In my opinion, birthdays are the time to bust out the layer cakes, the fancy cakes, the cakes that are extraordinary and surpass everyday notions of dessert.
When someone’s birthday is almost around the corner the question, “Hey ________, what kind of cake do you want for your birthday?”, is often a given. Or the alternative question/statement that I ask is “Hey ________, your birthday is coming up. I’ll bake you anything you like. What’ll it be?” Or sometimes, if I know the person very well, I end up baking them the dessert I know they like the best, whether or not it’s cake. I’m a people pleaser in that way.
My sister Kristen is turning 20 this year and she had mentioned that she wanted a really good chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for her birthday. Challenge accepted in my mind. I mean, who doesn’t like a really good chocolate cake?
Kristen has always had a birthday that often lands during spring break when friends and family are away. But she has had some interesting birthdays and cakes that I can recall such as:
The infamous Ho Ho cake with ice cream. Ho Ho’s as in the Hostess Cupcake product that is like a miniature rolled chocolate cake with a whipped cream-like substance in the middle. I have fond memories of taking the time to peel off the chocolate on the Ho Ho's before diving into the cake and cream. For this particular birthday, five Ho Ho’s were adorned with five scoops of ice cream. That's pretty much the extent of my dad's baking skills.
The cake that was bribery for picking up a dead bird. It was one of those lessons that your parents teach you about the circle of life once you’re in your early teens. Sometimes you find dead animals in your backyard and you can’t leave them there to rot. I was bribed with a piece of Kristen’s birthday cake if I picked up that darned dead bird and moved it to a safer location. I guess I really wanted that piece of cake because I remember eating the cake but sadly being unable to finish that well deserved slice. I still think about it sometimes when I’m wishing for cake.
I’d like to say this early birthday celebration was pretty memorable. There was a sushi lunch beforehand and of course this chocolate cake with cookies and cream afterwards. And no birthday is complete without the birthday song. Luckily it wasn’t as awkward as this one.
Chocolatey Chocolate Cake with Rainbow Sprinkles
Very slightly adapted from the lovely Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake
Yields: 8 servings
This cake keeps well in the freezer for several months if sliced and individually wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in an airtight bag or container.
Butter and flour for greasing the pans
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
6 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups sifted powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Move the rack to the middle of the oven.
Butter the cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper then butter again and flour the pans.
Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined.
In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Keep the mixer on low and slowly add the coffee. Stir to just combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Break chocolate up into bite-sized pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Be careful that the bowl is not touching the water. Stir until just melted and set aside to cool at room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue to beat for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Once the powdered sugar is all added, beat at medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
On a flat plate or cake stand, layer the outer edge with strips of wax paper approximately where the edge of the cake will be making sure to leave at least an inch showing under the cake. Place one cake layer flat side up on the wax paper.
Using a butter knife or offset spatula, spread a layer of chocolate frosting about ¼-inch thick on the first layer. Place the second layer, rounded side up on the first layer of frosting. Spread the rest of the frosting on the sides and top. Gently pull the strips of wax paper out.
Decorate with rainbow sprinkles and candles.