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My very best Vanilla Cake

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This is my best vanilla cake recipe. A classic butter cake but with Japanese techniques applied for the most plush, soft and moist yellow cake like you’ve never had before. This professional bakery style cake stays fresh and moist for 4 days β€” that’s unheard of! Use the same batter for perfect Vanilla Cupcakes.

 

Close up of a slice of my best Vanilla Cake

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Ingredients :

2 cups plain / all purpose flour (cake flour OK too, Note 1)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (check it’s still active, Note 2)
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs (50 – 55g / 2 oz each), at room temp (Note 3)
1 1/2 cups caster / superfine sugar (granulated/regular ok too, Note 2)
115g / 1/2 cup unsalted butter , cut into 1.5cm / 1/2” cubes (or so)
1 cup milk , full fat (Note 5)
3 tsp vanilla extract , the best you can afford (Note 6)
3 tsp vegetable or canola oil (Note 7)
Vanilla Buttercream
225g / 2 sticks unsalted butter , softened
500g / 1 lb soft icing sugar / powdered sugar , SIFTED
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 4 tbsp milk , to adjust thickeness

Instructions :

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 180Β°C/350Β°F (160Β°C fan) for 20 minutes before starting the batter (Note 8). Place shelf in the middle of the oven.
Grease 2 x 20cm / 8” cake pans with butter, then line with parchment / baking paper. (Note 9 more pan sizes) Best to use cake pan without loose base, if you can.
Combine Dry Ingredients
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
Beat eggs until aerated:
Beat eggs for 30 seconds on speed 6 of a Stand Mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or hand beater.
With the beater still going, pour the sugar in over 45 seconds.
Then beat for 7 minutes on speed 8, or until tripled in volume and white.
Finish cake batter:
Heat Milk-Butter: While egg is beating, place butter and milk in a heatproof jug and microwave 2 minutes on high to melt butter (or use stove). Do not let milk bubble and boil (foam ok). Don’t do this ahead and let the milk cool (this affects rise).
Gently add flour: When the egg is whipped, scatter 1/3 flour across surface, then beat on Speed 1 for 5 seconds. Add half remaining flour, then mix on Speed 1 for 5 sec. Add remaining flour, then mix on Speed 1 for 5 – 10 sec until the flour is just mixed in. Once you can’t see flour, stop straight away.
Lighten hot milk with some Egg Batter: Pour hot milk, vanilla and oil into the now empty flour bowl. Add about 1 1/2 cups (2 ladles or so) of the Egg Batter into the Milk-Butter (don’t need to be 100% accurate with amount). Use a whisk to mix until smooth – you can be vigorous here. Will look foamy.
Slowly add milk: Turn beater back on Speed 1 then pour the Milk mixture into the Egg Batter over 15 seconds, then turn beater off.
Scrape and final mix: Scrape down sides and base of bowl. Beat on Speed 1 for 10 seconds – batter should now be smooth and pourable.
Bake:
Pour batter into pans.
Knock out bubbles: Bang each cake pan on the counter 3 times to knock out big bubbles (Note 10 for why)
Bake 30 minutes or until golden and toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean.
Cool & frost:
Remove from oven. Cool in cake pans for 15 minutes, then gently turn out onto cooling racks. If using as layer cakes, cool upside down – slight dome will flatten perfectly. Level cake = neat layers.
Frost with frosting of choice, or cream and fresh berries or jam. See list of ideas in post!
Vanilla Buttercream:
Beat butter with paddle attachment in stand mixer for 3 minutes on high until it changes from yellow to almost white, and it becomes fluffy and creamy.
Add icing sugar / powdered sugar gradually in 3 lots, beating slowly (to avoid a powder storm) then once mostly incorporated, beat on high for a full 3 minutes until fluffy.
Add vanilla and milk, then beat for a further 30 seconds. Use milk only if needed to make it lovely and soft but still holds it’s form (eg for piping). Use immediately. (If you make ahead, refrigerate then beat to re-fluff).

Notes :

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To ensure success:
Read recipe from start to finish before starting;
Make sure your baking powder is not past its expiry – here’s how to check;
Fresh eggs make the cake rise properly (old eggs don’t aerate as well);
Work in order of steps per recipe;
Don’t incorporate add-ins like funfetti or blueberry (they sink); and
Once you start, keep going until it’s in the oven. Do not at any point leave batter sitting around – bubbles will subside!
Stand Mixer speeds are for a Kitchen Aid which has 10 speed settings. Hand beater works for same times and speeds (though not as powerful, I have found that the ability to move around bowl makes it just as effective).

