Yellow Birthday Cake

Cake Adapted from Martha Stewart & Rose Levy Beranbaum
Chocolate Frosting adapted from Nigella Lawson

Makes 2 eight-inch cake layers; Serves 10-12 (or 4-6 cake addicts)

When I decided that making a yellow butter cake would be a good idea, I had the intentions of making a two-layer cake. After I had taken the two layers out of the oven, and cooled them, I decided that four layers was extremely necessary for my well-being. I have provided the halved recipe for you, but if your well-being depends on a huge four-layer cake, as mine did, you will need to make the cake part of the recipe twice; a double recipe won’t turn out the same… My KitchenAid could barely fit the batter for the two-layer recipe; trying to fit enough batter for four layers would be quite an interesting sight. Making both recipes separately does mean washing your mixing bowl and beater blade twice (make the second batch of cake batter once the other cakes are out of the oven, so they can go from bowl- to pans- to ovens right away).

The cake recipe was adapted from a Martha Stewart Yellow Butter Cake recipe, but I simply had to make it easier by adapting it to use Rose Levy Berenbaum’s infamous cake mixing technique.

The Chocolate frosting was adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe. The frosting never sets hard, which makes it perfect for the cake filling, and it is very rich and flavorful, which means that slicing your cake on the thinner side won’t hurt. Although the chocolate frosting is rich and flavorful, it does not compete with the flavor of the yellow butter cake and the vanilla frosting that covers the cake; all of the flavors go beautifully together, which brings instant smiles to peoples’ faces. Another thing to note with the chocolate frosting: it will be very liquidy at first, but it will set up after an hour or two, so making it while the cakes are in the oven is a good idea.

If you do decide to go with making a four layer cake (it’s extra work, but the end result is very much worth it!), keep in mind that you can simply double the frosting recipes without any issues.


For the Chocolate Frosting:
2 tablespoons water ( 30ml / 1fl oz)
1 ½ teaspoons (8g / .3oz) dark muscovado sugar (can use dark brown sugar)
3 tablespoons (42g / 1.5oz) unsalted butter, cubed
75g / 2.5 oz Good-Quality dark chocolate (I used a 70% Callebaut), finely chopped

For the Cake Layers:

1 ½ cups (180g / 6.35 oz) All-Purpose Flour
1 ½ cups (144g/ 4.95oz) Cake Flour
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups (355g / 12.5oz) granulated sugar
2 sticks (1 cup / 225g / 8oz) unsalted butter slightly soft, but still hard; cut into 1-inch cubes

4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons / 15ml / .5 oz) pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups whole milk, room temperature

For the Vanilla Buttercream:
1 ¼ sticks butter (10 tablespoons / 141g / 5 oz) ) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups (460g /16.2oz) confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons (60 ml / 2 oz) milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Food coloring of your choice (I use this natural food coloring)

Make the Chocolate Frosting:
Put the water, dark muscovado sugar, and butter in a pan over a low heat until melted. Once the mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add in the chopped chocolate. Swirl the pan to that all of the chocolate is hit with the heat and begins to melt. Allow it to stand for a minute, then once everything is melted, whisk the mixture until it is smooth and glossy.

The mixture will be runny. Set it aside, and whisk every now and again, the mixture will thicken significantly.

Make the Cakes:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans (can use 9-by-2-inch); line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment, and dust the pans with flour, being sure to tap out the excess. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined (about 15 seconds). Add the butter pieces, mixing until just coated with flour (the mixture will be pebbly).

In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. With the mixer on medium speed, add the wet ingredients in three parts, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before each addition. Beat the mixture until the ingredients are incorporated, but be sure not to over-beat.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and smooth the batter out with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown, are pulling away from the sides, and a cake tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes.

Once the cakes are out of the oven, with a [dry] clean oven mitt (preferably a cloth one), gently press down onto the cakes, to make them level (this will allow you to skip a whole step in trimming the cakes).

Transfer the pans to wire racks to cook for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert the cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

While the cakes are cooling, make the Vanilla Buttercream:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat all of the vanilla buttercream ingredients together, until well combined. Set aside until ready to decorate.

Place one cake on a cake board (bottom side up) and spread the chocolate frosting, being sure not to spread it all the way to the edges. Leave at least a ½-inch space. Place the second cake on top of the first (bottom side-up).

At this point, you can put the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes, which will make frosting the cake much easier. With the four layer cake, I regret not putting it in and I got a buckle under the frosting.

Using an off-set spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the layer cake. Let the frosting set in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes; then, spread a thick coat over the base coat.

[Kamran Note: if you are making a 4-layer cake, remember to double the frosting recipes and to spread ⅓ of the chocolate frosting in between each cake layer before frosting the outside of the cake with the vanilla buttercream]