Yellow Buttermilk Cake for Cake Balls

This is a buttery yellow cake, perfect for cake balls that need a fairly neutral flavor background. It works well combined with everything from jam to liqueur to ganache and various frostings.

Makes one 9 x 13-inch base cake (about 12 cups crumbs)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

5 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of a 9 x 13-inch rectangular pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.

3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla.

4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition and allowing each egg to be absorbed before continuing. Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center shows a few moist crumbs when removed. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. The cake is ready to use. Alternatively, double-wrap the pan in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day before proceeding.

Variations: This yellow cake works with every frosting in the book as well as numerous binders such as jams, lemon curd, and pastry cream. It is the perfect cake to experiment with when designing your own cake balls. How about yellow cake, a bit of Kahlúa, espresso buttercream, and a dip in dark chocolate; or yellow cake, apricot jam, and a dip in white chocolate?