Victoria sponge

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RECIPE NOTES :

1. Cake flour works just fine with this recipe, but butter and vanilla flavour, and crumb is ever so slightly better using plain / all-purpose flour. Also, cake flour makes the cake surface sweaty and sticky the next day.
2. Caster / superfine sugar are finer grains than regular / granulated sugar so it dissolves when whipped with the eggs. Regular sugar sometimes doesn’t fully dissolve which doesn’t affect the cake rise or texture but can leave some small brown sugar specks on the surface. Not a big deal – just visual if serving undecorated.
3. Eggs – important to be at room temp as they fluff better when whipped which is key to the fluffy texture of this cake. Also, fresher eggs aerate better = better rise. Old eggs don’t fluff as well.
Quick way to warm up fridge cold eggs – place in a large bowl, cover with warm tap water (just warm, not hot), leave for 5 minutes. Wipe dry (to avoid residual water dripping into bowl), then use per recipe.
Large eggs – 50 – 55g / 2 oz per egg this is the industry standard of egg sizes sold in cartons labelled as “large eggs” in Australia and the US. If your eggs are significantly larger or smaller in size, just weigh your eggs and use 200 – 220g / 8 oz in total (including shell) or 180 – 200g / 7.3 oz in total excluding shell (this is useful if you need to use a partial egg to make up the total required weight. Just crack eggs, whisk THEN pour into a bowl to measure out what you need).
4. Baking powder – dead baking powder is a common problem with cake fails, even if not past the expiry date. Here’s how to check yours is still good.
Baking soda (bi-carb) won’t make the cake rise quite as well. If you have no choice, then use 3/4 teaspoons of baking soda.
5. Milk – if you sub with lower fat milk then the texture of the crumb becomes a little less tender. Do not substitute with non-dairy milk, such as soy or almond milk.
6. Vanilla come in all sorts of qualities. I use Vanilla Extract. Better quality (more expensive) = better flavour, but I think vanilla bean paste is wasted in cakes.
7. Oil – just 3 teaspoons makes a noticeable difference to the tenderness of the crumb AND keeps the crumb moist for days.
8. Oven preheating – 30 minutes preheat is recommended to ensure no loss of heat when the oven door is opened. Never use the rapid heat function on your oven for baking, no matter how fancy your oven is!
9. Cake pans – the batter is quite thin so to ensure no leakage, best not to use a cake pan with a loose base or a springform pan. If that’s all you’ve got, then use butter to firmly fill the gap (this should be enough – I had no leakage when I did this) and for extra insurance, try to cut the paper for the base slightly larger so it goes slightly up the wall.
Cake pan sizes – click here for a useful table of different cake pan sizes, cake height and bake times.
2 x 20cm / 8″ cake pans- per base recipe above, bake 30 minutes
3 x 20cm / 8″ cake pans – 23 minutes at temp per recipe. If they don’t all fit, put 2 on the middle shelf and one on shelf below. Take out top 2 at 23 minutes, then move bottom one up and bake for further 2 minutes.
2 x 23 cm / 9″ cake pans – 27 minutes
3 x 23 cm / 9″ cake pans – 20 minutes
2 x 15cm / 6″ cake pans – halve the recipe, I haven’t made this size yet but expect will be 25 – 27 min bake time.
12 cup tube pan or bundt pan (grease & dust with flour) – bake 1 hour, but note cake will not be as fluffy as pictured and described
23 x 33 cm / 13 x 9″ rectangle cake – 30 minutes
Cupcakes – refer to Vanilla Cupcakes recipe
Chocolate cake – different batter recipe works better, see this recipe
Perfect golden sides and base can be achieved by greasing generously with butter then flour dusting base and sides. However, it’s not my base recipe because very occasionally, the base will stick a bit and some of the golden skin comes off. Safer to use paper!
10. Knock out big bubbles – banging cake pans on counter will knock out big air bubbles in the batter that causes unsightly bubble brown spots on the surface and irregular holes in the crumb. It does not burst the tiny bubbles that make the cake rise – they are too small to bang out!
11. Sweetness note – sweeter than Asian cakes, less sweet than typical Western butter cakes. Please do not reduce sugar – 1 1/2 cups is minimum required to make the eggs foamy enough to rise.
12. Different measures in different countries – tablespoon and cup sizes differ slightly from country to country. In most recipes, the difference is not enough to affect the outcome of the recipe, but for baking recipes, you do need to be careful.
This cake recipe has been specifically tested using both US and Australian cups (the two countries with the greatest size variance) and the cakes were exactly the same. So you can have confidence that this recipe can be used no matter which country you are in – only exception is Japan (cup sizes are considerably smaller (200ml) so please use weights provided).
For absolutely certainty, opt to use the weights provided (click Metric toggle button above ingredients). Professional kitchens only use weights.
13. Storage – if not frosting immediately once cooled, cover surface with baking paper (so it doesn’t stick to cling wrap) then wrap in cling wrap immediately then place in an airtight container. Do not leave it sitting around for hours once cooled, cakes go stale quite quickly. Leave out rather than in fridge, unless it’s super hot where you live. Keeps in freezer for 3 months.
Frosted or wrapped unfrosted cake keeps perfectly for 4 days (as in, practically like freshly made). Still good on Day 7 but a bit less moist. Keeps better if frosted because it seals the moisture in. If frosted with buttercream, it can stay out on counter and is better stored this way unless it’s hot where you are (in which case refrigerate but take out of fridge a good hour before serving. Nobody likes cold buttercream frosting or cake!) Avoid pre slicing – the area most prone to drying cake out is the cut sides.
14. Frosting – If it becomes too sloppy/soft because the butter was too soft or your kitchen is too warm eg Aussie summer (!), just refrigerate 10 minutes – remove paddle attachment and stick it in the bowl – then whip again to re-fluff.
15. Nutrition per slice, assuming 10 servings. Cake only.

 

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