Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting for Any Celebration
There was another recipe on the books to share this week in Back Porch Table. But, I like to say that you can plan and organize, and then life happens. And that’s what happened here, in a good way.
This week, we made a birthday cake for my dad’s birthday, which falls right before Father’s Day, which always presents a little conundrum: What to give him (twice)? What to bake (twice)? How to celebrate (twice)? There’s a little pressure to make sure the two days are distinct, each special on their own. (Not to mention, my parents’ anniversary is a week later.) Let me be clear that nobody is pressuring us to come up with special celebrations, it’s just that my motto is that we all need to celebrate anything we can, whenever we can, because otherwise it will all just pass us by. Carpe diem with the celebrations.
Anyway, we made this cake for my dad. It’s a version of his favorite, Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting. Now, there are a lot of very good Yellow Cakes with Chocolate Frosting out in the world (hello, Dessert Gallery’s Diner Cake). But sometimes, as I said before, we need to go all out and make something at home, not from a box, just because it feels a little bit more special.
So the cake. I’ve been looking at recipes for weeks, not sure which one to use or whether to combine a few. But I settled on Gourmet Live’s First Birthday Cake, because I miss that magazine so (and I’m a huge Ruth Reichl fan), and I almost always trust that their recipes will come out well. And because I read the reviews and they were fairly stellar, much more consistently so than any of the others I was considering. And guess what? That cake was so good that I – always to my children’s chagrin – said immediately, “Do not touch that before I take a picture of it for Back Porch Table!” I had to share.
So here it is: A very good Yellow Cake, not with the Gourmet Live frosting recipe, but with a Chocolate Frosting recipe that is just a great chocolate frosting that I’ve been making a long, long time and know will make everyone happy. I hope it makes your people happy, too, whatever you happen to be celebrating this week.
3 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups well-stirred plain, whole-milk yogurt (not Greek), room temperature
Chocolate Frosting (recipe below)
Butter the bottom and sides of 3 8- or 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment (trace the pans on the paper, then cut the paper to fit the bottoms of the pans), then butter the parchment. Dust the pans with a little flour, and knock them against the side of the sink to remove the excess. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with racks in the upper and lower third.
Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, and beat another 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture with adding the yogurt in 3 batches, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until smooth. Divide the batter among the 3 pans and spread it evenly across the tops. Knock the pans on the counter top a couple of times to release any air bubbles.
Bake the cakes, rotating the pans in the oven halfway through, until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, around 25 to 35 minutes (I know that’s a wide range – just keep checking every 5 minutes or so after the initial 25). Cool the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn the cakes out onto racks to cool. (Or, if you want to frost them the next day, you can let the cakes cool completely in the pans, then cover the pans with foil.)
Once they are completely cooled, put one cake layer on a cake plate. Frost the top with the chocolate frosting. Carefully stack the second cake layer on top of the first, then frost the top. Stack the third layer on top of that and frost the top and sides. I like to coat the top and sides with a thin layer of frosting, then put the whole thing in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so, then frost again over that. It keeps the cake crumbs from getting mixed up in the frosting and makes it look clean and pretty!
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Scharffen Berger)
10 – 12 tablespoons heavy cream (about ¾ cup)
On low speed with a hand-held or stand mixer, mix the sugar, butter, vanilla, cocoa powder and 7 tablespoons heavy cream until blended. Add more cream while beating, one tablespoon at a time, until the frosting loosens up and when you scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, the consistency is spreadable. I use about 12 tablespoons cream total. Mix the frosting on high for a couple of minutes until it is fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.
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