Baking & Dessert

By Lindsay Hunt | May 12, 2011

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

This my family’s classic birthday cake. Four times a year I got to enjoy this double-stacked dessert, rarely more, never less. Although it’s a pretty simple chocolate cake, it is in my opinion the best birthday cake out there.

Now that I live in New York and my sister is in college, my family isn’t together as often. Being together for my sister’s birthday this spring was a special occasion to bake the cake and eat slices as a family.

Devouring an over-sized piece of this cake? Easy. Photographing a slice, on the other hand, was difficult. I wasn’t able to capture details in the dark layers as well as the bright, white frosting. So while I may have almost-perfected baking this cake, I’m still working on my food photography.

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

Splurge on the cocoa powder, since it gives most of the flavor to the cake. Omit the espresso powder if you’re serving the cake to a late-night crowd, though I promise everyone who tastes the espresso powder version will be begging you to know why your chocolate cake is so amazing.

While I’m loyal to traditions, and will make this for every family birthday for years to come, I am considering trying to veganize this recipe for vegan cake-lovers. My recent Whole-Wheat Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake tempted me enough to convert this recipe. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in seeing a vegan version of this cake!

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Vanilla Frosting Recipe

Servings: Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

Ingredients

For Cake:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 13/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder, plus for dusting
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Vanilla Frosting, recipe follows
For Frosting:
  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

Directions

To Make Frosting:

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt. Beat on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then increase speed to medium high and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop mixer, add the vanilla and milk, then continue beating 3 minutes on medium high on a stand mixer, or 5 minutes on a handheld mixer.

To Make Cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and dust two 9-inch baking pans with cocoa powder and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla and whisk to combine.

3. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. Stir to combine.

4. In a steady stream, add the liquid ingredients and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and stir on low to combine. (The batter will be thin.) Pour the batter into prepared pans. Rap the pans lightly on the counter-top to release any air bubbles inside.

5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from pans to the racks. Cool completely before frosting with Vanilla Frosting.

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