It’s 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning. I’m sitting at the dining room table, looking into my pristinely clean kitchen, that I just spent hours cleaning. Wondering, no pondering, what to make so as to dirty it up again. As thousands upon thousands of recipes are entering my mind, I begin to think “Why isn’t it someone’s birthday? A birthday cake sounds so amazing right now.” Of course I let the idea leave my mind, as no one’s birthday is anywhere near in sight. Suddenly, hope begins to trickle in. “It doesn’t need to be someone’s birthday in order to make a cake Jonathan.” Yes, I talk to myself in first person, but that isn’t the point. Sure, I’ve decided upon smitten kitchen’s Best Birthday Cake, but it’s okay, no one needs to know that I’m not celebrating anything in particular.
I raid the pantry and get all the ingredients ready. Put on my apron, tie it around my waste and turn on the tunes. What fun is cooking without any music? With each passing minute, as I prepare the batter, my patience grows smaller. Finally the cake is in the oven. Five minutes later I’m at the oven door again, turning on the oven light. Why? I have no idea. Fully aware that this isn’t a magic oven, but secretly I hope that in just five minutes the cake will be ready. Of course it isn’t. A big sigh of disappoint, I turn off the oven light, leave the kitchen and find something to distract myself from the heavenly aroma wafting through the house. Ten minutes. Wait. Fifteen minutes. Wait. Twenty-five. Getting Closer. By thirty-five impatience gets the best of me and I stick a toothpick haphazardly in the center. As the toothpick comes out, I curse at the sight of cake remnants on the tiny sliver of wood. Finally, at forty, it is done, and I place the pans on the cooling rack.
As the cake cools I make the executive smart decision to multi-task, and make the frosting. Finally the cakes are cooled, and although I’m anxiously awaiting for this cake to be completed, I still frost and decorate it as if its going to be presented to the Queen herself. I stand back and admire my work of art. A smile takes over my face, I know I’ve done a good job. I place the cake stand at the table, look around and whisper, so no one will hear me, “Does anyone want cake?” Good, no one is home. I make the first slice, and then debate if I want a big piece or a small sliver. Who am I kidding? Of course I want a big slice. I make the second slice and transfer my heaping piece of cake to a plate. Fork, check. Cold glass of milk with ice, check. I devour it slowly, enjoying every last crumb. I thank my grandmother, although never having met her, for passing on her cake decorating skills to me via genetics. I then thank myself for being so smart as to make such a wonderful cake on a random Sunday. “You’re so smart, Jonathan!” (There I go again). But most importantly, and definitely not least, I put down my fork, down my milk in one final gulp, clasp my hands together and thank the amazingly talented Deb from Smitten Kitchen for posting such a life changing recipe. Thanks Deb, for getting me addicted to this cake. I owe you one. If you need me, you know where I’ll be; in my kitchen making the Best Birthday Cake: No birthday required.
Let’s start off by mixing the dry ingredients together.
A large bowl of cake flour would probably be the best way to start.
Add Baking Soda.
And Baking Powder.
I always say,”Jonathan, you cant have one without the other.”
So I add both.
You can’t have one, no you can’t have one without the oooooootherrrrr…..a little Frank Sinatra for you guys.
And last but not least, Salt.
I always use just plain ol’ salt for baking, and kosher salt for cooking.
I feel that the regular salt blends better into the baked goods, as it is fine. Where as kosher salt is grainier and bigger.
Okay, now I’m not making sense…..
….anyhow, just add some salt, okay.
Give it all a good whisk, mix, beating, or sifting.
You all know me by now, I get too lazy to sift out my dry ingredients….so I just whisk them together.
I know, I know, I’m a bad influence. You all out there, please sift out your dry ingredients. Don’t be like me.
Set that aside, and lets start creaming some ingredients shall we?
Grab a mixer, a bowl and the paddle attachment.
OR, just a handy plain ol’ mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and all the strength you can muster up.
Throw in the softened butter.
And by softened I mean room temperature butter. That is butter that has been set out and allowed to come to room temperature.
Add the granulated sugar.
Mix them together until light and fluffy. Start off on low, and gradually work your way up to medium high speed.
Now that the butter and sugar are creamed together, we’re going to need some eggs.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
The next ingredient might surprise you…..
are you ready for it?
I don’t think you are….
Okay, okay, its Vanilla Extract. Not so secret or surprising ingredient.
But hey, it might be a surprise to some people.
Pour it in.
We’re now going to add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk.
As always, we’ll add them in parts, and alternating. Starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
Add a bit of the dry ingredients.
Mix, carefully, just until combined.
And then stream in a bit of buttermilk.
Repeat the steps…..dry ingredients, buttermilk, dry ingredients….until both are finished and incorporated.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl. And fold any remnants to ensure total combination of ingredients.
I have no idea why I sounded so robotic there.
