Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Search for the Perfect Yellow Cake: Part 1

My friend and I have decided to search for the perfect yellow cake. The idea for this search started when my friend told me that she was craving a yellow cake with chocolate frosting - the prototypical cake in my mind. She asked me if I knew of a good recipe, and I told her that I didn't. Thus, the search began.

We then planned to meet each other once a week and try out a recipe. On the first week, we were hoping to try out the recipe from her grandmother because she says that it was her favorite growing up. After weeks and weeks of begging for the recipe, she was never able to get it from her grandmother until today! We will be trying out that recipe tomorrow, so I will keep you posted.
As you can see, I didn't bother with fancy decorations. The point was to test the cake.

On this post, I present to your our first attempt. At the end of the post, I will give you the rating we and two other people gave on this cake. This first recipe comes from one of my most reliable food blog for good recipes - Mel's Kitchen. I love her recipes and get excited about just about any recipe that pops up.

When she blogged about a homemade yellow cake mix recipe, I was so excited. I was even more excited that I had all the ingredients in my apartment already, including the powdered milk....ahhh, the powdered milk (from hereon, we will call this ingredient PM). After making the batter, we tasted it and were surprisingly disappointed. The PM was the most salient taste; it really tasted off. Nevertheless, we forged ahead, baked, and frosted the cake with my favorite chocolate frosting.

My beloved, overheated oven caused the cake to burn around the edges while the center was still not done. I continued to bake the cake and then cut off the burnt, crusty tips. After frosting the cake, I cut into it in order to take photos. The knife struggled through the burnt, overly-done edges of the cake and then I pulled out the piece only to reveal an underdone cake! I cut another piece that looked a bit better and took photos of it instead.

We tasted the cake reluctantly and were disappointed. My friend was more disappointed than I. I think the problem primarily came from the powdered milk and the oven. I should have used a newer box of PM and maybe I could have ground it up a bit before adding it to the cake mixture because the granules were quite large. Also, I need to request the apartment owner to install a new oven for me hahaha. I hope I have luck with that. Anyway, everyone who tasted the cake loved the chocolate frosting, but that had nothing to do with the yellow cake in itself.
I finally used one of the blocks of chocolate given to me by Guittard in the frosting. 
I love the design on it.

Here are the ratings:

Memoria: 6.5/10
Lydia: 5/10
Lydia's husband: 8.5/10
My Neighbor: 8.5/10

So, the non-picky people gave the cake a much higher rating. I think if I were to fix the two problems mentioned above, the cake would dramatically improve. So, with that said, I wouldn't totally dismiss this recipe at all. I plan to try it again under better circumstances. Despite the negatives, this cake was moist and buttery. All the homemade yellow cakes I've made prior to this one tasted like sweet cornbread for some reason. This one tasted like a cake even with the problems it had.

For the next cake, we will be using my friend's oven, and this recipe doesn't require PM :). Stay tuned!

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
*Makes enough for two 9-inch layer cakes (bake according to recipe), or one 9X13-inch cake (bake for 30 to 35 minutes), or one 12-cup bundt pan (bake for 40 to 45 minutes), or 24 cupcakes (bake for 18 to 20 minutes)

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (or 1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour and 3 Tbsp cornstarch) 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Process sugar, flours (or flour and cornstarch if making the substitution for the cake flour), milk powder, baking powder, and salt in a food processor for 15 seconds to combine. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you want this much finer than, say, a pie crust). Freeze the dry mixture in a zipper-lock bag for up to 2 months or use immediately.

To make the cake, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your pan of choice (I used Baker's Joy).

1 1/4 c warm water
2 large eggs, room temperature

With an electric or stand mixer, beat the prepared cake mix, warm water and eggs until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-27 minutes for two 9-inch layer cakes. See the note above the recipe for alternate cooking times with other baking pans. Cool the cake(s) in pan(s) for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream
from the Daring Baker's Dobos Torte. Recipe copied from PastryPal

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Guittard semi-sweet chocolate)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, Dutch-processed
1 1/4 cups (125 g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fill a pot with water, bring to a boil, and place a larger bowl filled with the chocolate over it. It will melt gently. Let the chocolate cool to lukewarm on the side.

Meanwhile, beat the butter until completely smooth. Add cocoa powder and beat in. Sift the powdered sugar directly over the bowl and beat that in.

In the top photo, you can see the Cocoa Rouge Powder. I love the dark red hue in this powder.
Next, in goes the vanilla and the melted chocolate.
Mix together, and place a crumb coating on the cake. Refrigerate or freeze the cake for 30 mins-1 hour. Then, add another coat of frosting.

