Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Doug's Birthday Cake

I always (: for the past few years) bake a cake for my younger brother's birthday. This year, I thought I would take advantage of  a long weekend to go home and bake one-- two months late. For some reason, (uh, re-entry shock?...) I never got around to making one during my time at home  after getting back from Barcelona, so a week after this country celebrated our first president's birthday, I needed to make amends .

Naturally, I called Doug (my bro) before I even got home so I could start planning. He was gracious enough (: I begged him)to request a flavor for the cake, which made my life so much easier. Always a man of style, he chose a classic: yellow butter cake with chocolate frosting. A classic... which I had no go-to recipe for, sadly. So I started searching and eventually found a butter cake and a milk chocolate buttercream frosting that both looked crazydelicious.

Best Yellow Layer Cake
(from Smitten Kitchen)

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

I covered the front cake with tin foil to keep it from browning too much.. but there was some stickage...

Even though the frosting SK pairs with the cake sounds pretty awesome, I was convinced to deviate by this delicious-looking milk chocolate buttercream.

Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
(from Milk + Honey Cafe)

10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
10 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped I did more of a coarse/whatever chop....
1 3/4 c. heavy cream
3 tbs. light corn syrup
4 sticks (1 pound! with buttercream, it's go big or go home)

1. Place the chocolate in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the corn syrup; immediately pour the mixture over the chocolate. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate has melted, then whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk. Gradually beat in the butter at medium speed, a few chunks at a time, and beat until thoroughly incorporated between additions. The frosting should be smooth and silky. Refrigerate the frosting just until it is thick enough to hold its shape, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. For a softer and lighter frosting, I whipped the cold frosting once more with the paddle attachment before putting it into a frosting bag. I highly suggest. A pound of butter needs all the help it can get to be "light".

As you can see, there was plenty of frosting for the cake. I may have even gone overboard, considering how much butter was in the frosting. Next time I might try that chocolate sour cream frosting Smitten Kitchen recommended, or I might just leave out a stick... maybe... that butter was delicious, and always  served at room temperature! If for some odd reason this cake can't be finished in one evening (we tried... but the five of us could only make a dent in this behemoth cake) refrigerate the cake and then microwave a slice at a time so you get the silky, buttery texture the frosting is meant to have. There's no point eating a pound of butter if it's hard as a rock.

As for getting the frosting on the cake, I wish I had recorded more of the process.  It was a fairly straightforward frosting job: level the cakes, do crumb coat, filling, top & sides, and then... move the cake from  the frosting turntable (Yes, I have one of those. Got it last Christmas. It's the shiz.) to the cake stand. The last bit was craftily carried out by me and my mom. Maybe in the future I'll devise a better system...

I hope  my brother appreciated the work that went into this... 
Thanks, Mom.

After we spared my brother a rendition of Happy Birthday, I think he enjoyed his birthday cake, even if it had come two months late. In fact, I think we all did. The generous slices were pretty much devoured. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting might have to become a birthday tradition in this family.


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