Tuesday, September 11, 2012

She Asked for a Chocolate Birthday Cake....

A few weeks ago, I told y'all about the birthday party we threw for my sister-in-law. So in preparation, I ask her what her favorite cake was. When she said double-chocolate, I was tickled pink because I had a recipe from that "accidental country girl" that I was dying to try. And since everything's bigger in Texas, the Big Chocolate Birthday Cake fit the bill.

Here's what you'll need for the cake:

  • 4 sticks butter (I use unsalted), plus more for greasing 
  • 8 heaping tablespoons cocoa, plus more for dusting
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 whole eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 4-9 inch round cake pans with butter and dust with cocoa. I know, we usually dust with flour, but cocoa is great for a chocolate cake so you don't get all that white residue.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa and stir. Add the boiling water, allow the mixture to boil for 30 seconds and then turn off the heat. (Great if you have a gas stove. I have electric, so I removed it from the heat)

Pour over flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.

Combine the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla, and eggs. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the butter/chocolate mixture. 

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes.
Cool completely before icing. (See how nice the outsides look with the cocoa?)
For the frosting, heat 3 cups heavy cream until very hot, but not boiling. Pour hot cream over 24 ounces of semisweet chocolate broken into pieces (or use chips, as I did. And actually, I added my chips to the cream after removing it from the heat, so I wouldn't have to dirty another bowl). Stir until chocolate is completely melted then pour into the bowl of an electric mixer and refrigerate to cool.
Once ganache (yep, that's what it is) is cooled completely, add the vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until light and airy.
Frost the cake in between each layer...

and you will know soon enough if you did indeed melt the chocolate completely. I did not :-( It looked grainy and yucky. However, it tasted really good so I plugged along.
Once I got it all iced, it still looked horrible. So I heated my spreader under hot water, wiped of the water and quickly smoothed it over the surface. The heat glossed things up considerably. So, I did it over and over until I had a look I wasn't ashamed of.
See why it's call a BIG birthday cake?


 Did I mention this cake was yummy? Oh. My. Stars. (yes, I'm channeling Ruthy) This was to-die for. And I almost did with all I ate. But I would have died a happy woman.

I wouldn't dream of making this cake on a regular, or even semi-regular, basis. But special occasions, and special people, deserve special treats.  Don't you agree?


  1. OH BOY!!!!! I so need a little chocolate cake right now!!!

    And this will go just perfectly for my Wednesday post. No, I'm not telling. Yes, it's cake.

    I guess this makes it a cake-off. May the best chocolate cake win!!

    1. A cake-off huh? Ooo, our patrons will be so happy :-)

    2. I think we should give out a big shiny trophy to the sinner. A woman holding her stomach.

    3. HAHA! I meant WINNER! That other word works all right, too. Considering it's cake and all.

  2. A cake off with peach pie on Thursday!!! Yes!!!! Fall has truly arrived, LOL!

    MINDY-MEISTER MEISTER-BURGER. Oh my stars is right! This sounds similar to Texas Sheet Cake, with that almost brownie like consistency. What do you think? And I love Texas Sheet Cake. Sooooo yuuuuummmmmmyyyyy.


    To make smooth ganache is so stinkin' tough. It's truly a practiced art. I've practiced and still don't have the technique down for that super smooth appearance. I will try again over this winter.

    I use the hot spreader all the time to smooth cake tops when I'm decorating a cake. It's a perfect tool... Yeah, great idea, the cake looks happier. :)

    But I've eaten lots of fancy-looking cakes that taste horrible, so taste wins me every time. I like melt-in-your-mouth cake. It just makes me smile! Thank you, Tex!

    1. Ruthy, the first time I saw this recipe I thought of Texas Sheet Cake too. The texture is a bit fluffier, but every bit as good. And I have yet to meet anyone who didn't like Texas Sheet Cake.

      You are so right about fancy cakes that don't taste good. I once heard someone say she'd rather be a country cook and chef. Country may not look great, but you know it's going to be delicious.

    2. I think I've made good frosting about twice in my life, so this cake looks YUM.

    3. Ginny Lou Who, either your recipes are bad or your taster....

      I'm not sure which but both could bear benefit (is that proper grammar, because the GQ is over at Seekerville today and I'm second-guessing everything I do. I'm such a grammar loser...) Anyway, good frostings are just finding out which ones are good for you... and being willing to use a little Crisco and butter for the good of mankind as we know it. ;)

    4. Okay, see, I have no idea what you're talking about. Crisco in frosting?? I use butter and powdered sugar, and I've tried powdered sugar an milk and a little salt, an I've tried the cans of junk that taste like chemicals.

