The basic layer cake has one, straightforward method of construction with one variation.
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl (“dry mix”)
Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl (“batter”)
Beat egg(s) and vanilla into batter
Alternate adding dry mix and milk to batter, beginning and ending with dry mix
Pan and bake according to your need
This cake will have a tender crumb, substantial enough to feel like you enjoyed some cake without being so heavy that you regret eating it. It’s a good everyday cake. Observe, the basic layer (spice variation):
I like cake, but most cake is crap.
Store-bought cakes are usually too sweet, frosted with diabetic-coma-inducing, weird-tasting fluff. Home-baked cake from scratch tends to lack consistency, usually dense and sitting like a rock in the gut. That cake density may be directly related to using measuring cups as opposed to a scale, because I have yet to meet the baker who can measure two cups of flour and have the first cup scale out at the same weight as the second. Home-baked from a box tends to have an insubstantial texture that can’t hold real flavor. White cake from a box is the worst, since it presents an unholy combination of insubstantial texture combined with a distinct flavor of chemicals.
I love making Clinton Street Baking Company pancakes, but whipping egg whites is a time-consuming task. The first time around, I used room-temp egg whites in a room-temp bowl in a room-temp room. I had to brush cobwebs off my spatula before I could flip my first pancake. They are worth the wait, but until recently, they were relegated to Weekend Breakfast Only.
Then I got to talking with one of my colleagues about all things food one day; her mother graduated with a degree in Home Economics before Home Ec was cool. I wasn’t even talking about those pancakes, and she happened to share the secret to fast whipping – an ice-cold metal bowl, no cream of tartar required. The physics makes sense – the cold bowl will slow the molecules of viscous white down enough to be able to beat air into the white quickly.
This morning (a Sunday morning), I decided to try out cold bowl whipping. I stuck my bowl in the freezer while I started prepping ingredients, pulled out the bowl once I was ready to whip the whites – and found the whites had to wait for me instead of the reverse. Goodbye Bisquick, hello mouthfuls of engineering bliss.