A Tale of One Cake Layer (Yellow Velvet Cake)


Comparing two layers of cake for A Tale of One Cake LayerAn interesting thing happened on the way to the Pina Colada cake (which is next weeks blog).

I was working on too many things at once when I was working on this cake.  At the end of the day I went to release the cake and ended up cutting across one side of it because I wasn’t focusing on what I was doing.  My husband offered the opinion that if we turned it a certain way, it probably wouldn’t matter.  I was very tempted because I was tired.  I had learned not to made decisions when tired, so I put it off for a day.

That proved to be a lucky decision.  When I looked closely at the cake, the texture seemed to be a bit coarse.  While it probably wouldn’t matter to most people, I am always trying to make my work better.  I decided to switch the all purpose flour for cake flour – but by weight.  So the 1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour became 2 cups of cake flour since they both weighed 250 grams or 9 ounces.  It proved to be a good idea.

While I love the other delicate yellow cake I blogged about earlier, I needed a more substantial yellow cake for this recipe as I wanted to soak it in a rum syrup.  And here it is. Although more substantial, it is moist and with only butter as its flavoring, it  accepts whatever you add to it. While it is the perfect vehicle for a soaking syrup, it is equally good on its own.

I thought it might interest you to see how changing one type of flour for another would make such a noticeable difference.  And the only change between the flours is the protein or gluten count.  All purpose flour is around 11% while cake flour is around 8% making it a softer flour.  The bottom layer which is flatter is made with the all purpose flour.  The top cake which is slightly domed is made with the cake flour.

Two layers on top of each other showing the different textures for A Tale of  a Layer cake

The version with cake flour has a tighter crumb, better color and rises a bit more.  The cake in the back is visibly taller than the layer in front.Difference between cake layers for A Tale of One Cake LayerEven the bottoms look different.  The one on the left was made with all purpose flour, the one on the right with cake flour.  Bottoms of the two cake layersIt is almost velvety.  Cake flour texture for A Tale of One Cake LayerAs you will see in the photo, despite preparing my 9×2 inch pan as I usually do, it humped slightly in the center.  I believe if the pan it was baked in was 3 inches deep, it would have been as flat as any other cake.  It simply ran out of room to cling to the pan at 2 inches. I believe it would have been at least 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches tall.   Conversely the layer made with all purpose flour came out flat as it did not rise as much, but still a respectable 2 inches.  Difference heights of cake layers for A Tale of One Cake LayerThe all purpose cake on the left  fills a 2 inch deep pan.  So dividing either batter in half for these cakes would make a great 2 layer cake*.  I am excited to try the two layer version with a dark chocolate buttercream – yummmmmmm!

When I tested this cake two ways, I kept everything as equal as possible without two ovens and another person running the test at the same time.  I put the butter out the night before so it would be evenly softened.  Microwaving it makes it difficult to get it equally softened.  I weighed out all of the ingredients at once for both cakes and since I have two bowls and paddles for my K5A ,I was able to make one, put it in the oven and immediately go to the next one.   I timed every step, as you will see, to make sure I didn’t beat more air into one than the other.  I used the same number on the machine for each as well as the time.

I hope you find this as interesting as I do.  This recipe is written with the times and numbers that I used for the test included.  You don’t have to use them, just make sure all is beaten as needed.  One of the most important things in cake baking is to scrape quite often to make sure everything is being evenly distributed and incorporated.  I scrape every time I add something.

Now it makes me wonder what other recipes could use the same swap out. But that’s for another day!

Yellow Velvet Butter CakeIngredients for A Tale of One Cake Layer2 cups unsifted cake flour (250 grams or 9 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter (170 grams or 6 ounces or 1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/3 cup sugar (270 grams sugar or 9 1/2 ounces)
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×2 or 9×3 inch round cake pan with parchment.  Spray the center only.  Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.Flour, baking powder and salt in bowl for A Tale of One Cake LayerFlour mixture mixed for A Tale of One Cake Layer

