Best-Ever Chocolate Nutella Layer Cake

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere!

I was looking through some older posts the other day, and I came across these Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting. And while I’ve never been fixated on Nutella desserts, I had almost forgotten how much I loved the way the sweet and hazelnutty flavour and creamy texture of Nutella added a much-welcome addition to these otherwise classic (but awesome) chocolate cupcakes.  So this week I decided to make a super-simple, quick and easy cake version of those cupcakes, embracing quality dark chocolate, extra dark cocoa powder and, of course, Nutella.

Simply put, the frosting is magical. Like unicorn and rainbows magical.

I have this thing about chocolate frosting. I kind of need it to be airy and satiny, as opposed to super-fudgy and dense–I think it pairs so well with a deep, dark moist chocolate cake, such as this one. This frosting is a take on that same Nutella Cloud Frosting I had used on the cupcakes, but I decided to add much more Nutella and a generous amount of sour cream to balance out the sweet. Rather than using the mixer, I just popped everything into my food processor and gave it a 60-second spin or so. The result was the creamiest and richest sweet chocolate frosting I’ve ever tasted.

In addition to the Nutella, we add a good dose of extra dark premium melted chocolate (I used a 70%) to help keep some of the intense chocolate flavour. The Nutella lends to the satiny texture, but because it is already quite sweet, the overall quality of this frosting is on the sweet side, but with a dark decadence. If you can’t get Nutella, or if you find you prefer a deeper flavour with minimal sweetness, you could even skip the Nutella and add a handful of ground hazelnuts. Of course the texture would change to a more rustic one, but the taste would be notably more sophisticated.

But Nutella seems to bring a nostalgic element for some, and if this cake is going anywhere near a little cakelet’s belly, I think Nutella is the way to go, because kids go, well, nuts for this stuff.

And because this cake, as simple as it is, is a celebration of chocolate, I opted for a medley of pure chocolate sprinkles as the finishing touch. It adds an interesting visual and delightful chocolaty crunch to each slice. For the piped border, I went with an unfussy shell-style border, but extended each one for a few extra seconds to create a more elongated shell look. Nothing fancy, but quick, easy and pretty. Because this frosting pipes like a dream, it makes for the perfect frosting border.

So this photo just goes to show that not all cakes look picture-perfect when sliced (this is what happens when I frost a cake and take photos 10 minutes later, rather than refrigerating it for some time to set), but holy Easter-bunny this chocolaty madness is divine. And it couldn’t be easier to create. You’ll see!

Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 7-inch round cake

Super-moist, dark chocolate cake filled and frosted with satiny dark chocolate & Nutella sour cream frosting and covered in a medley of chocolate sprinkles.

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups (285 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups (470 grams) superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 grams) salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) brewed coffee or espresso
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 4 1/2 cups (565 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (280 grams) Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) full-fat sour cream
  • 11 ounces (330 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 7-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and parchment rounds.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift all dry ingredients, including sugar. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.
  3. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 1 minute on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans--each pan should contain about 600 grams of batter.
  4. Bake the first 2 layers for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 5 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining layer, and then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  5. For the Chocolate Frosting:
  6. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. The frosting will be very soft. Refrigerate the frosting until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Assembly of the Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake:
  8. Put a dollop of frosting on a 7-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 8-inch scalloped cake board.
  9. Put your first layer top-up on the cake board or plate, and spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly across layer. Put the second cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting. Put the final cake layer top-down. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and wiggle the layers into place. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes.
  10. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm-up, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another thin layer of frosting, this time working to achieve a smooth finish. Chill for another 15 minutes.
  11. Apply a third coat of frosting to the cake. Holding a tall pastry comb in your dominant hand, press it gently against the side of the cake and keep it steady. Use the other hand to slowly rotate the turntable until you have gone all the way around the cake. Gently press some chocolate sprinkles around the bottom edge of the cake.
  12. Fit a medium pastry bag with a medium-large closed star tip, such as 1M, and fill about 2/3 full with frosting. Pipe a border around the top of the cake. Chill the cake until the frosting border firms up, at least 30 minutes.
  13. Cover the top of the cake (but not the piped border) with chocolate sprinkles. Once frosting softens again, the sprinkles will adhere to top. The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • If you don’t have 7-inch round cake pans, you could also use 8-inch cake pans. The layers will just be ever-so-slightly shorter.
  • For the cake layers, I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Brute–it adds so much depth, chocolate-y flavour and a wonderfully dark hue.
  • For the frosting I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 %  to balance the sweetness of the Nutella.
  • I used one of the Wilton Decorate Smart 3-Piece Icing Comb Set for the sides of the cake (the furthest comb to the right in the image).
  • I used a medley of chocolate vermicelli sprinkles on top, including India Tree Chocolate Vermicelli and De Ruyter Chocoadehagel. Any kind works well, but I prefer to keep it to pure chocolate vermicelli, as opposed to just chocolate jimmies.
  • Because the frosting has sour cream in it, it’s best to refrigerate this cake if it hasn’t been gobbled up after a day. Keep refrigerated at that point, and serve at room temperature (although it tastes pretty great cold too).

