Classic 1 2 3 4 Cake and Variations

1-2-3-4 Cake
1-2-3-4 Cake with Lemon. Jonelle Weaver/Photolibrary/Getty Images
  • 70 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 55 mins
  • Yield: 12 to 16 servings
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This cake gets its name from the ingredient quantities: 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs. Make this cake a few times and you won't need to look at the recipe!

The cake can be baked in layers or in a Bundt cake pan or tube cake pan.

What You'll Need

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Glaze (Optional, for Bundt Cake or Tube Cake): 
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream

How to Make It

Prepare the Cake

  1. Butter and flour a Bundt cake or (10-inch) tube cake pan or two 9-inch round cake pans (or three 8-inch round cake pans).
  2. Heat the oven to 350° F for Bundt or tube pan, or 375° F for layers.
  3. Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder; set aside.
  4. Cream the 1 cup of butter until light. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar; continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  1. Add the sifted flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until the batter is smooth; do not overbeat.
  2. Turn into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake a tube or Bundt cake at 350° F for about 55 minutes to 1 hour, ot until the cake bounces back when touched lightly with a finger. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes then carefully remove to cool on a rack.
  4. Bake layers at 375° F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched lightly with a finger.

Make the Glaze

  1. For a Bundt or tube cake glaze, combine the powdered sugar, melted butter, 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth; add more milk, as needed, for drizzling over the cake.
  2. If you made a layer cake, use your favorite frosting.

Variations:

  • Orange Cake - Use orange juice in place of the milk and add 3 tablespoons of grated orange zest along with the vanilla. Glaze or frost as desired. This orange frosting would work well.
  • Bourbon Cake - Make the Orange Cake variation in a Bundt or tube cake pan. In a saucepan combine 4 tablespoons of butter with 2/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of bourbon. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Gradually brush over the cake as soon as it is removed to the cooling rack.
  • Lemon Cake - Add 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest with vanilla or lemon extract. In a saucepan combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup of water, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Brush over the hot cake a little at a time until it is all used.