The One Hack You Need to Bake Extra-Light Cakes

Never worry about dense desserts again.

Classic 100 Vanilla Cake

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

Every year, my brother requests one thing for his birthday: a vanilla confetti cake with vanilla frosting. After at least 10 years of making the same cake, you would think I’d have it down to an exact science — but I don’t. I consider myself a good baker, but it’s been a struggle for me to bake a vanilla cake that’s light, moist and flavorful. And, since I could never convince him to switch his request to chocolate, I had to keep trying different things until I found a method that stuck.

Over the years, I’ve tested countless recipes, switched up my ratios and invested in pricier ingredients — none of which made a huge impact. This year, I decided to keep things as simple as possible and accept that, if it didn’t work, I just wasn’t cut out to make an amazing vanilla cake. However, I struck gold when I pulled up Food Network Kitchen’s recipe for The Best Vanilla Cake. With just a few easy tips, this recipe made the most tender and flavorful cake I’ve ever baked — and I didn’t even need any specialty ingredients to do it!

The most crucial tip? Instead of buying an entire box of cake flour, simply incorporate two tablespoons of cornstarch into 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. This blocks the formation of gluten in the flour, which produces a lighter, fluffier cake. I definitely noticed a huge difference by doing this — this cake wasn’t dense in the slightest. This recipe also called for both butter and vegetable oil, which ensure that the cake stayed moist and rich. Lastly, I loved that this recipe called for an entire tablespoon of vanilla extract, instead of just a few teaspoons. I’ve always thought my grocery store vanilla extract wasn’t flavorful enough but truthfully, I just wasn’t using enough of it.

Once the rest of the cake batter was all mixed up, I incorporated about half a cup of rainbow sprinkles to make confetti, then baked it following the recipe’s instructions. I did notice that I had a lot more batter than I needed, but that just means there’s enough for a few bonus cupcakes! My family gobbled up their slices and agreed that this was the lightest, most flavorful and all-around best vanilla cake I’ve ever made. It was definitely the closest I’ve come to a bakery-style cake at home — and truthfully, I actually preferred it to any cake I could buy. Plus, my brother already requested the same one for his birthday next year!

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