*If you want to do a lot of decorating with his frosting, I suggest making another half portion of this frosting or doubling it.


  1. Sigue buscando, porque este te ha quedado de vicio. Dan ganas de coger un bocado. Saludos

  2. I've been on a similar quest lately. Who would have thought that finding a good yellow cake would be so hard. I'm glad you reviewd this recipe first because I was going to make it for my birthday next week. Thanks for trying it out for me. ha!

    Can't wait to see what you come up with! Hurry up and make that new recipe :-)

  3. You should try maybe Bakerella's Yellow Moist Cake. Its amazing. Good luck! :)

  4. Jessiker - I tried Bakerella's recipe a long time ago and was very disappointed. I would give that cake probably a 1 or 2 because it tasted more like sweet cornbread to me. I'm glad that you like it, though. It just goes to show that everyone has different taste buds.

  5. I don't know if this is the perfect one but it's so yammy for sure!!!! Delicious!!

  6. I'm sorry this cake wasn't what you were looking for. I'm wondering if your oven has something to do with the burnt edges/gooey middle since others have had such great success with it. Either way, I hope you find the perfect recipe! It's a very worthy experiment.

  7. Oh I'm excited about this mission you are on! Good luck! Your frosting looks delicious! I would love to eat some of that right now. No cake needed thank you. LOL!

  8. What fun would it be if you discovered the perfect recipe on the first try! Keep on chuggin!

  9. NOW you decide to under take this porject? After I don't need a perfect yellow cake recipe? Thankfully who cares about need, I WANT one. :) Can't wait for all the yummilicious cake filled posts to come. Woohoo!

    Btw, do you use an oven thermometer? I've had one for a couple of years as my oven used to do the same thing. It's off by FIFTEEN DEGREES!

  10. I LUV that you are doing this. Since we moved from Houston 3 years ago I lost my favorite bakery for birthday cakes. I have since made several real stinkers, and I keep lamenting that it can't be so hard to make an awesome homemade cake! But it is hard!!!! Will be following you and hoping for ultimate success!

  11. wow complimenti....una delizia meravigliosa....domani se passi nel mio blog trovi il gelato alla nutella!!!baciiiiii

  12. Oh my god. i found the best yellow cake recipe ever last winter!! (, only i made cupcakes instead of a full cake. it's a martha stewart recipe in her book "cooking school: lessons and recipes for the home cook" ( It is to die for!!

  13. I'm sorry to hear! Maybe I liked Bakerella's own because I changed it up a bit. But I hope you find your recipe. I'm also sure we'll all be anxious to try it out!

  14. I'm impatiently waiting to find out which yellow cake you think is perfect. My birthday is in a month and I want a yellow cake with chocolate frosting to be my birthday cake!

  15. Too bad it was disappointing in flavor because it looks like a good old-fashioned yellow cake should. Just like my mom's! : )
    Looking forward to the next one.....

  16. I was totally distracted by that lovely hunk of chocolate! Hope the cake turns out!

  17. Hi, Memoria

    You know I miss chomping down on a slice of good ole yellow cake with chocolate frosting since I tend to prefer chocolate on chocolate cake through and through. However, I believe that once you get this cake off and running, good things are going to happen! You already have a head start with that huge slab of chocolate and that delicious chocolate frosting! It looks so very purty :o)

    No matter what the outcome of the cake, I do hope that you and your cooking partner in crime had a good time and that you were able to laugh at your mistakes! Keep those cakes a-coming!

  18. It looks fantastic! Too bad it disappointed you. At least the chocolate frosting was worth it? :)

  19. Woohoo! I am SOOO glad you are doing this search. I have been looking for the perfect yellow cake too, but I'm too lazy to a full-on search. I'm sorry this cake wasn't what you were hoping for. It looks dang good though, I have to say. I can't wait to see what you're going to try next. You should try the hummingbird recipe. I thought it was really good and Joy the Baker used it for a wedding cake she just made.

  20. I've been searching for a good yellow cake recipe too! Nothing seems to match the same flavor as the one from the box. Too bad you were disappointed in the cakes! Looks great though!

  21. It will only get better and better ;)

  22. As far as my family is concerned, there is no other cake but a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I don't dare make anything else for their birthday cakes, so I'm interested in what you find out! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Did you get my email saying that the chocolate package arrived safe and sound, I also loved the design on the large choc bar


English: Feel free to write a comment in your own language!
Español: ¡Siente libre de dejar un comentario en tu propio idioma!
Italiano: Sentitevi liberi di scrivere un commento nella vostra lingua!
Português: Fique à vontade de deixar um comentário no seu próprio idioma!
OR français, 한글, or another language!