Yellow Brick Road Cake
My friend Dorothy turned 21 this past week and as part of the celebration, she asked if Wilson and I would make a cake for her. Basically, this cake had to be perfect. It was for a close friend and needed to be the best. Eventually, we chose a quintessential birthday cake: Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. We started baking at about 11 pm the night before the party. Things were going smoothly until we realized that we had no baking powder. We baked the cake anyway, trying to do without. But as I had feared, the cake layers turned out not to be as high as I wanted them. Our solution was to add a third layer to an already double-layer cake. So the next day, Wilson kindly went to the store (twice) to get extra ingredients. After work, we resumed the baking and made the chocolate frosting.
The frosting was delicious and happily took quite a bit of tasting and adjusting to get to the right level of sweetness. Wilson took it upon himself to prevent waste by shoveling spatula-full portions of leftovers into his mouth. He got a little bit of a belly-ache but seemed to enjoy himself and ultimately had the last laugh.
The accident with the baking powder turned out to be a fortunate one because the third layer made the cake gargantuan. It elicited gasps of both intimidation and glee. In combination with the love and care that went into decorating the top, this cake was a real stunner. We couldn’t have been prouder.
About 12 people ate their fill and then we walked home with a quarter of the cake left. The next day we ate crumbs in the late afternoon and topped slices with ice cream after dinner. The yellow cake itself is light but still moist and the chocolate frosting bittersweet and very rich. You really can’t lose with this cake and it’s guaranteed to please all those whose lips it passes through.
Best Yellow Layer Cake
Note: Both the cake and the frosting recipes were found on Smitten Kitchen. The below recipe is for a double layer cake. If you want to make an additional layer, simply increase the recipe by 50 percent.
- 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.
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from The Dessert Bible
Makes 5 cups of frosting, or enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake
- 15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 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 espresso powder, 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.