The time has come to prepare the cake pans….
….we really should have done it at the beginning.
Oh well, no biggie.
Grab two cake pans. 9 inches.
Spray them with some non-stick spray.
Spray both pans.
Then, dust them both with flour.
This ensures the cakes come out easily and don’t stick to the pans. That would be a bad thing.
“Aren’t you glad you used Pam?”
I know I am…
Evenly, divide the batter into the two prepared pans.
Give the pans a few light taps on the counter to spread out the batter and to dislodge any air bubbles.
Bake them in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes.
Or until a toothpick, inserted in the middle, comes out clean.
Don’t forget to rotate those pans, halfway through.
Once the cakes are cooked……Remove from the oven!!!
What are you waiting for? You don’t want it to dry out or burn. Come on take it out.
Allow the pans to cool on a wire rack.
When the cakes have cooled for more than 10 minutes, and you think it is safe to invert the pans. Go ahead and do it.
Take the cakes, carefully, out of the pans and allow them to cool completely on the wire racks.
While the cakes cool, make the frosting.
What goes so well with moist yellow cake?
How about a deliciously easy chocolate frosting? Yes, please!!
We start by getting a double boiler going.
What is a double boiler you ask?
Ahh, well thank you for asking, so glad you did. A double boiler is simply a pot of simmering water, with a bowl placed over it.
It’s used for heating and melting contents easily. Just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl and that the water isn’t boiling rapidly. A nice simmer would do just fine, thank you very much.
Add the chocolate.
A little cinnamon, this is my own twist. I happen to love cinnamon with chocolate, and I feel that cinnamon enhances the chocolate flavor.
Go ahead give it a whirl, you’ll believe me once you try it.
Mix the chocolate frequently, with a rubber spatula, as it melts.
I know most of you were probably freaking out and worried, thinking to yourselves that he wasn’t going to make an appearance in this post…..
I couldn’t disappoint all his fans. Here he is, melting chocolate.
You want the chocolate completely melted and smooth.
And now we make frosting.
In a mixer bowl, dump the sour cream. What?!!?! Wait a second……Sour cream? Did you say sour cream?
Yes, I did.
Well, trust Smitten Kitchen, Deb know’s what she is doing.
And don’t even think about getting low fat or fat-free sour cream!!!! We’re having cake for crying out loud. Might as well go all the way!
Add a bit of corn syrup.
And of course some vanilla extract.
And grab the melted chocolate.
Slowly add the melted chocolate, as the mixer is running on low speed.
Make sure its low, you don’t want to make a mess and have chocolate fly everywhere……or do you? Hmmmmm.
Add it all.
On high, for a few minutes.
Okay, now that the frosting is ready, lets go back to the cakes.
Cut off the tops, to make sure you have a flat surface to work with.
Place one of the cakes onto a cake stand or plate, with strips of wax paper laid out.
This will keep the stand clean.
Dollop chocolate frosting in the center.
Spread it out with an offset metal spatula.
Sorry Mr. Piggy Spat, this is one time you can’t help.
Another thing I added from the original recipe, is bananas.
I wanted a fresh fruit layer in this cake. What goes so well with chocolate and yellow cake? Why, bananas of course!
You can put bananas in it too, cause it’s amazing, or you can of course use what ever fruit you like.
Strawberries would be great too.
Or you can do the simple classic way and just have the frosting.
Either way, you wont be disappointed.
Do another thin layer of frosting on top of the bananas.
Top it with the other cake layer.
And put a dollop of frosting on top of that.
Frost the cake completely, with the remaining frosting.
Smooth it out and make it look nice.
Remember: You eat with your eyes first.
Remove the wax paper.
And just because Smitten Kitchen topped it with sprinkles, I’m topping it with sprinkles.
You’re all done. Finished.
Stand back and admire this beautiful behemoth of a cake you just completed.
Go on, its okay to gawk. You worked hard on it.
Well, in all reality I worked hard on it. All you did, was sit there and read and look at pictures. Pshh….
Cut yourself a piece, what are you waiting for?
Sit back and enjoy the wonderful taste of such a delicious cake. It’s okay to cry a little once you taste it. I did.
A big thanks and major shout out goes to Smitten Kitchen for being so amazing. The minute I saw this post and recipe I knew I had to try it. Everyone in my family already knows what flavor their cake is going to be for their next ten birthdays coming up.
Hope I did it justice.
Best Yellow Layer Cake
Taken and semi-adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: Two 9-inch round cake layers. 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 table salt
- 2 sticks 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 or spray two 9-inch round cake pans, and then dust with flour.
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. 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.
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Yield: 5 cups of frosting, or enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake
- 15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
- 2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the chocolate and cinnamon, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.
Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.
Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.
Layer the cake with the frosting and fresh bananas, if using. Frost the outside and garnish with sprinkles. Enjoy.