1 Apt. 2B Baking Co.: A Chocolate Cake fit for Celebrations

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Chocolate Cake fit for Celebrations

I take birthday cakes pretty seriously, in fact, I think it is one of my adult culinary responsibilities to be able to make kick ass birthday cakes. They can be tall and chocolatey and covered with fluffy frosting like this one or a bit more humble, maybe without any frosting at all. All I care about is seeing my pals smile and make a wish for themselves while bathed in flattering golden light from a mass of burning candles poked into the top. Can you think of anything more magical than an edible monument of joy that we are encouraged to stick with candles and set on fire? Me neither.

The recipe below is for my go to chocolate cake and my favorite chocolate frosting which I admit is a bit more labor intensive than American style buttercream. I won't blame you if halfway through you are standing over your mixer cursing me, but I promise if you see it to the end you will be rewarded will the smoothest, creamiest chocolate buttercream you've ever tasted.

Chocolate Cake
yield 1, 3 layer, 10'' cake

4c sugar
3 1/2c flour
1 1/2c cocoa powder
1T baking soda
1T baking powder
2t salt
2c milk
1c canola oil
1/2c sour cream
4 large eggs
1T vanilla extract
1 1/2c strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350ยบ and prepare 3, 10'' cake pans by buttering, flouring and lining with parchment paper (see note for other size options)

1. Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Put the sifted ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer (or very large bowl) and stir well to combine.
2. In a medium bowl or pitcher, whisk together the milk, oil, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low, pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stop the mixer, scrape down to the bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, then turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 2 minutes.
3. Turn the mixer back down to low and slowly pour in the coffee. Stop the mixer and scrape down to the bottom of the bowl and finish the stirring by hand.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25min or until a cake tester comes out clean. Double layers of cake will take 35-40min to bake.
5. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 min then invert onto a rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
yield, enough to fill and frost a 10'' cake, plus a little extra

For the Ganache
18oz chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2c heavy cream
1T vanilla extract
1T strong coffee or espresso
1/4-1/2t salt, depending on your taste

For the Meringue Buttercream
5 egg whites
1 1/4c sugar
1lb butter, room temp
pinch salt
1T vanilla extract

To Make the Ganache

1. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream over medium heat until just before it boils. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the mixture sit for 5 min, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla, coffee and salt then set aside the mixture to cool until it is cool but still soft. Don't let it harden completely or you will not be able to whip it into the frosting.

To make the Swiss Buttercream

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, 5-7min.
2. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until stiff glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 10min.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce the speed to low and add the salt then add butter a few tablespoons at a time and beat the frosting until smooth. During this step it is very likely that the frosting will "break" and you will think you messed up. Good news! You didn't! Mine breaks sometimes too. All you have to do is turn up the  speed on your mixer for a few seconds and the frosting comes back together. Continue until all of the butter is incorporated then add in the vanilla.

To Make the Chocolate Swiss Buttercream

1. Whip the room temperature ganache into the meringue buttercream until no lumps remain. The finished buttercream will be glossy, smooth and fluffy.

To Assemble the Cake

Peel the parchment paper from the layers and trim the cakes so the tops are flat. Place one layer onto a serving platter or pedestal and spread about 1 1/2c of the frosting onto the cake in an even layer. Place the second layer on top and repeat. Finish by placing the last layer on top, trimmed side down so the top of the cake will be nice and flat and crumb free. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumbcoat) and refrigerate for about 30min. (My apartment was so cold when I did this step, I just put my cake by the window for a few minutes, ha!) Pull the cake out of the fridge and add a second, heavier coat of frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with cacao nibs and chocolate sprinkles. Serve at room temp. Store any extra frosting in an airtight container in the freezer where it will keep for a few weeks.


