Recipe Battle: Scratch Yellow Cake

Baking By LeanneW Updated 9 Mar 2017 , 8:07pm by -K8memphis

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LeanneW Posted 25 Jan 2017 , 11:09pm
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Perfect yellow cake, so simple, but so elusive. Yellow cake is often dry, a good moist yellow cake, full of flavor, is hard to find. We're sure you'll have a hard time choosing a winner with these two amazing recipes.

Recipe A took first place in the 2009 "Yellow Cake Great Scratch Off" so it's sure be a tough competition. It uses sour cream to add flavor and moistness, incorporating whipped egg whites keeps the texture light.

Recipe B follows the traditional butter cake method and incorporates vanilla butternut extract for a unique flavor. With 5 eggs in the recipe, it's the perfect texture for wedding cakes.

Recipe A:

Recipe B:

Here is the review process:

You make each of the two recipes exactly as written.

In the review section of each recipe write a detailed review of the taste, texture and ease of preparation.  Do not make any comparisons or references to the other recipe in those reviews.  Make sure you rate it on the 5 star rater of the recipe page.

Then come back to this forum thread and tell us which one would you make again, why did you prefer one over the other, what did you like about each recipe?

Now let's get baking.

We will announce the winning recipe on Tuesday February 7th, so make and rate the recipes by Monday February 6th.

*Last edited by Heath on 25 Jan 2017 , 11:17pm
30 replies
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LeanneW Posted 25 Jan 2017 , 11:15pm
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@Onimuoyinbo @Ibadanqueen @Siftandwisk2 @imagenthatnj @Gblakgal @RainbowsEnd @Bunbabe @debz3163 ‍ Here is a scratch challenge! I'm looking forward to hearing your results. 

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RainbowsEnd Posted 25 Jan 2017 , 11:55pm
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Very excited! 
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Bunbabe Posted 26 Jan 2017 , 7:36am
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Hi guys,

 I'm really excited that you include me. However I have a couple of problems. The first being that, usually I weigh my recipes in grams.  In the past, when I've tried American recipes and used  cups they have never been successful. Therefore are we allowed to convert these recipes as that doesn't seem to fit the rules of having to make them as is.

In the uk we have caster sugar which is slightly finer milled than granulated.  Can we use that as it creams better and doesn't stay gritty?  Lastly,  in the recipe b, I don't know if that flavouring is available over here. 

I may have too many problems with translation to be effective in this quest. Let me know. 

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-K8memphis Posted 26 Jan 2017 , 2:15pm
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ooooh both of those look excellent -- both are so close to my two favorite yellow cake recipes already --

@bunbabe -- do you guys have granulated sugar cubes? maybe if you whirled those lightly in your food processor? just a thought -- 

and in general -- the equally hardest and most refreshing part of this is following exactly -- i want to tweak every moving part but then again it's nice to turn the brain off too ha!

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Gblakgal Posted 26 Jan 2017 , 4:15pm
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@LeanneW ‍ Thanks! These ingredients are very similar to my current "go-to" yellow cake recipe, so I can't wait to try these two variations. Will let you know how it goes :)

SN: Also thanks for providing a different perspective on box cakes. Customers ask me all the time prior to ordering, will the cake be from scratch, so I just hadn't attempted a box cake recipe in awhile.



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-K8memphis Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 1:48am
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i thought i gathered up all my ingredients except for the flavoring -- but i also forgot the waxed paper well anyway, my local store has imitation vanilla, nut butter flavor so i'm gonna check around for the mccormack or at least not imitation before i bake -- lorann also has those flavors -- i probably already have all the lorann flavors -- but the recipe is written for that specific flavoring -- i'm sure i can find it -- i hope :)

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yortma Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 2:01am
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I believe that they only make imitation.  I did a search and that's all I found.  I am going to make one half of that recipe with the McCormick (if it comes in time, I had to order it on line) and one half with homemade (equal parts real vanilla, real almond and imitation butter extracts, so that at least 2/3 won't be artificial) and see if there is a difference.  If not, it would be so much easier to make it up as needed and not have to rely on an ingredient that is not readily available.  Hoping to do the cake-off on Saturday.  