      Can you do a frosting post?? Pretty please???

      Maybe it's one of those things where you just need the right touch. Not the sledgehammer I usually use.

      And yes, GQ is killing me. I'm having flashbacks to college. :P

    5. Frostings are so easy-peasy - this one doesn't need its own post.

      Here's how:

      (Virginia, are you listening? This isn't complex, but it isn't fancy either. Are you ready?)

      Put 4 Tablespoons of softened butter in a medium sized bowl. Add about 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and stir it together. Have about 3-4 of powdered (or confectioner's) sugar on hand, and some milk (not a lot).

      Now start stirring. Stir the vanilla into the butter until it's nice and smooth. Add a cup or so of sugar and stir, add a tablespoon or so or milk and stir. Now keep alternating sugar and milk until you get the right amount and consistency of frosting you need.

      Keep in mind that it takes very little milk to turn the whole mess soupy, so only add a bit at a time - no more than a tablespoon at one time.

      If it's too liquidy, add more sugar. If it's too thick, add a teensy bit more milk.

      If you want chocolate, add 1/4 cup cocoa powder in before you start adding the sugar.

      If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt.

      And that's it for a simple butter-cream frosting. There are fancier ones, but this is my go-to for most cakes.

    6. ok sorry but I"m on Team Ruthy with the frosting and Crisco.. I had no idea and it's not like I've had a lot of homemade cakes but the ones I did that had memorable frosting and I bothered to ask - a can of Crisco shortening was involved. I almost gagged at the thought but crisco, sugar, and I'm pretty sure butter came together wonderfully...sigh...that was some good frosting...not 100% sure on the butter but pretty sure it was there too...the same with cookies - butter and Crisco - not sure how that butter flavored crisco works or if they still make it but there's a reason they made butter flavored criso! right?! ;-)

  3. yum! chocolate! that's a lotta work! my boss makes a chocolate cake that's to die for..think it's called 'best chocolate cake' and was in the newspaper seems like. she also did a chocolate pecan pie that was darned good too. chocolate makes life better..

    1. Correctamundo, Susanna. Chocolate does make life better:-) And yes, this does take more effort, but the result is SO worth it.

  4. Looks amazing!! And not something to be ashamed of, even before smoothing it!

    My daughter's sweet 16 is this weekend. She's already picked out a cake, but I may have to show her this one. :)

    1. Missy, if she likes chocolate cake, she'll LOVE this one. Trust me:-)

  5. Oh my goodness -- that cake is HUGE!!!! I think I'd do half the recipe! Good tip about dusting the pans with cocoa, I never thought of that. And is heavy cream whipping cream? Half and half? Something in between???? I just made a burnt leather cake on the weekend or I would give this one a try sooner than later but there's only so much chocolate cake one woman can handle...well I could handle upteen of them but my hips couldn't!

    1. LOL! Agreed, Kav. You would definitely want the heavy whipping cream. Half and half won't work for this. That said, I've seen whipping cream and heavy whipping cream. Given the choice, I tend to go for regular whipping cream, unless a recipe is specific on the "heavy."

      Burnt leather cake, you say? Interesting:-)

    2. What- burnt leather???? That totally sounds like something I'd make.

    3. I want to know about burnt leather cake, too Kav-a-licious. Sing out.

    4. It's just a fancy (or strange) way of saying chocolate cake made with cocoa. It's from an old recipe book -- Red Roses, my go-to old-fashioned cookbook. It makes just enough batter for one square tin -- a humble offering compared to the over the top cake picture here. But I guess that's the way they do things in Texas. I hale from a humble crofter's cottage in Eire, so of course my version of chocolate cake would be a wee bit sparse. :-)

    5. Sparse, maybe, but perfect when there's just one of you :-)

    6. Oh, my goodness. Y'all have made me laugh so much this week, between Virginia's dough belly comment and Kav's burnt leather cake. I have to admit, Kav, that I assumed you meant you burned a cake, and it was as tough as leather!!

      LOLOL! So sorry to doubt your abilities that way. :)

  6. That is one BIG cake! I'd have to buy more cake pans to make it...

    not that anyone in THIS house would complain!

    You know, Texas Sheet Cake was the first thing I thought of when I read that recipe. It's more a texture thing than a taste thing, isn't it?

    And Susanna is so right - Chocolate just makes life better. Especially milestone birthdays :)

    1. You're right, Jan. They probably wouldn't complain. Just smile and chew:-)

    2. Great minds think alike. I just love cake.