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Featured recipe: The 1-2-3-4 Cake

The numerically descriptive title of this cake reflects the amount of each main ingredient used in the batter: 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. The texture of the cake is soft and fine-grained. It's an ideal birthday party cake because it can be covered with just about any kind of frosting imaginable.)3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly smear solid shortening inside a 9- by 13- by 2-inch baking pan and dust with all-purpose flour.

Resift the all-purpose flour and the baking powder and salt three times.

Cream the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer on moderate speed for 6 minutes. Add the granulated sugar in three additions, beating well after each portion is added. Beat on moderately high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until nearly white in color. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even-textured.

On low speed, alternately add the sifted mixture in three additions with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture. The batter will be a medium-golden color.

Pour and scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake the cake for 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake is withdrawn without any wet, clinging particles. The baked cake will pull away slightly from the sides of the pan and the top will be a medium-golden color.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. Cover the top of the cooled cake with frosting. If you a use a chocolate frosting to cover this cake, you can sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts or pecans (about 1 1/4 cups). And if the cake is capped with vanilla frosting, it can be covered with sweetened flaked coconut (about 2 cups). For serving, cut the cake into squares. Serves 16.

Each serving contains 299 calories, 4g protein, 12g fat, 44g carb, 274mg sodium, 32mg cholesterol. From "Layer Cakes and Sheet Cakes" by Lisa Yockelson. Serve with Wellesley Fudge Frosting.

VARIATIONS:

-- For Almond 1-2-3-4 Cake:

Substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract. Stir 2/3 cup finely chopped almonds into the batter after the flour mixture is added.

-- For 1-2-3-4 Cake with Miniature Chocolate Chips:

Toss 3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of the sifted mixture. Stir the chocolate chips into the batter after the flour mixture has been added.

-- For Coconut 1-2-3-4 Cake:

Stir 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut into the batter after the flour mixture has been added.