Friday, February 18, 2011

Recipe - Birthday Cake

I made have made some extra work for myself this year.  I made a "silent" vow to not use boxed cake mixes.  hmmmm.  A challenge, certainly.  Not that I have anything against Betty or Duncan, but I do find that the cakes can be a little boring, a bit too airy if you're getting fancy with carving (as one might do with two girls in the house), and certainly predictable with the 1 cup of oil and three eggs.  I thought, there have to be better options for the modern cook. 
The request was yellow cake and chocolate frosting.  Sounds easy enough.  I turned to the trusty Internet to find a recipe.  I found one for "Best Yellow Layer Cake" at Smitten Kitchen.  I have found other recipes at this site with great success.  This was one to try.
I got out the trusty Kitchen Aid and got to mixing.

Smitten Kitchen's Best Yellow Layer Cake
(adapted from and reprinted following Smitten Kitchen's guidelines.)
Makes two 9-inch round cake layers

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray or butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment, as she recommends.  I recently ran out of parchment - it's on the grocery list - so I used the old spay and flour method with good results.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl (yes LARGE), beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer (here's where the Kitchen Aid came it) at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beat well and scrape down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, add buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three or four batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Pour batter equally into cake pan, then tap pan on counter several times to remove air bubbles. Bake  at 350 degrees until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then loosen cake from pan and invert onto rack. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

Cooked Chocolate Frosting

The frosting I used I found last year from Country Living.  It reminds me of my Grandmother's frosting, a bit like buttercream, but not as heavy.  It has a silky, smooth texture and is not too sweet.
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounce) of dark chocolate or white chocolate
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa, (for white chocolate frosting, omit cocoa)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons flour, and 1⁄8 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  This will take several minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

Melt 8 ounces of dark chocolate or white chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave. Be careful not to scorch it. Set aside to cool.

Beat 1 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, and 2 tablespoons cocoa (for white chocolate frosting, omit cocoa) together until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled chocolate and add milk mixture and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (dark chocolate frosting only) until smooth and fluffy.

The Result
The baked layers were sunken a bit in the middle.  I am sure there is a reasonable explanation for that: the humidity was wrong, or the altitude, or I didn't sift the flour well enough, or the cartwheels I did in the kitchen while baking sunk the middles.  Baking is still a bit of a mystery to me.
My handy dandy solution is to trim the cake a bit, then I spread the bottom cake with a layer of raspberry jam, and then frosting.  A nice and sweet surprise. 
The birthday girl liked the cake.  We all liked the cake.  It did seem a little dense, that's what I was looking for, right?  Yes, I bought the cake flour, maybe the plus 2T was more than I needed.  But, I didn't sift.  I never do.  Is it reall that important?
It was not too sweet, but had a great "yellow cake" flavor. 
I love this frosting.  I started using it last year, when I banned tub frosting from the house.  It can even perk up box mix cupcakes.  The white chocolate version is my favorite.
This is definately a cake I will make again.  And a frosting I will make again.
If you decide to ditch the box cakes, these are two worthwhile recipes to try.

I've linked to Full Plate Thursday and Foodie Friday.  and Sweet Tooth Friday.  Check them out for some more great recipes.


  1. Hi Rachel,
    Your Birthday Cake looks so good. I wish I could have a slice. I would like to invite you to bring a dish my Full Plate Thursday. The linky will be open all week end. Thank you for sharing and you have a great day!

  2. The frosting sounds YUMMY! and white chocolate is my favorite. So, this is definately going on my list of recipes to try. Thanks!


  3. This sounds wonderful and looks amazing. Nice job!

    I'm hosting a weekly linky, Sweet Tooth Friday, I'd love for you to share your recipe.

  4. What a lovely birthday cake. :) The most important thing is...the birthday girl like the cake and appreciate it's all made from scratch! ;)


  5. A cake baked from scratch? Wow - you are amazing! I am so very impressed!!!