This holiday weekend may be a lot more subdued than my usual Memorial Day revelries (lake house, potato cannon, punch), but there will still be cake. Lots of it, smothered in strawberries and cream.
My recipe is a classic yellow cake that’s whisked in one bowl. It is slightly fussier than other one-bowl cakes in that you’ll definitely need that whisk, and a dedication to some brief but furious mixing. But the result is a cake that’s fantastically silky, tender and buttery without being at all heavy — and without calling for an electric mixer.
To make it, take 3 eggs out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. Or put them in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes. They shouldn’t be cold, or they won’t whisk up nicely. While you’re at it, melt 4 tablespoons/60 grams unsalted butter, and let it cool. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl, add 1 ¼ cups/250 grams granulated sugar, and whisk the heck out of it. I whisked for exactly one energetic, bicep-tingling minute. You want the mixture to be frothy and bubbly, but you don’t need it to look like mousse, or to “ribbon” on itself — it just has to inflate slightly. This helps give you a nice, light crumb.
Whisk in the butter, ½ cup/120 milliliters flavorless oil — I used sunflower, but use whatever you have, even mild olive oil, works — and 1 cup/240 milliliters buttermilk or a combination of yogurt or sour cream thinned with some milk. Add flavorings: citrus zest, orange or lemon extract, vanilla extract, almond extract, a shot of bourbon. I used both vanilla and almond extracts just to see what would happen. Good things, try it!
Now whisk in ½ teaspoon each salt and baking soda, and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Finally, whisk in 2 cups/255 grams all-purpose or cake flour. (I used all-purpose from the quickly diminishing 50-pound sack I started this pandemic with.) Whisk vigorously for another 30 seconds to eliminate any lumps.
Then, pour the batter into greased and parchment-lined pans (or greased and floured). You can use two 8-inch layer cake pans (bake for 30 to 35 minutes); a 9×13-inch pan (25 to 35 minutes); or 24 cupcake molds (use liners, and bake for 17 to 22 minutes). The batter rises a lot, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look as though there’s enough. You’ll know the cake is done when it’s golden and the top springs back when lightly pressed in the center.
Once cooled, you can frost it as you like. I went for whipped cream and strawberries. But chocolate frosting or a satiny buttercream would make it birthday party worthy. It’s perfect for whatever you’re celebrating, even if that’s just taking a moment to enjoy a slice of cake.
This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.