Happy Easter to you and your family!

Good luck & enjoy!

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Classic Vanilla Butter Birthday Cake

Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

I adore vanilla cake. I have such fond memories of it, and well, it just tastes so perfect and simple. I still remember every year as a little girl, I would have a heart-shaped vanilla birthday cake with the yummiest, sugariest, pastel-coloured frosting. There are so many types of vanilla cake recipes out there, and I know this because I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect one. Just when you thought vanilla cake was simply vanilla cake–there are butter cakes, sponge cakes, genoise cakes, and more. I’m working my way through many different vanilla birthday cake recipes to determine a favourite.

My philosophy is that there really are no bad vanilla cake recipes, so when I say favourite, it’s really just personal preference for me and, well, my husband Grant. He, for some reason, doesn’t eat dessert as a rule (yes, almost unthinkable), and he really doesn’t have much to say one way or the other when it comes to dessert, with the exception of vanilla cake–the man has put some serious thought and emotion into this. And, under no circumstances, would he go anywhere near chocolate cake. I won’t hold that against him, though, because for the first 30-ish years of my life I too chose vanilla over chocolate. I now love them equally and unconditionally. Maybe it was a scientific shift after I had my babies, but since then I simply cannot live without chocolate cake. Now that I’ve got that out in the open, let’s talk vanilla cake…

Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

I’m pretty familiar with baking butter cakes, because it’s predominantly what I use for my fancy fondant-covered cakes. As far as classic frosted birthday cakes go, though, I really haven’t experimented that much yet, so I am eager to see what type of vanilla cake is the biggest birthday crowd-pleaser. My first experiment was with this classic butter cake. I pretty much knew what to expect, but rather than using my existing recipe, I searched for a popular alternative. I came across this recipe from the Joy of Baking website. It was pretty straight-forward and similar to my recipe, but uses the combination method of mixing (when you whip the egg whites into a meringue and fold them into the batter, in order to get more volume and a lighter texture) and calls for cake flour, as opposed to all-purpose flour, so I was curious to give it a try.

Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Once the cake was baked and cooled, I layered it and filled/frosted it with a fluffy buttercream frosting that I tinted a pastel blue (Grant’s favourite icing colour). The truth is, I don’t often make this kind of sugary frosting for cakes. I’ll admit that I’ve become a bit of a buttercream snob, and am quite partial to the gorgeous consistency and sophisticated flavour of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (an icing that is made from whipping vanilla and copious amounts of pure butter into a fluffy meringue base) for cakes — there’s simply nothing better, in my opinion. It’s what’s widely used for filling/frosting most wedding cakes, occasion cakes, and even cupcakes in many cases, because of its buttery flavour and silky texture. It’s not super-sweet, it compliments almost any type of cake, and it can be flavoured with pretty much anything and still tastes amazing. That being said, my husband simply loves sugary blue frosting on vanilla cake, so that’s what I made for this birthday cake.

The verdict: Grant and I both loved it and thought the vanilla flavour that came through was especially amazing in this cake. As far as texture goes, I did really love it, but I always notice a very cakey taste when cake flour is used.  You could replace the cake flour with all-purpose to give it a slightly different texture and taste, if desired. Actually, you can also play around and experiment by switching the milk for yogurt or sour cream, just to see what happens. Have fun with it!

Classic Vanilla Butter Birthday Cake

Yield: One 8-inch round, 3-layer cake

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 4 large eggs (separated), at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 g/14.5 oz) sifted cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 (3 g) teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (227 g/2 sticks/8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 g/14 oz) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) cream of tartar
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 cup (227 g/2 sticks/8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 cups (750 g/1 lb + 10 oz) icing sugar (confectioners')
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream (35%)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) water
  • a pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour three - 8 inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper and grease and flour parchment paper.
  2. While eggs are still cold, separate them, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic warp and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using, about 30 mins.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
  5. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
  7. In the clean bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
  8. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over-mix the batter or it will deflate.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula.
  10. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan gently. Once the cakes of completely cooled, wrap in plastic and place the cake layers in the freezer for at least an hour (to make filling and frosting the cakes easier).
  11. For the frosting:
  12. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and icing sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat until well-incorporated, about 3 minutes.
  13. Add the vanilla, water, whipping cream and salt, and whip on med-high speed until fluffy and smooth--about 3 more minutes. If consistency is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, then whip again for 30 seconds or so. If your frosting is too thin, you can add more icing sugar a few tablespoons at a time until you achieve desired consistency.

Notes

[cake layer recipe adapted from Joy of Baking]

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Good luck & enjoy!



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