Chocolate Birthday Cake {Video Tutorials}

Chocolate Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Well hi! It’s been a bit since my last post, maybe the longest ever, but you know I’m always nearby and knee-deep in frosting and cake. I had so much fun making my the Pastel Swirl Cake video tutorial that I wanted to make yet another this week. So it turns out that I’m in a crazy-for-chocolate mood lately, and I made this 3-layer chocolate birthday cake to celebrate (party for 1?).

Chocolate Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Since the most requested tutorial has been “how to frost a cake,” that’s the theme of the first video in this post. The second video, a part deux of sorts,  is where I share how I pipe birthday cake borders and, of course, finish with some sprinkles. You might remember this style of cake decoration from the recent How to Make a (Perfectly Delightful) Vanilla Birthday Cake post, as I used the identical technique and pastry tips for that one (you’ll also notice that it looks a smidge better when the frosting isn’t so light–oops!).

Chocolate Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

The cake itself is a 3-layer chocolate cake brushed with a dark rum syrup and filled and frosted with a simple chocolate buttercream that is super light and fluffy–my favourite for indulging. I actually made it a tad too fluffy for piping perfect borders, but hopefully you will still get the idea!

Remember these? This birthday cake is the cake version of these Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting, minus the Nutella (gasp!) and plus the rum syrup. Oh yes, I’d say that’s a reasonable trade, no? Oh, and I promise you won’t taste rum, but rather heightened chocolate glory.

Like I said, party for 1 . . .

Hey, do you want to hear something kind of strange and magical? While I was watching the videos, listening to myself explain the life-altering topic of frosting and piping borders onto a cake, and watching the turntable spin all the while, something occurred to me. Something that gave me butterflies and actually startled me, in a mystical way that is. In 2004, and several years before I immersed myself into the world of cake, I went to a psychic (I’ve always loved that kind of thing). I can recall, clear as can be, her asking me if I make pottery. Pottery? Hmm, no, I’ve never . . . potted? She continued, revealing with conviction that she sees me in years to come frequently working with a turntable, creating art with great passion and eventually teaching and sharing with others. She was so sure of it. I was perplexed, and a little dismayed, since I knew that I had no connection with pottery . . .

Turntable? Creating with passion? Teaching and sharing with others? Could it be?

Chills.

So here are the two videos–again, I’m not a cinematographer, but I sincerely hope they help in some way!

First, How to Frost a Cake: 

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And How to Pipe Frosting Borders:

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • To make the chocolate cake layers I made 3-times the batch of this cupcake batter (1 batch makes one 8-inch round layer) and 1.5 times the batch of the frosting, minus the Nutella (that recipe will yield a good consistency for piping–I added extra milk and whipped it into a frenzy, which is why it tasted incredible but was a bit too soft for piping).
  • Every oven varies, but I baked the cake layers at 350°F until a toothpick comes barely clean, about 22 minutes.
  • With any confectioners’ sugar frosting, you can always thicken it up by adding extra confectioners’ sugar (sifted is best) afterwards, until you achieve the desired consistency. Alternatively, you can always soften it up by adding small increments of milk or even a bit of water.
  • I made a dark rum syrup to brush over cake layers with a pastry brush before filling. To make: Bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of dark rum and voila!
  • As I mention in the videos, I used Pastry Tip -#1M for the bottom border, and Pastry Tip #1E  for the over-sized top border. I used the Small Offset Spatula for the top of the cake, a Medium Straight Blade Spatula and a Bench Scraper while frosting and decorating the cake. I topped the cake with Pastel Confetti Sprinkles/Quins.
Good luck & enjoy!



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50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes

Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy American Thanksgiving! I was sitting here planning a bunch of upcoming baking posts, when I realized that we’ve never really chatted about some of the basic steps that make for consistent baking and caking. I thought that it may be helpful to post these tips now, before we get too hot and heavy into more cake recipes. This collection of tips and tricks is made up of suggestions that happen to work for me, that I have either learned from the pros, read in books, or figured out along the way (and am still learning). I can say that implementing these steps completely changed my life as a baker, and I thought it would be fun to share.

I hope that even one of these tips will help you along too. Since it’s a wordy post, I’ll get right to it, but feel free to print this list off for reference. ♥

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Recipe Ingredients:         

1. Ingredients for cakes should be room temperature (can take out of refrigerator approximately 60-90 minutes before needed).

2. To check freshness of eggs, put in a bowl of water–if they sink, they’re fresh. If they float and stand on one end, they’re not.

3. “Eggs” typically means Grade A, large eggs.

4. “Milk” typically means homogenized.

5. You can substitute milk with yogurt or sour cream, to experiment with different textures.

6. To create a replacement for buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon vinegar for every cup of homogenized milk and stir.

