Rainy weather like we’ve had this week calls for a nice slice of cake, am I right? This cake is the perfect golden yellow cake – it’s super moist and fluffy and reminds me of the Pillsbury or Duncan Hines boxed cakes I used to bake when I was growing up. In fact, that buttery yellow cake mix taste is exactly what I was going for, minus the whole “from the box” thing. You see, I love the flavor of a boxed cake – yellow, funfetti, devil’s food, it’s all delicious. But why use a mix if you don’t have to? Making a cake from scratch is really easy, and you probably already have all of the ingredients needed in your kitchen. This golden layer cake is inspired by Edward Burne-Jones’s 1880 work Golden Stairs. Burne-Jones was a key figure in the Aesthetic Movement, an artistic movement of the nineteenth century that was inspired by the Italian Renaissance. This work, which took 4 years to complete, was considered the epitome of the movement and is one of the artist’s most famous works.
Eighteen willowy maidens are shown descending a golden staircase, which curves within an invented Italian structure. The women are dressed in long, shimmering, classically inspired gowns, and are haphazardly holding musical instruments. Apart from being meticulously executed and beautiful to look at, the work was significant for not really being about anything. It doesn’t depict a specific narrative, but instead just sets a mood. The colors are subtle and harmonious, and it looks like you are looking into a soulful, mysterious dream. I love the way the composition winds from one direction to another, leading the viewer’s eyes across the work in one long swoop. I’m also in love with the flavors of this cake: a rich and buttery base topped with a significant chocolate fudge frosting. I decorated this cake with fresh flowers – I can’t resist having some in the apartment, and I had fun cutting and arranging the blooms. The cake is still delicious without them, but surely a little less decorative.
Golden Layer Cake
4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature and well-shaken
Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter two 9-inch or 8-inch circular cake pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the vanilla and eggs one at a time. Reduce the speed to low, and add in half of the buttermilk. Mix for 30 seconds and then add half of the dry mix. Repeat with the rest of the buttermilk and dry ingredients. Mix only until combined, and then divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans. Bake the cakes for about 40 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of each comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, and then gently run a knife around the outer perimeter of each cake. Carefully invert the cakes onto racks, and let cool completely before frosting. At least an hour!
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
To me, this is truly the most perfect, fudgy frosting! I’ve made it a few times recently, and each time can’t resist sneaking a few spoonfuls from the bowl before I start icing the cake!
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Rich Chocolate Ovaltine powder mix
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed along with the cocoa powder and salt until super fluffy and incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the vanilla. In a large measuring cup, stir together the milk and Ovaltine mix. Add the chocolate-y cream to the bowl, and mix on medium speed until the frosting is thick and all the ingredients are completely mixed in. Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to ice the cake.
PRO TIP: Before you ice the sides of the cake, I recommend lining the edges of the cake with wax paper, tucking the very edge of the paper under the perimeter of the cake (see picture, above). Ice the sides then remove. Voilà, the cake stand is clean!