It was my birthday yesterday!! Unfortunately, Lara had to work so we couldn't spend the entire day celebrating our birthday like we wanted to. :) This did mean however, that I had plenty of time to spend on my favorite project, birthday cake!! I baked the cake on Friday and froze the layers overnight. Yesterday morning I whipped up a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream to frost the cake with and then decorated it with macarons from my local (and totally amazing) macaron shop that is right down the street (I know, how lucky is that?), and flowers from the flower shop just a few more buildings over. The combination of gorgeous pink dahlias and the corresponding macarons is stunning. I was so pleased with how it all turned out, certainly my favorite cake that I've made to date!
I looked at what felt like a gazillion chocolate cake recipes before settling on one. I went with Rose Levy Beranbaum's All American Chocolate Butter Cake. From the start, this was the recipe I was leaning to, she did literally write the Bible on cake after all, but I had to research for a while before finally deciding. Although I have a chocolate cake recipe that I've made several other times before that I just love, that recipe uses oil as the fat and for this cake I really wanted to go with butter instead. There is just something about butter in a chocolate cake that makes me happy, and it tastes so good. I'm so glad I went this route.
The cake turned out absolutely delicious. It was not a super high-riser as cakes go, but it baked up very nicely without too much of a domed top making it easier for me to frost. I just made 2 layers, but I think adding a third layer next time would be amazing. It is a delicate and tender cake, dense yet moist, and did I mention, it's nice and buttery! So, so, so delicious. I will be making this one again!
For the frosting I went with a basic Swiss meringue buttercream because you can't really go wrong with that! Because I decided to decorate it with real flowers and macarons I left the frosting simple. I smoothed it out evenly all over the cake and left it at that. I wanted to decorations to really shine.
After looking at a lot of different cakes I knew I wanted to decorate with real flowers. I think it is the best and most beautiful way to decorate a cake. Nothing I can ever do with frosting is going to come close to competing with God's beautiful creation, so why try and compete with that? I walked down the street to my local flower shop and just picked out what spoke to me. I couldn't pass up the gorgeous local dahlias, they were just stunning.
I then headed a few doors down to grab a few macarons to finish out the decorations. (FYI I love my local macaron shop, Le Bon Macaron, they have the absolute BEST macarons, and their shop is absolutely adorable. I highly recommend them to anyone!) I knew they would add a different element and more interest (plus more deliciousness) to the cake. I picked out three different flavors totally based on their colors, just wanted them to go with the flowers I had picked. In the end it all came together beautifully in the finished cake. So much fun to put together! I would really love another excuse to make cake again, soon...!
Happy Birthday Lara!! I wouldn't choose anyone else to share a birthday with! Even though you had to work, I'm glad we still had plenty of time to celebrate (and eat cake!)!!
All-American Chocolate Butter Cake
Adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons (2.25 ounces) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup (8.25 ounces) boiling water
- 3 whole eggs (5.25 ounces)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (8.25 ounces) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
Whisk together the boiling water and cocoa powder until smooth, and cool to room temperature. In another bowl, combine the eggs, ¼ of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment to blend. Add the butter and the remaining cocoa mixture and mix on low speed until the ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium to medium-high speed and beat for 1 ½ minutes to aerate. Scrape down the sides and gradually add the egg mixture.
Pour into two prepared 9” cake pans (lined with parchment paper, buttered and floured) and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool on wire racks in the pans for 10 minutes then release onto wire racks. Store tightly wrapped with plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days, 5 days refrigerated, or 2 months frozen.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
From Style Sweet California
- 1/2 cup (125 grams) egg whites (from about 3 to 4 large eggs)
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks – 340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (optional)
Whisk together the sugar and egg whites: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the egg whites and granulated sugar. Whisk them together briefly by hand, just until they are combined so that the egg whites don’t begin cooking by themselves.
Create a double-boiler: Fill a sauce pan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the mixer bowl with the egg white mixture on top to create a double-boiler. The water should be kept at a simmer but should not touch the bottom of the bowl. The double-boiler acts as indirect heat for the egg white mixture.
Heat the egg white mixture: Occasionally stirring, heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 155 to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer. The mixture should be very hot to the touch and the sugar should have dissolved.
Make the meringue: Once the egg white mixture is hot, carefully return the bowl to the stand mixer. Fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed for about 8 minutes. When done, the meringue should hold shiny, medium-stiff peaks and be cooled to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Add the butter: With the mixer on low, begin adding in the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Use the paddle attachment to mix it in. The butter must be room temperature in order to incorporate properly with the meringue.
Add the vanilla: Once the butter has been mixed in, add the vanilla bean seeds (if using) and the vanilla extract.
Mix until smooth: Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix until silky smooth. This may take a few minutes, but centime to mix until light, creamy, and free from most air bubbles.
Note: Yields approximately 3 1/2 cups - enough to nicely frost an 8-inch double layer cake, but without any leftover for decorating with.