Bye-bye Betty; this easy-to-memorize recipe lets you cut the apron strings attached to your box cake mix.
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Similar to the iconic pound cake, the 1-2-3-4 cake derives its name from the proportions of its ingredients: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs. Perhaps it should be called the 1-2-3-4-1 cake, because you do need to incorporate one cup of milk into the cake batter. Nevertheless, the recipe is so straightforward, you may not need to write the recipe down. All you do need to do is remember which number matches up with which ingredient. In order to have the best outcome, before baking your first 1-2-3-4 cake let’s take a walk through this simple process and talk about why you should follow certain instructions. Understanding why always helps you remember, right? Let's get started.

Simple Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

1 cup milk

Frosting of your choice – Caramel Frosting is always a good idea

Preheat and Prepare Pans

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. (You can use baking spray with flour.)

Pro Tip: Choose light over dark metal cake pans if possible; this helps to prevent the edges of the cake from turning dark before the interior of the cake is done.

Cream Butter and Sugar

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed just until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Pro Tip: Creaming butter and sugar together traps air into the mixture. This should only take around 3 minutes with an electric mixer. If you cream the mixture for too long the butter will start to melt causing the collapse of the air bubbles in the mixture, making the cakes heavy and possibly a little greasy.

Incorporate Eggs

Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Pro Tip: Like oil and vinegar, a fat and a liquid, eggs and butter don’t mix naturally. Any time you add more than a single egg to creamed butter, it’s best to do one at a time and beat or whisk it slowly to give the mixture time to thicken and emulsify. Beat just until the yolk disappears. Overbeating the eggs may cause the batter to overflow the sides of the pan during baking or create a fragile crust that crumbles and separates from the cake as it cools.

Add Flour and Milk

Gradually add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour, beating just until combined after each addition.

Pro Tip: Mixing liquid and flour forms gluten (developing a lot of gluten during cake mixing will make a cake tough). When you start by adding some of the dry ingredients (flour) to the creamed butter and sugar you coat the flour with fat, which inhibits the formation of gluten when you add the liquid. You can develop gluten with each addition of flour so it’s best to keep the mixing to a minimum.

Now Bake

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; let cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

Pro Tip: If the top or edges of the cake layers begin to brown before the center tests done, make a loose tent from a sheet of aluminum foil and cover the cake while it finishes baking.

Once the layers have cooled, dress it up with your favorite homemade frosting or glaze. Now that you know the basics for baking this easy 1-2-3-4 cake, next time experiment by adding flavoring extracts, such as almond or vanilla, or bake it into cupcakes or an easy to transport sheet cake.