This is a midnight cake.
I made this late one night, after a day of trying and failing to make treacle tart. Days when baking fails you are always disappointing–not just because a recipe didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, but because at the end of the day you’re left without dessert. And that just won’t do.
This would have been a much more impressive cake had I made two layers, but halving it seemed the wisest choice: it was late and I was making this for the sole purpose of having dessert. (Also because I’d been watching The Office and there was a scene in which someone was eating cake and I suddenly needed cake.) Dessert inspired by sudden cravings generally doesn’t need to be anything other than passably good.
And this was good–more than passably so, even. It was shorter than I’d have liked, perhaps owing to the fact that my cake pan was nine inches rather than eight inches, but the cake was soft, sweet, and full of vanilla flavor. The edges that touched the cake pan were a little crisp, providing a nice texture that contrasted well against the softer interior.
I’m not sure that this can really be considered a true yellow cake, however. Yellow cake is typically made with egg yolks rather than whole eggs, giving it a rich yellow color. A lot of egg yolks, usually, to make up for the lack of whites. But I didn’t want to use up all of my eggs, so I specifically looked for a recipe that accepted whole eggs, and I came across this one. An economical amount of eggs and the recipe is one-bowl to boot? We have a winner.
The frosting was a bit of a mishmash, something between cream cheese frosting and a simple buttercream. Ideally I’d have put cream cheese frosting on it, but I was low on cream cheese and I had to make do (again, midnight). The recipe I’ve included below is my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe, the one I’d have used if I had enough cream cheese. I like it because it’s not too sweet; the moderate amounts of powdered sugar and butter allow the cream cheese tang to really shine through.
For this midnight cake, though, I improvised by using the last three or so tablespoons of cream cheese, half a stick of butter, vanilla, and about a cup of powdered sugar. I liked the ratio I ended up with–it was a little sweet, a little tangy, a little buttery, and vanilla-y above all else.
I’d like to make a “true” yellow cake sometime, egg yolks and all. But for a simple vanilla cake, something you want to make for the sole purpose of scarfing it down one Saturday night, this is perfect.
Simple One-Bowl Vanilla Cake
Source: Slightly adapted from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice
Makes one 2-layer, 8-inch cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt (I mean, I never sift, but the original recipe says to, and who am I to deprive you of your choice to sift?). Add the butter, milk, and vanilla; stir until combined. Add the eggs and beat until ribbony and fully incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (I like to take it out a little earlier–when the toothpick is almost clean but still has a crumb or two stuck to it–to ensure a moist cake). Cool the cakes in their pans on wire racks for ten minutes; after ten minutes, turn the cakes out onto the racks and let them cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting (or whatever frosting you like) (but give the cream cheese frosting below a chance).
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbsp butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar (+ more to taste, if desired)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- pinch of salt
Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and stir to combine. Feel free to add more powdered sugar if desired.