Tim’s Birthday Cake 2010

For Tim’s birthday this year, I went all out and made my first ever complete-from-scratch cake and frosting. It turned out amazing – super rich and delicious, so here are the details.

The chocolate cake recipe is this one, from Peanut Butter and Julie, reproduced with her instructions below.

Oh-So-Versatile Chocolate Cake Recipe

1 1/2 cups hot strong coffee (no wimpy stuff allowed!)
1/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (I shaved the chocolate because it was easier…this is a messy step!)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups good-quality cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Spray cake pans with non-stick baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper. (We don’t have parchment paper. It might have helped.)

Mix the hot coffee with the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs until they are slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the canola oil, and mix at medium speed for 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar, mixing until well combined. Slowly add the buttermilk, coffee mixture, and vanilla, and mix until blended.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions on low speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 55-65 minutes. Cool the layers for 15 in the pans, and then carefully invert them onto wire racks to cool completely.

And now, you make the frosting. I chose a recipe found here, at The Way the Cookie Crumbles – recipe #2,

Vanilla Buttercream (from epicurious.com and Gourmet January 2004)

Makes about 6 cups. (I might have made 1.5 batches for better coverage)

4 large egg whites at room temperature for 30 minutes
Rounded ¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened (next time, I might use only 3 sticks)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine whites and salt in a very large bowl. Stir together water and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, without stirring, brushing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

When syrup reaches a boil, start beating egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until frothy, then gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks (looks kind of like soap foam). (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling until syrup registers 238 to 242°F. Immediately remove from heat and, with mixer at high speed, slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into whites, beating constantly. Beat, scraping down side of bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes in a standing mixer or 15 with a handheld. (It is important that meringue is properly cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (Buttercream will look soupy after some butter is added if meringue is still warm. If so, briefly chill bottom of bowl in a large bowl filled with ice water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all of butter is added but will come back together by the time beating is finished.) Add vanilla and beat 1 minute more.

At this point, if you’ve planned well, you can immediately frost the cooled layers.

I, of course, did not plan well. It was late at night on a workday, the cake was too warm to frost, and I wasn’t about to stay up. So I put the frosting in the fridge overnight. Moderate mistake – it didn’t change the flavor, but the texture and volume changed. So. FYI.

Frost the cake – layer cake, frosting, layer cake, frosting, layer cake, and frost everything. Another half batch of frosting would’ve covered the messiness that results from white frosting on a chocolate cake, but then everything might’ve been too rich.

Now, you slice and eat.


This is a very rich cake – eat in small pieces. Freezes and refrigerates well, too. It will be made again.

Tomorrow: the best and only mac and cheese recipe you’ll ever need again.

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3 Responses to Tim’s Birthday Cake 2010

  1. Pingback: Wedding Cake Tips

  2. bridget says:

    So glad you enjoyed your first completely-from-scratch cake! A crumb coat, where you spread a very thin layer of frosting over the cake, then chill it until it’s set, might have helped the chocolate-crumbs-in-vanilla-frosting issue. Or, you could always crumble up one of the layers and sprinkle the crumbs over the frosted cake. It looks really snazzy, but honestly, a made-from-scratch cake is so delicious, who cares what it looks like?

    • ashinwi says:

      Yep, a crumb coat was my intention to begin with – though I didn’t know it needed to set. That makes sense! Next time. And you’re right – the cake was so delicious, it really didn’t matter what it looked like! Thanks for the great frosting recipes!

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