Kelsey Nixon’s Essential Yellow Birthday Cake

A go-to birthday cake recipe is crucial to every cook’s recipe inventory. Chef Kelsey Nixon of Kelsey’s Essentials said she went through 14 rounds of testing to create the perfect texture, consistency and flavor for her Essential Yellow Cake with Buttercream Frosting. We love the sweet-but-not-too-sweet frosting and, of course, the impressive sprinkle-covered presentation.

SERVES 8 (one 9-inch layer cake)
PREP 15 minutes plus freezing time
COOK 40 minutes

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper circles, and butter the parchment.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale yellow and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until just combined. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and tap the pans on the counter several times to get rid of any air bubbles.

5. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

6. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run the blade of a butter knife around the edges of the pans to release the cakes. Invert the cakes onto a wire rack and discard the parchment. Let cool completely, about 1 hour. Wrap both layers in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.

7. For the buttercream: Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and milk and beat on medium-high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

8. Remove the frozen cake layers from the freezer and unwrap. Put one layer on a cake stand and spread about one-third of the frosting onto the top of the layer. Put the second layer on top of the first and top with another one-third of the frosting. Spread the last one-third of the frosting on the sides. Decorate with the sprinkles and serve.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM Sift 1 cup cocoa powder together with the powdered sugar before creaming with the butter and salt.

ORANGE BUTTERCREAM Add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest to the mixture.

ALMOND BUTTERCREAM Substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract for the vanilla extract.

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