Raspberry crime scene cake

Raspberry crime scene cake (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling time for the cakes

Servings: 12 to 16

Note: Maybe I've seen one too many crime drama. The first time I garnished this cake with the lurid red of raspberry puree, all I could think about was demonic laughter, followed by a fade to a police detective saying, "This has to be the work of that same slasher, chief."

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pans

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) flour, plus about 4-5 teaspoons for flouring the pans

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease the interior of two 9-inch round cake pans, both bottom and sides, with butter. If possible, line the bottom of each pan with a 9-inch round of parchment or wax paper and grease it also.

2. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons flour into each pan and shake around until each interior is thoroughly dusted. Turn the pans upside down over the sink and tap against the sink to dislodge any excess flour.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir 3 cups flour with the baking powder and salt and set aside. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the milk with the vanilla and set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the 1 cup butter until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Reduce the speed and add the sugar with the mixer running, continuing to mix until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the mixture.

6. Add one-third of the milk mixture and beat until absorbed. Add one third of the flour mixture and beat just until the flour is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining milk and flour in two batches.

7. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake the cakes in the center of the oven until the tops are golden brown and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of pan, 25 to 35 minutes.

8. Remove the cake pans from the oven and set on a cooling rack or folded towel for 10 minutes. Overturn the cake pans onto a rack or plate, remove the pans and paper from them and return the layers, right-side up, to the rack or towel. Wait to frost the cakes until they have cooled to room temperature.