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-K8memphis Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 3:23am
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oh goodie! yortma, you're a genius-- thank you! i'm just getting that then --it's kroger brand but that's cool -- hmmm maybe i should get the mccormick -- at least i'm in for sure -- yes! cool--

i'll probably bake saturday too -- yay!

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-K8memphis Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 3:27am
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how do you know for sure it's almond and not pecan or something

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yortma Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 6:01am
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The extract companies are quite secretive of course but I found several sites that listed vanilla, almond and butter flavors as the components.  Those were also used in recipes I found to  create a substitute for butternut extract.  When mine arrives, I will compare the scent and then the flavor of the McCormick and the homemade.  Keep you posted.  Hope to get it on Saturday with amazon prime!

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-K8memphis Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 11:13am
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what a great sleuth you are -- well done :)

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-K8memphis Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 11:49am
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so there is a certain amount of interpretation though -- for example the word "butter" as in "butter the pan" -- while i'm going to use real butter to do this it could mean the method of buttering the pans with appropriate grease --

one of them suggests using a 12 x 3" pan for the bake and i initially thought it might be a typo for a 12 x 8 x 3" pan but later clarifies it to be a 12" square pan -- but i believe one would need a double recipe to get a 2" tall layer so i'm going to use the two 8" pans it calls for -- but a 12" square would bake off a 1" cake that you could stack though i guess -- i'm going with the round layer cake pans though -

then there's the matter of sifting -- the nutty recipe says "sift together all dry ingredients" so i'm going to stir the all purpose flour in the bag with a whisk before measuring like i always do --

the sour cream recipe says to use sifted cake flour so i'd guess that would mean to sift it before measuring so i hope there's enough flour to hold things up --

but i'm not setting terms for anyone else i'm just yapping --

and i've never heard of beating softened butter for 8 -10 minutes -- although i don't usually park on the instructions when i do a recipe i tweak relentlessly -- overall in one recipe the beating is 18 minutes starting with softened butter -- i'm going to interfere just to prevent butter/water soup if necessary -- so my butter will be softened to start but not much :)

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yortma Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 2:12pm
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I agree, some things seems so unnecessary I won't do it.    I will stick with the recipes as closely as possible, and "light and fluffy" is long enough to cream butter I should think.  never gone more than about 5 minutes.  I bake by weights.  Cake flour is 1 cup = 3.5 oz = 100 grams.  I'll be going with that, and sift if instructed.  I also always use baker's sugar.  Don't have anything else, but since that will be consistent with both recipes, it won't be an experimental variable!  I will bake each in 8" round pans for a fair comparison of rise, dome, etc,  but I will report  the amounts of batter each recipe produces.  Just waiting for the extract...

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-K8memphis Posted 27 Jan 2017 , 3:55pm
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maybe I'll use the 3.5 ounces too-- thanks

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-K8memphis Posted 29 Jan 2017 , 2:51pm
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oh shoot! i lost that teensy little dang bottle of nut butter vanilla -- agh -- found it though after about 30 minutes -- but my sweet hubby was gonna go back to the store for me anyhow -- he's been been my sorta sous chef for many years :) 

so i got 'em all out the oven -- time to go wrap that one up.... 

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-K8memphis Posted 29 Jan 2017 , 3:22pm
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so i got that one layer all wrapped up and in front of the fan so i can get the testing done this morning too -- want to drop off some to kids for them to try too --

"share the calories" is my motto hahahaha

maybe "spread the calories" is a more realistic/graphic -- spread them all over our jiggly little bodies hahahahahaha

can't wait though --

ultimately i'm gonna freeze mine to deal with later -- gotta big coupla weeks coming up here -- thank goodness for our little chest freezer -- love that thing --

and by deal with later i mean i foresee some decadent chocolate frosting in their tasty tantalizing future --

