Moist Yellow Caramel Layer Cake

Adapted from ChefTalk and from My Yellow Bluff
Makes a 2-layer 9-inch cake (about 10 to 12 servings)

XIAOLU'S NOTES:  I think part of the compromise of such a moist, tender cake is that it's quite delicate to handle.  I definitely recommend chilling the cakes at least an hour before frosting to firm it up so crumbs won't come off easily. Especially since this frosting is really good at pulling cake bits off hehe. You can't tell in my photo (or at least I hope not!) but a small section of the edge of the cake actually got pulled off by the frosting entirely. So, again, handle with care! Or, if not, it'll be delicious just the same =D.

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp salt
1 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature

Soft Caramel Frosting (Recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of two 9 x 1 1/2-inch round pans. Grease the pans lightly with oil or cooking spray, then place the paper in the pans and grease the paper. 

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, vinegar, oil, butter, and vanilla to the flour mixture and beat with on medium to medium-high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs and yolks and continue beating an additional 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans. 

Bake for 22 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of a cake comes out clean, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely. Frost as desired.

Soft Caramel Frosting
Makes enough to frost a 2-layer cake

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Steph of Cupcake Project also posted an adaptation of this frosting. Though our measurements are different, the technique remains the same. Check out her post for some useful photos of the caramelization process. This frosting doesn’t crust up like many other caramel frostings and retains wonderfully creamy, buttery, and soft. However, it does still become harder to spread as it cools, so you’ll want to have the cake(s) baked, cooled, and ready to frost before making the frosting.

3 cups sugar, divided [save 1/2 cup to brown]
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) canned evaporated milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of baking soda

Mix 2 1/2 cups sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, salt, and evaporated milk in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan (at least 3-qt. capacity). Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically until all of the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low.

Melt the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a small iron skillet, stirring constantly until it turns an even light to medium amber brown color.

Add this caramelized sugar and the remaining stick of butter into the mixture in the pot. Quickly stir everything together thoroughly and continue to cook until “soft ball” stage is reached (about 235 degrees F or when a bit of caramel dropped into cold water forms a soft, malleable ball) – this may take up to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool and thicken slightly. Add vanilla and baking soda. Use immediately, as the frosting will continue to thicken as it cools.