From Jessica Battilana's Repertoire:
"There’s a line from a Bonnie Raitt song that I love, when she sings that in her 'sweet dreams' she's in a bar on her birthday, 'drinking salty margaritas with Fernando.'
Well, I like salty margaritas, but in my sweet dreams it’s my birthday and someone has baked me this cake.
I have spent a lot of my life trying to develop a recipe for the ultimate yellow cake, one that tastes like it came from a mix. This is a strange goal, I realize, to attempt a homemade version that replicates something you can get out of a box, but I think a lot of us have nostalgia for cakes with that distinctive flavor and delicate crumb. It’s the taste of childhood birthday parties, the specific flavor of joy.
I’m happy to say that after years of fine-tuning, this is the recipe that I (and maybe you?) have been waiting for. It’s incredibly tender, rich but not dense, and tastes strongly of vanilla.
Coconut pastry cream is sandwiched between the layers and then the cake is frosted with a silky, lighter-than-average ganache that’s made with water instead of cream (an idea for which I must give the celebrated cookbook author David Lebovitz credit). It’s like a Mounds bar in cake form, and it makes people so happy when you trot this masterpiece out. Said one of my recipe testers, “I was blown away by this recipe. The tender crumb on the cake, the rich but light frosting, the easy pastry cream—I could not get enough.”