This cake is called 1-2-3-4 because it is a very old recipe and people could remember the ingredients by the numbers without having to write it down. This is what we make for birthday cakes. It is very good plain, or with lemon curd and fresh violets.
Two 8- Or 9-Inch Layers
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Turn on the oven to 3500 F. Measure all the ingredients and get organized before you begin to make the batter. The butter should be soft. Cut it into small pieces, and put in a large bowl. Measure the sugar and set aside.
Sift the cake flour, scoop into a measuring cup, scrape a knife across the top of the cup to level it, and measure 3 cups. Put the flour in a separate bowl. Measure level teaspoons of the baking powder and add to the flour. Measure the salt and add to the flour. Mix together.
Separate the eggs. Put the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Have the vanilla ready, and measure the milk and set aside.
Butter the insides of two 8- or 9-inch cake pans. Rub a small amount of butter all over the inside; don't miss the corners. Then put a tablespoon or so of flour in the pan and turn it all around so the pan is completely dusted with flour. Turn the pan upside down, and tap the edge on the table to let the extra flour fall out.
Now everything is ready to make the batter. Beat the butter with a wooden spoon or in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again until very fluffy and light yellow. This is what it means to cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and beat them in briefly. Add 1teaspoon vanilla and mix it in well.
Next add the flour and milk in parts. Sift about half of the flour over the butter mixture and lightly stir it in. Exchange the spoon for a large rubber spatula, and pour in about half the milk. Use the spatula to gently mix the milk into the batter. Sift over the rest of the flour and stir it in. Pour in the rest of the milk and gently mix it in.
The last step is to beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter. Put the egg whites into a very clean metal bowl, and beat with a whisk or mixer. They will gradually thicken and get very white as you beat in air bubbles. When the whites are very fluffy and will hold a soft peak shape when you lift up the whisk, they're ready.
Scoop up some of the whites with the spatula, add to the batter, and very gently stir them in. This will lighten the batter and make it easier to fold in the rest of the whites. Then pour the rest of the whites onto the batter and begin to fold them in. Folding is more delicate than stirring. Use the spatula to lift up some of the batter from the bottom of the bowl and fold it over the whites. Turn the bowl a little and fold again. Do that just until the egg whites are mixed in. The air bubbles in the whites will give the cake a light and delicate texture.
Divide the batter between the cake pans, and put in the center of the oven to bake for about 25 minutes. When the cakes are lightly browned, and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, they're done. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
You can cut the recipe in half to make a single layer cake. Or a full recipe will make 32 cupcakes--fill the papers half full.
Roast Chicken with Herbs
One 3- to 4-pound chicken
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano or marjoram, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water. Remove the two pockets of fat just inside the cavity, then pat dry with a towel.
Make an herb paste by mixing the chopped herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic. Hold the pointy ends of a fork against a plate and rub the peeled garlic against the tips to make a juicy puree. Rub the paste all over the outside of the chicken.
Set the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up, and cook in a 3750F oven for 20 minutes. Then turn the chicken over and cook another 20 minutes, breast side down. Then turn it over again, breast side up, for the last 20 minutes of cooking. If the bird is on the large side, 4 pounds or more, it will need an additional 15 minutes.
When it is cooked, remove from the oven, lightly cover with foil, and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. This resting time is very important for all cooked meats so that the texture will be tender and juicy. Before cutting and serving, collect the juices from the roasting pan, skim off the layer of clear fat from the top, and moisten the servings with the tasty juices.
We often have a simple supper of roast or grilled chicken with lettuce vinaigrette and garlic croutons. The chicken juices and the vinaigrette are really good together.(Continues...)