When we first flipped through the pages of Kelsey Nixon's Kitchen Confidence ($15, originally $20), our eyes gravitated toward this yellow cake slathered in salted vanilla buttercream and packed with plenty of sprinkles.

Kelsey told us in an interview, "The birthday cake is the finale recipe of the book, and I probably spent more time developing and getting that recipe right than any other. It's a good, dense, old-fashioned yellow birthday cake. And the thing that ended up being the mystery ingredient was cornstarch, which is in cake flour. But I know that cake flour is not sitting on most Americans' pantry shelves. And the buttercream has a lot of salt in it. That salted buttercream is just delicious."

OK, so the only catch with this cake is there's really no trick to making the sprinkles stick. It's a cross between tossing and packing the sprinkles onto the sides. The best advice I can give is, work in an area that you can easily clean. I kept a rimmed sheet pan underneath my round cake cardboard to catch the loose sprinkles. Occasionally, I lifted the cake off the pan, dumped the sprinkles back into the bowl, and carried forth with the sprinkling. However, the mess is half the fun. And the dizzying display will appeal to girls and grown men alike. The plethora of rainbow sprinkles is just too cute to resist!

Essential Yellow Birthday Cake With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Essential Yellow Birthday Cake With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Notes

Editor's note: If you do not have two 9-inch cake pans, use three 8-inch cake pans instead.

Yellow Birthday Cake With Rainbow Sprinkles Recipe

Ingredients

For cake:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For vanilla buttercream:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

Directions

  1. To make cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour 2 9-­inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper circles, and butter the parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium­-high speed until pale yellow and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until just combined. Slowly add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, and tap the pans on the counter several times to get rid of any air bubbles.
  5. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
  6. Transfer the pans to a wire rack, and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run the blade of a butter knife around the edges of the pans to release the cakes. Invert the cakes onto a wire rack, and discard the parchment. Let cool completely, about 1 hour. Wrap both layers in plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
  7. To make buttercream: Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, increase the mixer speed to medium­ high, and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and milk, and beat on medium­-high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. To assemble: Remove the frozen cake layers from the freezer, and unwrap. Put one layer on a cake stand and spread about one­-third of the frosting onto the top of the layer. Put the second layer on top of the first, and top with another one-third of the frosting. Spread the last one-third of the frosting on the sides. Decorate with the sprinkles, and serve.