1 hr, plus cooling and frosting time
Makes:1 double-layer 8-inch cake (10 to 12 servings)
A yellow cake with chocolate frosting is the staple for birthdays, and though the simplicity of a box mix is alluring, homemade is just as easy. Here, tender cake pairs with slightly bitter chocolate frosting for a classic combo.
Game plan: If you don’t have two 8-inch cake pans, you can make this in a single 13-by-9-inch pan. To frost, use one batch of Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting instead of two. Baking time will be the same.
Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange the rack in the middle. Coat 2 (8-inch) cake pans with butter and flour, and tap out any excess flour. Set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on medium-high speed until fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla, and continue to beat another 5 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
Return the mixer to medium-high speed and add whole eggs in the same manner, allowing 1 minute between additions. Stop the mixer again and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. (The mixture should be very pale in color.)
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, and turn the mixer to low speed, mixing until the flour is just incorporated. Add 1/2 of the milk, and mix until just incorporated. Continue with remaining flour mixture and milk, alternating between each, until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until cake edges slightly pull away from the pans and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry with just a few crumbs, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove the pans from the oven and let cool on a wire rack, about 10 to 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of each cake, and turn out onto the rack to cool completely (at least 1 1/2 hours) before frosting.
To frost, place a cake layer on an 8-inch cardboard round, a tart-pan bottom, or a cake plate. Evenly spread about 1/3 of the frosting over the top of the layer. Stack the second layer, and evenly spread another 1/3 of the frosting over the top and sides of the whole cake. (Don’t worry about looks at this point—this is just a basecoat, a.k.a. a crumb layer, and it will be covered up later.) Place in the refrigerator until frosting is set up and slightly hard, about 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and spread remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake, ensuring it’s as even as possible. Serve.