Gluten-Free Yellow Layer Cake
Why This Recipe Works
A good yellow layer cake should melt in the mouth and taste of butter and vanilla. But many of the gluten-free layer cake recipes we tried tasted overly sweet, and most came out dense and gummy. If those problems weren’t daunting enough, all of the initial recipes we tried were terribly greasy. The standard amount of butter in a traditional yellow layer cake (two sticks) was way too much. As we have learned time and time again, the starches in gluten-free flour just don’t absorb fat (especially butter) all that well. We dramatically reduced the amount of butter in our working recipe, but predictably that left the cake too lean and dry. Replacing the milk or buttermilk used in classic recipes with sour cream was a step in the right direction, but we needed more richness. In the end, we borrowed a trick that works for chocolate cakes—melted chocolate—to help solve this problem. Rather than using unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate (neither acceptable in a yellow cake), we turned to white chocolate, and it worked like a charm, boosting richness without making the cake greasy. With one big problem solved, we now focused on lightening up the crumb. Adding extra baking powder and a bit of baking soda helped give our cake better rise and a tender texture. To create a really fluffy texture, we needed to whip the egg whites with some sugar to create a stable meringuelike mixture that could provide greater lift in the oven. Whipping the egg yolks with a bit more sugar ensured that sufficient air was in the batter. Note the relatively low oven temperature, which we found allows the layers to cook through without excessive browning. These lofty layers were tender yet sturdy enough to stand up to a thick coating of frosting.