When I was about 12, I started discovering boxes of cake mix at my place at the table when my father wanted cake. He thought it was subtle. Anyway, I started with those mixes (powder, water, oil, eggs) and a pot of duncan hines icing.
Since then, my cakes have gotten more complicated. I worked in a professional bakery for almost a year in Ohio, and that honed my decorating skills. One thing I had never done was a genuine Swiss Meringue Buttercream from scratch, and so, that became my project for the weekend. I found a great tutorial on Sweetapolita. It worked wonderfully. I made mine chocolate buttercream by adding ghiardelli to it, and put it on a beautiful vanilla yellow cake.
I didn't have any vanilla extract (sign of an over-vigorous baker) having run out a few days ago making cookies, so I had to pull out the vanilla beans (of which I had two). I scraped them and added them to the cake batter, making the richest, vanilla-y cake I had ever had. It also makes for a nice color texture when I cut the cake.