Having our sons first birthday was huge deal for us. And I would have normally custom ordered a cake to suit the theme. But I decided to be super-mom and do everything for the party, including baking and decorating the cake, with gum paste, an ingredient new to me and do more than I really should have committed myself too, with a toddler running around the house. We ordered pizza for kid-friendly food, but the rest was made by me. Still not sure how super-mom I considered myself to be, because at the end of it all, I felt like I had been hit by a truck!
But heck, it was worth it! And a BIG thank you to my fabulous helpful cousins Pooja and Reshma. From start to finish, the cake took me 8 long hours. Although I repeatedly said never again, I will probably do it. But just not as big a cake. It takes longer to frost, you need way more buttercream frosting and it's just a bigger project on the whole!
The recipe below is the original recipe from Alice's TeaCup– one of my favorite high tea places and also my favorite baking cookbook. You will find many recipes from this book on this blog.
To feed the party, I baked two batches of this recipe in a 12-inch round cake pan and then made four batches of the buttercream.
The gorgeous penguin topper was made to order by FondantFads.
The rest of the cake and decoration was done by me. The circles to decorate were cut out from gum paste and layered on top.
After a very basic cake decorating class from Sugar Flower Cake Shop I learnt the basics of frosting a cake with buttercream. Go thick. Go generous. Do many layers, by letting it set in the fridge for 15–20 minutes between each layer. Buttercream obviously contains butter, and butter will harden in the refrigerator, which makes layering on the next layer easier. It also helps make for a smoother cake along with a yummier cake!
I baked the cake the day before and left it uncovered in the fridge. Normally you would have covered it to not dry it out, but given that the buttercream was so thick, the cake was still moist the next day.
Chocolate Cake with the Yummiest Vanilla Buttercream
Makes one 8-inch 3 layer cake
To quote from the book: "This is the best chocolate cake ever— no contest. It’s thoroughly moist (thanks to the coffee in the batter), with not too rich a chocolate and not too buttery a frosting. It has been praised online by our new friends Blondie and Brownie of Just Desserts NYC: “The buttercream is thick and sweet, generously spread between each layer. The cake is so moist, it tastes like an Oreo cookie dunked in milk. It is the best cake in NYC.” Lauren says most cakes are just a conduit for the frosting, but not ours… see for yourself!"
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we recommend Hershey’s)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup hot brewed coffee
- To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F, and have ready three 8-inch round nonstick cake pans.
- In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- With a mixer on medium speed, add the sour cream, eggs (one at a time), milk, oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients, and keep mixing for exactly 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, slowly drizzle in the hot coffee, mixing until the batter is blended and smooth. It will be very liquidy– this is good!
- Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Set the layers aside on a wire rack to cool completely before removing from the pans and frosting.
- The build the cake, frost all three layers with the buttercream and then stack the layers; then frost the sides of the cake.
The Yummiest Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 pound confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
With a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter in a large mixing bowl. Reduce the speed to low and add the confectioners’ sugar a little bit at a time, alternating with splashes of the milk and the vanilla. Mix until the frosting is smooth.