Hello, hello, from the land of cake!
Rosie, Rosie, Rosie . . . more chocolate frosting? And how many birthday cakes does a baker need?
I know, but it’s amazing how many different cakes we can create with “vanilla” and “chocolate” cake layers and frostings, right? Now that I take a step back and really look at my recipes over time, I think this is something that intrigues me even more than creating crazy cakes. And while I do love cake-craziness and new-technique challenges, etc. I think that it’s really important to bring new life to classic recipes–that really is the best way to stir up childhood memories and make people happy, it seems. I know for me, the cakes I can’t resist are the ones that teleport me straight back to the 70s and 80s, when I was a cakelet. You know?
It’s also a little baker’s game I play, where I try creating delightful cakes with the ingredients I always have on hand–things like dark chocolate, vanilla bean, cake flour, butter, malted milk powder, etc.–and this Buttermilk Birthday Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting is a classic example! I promise this is an infinite epicuriosity on my part, and not blogger’s laziness :).
So this cake is a very close version of my favourite Best-Ever Buttermilk Cake recipe from my book, but of course I couldn’t resist tweaking it yet again. Nothing major, just a small change with the fats (I substituted a small amount of the butter for vegetable oil to see what would happen). Turns out it seems to add a dose of moisture that I didn’t know the cake wanted, haha. But it’s very subtle–I have just been experimenting with oil because of course it’s not solid at room temp, and sometimes cake can super soft out of the oven can dense-up as it sits.
I feel as though the oil definitely adds a touch of moisture but of course the primary taste is the buttery, buttermilky vanilla-ness that makes this cake as comforting and tender on its own as it is smothered in big fat swirls of frosting. You know I cannot resist, which is why you’ve never seen a “naked” cake around these parts ;).
(Oh, and now might be a good time to point out that, if it seems like I have many versions of the “same” base recipe here on my blog, I always play around and change little things in an effort to make it even better–even if it doesn’t need it. So, the good news is that I am pleased with all of the recipes I share, and if I’m ever not for any reason, I either don’t share it, or I modify it with a little explanation, etc. I know it can get confusing when there are so many versions floating around, so I wanted to point that out.)
So yes, where were we? Oh yes–big fat swirls of frosting. This oversized-border look is one of the quickest and most-pleasing decorating techniques (did I mention speedy?). The white nonpareils are clean, pretty and kinda charming (if I do say so, haha). I used this Ateco #887 decorating tip, which is really big and creates a beautiful swirl in seconds. A simple piped full circle and fluid pull to the right, release and repeat is all it takes. For added billowiness, we repeat the whole border directly on top, which creates a swirl that makes people have to consciously remind themselves to not stick their finger straight in it.
And isn’t that what cake decorating is? Much like cake photography, my goal is always to make a dessert in a way that puts a spell on people, making them feel as though they will die, or at least cry, if they don’t taste it immediately. It’s all about the consistency, the texture, the swirls, the sprinkling and of course the love and care that goes into it all.
This frosting is a variation of my ever-loved Chocolate Cloud Frosting, which I might admit has many a variation, but that’s kind of what makes it so incredible. You really can’t do it wrong–if you add less butter and more chocolate, it’s (obviously) more chocolatey and sweeter from the confectioners’ sugar, and often firms up at room temp, much like a ganache.
If you add less confectioners’ sugar, less chocolate, a generous heap of Ovaltine (a hit of sweet malted flavour just gives the whole cake a bump) and scoop of sour cream, you get this dreamy, creamy and super-soft delight that is perfect for piping. The sour cream only balances out the sweetness, so anytime you have a super-sweet frosting, give it a try–it works like a dream.
Consistency-wise, I would liken this frosting to a canned frosting (you know, the ones we used to eat straight from the tub . . .), but of course when you use the best ingredients, the flavour and texture are like no other. I love the gloss, and that oh-so-70s shade of chocolate. Oh, and the ease of throwing everything into the food processor and hitting pulse a few times doesn’t hurt either. Sadly, it might be all I need in life right now. Eeeee!
