This vanilla cake is made using the creaming method, which is the conventional technique for making high-fat cakes like this one, and it's what gives the cake its light, fluffy texture.
In cakes and cookies, you can't actually taste the difference between pure vanilla extract and its imitation, so feel free to use either one. The imitation form will definitely save you money.
Our number one tip for anyone baking a cake: Use fresh baking powder and baking soda! If it's been more than six months since you bought the baking powder and baking soda in your pantry, replace them. And if you don't know how long it's been, replace them anyway. Baking powder and baking soda lose their potency quickly, and your cake won't rise properly if they're too old.
Tip number two: Let your ingredients sit out at room temperature for a full hour before you begin working with them. If they're too cold, the batter won't emulsify (i.e., it won't become smooth), and your cake will suffer.
- Let all your ingredients come to room temperature. If the butter, eggs, and milk are too cold, the batter won't form an emulsion and your cake won't be light and fluffy.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F.
- Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. It can help to line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit the pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed.
- Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy, which will take about 10 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Then mix for 5 more minutes until airy and light. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Now add about 1/4 of the dry ingredients to the egg-sugar mixture while the machine is running. When it's fully incorporated, add one-third of the milk. Continue alternating adding the dry ingredients with the milk until it's all incorporated and the batter is smooth, scraping down the side of the bowl as you go.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pans and give each one a couple of solid bangs on the countertop to release any air bubbles, then transfer them to the oven.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a crumb or two attached. You can start testing at 30 minutes because it's better to check too soon than to overbake.
- Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pans on a wire rack, then loosen the edges by running a knife along the sides, turn the cakes out onto the racks and cool for at least another hour before frosting.