Classic American Yellow Cake with Chocolate Icing

Classic American Yellow Cake with Chocolate Icing

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If you’ve never made a cake from scratch before, this recipe is a good one to get you started.

I can’t claim to have a favorite cake, like I can’t claim to have a favorite child.  But….this one’s in my top 5…

The chocolate icing has just a bite of bitterness to it and it pairs so nicely with the spongey vanilla cake.


You can see from the photo above that more goes into a from-scratch cake than the “oil, eggs, water”, that you add to a boxed mix.

It takes a little more time and just a smidge of skill to make a cake from scratch.  But it’s totally do-able.  I’ve outlined the whole process in my photos, below.

Shannon’s Classic Yellow Cake

Makes 3 – 9″ round layers

2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

4 cups sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

6 eggs

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups half and half  (cream/milk)

DSC_9281Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the vanilla extract and the almond extract.

DSC_9284Add the eggs, a couple at a time and whip….

DSC_9287Until you have a smooth, custardy mixture.

DSC_9290Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir well.

DSC_9295Get your half and half ready…

DSC_9297Add about 1/3 of the flour and 1/3 of the half and half.  Mix very slowly.  Repeat.  Repeat.

DSC_9307As soon as your batter is smooth, stop.  Do not overmix at this point.  If there are a few little lumps, that’s fine.  Just keep it like this.

DSC_9310Grease and flour three 9-inch pans…..(more about greasing and flouring in THIS post). Pour equal amounts of batter into these pans.  It won’t be perfectly equal.  That’s okay.  Ball-park equal.  Quasi-equal.  That’s what we want.

DSC_9311Lick the spoon.

And bake in a 350 degree oven (F), for about 40 minutes.

Now we’ll get started on the icing!
DSC_9314Melt 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave.  Heat the chocolate chips at 30 second intervals.  Heat for 30 seconds, stir the chips, heat for 30 seconds, stir the chips.  THREE TIMES for a total of 1 minute and 30 seconds.  Stir well to complete the melting.  Do not overheat, or the chocolate will change from this viscous loveliness, to a clumpy nightmare.  There’s no way to recover clumpy nightmare chocolate.  So, if that happens, you’ll need to eat all that chocolate start again.

DSC_9315Combine 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks)  of unsalted, room temperature (soft) butter in a large mixing bowl with 3 cups of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

DSC_9317Whip the butter/sugar mixture until smooth.

DSC_9318Now add the chocolate to the butter/sugar mixture.  Be sure the chocolate is not hot.  Let it cool to almost room-temperature before you mix it with the butter/sugar mixture.

DSC_9326Finish it off with a spatula just to make sure it’s totally mixed.

DSC_9333When your cakes are TOTALLY COOL, you can start the stacking and icing process.  This is my favorite!

DSC_9338This is so fun, I really have a hard time making sheet cakes.  I do, on occasion make a sheet cake, but I always feel a little robbed of the whole stacking experience.

DSC_9340I like to make 3 or 4 layer cakes.  I’m a fan of the “tall cake”.

DSC_9342The best thing about making a simple, rustic cake like this is deciding what kind of swirls you are going to make.

DSC_9344Big swirls, little swirls, pokey swirls, zig-zag swirls… you could just stand there for an hour making swirls, then smoothing them over, then making them again.
DSC_9348Like a Japanese Zen garden.  Very relaxing.

DSC_9422You would be remiss not to eat this cake with a tall glass of cold milk.

DSC_9558My kids came home from school to this cake yesterday.  They were thrilled!  “Now THIS is the way to come home from school!”, my nine-year-old daughter said.

DSC_9472They are home from school today.  Teacher work day.  So they had the rest of the cake for breakfast.  It’s gone now.

We are going to go out and do something fun today.  It will be the best day.  🙂

Have a great weekend.  I’ll be back next week with my French-Style Thanksgiving Turkey, probably another soup recipe, and maybe a pie or two.

Take care, wherever you are.

Shannon Vavich

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