Sunday, May 2, 2010

Jake's 22nd Birthday Cake - Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

It has been forever since I last posted.  You know, just some small things were happening.  I had my senior finals, I finished college, I graduated yesterday (Obama spoke at my graduation!) and I feel like I could sleep forever.  Also the amount of inventive and interesting cooking and baking I have been doing in the past few weeks has been dwindling, I have been holding on to three recipes for almost three weeks - Jake Hoernschmeyer's 22nd birthday cake, Jake Trithart's 22nd birthday cake and a few batches of cake balls (most of which ended up at the former Jake's house or in my roommates stomachs).  The first recipe I will be posting is for the first Jake's birthday - a chocolate cake with a vanilla bean buttercream.  With a special request for sprinkles.

I baked for about three days straight, continuously wore my apron and always had a light dusting of flour covering my hair and face.  Seeing how happy Jake was when we brought out the cake singing "Happy Birthday" and being able to give all his friends cake made it all worth it.  Yet it also didn't hurt that I had a chance to try out my new cake leveler and two new piping tips!

I asked him in March what kind of cake he wanted - he specifically requested a chocolate cake with a vanilla frosting and there had to be sprinkles.  Of course I had to make it a little fancier.  I used my "stand-by" chocolate cake recipe - I have been using this recipe for about four years.  It's a slightly dense, but moist, cake with a nice crumb.  I froze the three layers overnight wrapped in saran wrap placed in freezer safe bags - it makes leveling and decorating immensely easier.  For the frosting, I had been wanting to use vanilla beans for a quite some time and I felt like a vanilla bean buttercream would be the best way to foray.  I'm glad I made the buttercream, but who knew just TWO vanilla beans were so expensive?  Once again, it was worth it.

Regardless, I really do recommend making this cake for your next birthday, celebration… or any day you think you want a cake.

Stand-By Chocolate Cake
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 3 circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.
  2. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. 
  3. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. 
  5. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 35 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated 
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
  • 4+ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into butter and beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds.
  2. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. 
  3. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 20 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

1 comment:

Brent said...

Congratulations on the graduation!

I see you are from Michigan and wanted to pass along the name of a Grand Rapids based company that specializes in vanilla products... and has amazing prices! Beanilla Trading Company ( has 8 different types of vanilla beans, some are only $1 each. All off the vanilla beans are also Grade A, which is the highest possible grade of vanilla.

I hope this helps. Keep up the great work!


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