26 January 2011

Chocolate Birthday Cake...Redux

The prettiest part of a not-so-pretty birthday cake for my buddy, Liz.  
My littlest one had taken one of his signature catnaps and needed to be cuddled most of the afternoon.  Baby in one hand + piping bag in the other = CakeWreck. 
Three layer chocolate birthday cake filled with mocha ganache and iced with browned buttercream. 
Do you see that moist, tender crumb?  TYVM, EGGS. 
    So, remember this cake?  Well, as tasty and easy as it was, I wasn't 100% satisfied with it. The crust on the cake leaned a little too far towards tough, which is never a good quality in a cake.  Check out the photo of the unfrosted cake...do you see how the sides look almost matte?  I was missing the lovely, shiny, slightly crisp edge of a well made butter cake.

     The thing is, I've been really reluctant to make any major changes or add special ingredients like sour cream or buttermilk (both of which can make a cake more moist and tender).  The beauty of this cake is in it's simplicity and ease of preparation.  I love that it can be made with only what most people have on hand.  Still, as a cake perfectionist, I couldn't help but change just a couple of things that I hoped would make at least a little difference:

  1. I beat a couple of eggs and mixed them in with the oil and cooled cocoa/water mixture
  2. When adding the eggs, the overall amount of liquid in the batter was increased by about 1/2 cup (which is the approximate volume of two eggs), so I just reduced the water to 2 1/2 cups.  

These two changes, as simple as they were, made a major difference in the texture and flavor of the cake without taking away what I love most about it.
While the original cake had merit in that it was:
(A) Easy, (B) Quick, (C) Tasty, (D) Sturdy and (E) Made from ingredients you can find in your pantry;

Version 2.0 has merit in that it is the following:
 (A) Easy, (B) Quick, (C) even MORE delicious, (D) Sturdy and (E) refer to C.

Easy Chocolate Layer Cake*
Makes 3 8in. layers or 36 cupcakes
*Note: I filled this cake with a very simple mocha ganache and iced it with browned buttercream (in robin's egg blue).  I didn't use recipes for either but would be happy to write one down and post it if anyone's interested.  Leave me a comment if you'd like some help with a recipe for one or the other!


  • 4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/c cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease 3-8in. round cake pans.  Line the bottoms with greased parchment.  Dust pans and parchment with flour, tapping out excess.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together hot water and cocoa powder.  Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the cocoa to bloom and the mixture to cool slightly.  
  4. Whisk in oil, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
  6. Mix wet ingredients into dry, stirring until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Divide evenly between 3 prepared cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 min or until tops spring back when pressed lightly and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Do not overbake. 
  8. Immediately run a knife around the edges of each pan and let cool in pans for 15 min.  Remove from pans and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 
  9. When completely cooled, ice with your favorite buttercream. 

And now, some gratuitous pictures of my babies and our life over the past week:


  1. Oh my that looks delicious. I would LOVE to try my hand at ganache and browned buttercream sounds heavenly! If you could virtual hold my hand with an recipe and help me make some thing that looks THAT good I would be forever greatful. By the way do you think browned buttercream would work on top of a strawberry cake? I have this birthday for a soon-to-be eight year old coming up. . .

  2. Henry is so cute :) It is only a matter of time before he gets into that icing! I can picture it now all over his hands and face with one of his big smiles. Thanks for sharing the recipe.