Tips for Making an Ordinary Cake Extra-Special
Take your celebration from ordinary to extraordinary with these tips for this classic chocolate cake and frosting!
**This post originally appeared on my other blog, YinMomYangMom.com.**
My youngest is turning 4.
I can’t even believe those words! I guess he will just always be a baby to me…
While his big brother seems forever tortured by want for the latest toy (Disney cars, Toy Story toys, Transformers, Star Wars, and now, Skylanders; there’s always some new or rare figure that he’s dying for), my little one finds happiness with simple pleasures.
Friends. Running fast. His favorite tv show. Making a fort. Riding bikes. Building blocks. Chocolate.
You may remember My Labor of Love, from right around this time last year. Well, this year I’m doing my best to avoid a week-and-a-half-long cake project. I think I have a pretty good shot at that, at least with the little guy.
This recipe is not my own, and while the cake and frosting are my eternal favorite (the chocolatiest, moistest, simplest to prepare, most candy-bar delicious), this post is really more about just taking your own simple favorite, and elevating it with some special tricks to make it drop-dead beautiful.
This cake and frosting recipe has probably been around since my grandmother was a girl, and the recipe instructs that it should be baked either in two 9-inch round baking pans, as cupcakes, or as a 9×13-inch sheet cake. My first tip for making an ordinary cake special, is to ignore those directions, and try baking your cake in three 6-inch round pans.
You remember that old saying: “You can never be too tall, too rich, or too thin”? Well, that goes for cakes too! Set up high on a pedestal, a narrow and tall masterpiece of a cake will make jaws drop! Slice each layer horizontally and fill in between with more of that luscious frosting for additional richness and height…
Tip #2- Make that frosting look smooth as glass. I learned how to make cake frosting look smooth at the tender age of 17 and I’ve been using this method for the subsequent, ahem, couple of years. Start with a monster pile of frosting on top each layer of the cake.
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, your spatula over the icing to gradually ease the icing to the edge of the cake. Don’t wipe! Or you’ll get crumbs in the icing.
Let the icing overlap the edge a bit, and then wiggle, wiggle, wiggle it down the sides and around.
Now here is where the right equipment will do all the work for you. Using a long cake spatula and a cake turntable, spin the cake slowly, in a smooth motion, while swiping excess frosting from the sides of the cake.
You will now see there is a wall of excess frosting forming around the top edge. Swipe the cake spatula horizontally across it and towards the center of the cake, removing the excess (I’m sure you can find a good use for it!), and repeat all the way around.
Warming your spatula under hot, running water will create an even smoother finish.
My third and final tip is to just go ape with the garnish! I can’t really take credit for this idea, since I’ve been seeing it all over pinterest and various baking blogs, but when you just go super generous with the sprinkles, it really makes a gorgeous statement. My kids LOVE rainbow, so I’ve used multicolored nonpareil sprinkles…
Sprinkles can be bought cheaply in bulk so there’s really no reason to hold back! Particularly for a special occasion like a sweet, lovable little Schmoo’s 4th (!) birthday…
Happy Birthday to my sweet baby boy! I love you SO MUCH!
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Perfectly Chocolate Cake & Perfectly Chocolate Frosting
For the Cake
- 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 cups (218.75 g) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (64.5 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs, (large)
- 1 cup (236.59 ml) milk
- 1/2 cup (118.29 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup (236.59 ml) boiling water
For the Frosting
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, (2 sticks)
- 1 1/3 cup (114.67 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 cups (720 g) powdered sugar
- 2/3 cup (157.73 ml) milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Perfectly Chocolate Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease and line (3) 6-inch round cake pans with parchment.
- Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for two mins.
- Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
- Pour into pans and bake 25-30 mins or until cake bounces back and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool 10 mins; remove from pans to wire racks.
For the Perfectly Chocolate Frosting:
- Melt butter.
- Stir in cocoa.
- Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed.
- Stir in vanilla.
- Makes about 4 cups.