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Yellow Birthday Cake

by Chef Megan Joy on March 25, 2012

It’s a common story. Sometimes we forget we live at altitude. Then it’s our friend’s birthday, and we decide to bake him or her a cake. And…it fails.

Oh yeah. Stuff doesn’t bake the same up here. And you never want to try baking again.

Well it’s time to get birthdays back. In a world of vanilla and chocolate, sometimes yellow falls out of the mix and gets overlooked.

One taste and you’ll wonder why you wandered so far. It’s yellow butter cake. Moist and tender, with a nice crumb. The perfect partner for a fudge frosting. Universally appealing.

These layers bake up tall and even, thanks to a little extra insurance from whipped egg whites that get folded into the batter at the end. All-purpose flour fills in for part of the cake flour originally called for to provide more support in the batter.

Stack it with some fudge frosting and adorn a few candles on top, and you’re back in the game.

How to make yellow birthday cake:


Yellow Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line two 8-inch round pans with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the soft butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the egg yolks, gradually, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture in three additions alternately with the half and half, starting and ending with the flour.

Transfer the batter to a large bowl and clean the mixer bowl. Once cleaned, add the egg whites and whip to soft peaks, they will look like “beer foam”. It’s important to slightly under-whip egg whites at altitude so they don’t over-expand your baked good.

Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter in two additions. Portion the batter into the two pans and bake until the tops are golden brown and the centers spring back when lightly touched, about 20-25 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then invert and cool completely. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a few hours before using. Chilling the cakes makes them easier to handle for assembling a layer cake.

“All I know is that there is somebody in my house, eating my birthday cake, with my family, and it’s not me!” -Arnold Schwarzenegger, The 6th Day

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