7. Weighing ingredients with a digital kitchen scale is the most accurate method of baking.

8. 1 large egg white = 37 grams, 1 large egg yolk = 20 grams. Eggs separate best when cold, but whites whip best when room temperature or warm.

9. Egg whites in carton freeze well–just pull out of freezer night before you need them.

10. For best results, use pure vanilla extract (not from grocery stores)–what a difference! Heck, don’t even be afraid to double the vanilla quantity.

11. To bring cold eggs to room temperature quickly, you can put the whole eggs into a bowl of lukewarm water (not hot) for 30 minutes.

12. To bring butter to room temperature quickly, you can cut into small cubes on a plate for about 15 minutes.

13. Semisweet Chocolate = Dark Chocolate.  Bittersweet Chocolate = Extra Dark Chocolate.

14. Semisweet & Bittersweet Chocolate are interchangeable.

15. Unless otherwise listed, use unsalted butter for cake recipes.

Mixing:

16. Incorporate dry ingredients together with whisk before adding to wet ingredients.

17. When creaming butter and sugar, get the mixture very pale yellow and fluffy–will take several minutes (around 5).

18.  Always start and end with dry ingredients when alternating with wet ingredients (3 dry additions, 2 wet).

19. Don’t overmix once dry ingredients are added. Just mix on low speed until incorporated.

20. Kitchen stand-mixers don’t need to run at full-speed. A small mixer should run no more than speed #4, for most things. A large mixer no more than speed #6. You will add years to your mixer’s life!

21. Be careful with your sugar–too much can cause a dark crust (one of several possible causes), too little can cause too light a crust or tough texture.

22. Watch your flour–too much can cause a cracked top (one of several possible causes).

23. Beat egg yolks with fork before adding to batter.

24. To retrieve stray eggshells in mixture, use the emptied half-shell–eggshell sticks to eggshell. If you don’t get them all, they will sink during baking, so you can turn baked cake over when cool and retrieve them.

25. A pinch of salt brings out the flavours in sweet baked goods.

26. When folding, you should always add the lighter of the two mixtures on top, using a gentle folding motion, to avoid deflating batter.

27. When mixing egg whites for meringue, wipe all untensils and bowl with vinegar or lemon juice on a paper towel before they come in contact with the egg whites (including the mixer whisk attachment). Any trace of grease, will likely jeopordize your meringue.

28. Keep an extra set of rubber spatulas that you use strictly for meringue.

29. Use the electric mixer’s splashguard for liquidy batters–that’s what it’s for!

30. If incorporating more than one flavour into a batter or icing, always start with the vanilla; vanilla enhances most flavours.

Baking Cakes:

31. For evenly-baked cakes, no domed tops, and no-fuss assembly, bake “layer-by-layer.”  This means if you’re baking a 3-layer cake, use 3 of the same size/shape pan, and bake 3 shorter layers at same time.

32. Use a small offset palette knife to spread batter evenly in pans. Don’t fill more than 1/2 full–2/3 at the most.

33. Get a separate oven thermometer for an accurate temperature reading–most ovens are either “hot” or “cold.”

34. Always wait for oven to reach necessary temperature before putting cakes in oven.

35. Keep cakes away from sides of oven, and if possible a few inches from each other (when more than 1 baking at once).

36. Rotate cakes after 20  minutes in oven (don’t disturb before 20 minutes).

37. Use middle rack, unless otherwise stated in recipe.

38. Typically, when in oven, cakes are nearing done when you can smell cake in the kitchen. Sounds weird, but you’ll see!

39.  Leave cakes in oven when testing for “doneness.” When a skewer comes clean from center of cake, it’s done.

40. Don’t overbake! This is one sure way to end up with a dry cake.

Cooling & Frosting:

41. Let full cakes cool in pans on wire racks for 20 minutes before removing from pans.

42. Remove cupcakes from pan immediately, placing individual cupcakes on wire rack to cool.

43. Once completely cooled, wrap cake layers in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes before cutting and/or icing.

44. Always place cake on a thin foil-covered cake board the same size/shape as the cake for ease of icing/serving, etc.

45. Brush away any stray cake crumbs with silicone pastry brush before icing.

46. Apply even layers of filling using an 18″ pastry bag and large round tip.

47. Apply thin layer of icing to seal in crumbs, then place in refrigerator for 30 minutes before second layer of icing.

48. Use an offset palette knife/icing spatula for frosting top of cake, and straight palette knife/icing spatula for sides of cake. Use a bench scraper for super-smooth edges.

49. If you don’t have time for frosting your cake, a good sprinkling of powdered sugar does wonders! Tastes and looks great on most cakes.

50. To give your frosted cake a glossy finish, you can use a hair-dryer on medium heat over the outside of the cake (right before serving).



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