I don't have a tried-and-true cake recipe yet, so I tried Cook's Illustrated recipe. I love Cook's Illustrated because all of their recipes are tested so you know they will come out accordingly. Believe it or not, many of the recipes in cook books haven't even been tested so if you mess up a recipe don't be so quick to blame yourself. It could be the recipe or even the ingredients you used!
Anyhow this white cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated turned out light and moist with a very delicate crumb structure. The method for this cake is different than most traditional cakes, relying on the "biscuit method" of combining all the dry ingredients and then adding the wet. Editor Chris Kimball says this "reverse creaming" (the term they used in the magazine for this particular technique) was the reason for the moist, light and delicate structure.
Note: it is VERY important that all the ingredients are at room temperature.
Cook's Illustrated Best White Cake Ever
1 cup whole milk at cool room temperature
6 large egg whites at cool room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups cake flour
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust a rack to the center position. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with softened butter or Crisco and cover the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. In a medium bowl stir together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla with a fork.
2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the batter comes together, about 30 seconds.
3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake until the cake is lightly colored, feels set, and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted to the center, about 26 minutes, rotating the cakes 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. (Baking time will vary depending on your oven.)
4. Remove pans to cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pans and invert the cakes one at a time onto cooling rack. Reinvert cakes so the top is facing up and let cool completely. Makes 2 nine-inch cakes.