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar for 1 minute on number 4 for a K5A or medium for other mixers. Butter and sugar creamed for A Tale of One Cake LayerBeat in the eggs one at a time for 30 seconds on number number 4 for a K5A, scraping the bowl each time you add an ingredient. First egg in batter for A Tale of One Cake LayerMixing bowl scraped down for A Tale of One Cake LayerOn lowest speed, number 2, alternately add the dry ingredients in three additions and the milk in two additions, beating for 30 seconds, scraping the bowl smooth after each addition.  
First flour in for A Tale of One Cake LayerMilk added to the batter for A Tale of One Cake LayerFinished Batter for A Tale of One Cake Layer The batter may curdle at some point when adding the milk.  Don’t despair.  It will all come together with the last addition of flour.Curdled batter for A Tale of One Cake Layer

Turn the batter into prepared pan. Batter in pan for A Tale of One Cake LayerLevel top. The pan will be 3/4 full.Leveling cake layer for A Tale of One Cake Layer

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

*While I haven’t baked this cake in two layers, my suggestion is to bake the two for 20 minutes to start, although I believe it will take 25 to 28 minutes.

Batter yields approximately 990 grams or 34 3/4  ounces.

And here is the cake we will be making next week:  Pina Colada Cake.  In TV land this is referred to as a tease and so it is!The Pina Colada Cake for A Tale of One Cake Layer

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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25 thoughts on “A Tale of One Cake Layer (Yellow Velvet Cake)

  1. Mrs. Sista'

    Ms. Helen, I am a subscriber. I don’t comment but I have learned a lot from your post. This one here– is the most exciting to me! A cake that SHOULD be so simple can give bakers like myself the ‘blues’. If it’s not texture…it’s height etc. etc. Dryness–can be a big factor.

    Yellow cake can bring you to tears. Makes you start talking to yourself.

    I am definitely going to try your recommendation. One question I have though–I never buy Swans Cake Flour. I tend to make my own. Cheaper. I recently read in my Cake Bible by RL that making it is inferior to purchased due to the ‘process’ in which Cake Flour is made.

    That makes me ask (now that I’m so anxious to make this cake of yours) IS there a difference between making and purchasing? Would it affect the texture…height? You know–produce a better outcome.

    I hope this makes sense. I guess I could buy it and make it both ways. But thought I’d ask first.

    Thank you Ms. Helen for all you and the inspiration–you give us all.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thank you so very much for your comment. I can advise you better if you let me know what you use for cake flour. I don’t want you to go to the expense of getting the cake flour.

  2. I Wilkerson

    I love posts that compare the swap of an ingredient in a controlled way! Curious how you feel about the common “cheat” of subbing in some cornstarch for part of the flour to get closer to cake flour… (for the very occasional cake baker).

    1. hfletcher Post author

      I have never done this but I certainly don’t have a problem with it if it works. I think the normal amount is to remove 2 tablespoons of flour and substitute 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or potato starch. I will put it on my to do list and sometime in the future blog about it.

      1. Mrs. Sista'

        Lol….never mind Ms. Helen. I must be blind as I didn’t see that you had addressed this. Anyway, I think now I will also do a comparison test. I mean that is the fun of baking right?

        Hey!!! There’s your new title: “A Tale of Two Flours”! Ha! I slay myself.

        1. hfletcher Post author

          You are wonderful. I agree that yellow cake seems to be the most difficult of all and I don’t know why but I think you will love this one. I think I love baking so much because it brings pleasure to me as well as to those I share with.

          1. Mrs. Sista'

            Ohhhhhhhhh……my dear BEAUTIFUL (and you truly are), I couldn’t wait for my husband to leave. When I bake I like to be in solitude. It’s just my thing. My enjoyment for today was t make a batch of practice buttercream.

            However, I was soooooooo excited about this post that when I heard that garage door lift and that car pull out…..Sweet Jesus….pans got to movin’.

            I am soooooooo happy I could bite the beautiful layer HOT!! It came out perrrrrfect and….and tall!!!!!! The time was more in the 30-35 min range but of course no two ovens are alike. Anyway, you just don’t know how happy…your little student is! The only thing I added was some vanilla paste. I can’t help it–I am ‘vanilla bean fleck’ addicted”. Something about seeing those ‘itty bitty beans’ in a cake, custards etc….says all is right with tha’ world.

