I’ve written about this birthday cake before, but I think it’s worth revisiting. This is the ULTIMATE yellow cake with chocolate frosting – as far as I’m concerned, there’s no better cake in this world. The recipe for this cake comes from the Williams-Sonoma Dessert cookbook, which is full of wonderfully impressive, yet do-able dessert recipes. Considering how delicious this cake is, it’s actually pretty simple to make – especially if you have a stand mixer. You basically mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in the other, add both to a mixture of sugar and butter, and bake. While it’s baking, you whip up the frosting and boom – you have the most impressive dessert ever. Seriously, if you make this for someone’s birthday they will probably become obsessed and insist that it become a yearly tradition (that’s what we did to to my Mom). Even if you just make the homemade frosting and put that on box-made cupcakes or cake, it will be infinitely better than anything store-bought. Scroll down for the recipe, and bookmark it for the next birthday that comes up. If your own is coming up next, I suggest sending this post to a friend or family member as a subtle hint 🙂
That frosting…it is not to be believed.
Heart-shaped cake pans that my Grandma used to make my Mom’s birthday cakes when she was a kid! I love these.
Classic Birthday Cake (from the Williams-Sonoma Dessert cookbook)
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (we use regular all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray the bottoms of two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray like Bakers Joy. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended. In another bowl, beat the butter on medium speed (with either a stand mixer or a hand mixer) until smooth. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until fluffy and well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until just blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the blended dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 batches, beating on low speed after each addition. (In other words, go flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour). Divide the batter evenly into each cake pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of each cake pan to loosen the cakes. Invert onto a plate and lift off the pans. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting! While the cakes are baking, make the frosting:
Combine the chocolates in the top of a double boiler*. Using the double boiler with a small amount of barely simmering water, stir the chocolates until melted. Let cool slightly. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter and confectioners sugar until fluffy. Beat in the corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Continue beating while gradually adding the chocolate. Beat until smooth.
To assemble, place one cake on the serving plate. Frost it, then place the second cake on top, and frost the whole thing together. Serve immediately or keep at room temperature until serving. Don’t put this cake in the fridge! It will last covered on the counter for days, except that it won’t because it will get eaten.
*Notes on double boilers:
If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use two saucepans on top of each other (that’s basically what a double boiler is) – just make sure the top pan doesn’t fall all the way into the bottom pan; it should rest on top. You can even use just a heatproof bowl on top of a saucepan, as long as it nests on top without falling all the way in. You put a small amount of water in the bottom saucepan, get it to simmer lightly, place the heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan, and place what you’re melting (the chocolate) in the top bowl. It will melt from the indirect heat coming off of the water. BUT make sure the top bowl, where the melting chocolate is, doesn’t touch the water! That’s why you only need a very small amount (an inch or two) of lightly simmering water. And remember that boiling water bubbles up, so make sure the bubbling action doesn’t make the water reach the top bowl.
photos by me (at my parent’s house where the lighting is weird)