The Target bakery in the Super Target the next town over has the most delicious and moist white cake I have ever eaten. The bakery is our go to for special occasions when we are in need of cupcakes. I am always up for a good challenge and finding a recipe that is just as good was my next assignment. Sure I could have called the bakery hoping they would spill the beans but where is the fun in that?
I scoured the web looking for a few recipes to try. I knew the Target cake used almond extract for flavor. After several failed attempts I discovered the answer was right in my cabinet. I have enjoyed many successes from my Baker’s Illustrated but was not impressed with the vanilla cupcake recipe. Thinking their cake recipes would not be up to par I completely eliminated the book from my list without a second thought. It was desperation that lead me to open the book. One last attempt to complete my quest. And at last I had found my holy grail.
The must have ingredient when making cakes is cake flour. The low protein in cake flour produces a light cake with a tender crumb. All-purpose flour has a higher protein resulting in a tougher more dense cake. Cake flour can be made by taking two tablespoons of flour out of each cup of flour and replacing them with corn starch. Sift the mixture 5 times to aerate. Although you can substitute cake flour in this way the results are not as perfect as when using the real thing.
Source: Baker’s Illustrated
2 1/4 cups (9-ounces) cake flour
1 cup milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat over to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the paper and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
Pour the milk, egg whites, and extracts into a small bowl and mix with a fork until blended. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer set at low speed. Add the butter; continue beating at low speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup liquid and beat 30 seconds more. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixer to medium speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans; using a rubber spatula, spread the batter to the pan walls and smooth the tops. Arrange the pans at least 3 inches from the oven wall and 3 inches apart. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, 23-25 minutes. (Do not over bake!)
Let the cake rest in the pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from the sides of the pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert cakes so tops are facing upwards. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.