Sometimes, you come by a recipe in such a backwards way that the only explanation must be that you were meant to make this dish. This was the case with Tender Yellow Cake.
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Let me first state that I do not need any more cake recipes. Or cookies or pie or slumps or macaroons or confections of any manner. (Or is it nor? Someone will no doubt weigh in.) My point is that my folder of savory recipes is about 1/3 the size of my dessert one (this would be manila folders that I have been “organizing” for the better part of a decade) and I need not be on the troll for more sweet stuff.
But then I had this lovely little container of currants from the farmer’s market, the sort of thing one purchases with no plan at all and finds herself dismayed that one is not automatically revealed as the week goes on. I tried drying them in an oven. Fail. I put them on a tray outside, but nothing happened other than the growing sense of paranoia that a small animal or bird gave the berries an unsanitary lick.
Amanda, who tires of my late night instant message rants about ingredient confusion, suggested I put my currants in a cake. A mad search ensued, and this cake looked so incredibly delicious, I decided to make it instantly. Then, I came up with an even better idea -- make the incipient do it.
I would like to report to you that she abandoned her Facebook page cheerfully to do so, but let’s settle for the fact that she was rewarded with the satisfaction of a cake well baked, and stopped grumbling once it came out of the oven.
This is truly a child’s cake in terms of ease; a few eggs whipped up are the only tiny small extra step you take. The results are truly amazing, especially given the effort: it has the light texture of a sponge cake, with the deep vanilla kiss of a heavier cake. I will take this moment to once again praise the use of oils in cakes, which I think often yield something far easier and delicious than my beloved butter versions.
The only things we did differently from sdebrango is make it in a sheet pan (baked for 30 minutes on the nose; your oven may vary) simply because we felt like it; use the standing mixer the entire time, because we’re lazy, and eat it while it was still hot, because we really could not stand to wait.
This cake was very fine on day two, when I covered it with the currant compote I made stove top (pint of berries, ¼ cup of sugar, and ¼ cup of water cooked for quite a while). As it turns out, the cake is a perfect vehicle for syrupy things. “The absorption rate is spectacular,” commented my colleague, C, as I presented him with the cake after a particularly tedious vote. This is true. But I would eat it plain, right out of the pan, happily.
Butter and flour and line with parchment two 9" round baking pans.
Beat egg whites until frothy then add 1/2 cup of the sugar (reserving the rest) a tablespoon at a time until egg whiles are stiff and glossy
Sift flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt into large mixing bowl if you are using a hand held mixer or into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add the oil and 1/2 cup of the milk and the vanilla. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed, mixture will be quite thick. I actually prefer to use a hand held mixer for this recipe.
Add the egg yolks and remaining milk and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
Fold in egg whites and distribute into the baking pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 10-20 minutes in the pan then turn out onto cake rack to cool completely.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).