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-K8memphis Posted 29 Jan 2017 , 5:39pm
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taste -- they are both great cakes -- you can't out do sour cream for that subtle tang so recipe A wins for taste -- the nut butter vanilla is good though --   

texture -- recipe B had the 'wrap while warm' factor and it really did enhance the texture in a great way however i am not a fan of that method due to potentially hazardous bacteria issues so recipe A wins not only for that but also for the softest lightest most luscious excellent texture --

ease of preparation -- i personally hate to whip egg whites separately and fold them in like for recipe A -- huge pia to me -- and i had to do it twice because the first time i over whipped aghh  -- and then recipe B does the wrapping while warm and this would be very inconvenient to fiddle with warm cake and the safety issue on top of that as already stated so neither wins for ease of prep -- they are both too fiddley --

result -- recipe A wins -- it is sylvia weinstock's classic yellow cake of course 

i did happen to have a 12" square as recipe A suggested so it was short, it baked in half the time but was fine/great -- i was concerned about the amount of holes i would have in this cake but it baked up nice not any holes that i saw -- this cake baked perfectly flat on top -- no doming --

the other cake, recipe B browned so fast -- * i wound up having to tweak the temp down at the end of the bake so it had time to set up without getting any darker -- and i also tented them with aluminum foil to prevent a fail -- i weighed the batter and divided exactly but i baked half in a straight edged 3" deep 9" pan and it came out 1.5 inch tall at the edge and no doming -- i baked the other half in a regular home  cake pan that did not have straight up sides and it came out 1.25" tall at the edge although deeper in the middle, it really domed -- i did mix and beat this recipe for the eight minutes and ten minutes exactly as written -- 

both methods of 'buttering the pan' were fine

*come to think of it -- i guess i should have allowed recipe B to continue to over bake on top but it was just gut reaction to lower the temp and tent it -- oops :) 

and i love doing this -- i love baking -- thanks, leanne & jackie & heath -- so much fun 


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yortma Posted 30 Jan 2017 , 4:00pm
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I have results too and will post this evening when I get home from school! 

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-K8memphis Posted 31 Jan 2017 , 12:28am
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yortma, apparently you had to stay after class? :)

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yortma Posted 31 Jan 2017 , 1:04am
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Yellow cake bake-off results.

Cake 1 – the classic yellow cake by Sylvia Weinstock made 7 cups batter

Cake 2 – Dawn’s Vanilla Butternut cake made 8 cups batter

Cake 3 – Toba Garret’s yellow cake made 7 cups batter

Yesterday I made these 3 recipes as written. (I made cake #3 because it is my go-to yellow cake, and I wanted to see how it compared).  All cakes were made as 2 8” layers.  They were all baked in Chicago metal pans with parchment paper lining the bottom and magic strips wrapped around the outside.  They were baked at 325 degrees F in a convection oven, and were rotated once during baking.  I use bakers sugar, and measure dry ingredients by weight.   

Ease of preparation 

Cake 1 – 3rd place.  Whipping egg whites separately always annoying and time consuming.

Cake 2 – 2nd place. Easy to prepare, although recommends wrapping and letting sit overnight which I didn’t do.  Impractical and sounds like it would decrease shelf life of finished product, so not realistic or practical in my mind. Turns out the last thing the cake needed was more moistness.  

Cake 3rd – first place.  

External impression after baking

Cake 1 – 2nd place.  35 minutes, nice and level.  Golden brown.  Top was crusty and peeling off. Might want to level off the top – I would.   It was a close 2nd. 

Cake 2 – 3rd place.  45 minutes.  Very dark color, sunk in the middle. Would need to level it.  

Cake 3 – 1st place. 35 minutes.  Golden brown, level.  Wouldn’t need to level off the top.  


Cake 1 - Tie for first.  Nice and light, good texture and crumb. not dry.   (Need to know that I and my testers don’t like dense cakes).  

Cake 2 – distant 3rd.  dense, especially along the bottom.  Very yellow in color.  Texture coarser, a bit more like cornbread.

Cake 3 – Tie for first place.  Ditto cake 1. Maybe a tad bit moister.  


Cake 1 – Close 2nd place.  Good flavor, a bit tangy, not very vanilla-y.  

Cake 2 - Distant 3rd.  Dense and coarse grain as mentioned, also found the taste to be cloyingly sweet. I could not imagine adding a frosting with even more sweetness and competing flavors.  Might get slightly higher ratings if in a coffee cake category.   The butternut extract smelled good in the bottle, but did not fulfill its promise IMHO.  We did not like it at all and threw it out.  (keeping the others for snacking).  Definitely not worth the effort of finding the extract which is a story in itself.

Cake 3 – 1st place definitely but not a huge margin over cake 1.  A little sweeter, with more noticeable vanilla notes.  Very nice texture and moistness.  