            Anyway, a yellow cake recipe in my vault of recipes– is the little black they say everyone should have. I bake and I mean– a LOT for my church. Everything, from scratch. I am very stern about that as I believe if you love people, no matter who they are….give them them the best you can.

            Ms. Helen, thank you for helping do just that. And God Bless you.

            P.S. Can I assume that since this is a buttercake–I can double it safely? Either way, I’ll bake her separately, if need be because I have plans….BIG plans for her.

            Yeah….this good–lol….it has to be female.:o)

            I don’t know how to attach photos to post such as this…but if you have email….I would be honored for you to see my proud accomplishment.

  3. jennine quiring

    Thank you for this explicit post. I love the science of baking. I was glad to find your blog. I practice all year long to enter baked goods in the California State fair. I am 79 years old and have 2 classes to finish to get my baking certificate

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Dear Jennine: What an inspiration you are. I turn 76 next month and very much enjoy my work and my love of blogging. Please stay in touch and let us know when you get your certificate and especially what you enter. Best of luck to you.

  4. Mary@SiftingFocus

    Helen, love this post…and I love ‘happy accidents’. I find the chemistry behind baking to be fascinating. I rarely take the time to play around with ingredients and experiment. I’m going to make a point of doing that more often. Who knows what I might discover!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Mary – I just wish I had more time for the blog. The restaurant, TV and blogging for a magazine keeps me plenty busy so I am super happy when I have time to spend in my own kitchen. It will be interesting to see what you come up with.

  5. lpruett

    Thank you so much for this blog! It is very interesting to see the comparisons of the cake results with the flour change side by side. I noticed that you use the standard flat KA beater, and not the one which has the silicone scraper attached to the blade. I’ve been using the silicone blade version for a number of years, and I love it! The only thing I think may be a slight disadvantage is that I believe I am falling prey to the temptation to let the blade do most, or even all, of my scraping, instead of stopping to scrape the bowl after each ingredient addition, as you suggest. Do you have any insights on the silicone blade version? Thanks in advance!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Lynette (I hope I got your name right): Before the scraper was available for public consumption, they were available in a slightly different material for professionals. Our 40 quart mixer was our main work horse and as such we a scraper for this machine but not the others. My main complaint was some product, in the beginning, would get caught behind the blade so when we removed it, we had to throw it away. It wasn’t a lot. I don’t have one now because the machine is so small and I believe I can scrape it better than the attachment. However, since my K5A which is at least 40 years old is going to be replaced soon, I may change my mind. Anything that makes baking better I’m for.

  6. Teresa

    You wrote: “The all purpose cake on the left fills a 2 inch deep pan. So dividing either batter in half for these cakes would make a great 2 layer cake.”

    What baking time would you suggest if this batter were divided evenly into two 9″ cake pans?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Teresa: Good point – thanks for bringing it up. I will amend the post to include this. I haven’t tried it in a two layer version but I would suggest checking it at 20 minutes but I think it will probably take 25 or so minutes.

  7. Carolyn Simmons

    I always use Magi-Cake strips around the outside of my cake pans after I have soaked them in water. This keeps the cake layer from having a hump in the center. Also check your oven temperature. If it is to hot, this can happen. I have been teaching cake classes at our local community college for over 30 years. Hope this works for you.


    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi CArolyn: Thanks for your comment. I have never used magic strips. As a professional baker that would bake 22″ cakes for weddings in four layers, no less, these would be too time consuming and cost too much. The method I use produces a perfectly flat cake no matter the size. The only reason the cake flour layer humped was the pan was to short to support the rise on the side so it had to slide down. It is the same principle as used in an angle food cake. The pan isn’t sprayed so the cake can stay evenly risen since it clings to the unprepared sides.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      You would end up making pastry flour which is stronger than cake but not as strong as all purpose. My inclination is to guess it would turn out more like the all purpose.

  8. Manisha

    Hi Helen
    I loved the details you have shared on how the kind of flour can make so much difference! I love butter and cream and anything made from them is my immediate favourite. Will surely make this one. I already have my staple yellow cake recipe but I shall surely try this one. It looks so tempting :)


    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Manisha: I didn’t intend to blog about the cake but there was such a difference I thought I had to share it. Hope all is going well for all of you. I have been swamped lately and hope to slow things down soon. Hope being the operative word!

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