I don’t make the classic-yellow-cake-with-chocolate-frosting combination very often; in fact, almost never. I couldn’t really say why, because I certainly love to eat it. I guess after baking for so many years now, I look to more complicated/unusual recipes?? But sometimes you need to just take it back to the simple pleasures of life, and this truly is one of them. I’m so glad we visited Everyone’s Favorite Birthday Cake for Baked Sunday Mornings this week. As one of its more amusing “holidays”, Baked Occasions includes this recipe in honor of Martha Stewart‘s birthday on August 3rd. I have mixed feelings about Martha; I somewhat loathe her prim-and-proper demeanor and her otherworldly, flawless lifestyle… but then again, every time I go to Michael’s, I can’t help but salivate over her beautiful crafting tools and label stickers and treat boxes… and GOD, the paper flowers! Part of me secretly (or not that secretly?) wishes I could be half the domestic goddess Martha is. Oh Martha, teach me your ways– I just want to learn how to make paper lace borders like yours. *sigh*
Oh right, we were talking about cake. This would be the first cake baked in the oven at my new place– it was a good “basic” recipe for the maiden voyage. I am so thrilled to have natural light and a sprawling, uninterrupted expanse of workspace in my kitchen for the first time in many years! The evening light is a little more challenging (read = all kinds of yellow 🙁 ), but in general, I’m looking forward to taking lots of bright, happy photos of various combinations of flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate whenever possible. Like today!
The cake batter comes together very easily and quickly, even for me, who is the biggest slowpoke. The standard creaming method is used and there is very little prep work. You’ll beat the butter with granulated and light brown sugars, add 4 eggs, then add alternating additions of the sifted dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder, salt) and sour cream. My batter looked a little unemulsified before adding the dry ingredients, but the flour mixture helped it come together just fine. The recipe calls for ½ teaspoon cinnamon, which I omitted because I didn’t see a need for it– doesn’t seem like it belongs in yellow cake. Instead, I added ½ teaspoon vanilla extract because DUH. 🙂
The batter is very thick and creamy, though I had a few small lumps because I forgot to sift the dry ingredients. The tall, handsome cake layers baked in 38 minutes, leaving the oven lightly golden and domed. I didn’t initially rotate the pans since there were only 2 of them, and this actually helped me find my oven’s hot spots! Fortunately I caught it in time to rotate them towards the end of baking and no cakes were harmed in the making of this oven test.
While the cakes cool, make the easy chocolate cream cheese frosting. You’ll beat the butter and cream cheese, then add confectioners’ sugar and salt, followed by 3 ounces of melted dark chocolate. I went with Guittard 72% “Coucher du Soleil”, and you could even go a little darker. It has a gorgeous, silky, spreadable texture *if* you don’t overbeat. The cream cheese will lose its structure if you beat too long, so only mix until the ingredients are incorporated and the frosting looks “whipped”.
The cake was straightforward to frost, and very easy because it’s only 2 layers. I garnished it with Valrhona Caramelia and Dark Chocolate Crunchy Pearls, both in the middle of the cake and on top. I refrigerated the cake overnight before cutting. and despite sitting out for a good half hour, it was still pretty cold when I cut it. I was pleased that the cake flavor was buttery and rich– as every yellow birthday cake should be! However, the texture wasn’t quite what I’d hoped. I thought it would be more fluffy and tender, but it was fairly dense with a tight crumb and lots of large air bubbles. (Overmixing?) Even at room temperature, it was dryer than expected. When I tested the cake at 35 minutes, there was still wet batter on the toothpick, but another 3 minutes was apparently too much. 🙁
The frosting, on the other hand, could not be improved in any way, shape, or form. It was perfectly satiny, tangy, chocolaty, and positively luscious, such that I wanted to just stick my entire head in the mixing bowl and forgo the cake part altogether with no regrets. Because I’m a classy girl like that. Unfortunately, for the second cake in a row, I wanted more frosting. I had enough to cover the cake adequately if I were a high cake-to-frosting ratio person, but as a higher frosting-to-cake ratio person, I craved a thicker exterior covering and filling layer. I would increase the recipe by 25% if you too want to shovel more chocolate cream cheese frosting in your face. If you have a soul, that is.
Despite these minor, fixable quibbles, I loved this cake and will certainly add it to my repertoire of classic baked goods. I have every intention of slathering that glorious frosting all over all sorts of things…. OH YES. When you’re craving yellow cake or celebrating a birthday, visit Baked Sunday Mornings to get the recipe for Everyone’s Favorite Birthday Cake; make sure to take a look at my fellow bloggers’ beautiful cakes! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.