cups full-fat sour cream
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 ¾ cups icing sugar
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Sprinkles, for decorating (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, positioning racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Dig out your cake pans (9-inch round ones – most people who own these have a set of 2, which just means re-using 1 of them once the first 2 cakes are done baking as this is a 3-layer cake). Trace around the base of the pans onto a sheet of parchment paper and cut out the circles, fitting them neatly into the bottom of your cake pans as a liner. Liberally grease the sides and lined bottom of the pan using butter or non-stick spray. Assuming you only have 2 pans and will be re-using 1 of them, you will need to re-do this process for the third cake layer once the time comes.
Make the cake batter by whisking together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, at least 3 FULL minutes. Add the egg yolks individually, then the eggs, also individually, beating to blend between additions and occasionally stopping to thoroughly scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue beating the mixture until it has almost doubled in volume and becomes light, airy, and pale yellow in colour, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl (this should take ~5-6 minutes – hopefully you have a stand mixer or a buddy to trade off beating duties with!) Ensure that NO lumps remain before you finish beating! This is why constant scraping is important – those sneaky lumps like to hide at the bottom of the bowl, out of your reach! With the mixer on low, add in the reserved flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (so basically: 1/3 flour mix – ½ buttermilk mix – 1/3 flour mix – ½ buttermilk mix – 1/3 flour mix). Give the batter a final stir with a wooden spoon to ensure a smooth consistency.
Evenly divide the batter among the 3 prepared cake pans (or divide 2/3 of it among the 2 prepared pans, reserving the final 1/3 for when the first 2 cakes are baked and removed from the pans). If you are bad at eyeballing equal portions, you can always use a ¼ or ½ cup scoop to help evenly distribute the batter amongst your pans (e.g. do ½ cup into 1 pan, then ½ cup into the next, then ½ cup into last pan or into a separate bowl that will hold the waiting batter for the third cake, then keep going until you run out of batter). Ensure that the batter distributes itself evenly within the pan, and use a knife to smooth out the top. Set the cakes on either the bottom or top rack and bake for 30-40 minutes, switching racks halfway through baking. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the centre of each cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it, and the tops of the cakes are golden-brown. I found that 30 minutes was perfect for my cakes and would not have wanted them in for much longer as they were perfectly moist and springy. Set the cake pans on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack and carefully peel off the parchment paper circles. Cool the cakes completely. If you are using one of the just-used cake pans to make the third layer, wash and dry the pan before lining, greasing, filling, and baking. Cool and invert as instructed above.
While the cakes cool, prepare the icing by stirring the chocolate and corn syrup together in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, but keep the saucepan of water at a simmer. Stir the sour cream, salt, and vanilla in a large heatproof bowl and set over the same saucepan. Stir until the mixture is warm but not at all hot. Add the warm sour cream mixture to the melted chocolate mixture (ensuring that the drips of condensation from the warm bowl don’t get into the chocolate!) and stir until smooth and super glossy. Set aside. Using electric beaters or a stand mixer, beat the icing sugar and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, ~3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then slowly beat in the sour cream-chocolate mixture. Keep beating until no lumps remain, ~2 minutes, doing a BIG scrape of the sides and bottom of the bowl partway through mixing. The frosting should appear smooth, shiny, and lump-free. Cover and chill until firm enough to spread, ~30-45 minutes.
Once ready to assemble, use a long serrated knife to remove the top dome or any bumps from the cakes, so as to create a smooth surface. Very carefully, slice each cake in half horizontally to create 6 thin circular layers in total. It’s easier if you work slowly, keep one hand firmly on the top of the cake, and constantly ensure that the knife is running parallel to the cutting surface. If making ahead, wrap each layer carefully in plastic wrap and leave at room temperature (the layers are so delicate once halved – be very ginger in handling them; I used this tool, but you can also slip parchment paper squares beneath them for easier handling and maneuvering).
To frost, place 1 layer on a cake stand or serving plate and spoon 2/3 cup icing on top, using a metal spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth it towards the very edge of the cake ensuring that it reaches just past the edges so that the next cake layer will cause it to squish out slightly. Set the next layer on top and repeat the frosting process. Continue with the remaining cake layers and frosting. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake to fully coat everything (or do a naked cake like I did!). Scatter with sprinkles if desired. Swoon as you cut into the cake and feast your eyes on the stacks of beautiful layers you created.