Birthdays are inevitable and with most celebrations, there’s cake. Birthday cakes are sometimes challenging to make with three separate recipes for the cake, filling and frosting. This is why most people resort to purchasing a cake from their local bakery?! Homemade cakes, however are something very different – fresh, light and not sickening sweet like store bought cakes.
Even though there is a little more work involved, putting together a cake for that special someone doesn’t have to be daunting. My recipe for Classic Birthday Cake, is easy to follow and if you prepare, by buying the ingredients ahead of time, you can bake, fill and frost a cake relatively quickly.
There are a few rules in baking a great cake: 1) mise en place or have all the ingredients in place 2) don’t over mix 3) don’t over or under bake. The rest is relatively simple, just take each step one at a time and you will surely have great success. Happy Birthday ____!
2 sticks, butter, organic preferably
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, organic preferably
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature, preferably organic
6 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup cocoa powder, good quality (I use a combination of dark & light)
3 cups powdered sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate, chips or bar, good quality
chocolate sprinkles, optional
(Makes 1, 9-inch Cake)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your 9-inch cakes pans with parchment paper, then butter and flour pans.
2. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on high speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, while mixing in between each additional egg.
3. Then, add the vanilla extract and mix again on high for 1 minute until the mixture is light and fluffy.
4. Sift the dry ingredients together: flours, baking powder and salt.
5. Next, on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture, a third at a time alternating with the buttermilk, until completely added. Do not over mix!
6. Remove the bowl from the stand and stir the batter together by hand to make sure you incorporated all the ingredients at the bottom of the bowl.
7. Dollop the batter into the two prepared pans and smooth out on top.
8. Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. While the cakes are baking, make the pastry cream filling. In a small saucepan, add the milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. Heat the milk mixture on medium until simmering.
10. While the milk mixture is heating, in a bowl combine the cornstarch and the other 2 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk the mixture to remove any lumps and while continuing to whisk, add the egg yolks.
11. Then, add 2 tablespoons of the simmering milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, while whisking. Continue to add a few more tablespoons of milk to the egg yolk mixture while whisking. This is called tempering your egg yolks, so they don’t curdle when you add them to the simmering milk.
12. Then, pour in the warmed egg yolk mixture into the simmering milk and whisk slowly until thickened. The pastry cream should be the consistency of pudding.
13. Next, whisk in the butter and vanilla extract and pour into a clean bowl.
14. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate at least 4 hours. I like to make my pastry cream 1 day ahead.
15. Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool for at least 1 hour in the pans.
16. Using a table knife, loosen the cakes around the perimeter and invert onto a plate or rack for further cooling. I like to bake my cakes 1 day ahead and wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for easier frosting.
17. Remove the cakes and pastry cream from the refrigerator and place 1 cake on a plate or a cake turn table. Whip the heavy cream for the cream filling until stiff. Fold the whipped heavy cream into the pastry cream until smooth.
18. Dollop the cream filling into the center of the cake and smooth out within a 1/2 inch of the edge. Place the second cake, right side down on top of the cream, so the cake lays flat.
19. To make the frosting, add your chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 45 seconds. Remove the chocolate, it should be slightly melted with chocolate chunks. Stir the mixture slowly until smooth, this might take a minute or two. Set the bowl aside and let it cool.
20. While the chocolate is cooling, on medium speed, cream the butter and cream cheese. You don’t want to beat the mixture too high because it creates air bubbles in the frosting.
21. Sift the cocoa powder and add it to the creamed mixture. Beat on low until incorporated, about 2 minutes.
22. Sift the powdered sugar and add it all to the bowl. Whisk on low speed until the frosting is light and creamy.
23. Then, add the cooled melted chocolate and mix on low until light and fluffy, about 1 minute more.
24. Dollop some of the frosting in the center of the cake and work the frosting around the sides first to cover. Dollop more frosting on the center and continue to spread it around the sides and top until smooth. Decorate with a few chocolate sprinkles, if you like!
25. And celebrate! Enjoy!