Versatile Vanilla Cake

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature

1 1/2 c granulated sugar

2 eggs plus 3 egg yolks(whites saved)

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk ( no buttermilk, use plain yogurt or sour cream)

Whipped frosting:

3 egg whites

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/3 cup water

1/4 tsp vanilla

To Make Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low speed, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture: mix just until combined.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from pans, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges pf pans and invert cakes onto wire rack. Let cool completely.

To Make Frosting:

In a heat proof bowl set over (not in) saucepan of simmering water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar has dissolved (or mixture registers 150 degrees on an instant thermometer) about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium high heat until glossy, stiff peaks form (don’t over beat), about 3 minutes; reduce speed to low, add vanilla and beat just until combined. Use immediately. Makes 5 cups.

Place one cooled cake layer bottom side up, on a cake stand. Tuck strips pf parchment paper underneath. Using an offset spatula or table knife, spread top with frosting. Top with remaining cake; frost top, then sides. Store un-frosted cakes at room temperature up to 1 day. Once frosted, serve within hours.

Chocolate Variation: Reduce flour to 2 cups and add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa. Top frosted cakes with shaved dark chocolate

Lemon Variation: Add 1 Tbs grated lemon zest to flour mixture. Omit vanilla and beat in 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice with buttermilk. While cakes are baking, bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Using a tooth pick, poke holes in warm cakes on rack and brush with lemon syrup. For frosting, substitute 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice for vanilla. Frost cooled cake.