- I usually bake this cake in 3'' tall pans. I fill one about 2/3 full and trim it cake into 2 horizontal layers, the remaining batter is used to make the other layer.
- You can also make a nice tall 9'', 3 layer cake with this amount of batter. For this option you will need  3'' tall cake pans. If you don't have 3'' tall pans I suggest you divide the batter between 4 pans instead of three. Confusing, I know. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, apt2bbakingco(at)gmail(dot)com.
- This chocolate cake tastes equally great with a simple vanilla buttercream if that is more your speed.- I used Cordillera Cacao nibs that I got from the Pantry at Delancy to garnish this cake and they are the most delicious nibs I've ever used. If you are anywhere near Seattle, you should pick them up and try to take a class while you are at it!
- The sprinkles came from Seattle Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. which is an incredible hole in the wall shop with a very helpful and knowledgable owner. Again, if you are in Seattle and you need any cake or cookie decorating supplies, this is your spot. You can find similar sprinkles online here.


  1. WOW! beautiful. I'm counting the days until any friend of mine has a b-day.

  2. divine! i will be archiving this recipe for the next celebration!

  3. Ohhh. I do think I will be making this cake and bringing it to a super bowl party. Football, like making cakes, can sometimes cause cursing. It helps to have chocolate for such moments. Okay, all moments.

  4. You're right about birthday cake. The most special, most memorable birthday gift I've received is a homemade cake by someone I love. My grandmother always made a red velvet cake for my birthday, and to this day I've never tasted better. Your cake looks lovely!

  5. I'm bookmarking this recipe because you incorporated ganache into the SMBC to make a chocolate SMBC instead of just adding cocoa powder or melted chocolate. Thank you!

    1. I've seen it made with just melted chocolate and I really think the extra step of making a ganache first is worth the effort. The result is so delicious! I hope you give it a try!

  6. This cake looks awesome! I feel compelled to feature you in my Friday Food Fetish roundup and on Pinterest. Let me know if you have any objections and keep the amazing food coming…

  7. While I didn't get pregnant specifically so I would have an excuse to make more birthday cakes, it's an advantage that occurred to me pretty early on. My questionable personal priorities aside, the birthday cake is an institution and this one is a fine example of what all the fuss is about.

    Bonus point for the weck jar. love.

  8. Good morning Yossi,
    I just discovered your blog this via Pinterest. I'm sure you hear this often...your recipes that you feature are fabulous and your photography...no words.
    I am putting together a new list on my sidebar at The Lisa Porter Collection just for foodies. Apt. 2B Baking Co. will be a must for my readers to enjoy.
    Thank you for writing your wonderful blog and for taking such pretty pictures too.

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! It is so nice to hear that other folks like what I am up to in my tiny kitchen!

  9. I just made this cake for a friend's birthday party and MAN was it delicious. For future bakers of this cake I will say, however, that you need to use a REALLY BIG BOWL to mix it up, and it still made so much that it overflowed all of the 3 9"pans that I baked it in and I ended up trimming a lot off of the top of all three. Maybe next time, I'll make it 4 layers. And there will be a next time.

    1. Kirsten - I am so glad you made this cake and so sorry that your pans overflowed! It is so nice to know that someone else enjoyed this recipe so much. I have edited the instructions above to reflect your feedback. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your comment!

  10. I want to say that I am not much of a baker (great cook/terrible baker) but I took the plunge and tried this. There was a couple of times while making it that I thought ...this is so NOT worth the effort, but when I tasted the icing I had a feeling it just might be. Let me tell you this was the best chocolate cake I have ever had! I was really nervous that the batter was so thin. But it turned out perfect. Let me just say that I did make 3 layers and still had enough batter left over to make over a dozen cup cakes. Thanks for the great recipe. I think we may have found our new "go to" birthday cake in our house!

    1. I am so happy to hear this! I know this cake is kind of a pain in the butt to put together so I am glad that you thought it was worth it in the end. It makes me smile to think of you enjoying this cake with your friends and family.

  11. I love your blog. It's simple and elegant. Just plain and simple but says a lot. Great cake recipe! I love chocolates and I'm really ecstatic everytime I see one.

  12. Help! I tried to make this marvelous cake last month, but I just moved to Colorado, and forgot to adjust for higher altitudes. Result: not pretty, but very tasty still! My friends have suggested just adding a cup of flour, but I wanted an expert opinion before the next time I make it. Thanks!!


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