Saturday, February 7, 2009

Basic 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake

This classic, old fashioned, homemade from scratch 1-2-3-4 cake, gets its name from the use of 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs. It's a great homemade cake for a birthday, or for any day!

Basic 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake

Now I gotta tell ya, while I certainly do use them like anybody else, I'm not real big on boxed cake mixes - not that there's anything wrong with them - not at all. I have a few of those recipes that specifically have always called for boxed cake mixes, and in those cases I use and love Duncan Hines brand cake mix. It was the brand Mama used and the one that I have always preferred. Generally speaking, most boxed mixes just come off far too sweet for me and homemade is always best, plus I just prefer being able to control the sugar myself. But I totally understand the convenience of box mixes for sure.

This old fashioned 1-2-3-4 cake is such a cinch to make and really not any more trouble than a box mix in my opinion. It's been around longer than I have and has stood the test of time. If you have a failure making this cake, it's not the fault of the recipe. The name comes from the mix of ingredients - 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs. Simple to remember. Classic in flavor. It's really the only yellow cake recipe you'll ever need because it's the perfect flavor, texture and crumb.

The quintessential classic birthday cake and the perfect vehicle for chocolate buttercream icing as I have done here, though it ain't bad with that old fashioned boiled peanut butter icing or even a caramel icing either.

One very important note concerning baking. Unlike cooking, baking is more of an exact science and measurements must be exact. One of the biggest mistakes folks make that cause failure with a cake, is measuring incorrectly. If your cake is dry, you likely over-measured using too much flour by scooping a measuring cup into the flour instead of spooning flour into the measuring cup and then leveling it. This is a very common mistake. When you scoop, you actually compact the flour and end up using more flour than the recipe called for, which messes up the liquid and fat ratios, usually resulting in a dense and dry cake.

Oven temperature is a factor as well. Remember, suggested oven times are just that. Suggestions. Your oven may bake unevenly, or the thermostat may not be functioning properly.

When baking a cake, never open the oven during the baking process, as that lowers the temperature of the oven and can cause your cake to collapse from its rise, leaving a crater in the center. Check the progress of your cake more toward the end, 5 to 10 minutes out from the suggested time, just in case your oven runs hot. I highly recommend using an oven thermometer for baking, where recipe temperature and time are much more critical than with cooking.


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Recipe: Basic 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 12 servings

Ingredients
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour or spray two or three (9-inch) or a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan with Baker's Joy non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream the butter by itself until fluffy, than add the sugar, beating on high for about 8 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mixing in well before adding the next one. Start adding the flour and alternate adding in the flour and the milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Distribute evening into the prepared baking pan(s) and place into oven with a baking pan covered with aluminum foil on the rack just underneath to catch any potential spills.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake begins to draw away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack, allowing to rest in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Important Tips: This cake has always required self-rising flour. Do not use all-purpose or you will not like the results. Also, be sure that your flour is fresh as that is where the leavening is. All ingredients should be at room temperature, not cold. When measuring flour for baking use the scoop and level method, rather than scooping a measuring cup into the flour. When you scoop into the flour, you actually compact the flour and end up using more flour than the recipe calls, which messes up the liquid and fat ratios, usually resulting in a dense and dry cake. Oven temperature is a factor as well. Remember, suggested oven times are just that. Suggestions. Your oven may bake unevenly, or the thermostat may not be functioning properly. To help level the batter lift the pan several inches off of the counter top and then drop it. Do this several times; it's noisy but it really does help to spread the batter out and bring air bubbles to the surface, which helps to make the cake bake more level.

Cook's Notes: I use Land O'Lakes unsalted butter and White Lily self-rising flour. Self rising flour is traditional for this cake however you may substitute cake flour or all purpose flour. Add in 3 teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt. If using a 9 x 13 inch pan and the peanut butter icing, the hot icing will go immediately on the hot cake as soon as you prepare it.

For Cupcakes: Line standard sized 12-cup cupcake pans with liners or spray with a flour enhanced baking spray like Baker's Secret. You should get about 18 cupcakes. Prepare batter as above and distribute evenly between the cups, about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, checking the center cupcakes with a toothpick to ensure they are done.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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38 comments:

  1. Oh Mary, that looks so good! I'm really hungry right now anyway.
    I thought your cake looked a little white so after readin' that you didn't use a yellow cake mix I realize my eyes are ok. hee hee
    You always have such good recipes. Thanks.

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  2. LOL, yeah it's a yellow cake because it does have whole eggs in it, but you're right it's very light yellow. Do they add food coloring to cake mixes? I never thought about that!

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  3. What a great resource!

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  4. Perfect I love this cake.. It's my go to when some ask for a birthday cake (yellow cake with choc. icing) & I just make my own icing. Thamks

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  5. Do you measure the flour before or after you sift the flour? I am planning on using this recipe for a graduation cake.

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    Replies
    1. I measure before & after that's what my 90 yrs old granny taught me, also sift at least 3 times the lighter the flour the better the cake & 1234 cake recipe has been around for generations & is a great base cake because you can add different ingredients to make it chocolate or carrot, spice, red velvet, lemon etc etc. The possibilities are endless but I love making coconut cakes with this recipe using coconut milk & 7 min or boiled frosting.

