Whatever cake the kids pick, and however complicated the icing and the covering in candies and candles and other edible and inedible decorative detritus, we always make the same base, which is my friend Emily's buttermilk cake recipe. It's always good: light and tender but sturdy enough to deal with the slicing and dicing and layering and frosting that come later.
This cake is just the base. For frosting, it's chef's choice!
Butter and flour 2 cake pans. (Or a large rectangular pan or cupcake tins.)
Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add sugar and cream again until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.
Mix dry ingredients together.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold them into the batter.
Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Less or more time if you're using bigger or smaller pans.)
Cool on racks.