STEP ONEHEAT oven to 350ºF.
STEP TWOPREPARE either two 8-inch or two 9-inch cake pans by coating with flour no-stick cooking spray. Follow the recipe for the size cake pan you are using.
STEP THREECOMBINE flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in large bowl. Add shortening and milk (2/3 cup for 8-inch pans or 3/4 cup milk for 9-inch pans). Beat vigorously by hand, or use electric mixer on medium speed, for 2 minutes.
STEP FOURADD eggs, remaining milk and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pans.
STEP FIVEBAKE 8-inch layers about 30 minutes; bake 9-inch layers about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
STEP SIXCOOL in pans 10 to 15 minutes on wire racks. Remove from pans; cool completely on racks. Frost as desired.
STEP ONEALMOND TEA CAKES: SPRAY 24 muffin cups with no-stick cooking spray or line with paper liners. In either recipe, substitute 1 teaspoon almond flavoring for vanilla. Fill muffin cups 1/2 full. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and chopped almonds. Bake at 375ºF, about 15 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes.
STEP TWOCOCONUT FLAKE CAKE: In either recipe, substitute 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut (3 1/2 oz. can) into cake batter.
STEP THREEELEGANT RASPBERRY CAKE: On the first layer spread Dickinson's Raspberry Curd and frosting. Gently mix 2 pints of fresh raspberries with 2 tablespoons of Raspberry Curd, mixed with 2 teaspoons of water. Heat remaining Raspberry Curd in the microwave to make it runny. Use a spoon to pour melted curd around the top edge of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Place raspberries on entire top of the cake. Use a birthday candle to make small holes on the top layer; insert a sprig of mint in each hole.