I love this super-fine crumb with its vanilla specks and buttery texture. And dare I say this cake gets better by day 2 (today)! Everything kind of melds together, and the classic vanilla bean flavour seems to blossom. The frosting isn’t killer sweet, and I can’t resist the creaminess of it all–especially those big old swirls!
Okay, let’s make this cake . . .
- 3 cups 345 g cake flour
- 2 cups 410 g superfine sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons 200 g cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 tablespoons 30 ml vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups 300 ml buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups 510 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 cups 500 g confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 cup Ovaltine or malted milk powder
- 1/3 cup 80 ml whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup 60 ml sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- 9 ounces 265 g premium dark chocolate, chopped or callets
- White nonpareils for decorating optional
- Large pastry bag
- Decorating tip Ateco #887
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment rounds. Set aside.
In a large measuring cup with a spout, lightly whisk the eggs, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and the vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the cold butter one piece at a time, about 10 seconds apart. Add the vegetable oil and continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter and oil have been blended and there are no clumps. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
Add the remaining buttermilk to these dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the egg mixture; once the mixture has been added, increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Gently fold batter once or twice (but no more) to ensure the egg mixture has all been incorporated.
Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans (use a kitchen scale to ensure 3 even layers--each layer should weight about 475g). Place two of the cake pans on the middle rack and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 23 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then loosen sides with thin metal spatula or knife, and carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel of the paper liners, and let cool completely.
Put all of the ingredients, except the melted chocolate, in a food processor, and pulse until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the melted chocolate and pulse again until glossy and smooth. If the frosting is too soft, you can refrigerate the frosting until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes, but it should be ideal spreading consistency after pulsing.
Put a dollop of frosting on an 8-inch thin cake board (or cake plate) or 10-inch scalloped cake board.
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 a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs (crumb coat) and then refrigerate the cake until the frosting has firmed up slightly, about 30 minutes Repeat with a thicker layer of frosting, this time working to achieve a smooth finish.
Fit a large pastry bag with a large closed star tip, such as Ateco #887, and fill about 2/3 full with frosting. Hold the pastry bag tip directly above the cake (I like to stand on a stool when I do this, so I can better see the top of the cake). Begin anywhere on the perimeter and gently apply enough even pressure to the pastry bag to keep the frosting flowing easily but slowly--as soon as the frosting begins to touch the cake, pipe one full tight circle, creating a rosette-style pattern, and drag the frosting to the right in one fluid motion and release pressure. Lift tip away from cake. Beginning just overtop of where you left off, repeat. Do this around the entire perimeter of the cake. Repeat this technique over your existing border for an extra swirly finish.
Top the border and sides of cake with a some white nonpareils (for the sides, I "toss" small pinches of the nonpareils at the bottom of the cake and they bounce up). The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days--best served at room temperature.
- For the cake flour, I used Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Cake Flour, but you can use any cake flour. If you don’t have cake flour, you can read about substitutions (and a whole lotta other info about flour!) here.
- For the vanilla bean paste, I used Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste.
- For the frosting, I used dark chocolate Callebaut callets (chips) 54.5% cocoa solids. Just a reminder that I increased the frosting recipe by about 25% because the big swirls require a lot of it–if you aren’t going to do the swirls, you can decrease the frosting recipe by this amount.
- I added Ovaltine to the frosting for a nostalgic malt flavour (just be sure to use original and not chocolate flavoured).
- To decorate the top swirl I used Ateco #887. You can use Wilton 1M, which is more commonly owned it seems, but your swirls just won’t be as, well, swirly, and a smidge smaller. It will still be gorgeous!
- For the white nonpareils, you can find them in my shop–you won’t see a listing for just white, but you can purchase the rainbow nonpareils and leave a note at checkout that you want/need all white :).
See you soon with more cakey-ness!
P.S. Thank you all for your kind, thoughtful and heart-warming notes about what I shared in my last post. It made me cry! In a good way :). xo