For Jarron’s birthday last week, I made a classic yellow butter cake with chocolate fudge frosting. I’ve made many gluten-free cakes over the years, but believe it or not this was his first time tasting this quintessential birthday cake combination.
And I’m proud to say that after many years of trial and error with cakes, this is one of my best yet, and definitely my go-to vanilla cake recipe from now on. Supermoist, with a beautiful golden color from the eggs and the millet and almond flours, a generous crumb, great body, and rich vanilla flavor. It was so good that, I’m not ashamed to say, other than sharing a few slices with family, we ate the rest ourselves.
This fudge frosting was perfect, but this is a great versatile cake base that would go with pretty much any frosting or filling: a solid homegrown vanilla cake. Jarron said he wants to try it next time with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Go nuts.
Note on soaking flours: I chose to the soak the flours beforehand because I heard with gluten-free flours it could contribute to a more tender crumb. A lot of gluten-free bakers recommend exclusively baking with superfine flours for this reason, but superfine flours are (in my opinion) prohibitively expensive to buy and impossible to recreate at home for those who grind their own flour. Though it requires some advanced preparation (a day ahead) soaking the flours beforehand seemed like a reasonable compromise to me (especially since I’m not making celebration cakes off the cuff), and I definitely noticed a difference.
I’ve written the recipe to include this step, but if you feel that it is unnecessary or you don’t have the time, simply combine and whisk all your dry ingredients together and after you have added the eggs, add the flour mixture in three installments, alternating with the buttermilk/kefir.
Classic Yellow Butter Cake, Gluten-Free
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup almond flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp potato starch (not potato flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk or kefir (I used kefir)
The day before: Combine almond, sweet rice, millet, and brown rice flours in a large glass bowl and whisk to incorporate. Add kefir/buttermilk, cover with a dishtowel, and allow to soak for 12-24 hours in a warm place, out of the sun.
The day-of: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round aluminum cake pans, insert circles of parchment, and butter the parchment. Flour the pans with tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, or potato starch.
Combine baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk briefly to incorporate.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric or stand mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping with a spatula after each addition.
Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt mixture to egg/butter/sugar mixture, and mix until combined. Then working in three additions and at low speed, beat in buttermilk/flour mixture until just combined. Add potato starch and mix until just combined. It’s okay if the mixture is curdled-looking.
Divide the batter evenly between cake pans, spreading with a spatula to smooth. Drop the pans on the counter a few times to eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until the cakes are golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan to loosen. Invert cakes onto rack and discard parchment, allowing to cool completely, about 1 hour. Frost and serve or freeze in plastic wrap until ready to use.