I just turned 31. This somehow seems more profound than 30 and makes me feel like I’m getting old! But I know 31 is not really old at all and where this notion came from I’m not really sure. I was enthusiastic about turning 30 because 30 seems more respectable, especially if your client happens to ask your age. I don’t know that I’d fully trust a 28 or 29 year old to design my house (but many people did thankfully). So now that I’m 31 I decided it was time to make my own birthday cake. Gasp! But why? Well, I really love making cake and experimenting with new recipes which I don’t often do when I make cakes for other people. I also think I can beat out most bakeries in the cake department (or at least tie them) and there is no need to spend $45 on a cake for myself! Lots of people make their own cakes… especially other baker bloggers I know. So I made myself an experimental chocolate cake with a frosting technique I’ve been wanting to try for a really long time!
Chocolate cake is hard to get right. There is an intricate balance of moist vs fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness. I’ve been attempting different chocolate cake recipes for a long time now and think this one is the winner so far. I used an intensely dark cocoa powder given to me as a gift for 2/3 of the cocoa in the recipe and it turned out amazingly dark and delicious. I also learned after 12 years with Michael that he feesl “ho hum” about chocolate cake and would actually rather eat a brownie. It’s amazing what you learn after being together for this long, especially with the amount of baked goods that come out of my kitchen. It also makes sense because I don’t think he has ever requested a chocolate cake for his birthday!
I pinned a few cakes a while ago as inspiration to try a ruffle. I would suggest using a Swiss buttercream instead of an American buttercream just because they are less sweet and a bit more shiny. Both pipe well and set up firm in the refrigerator. If you are frosting a cake that needs to be outdoors in a hot environment for a long time, maybe try a shortening based buttercream, though I think these don’t taste as good. The frosting turned out beautifully. Unfortunately there is just so much of it we ended up scraping off the ends and not eating it because it was too sweet.
So, be adventurous and try new things. No one will complain and you just might end up with a delicious and gorgeous cake in the end. Oh, and don’t be shy about baking something you want for yourself! Do however accept an invitation for someone else to bake a dessert for you on your actual birthday. We had a lovely dinner at Longman and Eagle in Logan Square for my birthday dinner and the dessert was fabulous.
1 ¾ C flour
1 ½ C sugar
¾ C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 C buttermilk (or sub soy milk for dairy intolerance – see below)
½ C canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 C hot coffee
- Preheat oven to 350˚F (or 325˚F for convection oven), grease two 9” pans, line with parchment, and set aside.
- Sift dry ingredients together.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
- Whisk in the dry ingredients until the batter is just moistened.
- Add the hot coffee and stir with a spatula until smooth.
- Divide between two cake pans.
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Cakes are ready when they spring back lightly when pressed. (Convection oven cakes may be done sooner so check at 25 minutes).
- Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours before frosting or freeze overnight wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
- To make a dairy free cake, you’ll need to substitute the buttermilk. Add 1T white vinegar to a 1 C measuring cup. Then fill the rest of the way with plain soy milk. Whisk or stir with a fork to combine. For the best consistency, refrigerate for 3 hours before using.
How to make Frosting Ruffles using your favorite buttercream
- You’ll need about 8-10 cups of frosting for one double layer 9” cake
- Frost the cake with a crumb coat and refrigerate for 20 minutes
- Fill piping bag fitted with a #104 Petal Decorating tip. (I’ve seen these for $1.00 at JoAnn Fabric Stores).
- Use a parchment cake pan liner (I buy mine in bulk packs) or cut a parchment to fit the size of cake you baked. Then fold the circle in half and keep folding in half until you have the desired slice size. Unfold the parchment and set it on top of the hardened crumb coat. Use a knife or dough cutter and mark the folds vertically in the frosting around the whole cake. Remove the parchment from the top, or mark the top as well if you decide to ruffle the top of the cake. For the top ruffle, stick a toothpick through the center point and remove the parchment. Then line your pastry cutter or knife with the center point and vertical line along the edge and press gently into the top of the cake frosting.
- With your pastry bag held vertically and the large end of the decorating tip close to the cake, start piping at one side of a vertical mark and continue the width of one “slice” of cake. Fold the frosting back and forth until you reach the top and then add one to two extra folds. Continue until you have finished the entire circumference of the cake.
- Following within the lines will make your ruffles perfectly vertical. (There are some you-tube videos of people using this frosting technique and it looks all willy nilly and slanted.)
- You can continue the folds across the top of the cake to the center point if you marked the top, or you can frost the top using concentric circles as I did. It’s easiest to do this with a turntable, but if you don’t have one (I don’t!) then just spin the cake stand in one hand and keep the piping bag in the other. Always keep the large end of the piping tip next to the cake.