Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate Birthday CakeBirthday Week
Every year the hours between May 12th and May 18th are utterly chaotic. During that time there are three birthdays, usually one Mother’s Day and dozens of sports activities. This year we added drama performances, band performances, and other end-of-year school activities just to spice things up.

Despite all of this, we managed to have a family celebration to cover all birthdays and Mother’s Day. My husband ordered a bunch of catered BBQ and my sister made a birthday dessert for those who were celebrating. This is how we ended up with a chocolate cake, 2 dozen red velvet cupcakes, and this Berry Blitz Torte.

The chocolate cake was for my boys, the cupcakes for my daughter, and the torte was for me. All was tasty. But, I am torn as to which recipe to highlight…because of a gift I got from my sister.

My regular readers may remember my inner debate about whether or not to get an Instant Pot. Well, that problem has been solved. And, I have already used it.

Not gonna lie, it’s pretty cool. 

I made a chicken and couscous dinner in 15 minutes. Yes, I could have done something similar the old fashioned way in about 45. But, the promise of being able to make actual food quickly on a busy night when we would normally get take-out is just fantastic. I’m still trying to get the hang of it and the kids are begging me to try the yogurt setting. So, I’ll have to give you an update once I’ve used it a bit more.

In the meantime, you need to make this cake if for no other reason than you want to… 

Chocolate Birthday Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Cocoa-Buttermilk Layer Cake
The frosting on this cake needs an hour in the fridge to set, so make it in plenty of time to set the icing and bring the cake back to room temperature. 

For the cake
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur Brand)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the frosting
3-1/3 cups powdered sugar
4-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
4-1/2 tablespoons buttermilk

Make the cake
Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 ºF. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and dust them with cocoa powder. Tap out the excess. 

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working with an electric mixer (use the paddle, if you have one), beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, and beat for a minute after each goes in. Beat in the vanilla. 

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beginning with the dry ingredients, alternately add the dry ingredients—dry in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2. It is okay if the buttermilk makes the batter look slightly curdled). Mix in the melted chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.

Bake the cake until a tester poked into the center comes out clean (about 24 to 28 minutes). Transfer the layers onto cooling racks and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pans to loosen the cake. Gently transfer the cakes onto the racks, and cool to room temperature.

Make the frosting
Once the cake is cooled, make the frosting as it is best to spread it immediately. 

Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder. 

Using an electric mixer paddle attachment, beat the sugar, cocoa, salt, and butter on high speed until fluffy. Turn the mixer onto low speed and add the melted and cooled (but still fluid) chocolate. When the chocolate is almost incorporated, beat in the buttermilk.

Frost the cake
To make a cake with a flat surface, slice a sliver off the top of each layer where it has risen in the middle. Do this to completely cooled layers.

Place the first cake layer with the top up, on a serving platter and spread it with frosting. Then place the second layer top down on the first. Jiggle it gently so that the frosting helps to hold it in place. Then frost the top and sides of the cake. 

Decorate the cake as desired. 

To set the frosting, chill for at least 1 hour, or for up to 1 day. Be certain to bring the cake to room temperature before serving.

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