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    2. This cakes been around for generations. My 90 yr old granny taught me measure before & after & sift 3 times because the lighter the flour the better the cake. I love this recipe for coconut cake & I use coconut milk,& 7 min or boiled frosting & land o lakes real butter 1 stick salted 1 stick unsalted in my recipe. This can be made into any cake using this as your base chocolate, carrot, lemon, red velvet etc etc. The possibilities are endless.

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    3. Yes it has and I think it's still the standard bearer!!

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  6. Thank you for posting this cake recipe. It is a favorite. But do not apologize for boxed cakes because there is a lot wrong with them. There is barely any food substance in them.

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome! It's an old fashioned cake recipe that has certainly held it's own!

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  7. I have a question about the amount of butter. 1 stick of butter would 8 oz equaling 1 cup? 2 sticks would then be two cups? Or maybe I am dense and don't know it, lol. Could you clarify this for me. I would hate to mess the cake up as its for Labor Day this weekend.

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    Replies
    1. 1 stick of butter is 1/2 cup. For this cake you need 2 sticks equal to 1 cup of butter. Enjoy the cake!!

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  8. Can I bake this in a 9x13 pan?

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  9. I made this cake in a bundt pan so I adjusted the time just a little. I ended up cooking it for about 60 minutes at 350 degrees in the bundt pan. Turned out just right....perfectly moist. For a dryer cake, probably adding another 5 minutes of cook time would be about right. Great recipe with the chocolate buttercream icing.

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  10. In order to make a white cake, would this recipe work with egg whites only?

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    Replies
    1. You know, I haven't used this recipe to make a white cake but yes, that's how you would do it! I think the ratios would work fine, the only thing I would recommend doing is to change to a clear vanilla extract, which unfortunately is imitation, or I would personally use pure almond extract, in order to avoid coloring the batter.

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  11. This recipe looks very easy to make. Can this recipe be converted to cupcakes? A really good cupcake recipe is hard to find!!!! I really like Deep South Dish recipes because they're so homemade like when I was growing up. Thanks, Mary for sharing!!!!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, absolutely! A full recipe will probably give you about 2 dozen standard sized cupcakes, so if you only want a dozen, you could halve the recipe. Timing should be around 20 minutes depending on your oven so give the center ones the toothpick test then to check them.

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  12. Can u recommend an icing recipe for this cake that is just as easy. Anything but peanut butter

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    Replies
    1. Sure! It's actually pictured with the chocolate buttercream icing, which is most common with a yellow cake for birthdays and is excellent. Just click on the link that is in the recipe or click here. The Quick Caramel Icing is also good if you like brown sugar.

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  13. what would the temps and baking time be if making cupcakes?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jessica! Temp will be the same but time will be around 15-20 minutes. Check the ones in the middle with a toothpick because the outer ones will cook faster.

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  14. Great recipe, do you have a great chocolate icing for it.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa! The chocolate icing shown on the cake is actually linked in the recipe. Just click on where it says "Chocolate Buttercream Icing" at the end of the ingredient list.

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  15. Made this cake for Valentine's Weekend with Strawberry Glaze as the frosting. The cake has an amazing flavor and texture. Not sure I'd do the Strawberry Glaze again, but maybe chocolate buttercream. There will surely be a next time. I love this cake.

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    Replies
    1. The chocolate buttercream is great! I love this cake - there's a reason it has stood the test of time for sure!!

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  16. I made this cake using self rising ....but it tasted like flour...I do not want to give up on this ..why do You think my cake taste like flour?

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  17. Hi,I made this cake with self rising and it tasted like flour...I do not want to give up on this recipe...why do You think my cake tasted like that?..

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    Replies
    1. Hi Konye! Have to admit I've never had that issue, but it could be a sensitivity issue - sort of like how cilantro tastes "soapy" to some folks. I happen to be one of them.

      If you're used to cake mixes over scratch cooking, it could be the sweetness level from a scratch cake isn't enough for your tastes. I find cake mixes overwhelmingly sweet for my taste and often adjust sugars down a bit, though this is the standard measurement for this cake. Also, did you sift the flour before measuring it? If not, you may have used too much.

      Also be sure you are using a quality name brand flour when baking and not a generic store brand. I like White Lily self rising.

      Did you follow the steps to cream, add eggs and then alternate the flour and milk. That gets things fully incorporated and if you just dumped it all in at once like with a cake mix, you may not have gotten the flour mixed in well.

      Also, avoid "imitation" extracts and use pure extracts only for flavoring your cakes. Imitation leaves a chemical aftertaste to me where pure adds only flavor.

      Just a few ideas. Hope that helps!

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  18. Thanx so much I'll try again...probably add too much flour or not a good brand hehe thanx :)

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    Replies
    1. Don't give up on baking! It's just a little more of an exact science than basic cooking, and can be a bit temperamental. I'm a much better cook than a baker, but it's mostly because I don't bake as much as I cook! Part of sifting, is getting rid of lumps in the flour, so if you didn't do that, that cold be a reason that you got a floury taste, from lumps of flour that baked into the cake.

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  19. This cake is sooooo... omg... TASTY! The kids and my hubby couldn't keep our hands off the cake tops... so so good. Thank you so much for the recipe.

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome Mesha! It's a great basic cake that's held strong over the years. I'm glad y'all enjoyed it!

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