The Cake, or How to Win Friends and Influence Others

The Cake, made with Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay

I’ve found that people respond very well to cake, in general, and to a good moist yellow cake in particular.  The cake pictured above was made for a Chardonnay tasting event DH and I went to recently at the home of good friends.

As you can see, I often take a “low to the ground” approach, common in Italian cooking, where I get the excellent ingredients to the plate with as little artifice as possible.  Luckily, my extended local food loving “family” is not offended by the rusticity of my presentations.

Thanks to Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins of The New Basics, and to Michael Ruhlman of Ratio, I can present to you my favorite yellow cake, and a delicious chocolate ganache to top it with.  This cake can be mixed in less time than it takes my oven to preheat, and can usually be prepared entirely with staples in my pantry.  The recipe is easy to adapt for different flavor profiles, and is limited only by your imagination or energy level when decorating/topping/filling.  In the photo above, the filling is fresh raspberries that were macerated in sugar, then the liquid released from the berries was reduced to a syrup and recombined with the berries.

I have made this cake countless times, and I have taught this recipe to others, who have gone on to many social successes merely by bringing some version of this cake.  A version of this cake recipe was served at my wedding to DH.

Great Yellow Cake

Yield: two nine-inch round layers


  • 2 9-inch round cake pans
  • parchment paper or wax paper
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • electric mixer
  • large mixing bowl
  • dry measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • liquid measuring cup
  • knife or bench scraper for leveling
  • silicon or rubber scraper/spatula/spoonula
  • cooling racks
  • pot holders


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs (large)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottoms of the two nine-inch round cake pans with parchment paper or wax paper, and then grease and flour the lined pans.
  2. Beat the sugar and eggs together with an electric mixer for 30 seconds on medium speed.  Add the oil, wine, vanilla, salt, baking powder, flour; beat for one minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl at the end to be sure all ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Place the pans on the middle rack of the oven, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  The cake will pull away from the side of the pans.
  4. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks, removing the paper liner.  Turn the cakes right side up and let them cool for at least 2 hours.
  5. Add filling between the layers and ice, or cover with ganache (recipe below), for a layer cake, or garnish with a fruit or sauce for single layers.

One of my favorite ways to assemble this cake is with homemade jam between the layers of the cake, and then pouring warm chocolate ganache over the top of the cake.  Orange marmalade and raspberry are two excellent choices, though I’m sure there are more.

Basic Ganache (Chocolate Sauce)

Yield:  Makes two cups


  • mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • small saucepan
  • Pyrex liquid measuring cup (preferably 2 cup size)
  • rolling pin or hammer or meat tenderizer, or if you’re a purist, chef’s knife and cutting board
  • rubber/silicon spatula


  • 8 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate (that’s 2 Ghirardelli bars)
  • 8 ounces cream (whipping, heavy, whatever you call it)  (1 cup)


  1. Get the chocolate into small pieces, either by chopping, or, by my preferred method- bashing the bars with a hammer or rolling pin while they are still wrapped up. Put the chocolate pieces in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the cream to a simmer.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the mixing bowl.  Wait 5 minutes or so for the chocolate to soften.
  3. Whisk cream and chocolate together  until they are completely combined.
  4. If you’re using this to top the cake, pour the ganache into the Pyrex measuring cup, and then pour it over your filled cake.  You’ll have a little more ganache than you need to cover the cake, but this isn’t really a problem, is it?
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One Response to The Cake, or How to Win Friends and Influence Others

  1. Ingrid says:

    superb, all love this cake

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