The Winner of the comparison as assigned is Cake 1 – Sylvia Weinstock’s yellow cake by a landslide over cake 2.  It is a very nice yellow cake.  

However, if Toba Garrett’s yellow cake is included, it was the winner in my book and will remain my favorite for the following reasons over Cake 1.  (I had compared these 2 a number of years ago and came to the same conclusion – nice to know I am consistent!)

1)Easier preparation, no egg whites to whip separately.

2)Better taste, but close on that one

3)Smooth golden brown top, no leveling needed

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yortma Posted 31 Jan 2017 , 1:16am
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900_recipe-battle-scratch-ye_3671588fe5855dc18.jpgTop left cake 2

top right cake3

center front cake 1

*Last edited by yortma on 31 Jan 2017 , 2:19am
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yortma Posted 31 Jan 2017 , 1:25am
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[postimage id="6348" thumb="900"]sorry picture sideways  I give up 

left (top) cake 2, center cake 1, right (bottom) cake 3

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DormCat Posted 2 Feb 2017 , 6:47am
post #24 of 31

 Found the MCormick Vanilla, Butter, Nut at our local Publix grocery store. 

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bencata Posted 2 Feb 2017 , 12:51pm
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can you ship me some Vanilla, Butter Nut extract?? Its not available here in Massachusetts and its so expensive online like $7-8 plus shipping for 2oz!

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bencata Posted 2 Feb 2017 , 1:14pm
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do you have a link to yor cake 3??

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yortma Posted 2 Feb 2017 , 3:39pm
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Good morning bencata.  I purchased my vanilla butternut extract on Amazon (we don't have Publix in California).  Here is a link for the recipe to cake #3.  It is exactly the same recipe although it does not give credit to Toba Garrett.  (it does not use the vanilla butternut extract, just vanilla).  If you are desperate for the vanilla butternut, PM me your address and I will send you mine with one Tbsp missing.  I doubt I will ever use it again.

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Marian64 Posted 6 Feb 2017 , 3:54am
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I didn't realize I was out of parchment paper. So I prepared the pans the same way. I also took them out and wrapped them both and stuck them in the freezer overnight.

I served the cakes for my son and his wife and my mom. So I have included their opinions on taste. 

It was a tie. Although I am leaning towards A. 

A- soft almost melt in your mouth cake.
B- was a little crumbly. 

Ease in preparation
A- with the beating of the egg whites and folding them in, increased the difficulty on this one. Not sure if I had beat the egg whites long enough. This cake didn't rise like I thought it should.
B- won hands down on ease. In prepping. 

Other notes
A didn't seem to rise and baked with a dome.

B baked up beautifully, but it was a little browner.
It also looked like a yellow cake.

I would try A again to see if it bakes up better. I think I maybe the egg whites weren't beaten long enough.

I don't think I still have a go to yellow cake yet.

I am going to post the picture below.

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Marian64 Posted 6 Feb 2017 , 4:00am
post #29 of 31

Recipe Battle: Scratch Yellow Cake

Cake B is the bigger one. I did like the way it baked up. Cake A is the smaller one.

Cake A won for taste and texture B for ease.

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DormCat Posted 6 Feb 2017 , 4:46am
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As far as I know I followed both recipes exactly. Recipe A was easier. I used 2 8x3" round pans. It seems to have a nice rise but only about 2".  I'm not sure why the cakes pulled away from the pans and has a ridge but turned over they look nice. The flavor and texture  is quite good. I had planned to frost but never got around to it. 

Cake ARecipe Battle: Scratch Yellow CakeRecipe Battle: Scratch Yellow Cake

Receipe B was not my favorite. First the pan sizes didn't specify what depth to use so I went with 2 9x2" round pans which really filled them up. I set oven timer for 30 mins and after checking they were not finished so I added another 10 mins and still wasn't baked through. Added another 8 minutes and I checked the skewer came out clean. However, when I cut it on Saturday there was a small layer that was still damp. The cakes looked nice but eventually sunk.  Has an ok taste and my husband liked it.  I think it would be good to carve but don't think I will make this one again. 

Cake BRecipe Battle: Scratch Yellow CakeRecipe Battle: Scratch Yellow Cake

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