Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake, from Baking, From My Home to Yours
Makes two 9” round cakes, or 30 cupcakes. These are lovely little white cupcakes, flecked with orange zest and flavored with vanilla. The crumb is small and tight, and they are just fabulous.
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups milk (I used homemade buttermilk – 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, plus milk to 1 1/4 cups)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. orange zest (optional) (originally lemon) (I used orange, but might leave it out next time and simply make a vanilla cake.)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (originally pure lemon extract)
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare pans. Prep with butter and flour if you are baking round cakes, or line muffin pans with paper liners. I made cupcakes and filled two 12-pocket muffin pans, plus an extra 6 cupcake liners on a baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, sift together flower, baking powder and salt. Don’t cheat and use a whisk this time. Go with the sifter.
In a small bowl, combine your milk and egg whites. Whisk these up, and set aside.
In the bowl of your mixer, combine your sugar and zest, if using. Mix with your fingers until it smells fabulous and looks slightly damp, then add in your butter and beat on medium speed in your stand mixer for 3 minutes, at least, or until light and fluffy. (This took about four minutes for me, as my butter was still a little cold when I put it in.) Add your extract.
Add in 1/3 of your flour mixture, then half of your milk, 1/3 of your flour, the rest of your milk, then the rest of your flour. You want to beat this cake well, but (experience has taught me that) no matter how carefully you add your flour and milk, it will FLY if your mixer is still humming along on medium. Slow it down, add your next ingredient, then speed it up as quickly as you are able to, without slopping your ingredients out the sides.
When everything is in the bowl, leave it on medium and give it a good mix for another two minutes. This makes a rather sturdy, and fluffy, cake batter. It reminded me of un-set marshmallows.
Spoon your batter into your prepared pans, and bake, on the center shelf in your oven. 30-35 minutes for 9” rounds, or about 25 minutes for cupcakes. They are done when a toothpick, inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out batter-free. Cool in the pans for a few minutes, then carefully remove your cakes to wire racks to finish cooling.
I will warn you – my cupcakes puffed up just above the edge of my paper liners and looked adorable. When they cooled, however, the cakes shrank back on themselves, giving me a perfectly flat plain to pipe my icing onto. Some of them were filled less than others, and actually pulled away from the paper liner. You want them 2/3 full.
This makes a sturdy, but light, cake with a tiny crumb. Just what I was looking for! This is a cake that can be sliced, stacked, filled or (possibly?) carved. I’ve found my vanilla cake recipe!
PS – I frosted these with Bright White Icing, from Better Homes and Gardens. It’s a basic shortening/powdered sugar/milk frosting, with vanilla, almond extract and added pink food coloring. Quick and easy!