Monday, April 12, 2010

A Classic Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday, A.! Hope you enjoyed your cake :)

Experimenting with fun flavor combinations is always an adventure, but sometimes you just want a back-to-basics, tried-and-true favorite.  Enter what I like to call the "classic" birthday cake:  yellow cake layers surrounded by a nice blanket of chocolate frosting.  This perennial favorite is made easier thanks to an ingenious preparation technique from the folks at Cook's Country: a make-ahead, freezer-stable cake mix.  When you're ready to bake, throw in a couple of room temperature eggs and some warm water, and you're minutes away from tender, buttery, yellow cake goodness.  Iced and edged with a simple border, this cake is the perfect canvas for your favorite decorations--be it sprinkles, fresh strawberries, or a circle of birthday candles.

(Edited to add)  When making the chocolate frosting, the temperature of the melted chocolate is more vital than you'd think!  Apparently my chocolate and/or butter was too cool when I began the whipping process, giving the frosting a chocolate chippy appearance as the chocolate combined with cool butter and ice cold heavy cream.  Not an altogether bad result, just something to keep in mind if uniformity is important.

Make-Ahead Yellow Cake Mix 
From Cook's Country April/May 2010

2 cups granulated sugar
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups cake flour
½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Process sugar, flours, milk powder, baking powder, and salt in food processor for 15 seconds to combine.  Add butter and vanilla and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Freeze in zipper-lock bag for up to 2 months.

1.  PREPARE PANS  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (see below for other pan options).

2.  MAKE CAKE  With electric mixer on medium speed, beat prepared cake mix, 1¼ cups warm water (about 110 degrees), and 2 large room temperature eggs until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.  Scrape batter into prepared cake pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack.  Cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Two 8 by 8-inch cake pans: 30 to 35 minutes
One 13 by 9-inch cake pan: 35 to 40 minutes
One 12-cup Bundt pan: 40-45 minutes
24 cupcakes: 20 to 25 minutes

Chocolate Frosting   (Makes about 4 cups)
From Cook's Country April/May 2010

20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa

1.  CREAM BUTTER  With an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter, cream, vanilla, chocolate, and salt on medium-high speed until combined, about 1 minute.

2.  WHIP FROSTING  Reduce mixer speed to medium-low.  With motor running, slowly add confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.


  1. You are amazing at spreading frosting!! I can never do it quite right.

    Speaking of something different...I made bacon chocolate chip cookies this weekend. Not bad, not bad. Didn't get any pictures though :(

  2. I think it's so cool that you can actually freeze the cake layers. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is definitely a fail-safe cake for birthdays. Seems like everyone always loves it.

  3. You are a master cake-maker, Dorothy. This honestly looks like something I would buy at the bakery!

  4. yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my husband's favorite! I'll have to try this one this year :)

  5. Yummy - I've actually been on a yellow cake quest lately ever since my previous one turned out more dense than I wanted. This seems similar to the technique of beating the butter and flower first then adding the liquids. It's supposed to create a fantastically moist cake.