I even lacked almond extract and so I added an extra tablespoon of vanilla (as opposed to the 1 called for) and it was delicious. The recipe in CI's book is for a white cake with raspberry-almond filling so the extract would certainly compliment the cake, no doubt, but that was not my intent. Simple vanilla was more than enough!
CLASSIC WHITE LAYER CAKE
Source: The Best Recipe, Cook's Illustrated
1 cu milk (room temperature)
3/4 cu egg whites (about 6 large or 5 extra large), room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups plain cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
FOR THE CAKE:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9 by 1 1/2-inch or 2-inch round cake pans with vegetable shortening and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease parchment rounds, dust cake pans with flour and tap out excess. (Skip this and just throw some cupcake liners into a pan and you're set.)
2. Pour milk, egg whites and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery ingredients remaining.
4. 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 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.
5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until cake needle or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. (Adjust lesser for cupcakes, around 17-20 minutes.)
6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto greased cake racks. Reinvert onto additional greased racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
VANILLA BUTTERCREAM ICING
Adapted from Magnolia's Buttercream
Makes enough for one 2-layer 9-inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup milk
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.