Chocolate Birthday Cake
A triple layer chocolate cake that’s perfect for celebrating! This Chocolate Birthday Cake with a light and fluffy chocolate buttercream frosting is just the thing for chocolate lovers!
This weekend I made a chocolate birthday cake, just so I could share it with you today. You’re welcome. 😉 I first made this chocolate cake for William’s 3rd birthday, which was about a month ago now. Life’s been busy (isn’t it always) and I never found time to sit down and get his birthday post written. I’ve been working on it this week and hope to share it in the next few days, so stay tuned!
Before sharing this Chocolate Birthday Cake with you, I wanted to be sure the recipe was juuust right so I made it again this weekend. Luckily we went to my parents’ house for a BBQ on Monday, so I was able to share some cake with my family. We certainly didn’t need a whole three layer cake tempting us! I am powerless to resist a slice of homemade cake, so I would have been eating it all week long.
A few days ago, Hannah turned 4 months old. After baking this Chocolate Birthday Cake, I decided it was her 4 month birthday cake. She can’t have cake yet, of course, but Brad was holding her as he ate his slice and she was intently watching as he took each bite! She’s starting to pay more attention when we eat in front of her, and I’m sure she’ll be ready for solid foods in a few months. Even if I’m not. Time, will you slow down a little, please?
One of Hannah’s favorite things to do right now is to watch her big brother and sister play. I think she’d be on the move and getting their toys if she could! This week she started grabbing at her toys that hang from her playmat, and she can hold onto her Sophie giraffe and get it into her mouth all by herself now. It’s amazing how fast babies grow and learn at this age.
When it comes to birthday cake, do you go for chocolate or vanilla? My absolute favorite cake is this Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting. Seriously, it’s insanely good. But when I’m in the mood for chocolate, this Chocolate Birthday Cake is just the thing.
The original recipe called for making a two layer cake, but I adapted it to make three layers because you’ve got to go big with a birthday cake, right? Plus, I have a really big family so we needed all 16 servings that the triple layer cake provides.
This cake is the perfect balance between being fudgy, but also light and moist at the same time, if that makes any sense at all. And the frosting is super light and fluffy. I gave the frosting a double dose of chocolate with both cocoa powder and melted semi-sweet chocolate. You can substitute melted dark chocolate if you like.
I loved how this Chocolate Birthday Cake looked with the simple ring of sprinkles for decoration. Plus, it took all of a minute to decorate! If you’re making the cake for a first birthday, check out this post for an easy and fun way to decorate a first birthday cake. Enjoy!
Here are a few notes for success with this cake:
Read the full recipe before beginning. You don’t want to be surprised half-way through when you’re baking a cake. 🙂
Be sure to let the eggs and butter come to room temperature before beginning. (The butter for the cake should be softened but still slightly cool. For the frosting it should be at room temperature.)
If you have a kitchen scale, use it. Weight measurements are more accurate, and easier too. (Less measuring cups to wash!)
Chocolate Birthday Cake
For the cake:
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour plus more for dusting the pans
- ¾ cup (65g) unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder optional
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¾ cup milk whole milk is best
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 18 tbsp. unsalted butter softened but still cool (plus more for greasing the pans)
- 2 cups (370g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
For the frosting:
- 6 ounces (170g) good-quality dark chocolate, chopped or semi-sweet
- 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 3 cups (360g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (42g) unsweetened cocoa powder
Make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in the middle position. Generously butter three 8-inch round cake pans. (I only have 2 pans so I bake 2 layers first and then bake the 3rd layer.) Cut out rounds of parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, place parchment rounds in the pans. Butter the parchment and then dust pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, instant espresso powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Place the milk and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale, light, and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
- With the mixer on low speed, add about a third of the flour mixture, followed by a third of the milk mixture. Mix until barely incorporated and repeat with remaining flour and milk mixtures. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on low speed for 15 seconds more.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans, spreading it out into even layers. Bake cakes until a tester comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached, 23-26 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edge of each cake and invert pans onto racks; peel off parchment liners. Re-invert the cakes onto additional cooling racks. Cool cakes completely before frosting.
Make the frosting:
- In a small bowl, melt the chopped chocolate in the microwave. (Heat 1 minute on high power, stir, and then heat in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.) Set aside to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 6 minutes.
- Mix in the melted chocolate, milk, vanilla, and salt and beat until well combined.
- Sift together the powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder to break up any lumps.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and then continue to mix on medium speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Assemble and frost the cake:
- Place one of the cake rounds on a cake stand or plate. Spread a layer of frosting on top with a small offset spatula. Carefully place a second cake layer on top. Spread a layer of frosting on top and spread evenly. Set the third cake layer on top. Place a generous sccoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset spatula and working your way down the sides until you have an even layer of frosting over the entire cake.
- Cake can be stored at room temperature for a few hours; cover and store leftover cake in the refrigerator. Let cake come to room temperature before serving.
- You can use this recipe to make a 9x13-inch sheet cake. Make a full recipe of cake batter and spread it into an even layer in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Bake the cake for 34-38 minutes. Use half a recipe of frosting, or a full recipe if you like a very thick layer of frosting.
- Cake recipe slightly adapted from Baking Illustrated.
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