I first baked this cake on graduating high school.
I baked it in two layers, frosted them as individual cakes for a party, drank a glass of champagne, went swimming, and then promptly went to college.
I hadn’t made this cake since then.
Recently, I made it for my father’s birthday.
Here he is, looking mildly pleased.
What I can’t get over, is how much has changed between then and now.
My last year of university is about to begin. “Season four begins.” My friends and I joke, because somehow, the entire three, now four years, has managed to feel like a bizarre, high drama miniseries, or at least, one that’s heavy on the taco-eating/beer-drinking/library-gossiping side of life.
Since I was a child, college has always the goal and the next “next thing.” Somehow, I’m now facing the beginning of the end of it, and panicking a little about what my next “next thing” is going to be.
I’m hopeful that I’ll bake this cake again soon, because it’s such a perfect, perfect cake. But also, I’m hopeful that I’ll bake it again soon because I really want to celebrate all the tiny victories and birthdays and half-birthdays and weekends and Monday nights and people. Mostly I want to celebrate all the people.
Everything is going by so fast.
There’s a bizarre musical called Auntie Mame. The best and only memorable line from the whole show is when Mame shouts, “Life is a banquet! And most poor suckers are starving to death!” And then she throws on a different wig and dances on the table, surrounded by multitudes of her tap-dancing lovers. Or at least, that’s how I remember it.
When I think about goals or dreams for the upcoming months, of course I want to work hard and study and graduate-- but more than any of this, I really want to bake this cake, throw on the wig, dance on the table, just for the hell of it.
Because life is a banquet.
Because it’s the beginning of the end, which means it’s a new beginning all over again.
And I want to celebrate.
Because I’m so excited.
I’m so wildly excited.
I’m so wildly excited.
In all sincerity, this one of the simplest and absolute best cakes you could ever wish that someone else would bake you for your birthday.
Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 to 530 grams, see explanation) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.
Go-to Chocolate Frosting
Also this frosting makes me the happiest. It is so good. So so soooo good.
1 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.