so y’all know that i love to bake. but up until a few weeks ago, i’d never made a cake from scratch before. sure we’ve all done the mix + two eggs + some amount of vegetable oil that magically becomes delicious cake that always tastes the exact same. its a childhood staple, and i love it. but valentine’s day is also my mom’s birthday so… i decided to do something extra special.
so i googled ‘best birthday cake.’
shut up – it worked.
i found an incredible recipe and decided to bake the cake a few days ahead of time when i was absolutely sure that my mom wouldn’t be anywhere near the house. so the saturday before valentines day, i spent all morning baking this cake.
well… there were just a few hiccups.
first, i didn’t have enough cling wrap to cover the cake enough times to make sure that it would survive a few days in the freezer. and then it took me like an hour to find cake rounds in my house. just… the worst.
- 4 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (+ a little extra???)
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk (well-shaken)
mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl – the recipe says sift, but we all know that’s a sham. in a separate and larger mixing bowl, use your electric mixer to beat the sugar and softened butter until its incorporated and fluffy. then add in the vanilla extract and beat until its mixed in well. next, add in each egg, one at a time, making sure that you get the entire egg absorbed and not sticking to the sides of the bowl.
[now is a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.]
now, slowly mix in the buttermilk. (ew) and then add in your dry mixture from the other bowl in several batches, making sure that each batch is mixed in well before you add any more.
this made THREE damn nine inch cake rounds.
problematic because i only had two cake pans. UGH.
preparing the cake pans.
after some googling, i figured out the best way to keep the cakes from sticking to the pan. first i put the cake pans on a sheet of parchment paper and lightly traced the outside of the bottom of the pan with pencil. then i cut the circles out and make sure that the fit inside the pans easily. then i sprayed a little bit of baking pam on the blank pans and lightly brushed the bottom and the sides of the pan with a pastry brush (barbeque brush… #texas) to make sure that it was evenly coated. then i put the circles of parchment paper on the bottom and respray the top of the paper and brush it again, making it even.
then you can just pour the batter directly over the papered rounds and hit the pan on the counter a few times to eliminate air bubbles. alternatively, i’ve read that you can run a knife through the batter a few times to release air bubbles as well. then you just bake them at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.
i baked both cake rounds at once, then super quick tried to cool the pan to bake the reminder of the batter.
what a trip.
when they come out of the oven, golden brown and gorgeous, let them cool for ten minutes or so and then run a knife along the edges to make sure that the cake doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan. then put your cooling rack on top of your cake, upside down and flip it over. then carefully pull the pan off and your cake should just be perfect. just take the parchment paper off of the bottom and flip the cake back over (careful – don’t let it break!) and there you go – fantastic.
except… the whole house smelled like cake.
now, i have NEVER complained about the smell of baked goods in my house. except when mama is headed home and i still have one cake baking in the oven. so while i was wrapping the cooled cakes in forty-five layers of cling wrap and one layer of aluminum foil, my dad popped popcorn and walked around the house like he was anointing a church with incense.
just hysterical. but it worked – and my mom didn’t suspect a thing.
with the cakes safely in the freezer, hidden under frozen fish fillets and french fries, i spent the rest of the weekend hoping that they wouldn’t be found. but finally tuesday came and i left the cakes out for several hours to thaw and come to room temperature.
this damn frosting.
now, the blog i found this recipe on just raved about this frosting. and i completely fell for it.
- 15 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chips, in my case)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons espresso (optional, but obviously i added this and a little more)
- 2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup (definitely closer to 1/2 cup)
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
in a heatproof bowl, mix together your chocolate and espresso powder and then set in a pan of simmering water. stir as the chocolate melts, and then set aside to let the chocolate-espresso mixture cool.
in another bowl, stir together your sour cream, 1/4 cup of corn syrup (to start), and the vanilla extra (maybe add in a pinch extra for good measure.) then stir in your chocolate-espresso, and do a little taste to measure the sweetness. you will have to add in more corn syrup to sweeten it up a little.
i made my brother and dad taste-test this about five hundred times and even added more melted chocolate. but we couldn’t get over the bitterness that we tasted at first. clay loved it, but i already have instructions that dad’s birthday cake has to have a MILK chocolate frosting. UGH. let the mixture cool for about a half hour to let it set and thicken up before frosting your cakes.
i completely lacked confidence in the frosting and i was SO worried i’d just mess up the perfectly delicious yellow cake, and just RUIN my mom’s birthday. so, i made her cake two layers and left one layer of cake in the freezer, unfrosted, for a rainy day.
but she loved it.
wait, but what the hell is the difference between cake flour and normal flour?