Birthday cake: Chocolate Layer Cake

birthday cake

This chocolate cake with an oil foundation has the perfect texture—it's neither too fluffy or too dense, but just right. Cake flour is what makes it so soft. Rich and airy, the frosting is a take on German buttercream made with whipped chocolate pudding base.



    • Butter at room temperature to grease the pans
    • 260 grams or 2 cups cake flour
    • 1½ teaspoons baking soda 
    • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1 teaspoon Morton kosher salt 
    • 2¼cups/450 grams granulated sugar
    • An oz of baking powder
    • 1 cup/80 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder made using the Dutch technique; sift if lumpy.
    • ¾ cup (177 grams) of freshly prepared, boiling hot coffee
    • 240 grams or one cup crème fraîche, room temperature
    • One tablespoon pure vanilla
    • At room temperature, five large eggs and two large yolks
    • ¾ cup (180 grams) of neutral oil, like vegetable or avocado


    • 1 cup (240 grams) of whole milk
    • 8 ounces (226 grams) of semisweet chocolate (54–64 percent cacao), roughly chopped
    • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar 
    • 3 tablespoons (if lumpy) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
    • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or Morton)
    • 4 big egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon (284 grams) of unsalted butter, sliced, at room temperature
    • 2 tsp of extract from vanilla


Step 1

Set up a rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, respectively. Set the oven's temperature to 350°. Spread a thin layer of butter on the bottom and edges of three 8-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with rounds of parchment paper, smoothing the material to remove any air bubbles.

Step 2

Cake flour, granulated sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder should all be put in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until thoroughly incorporated.

Step 3

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the hot coffee and cocoa powder to bloom the cocoa. Completely smooth out the mixture by whisking in the vanilla and crème fraîche. Remove from the way.

Step 4
Whisk the two yolks and five whole eggs in a different medium dish until smooth and set aside.

Step 5

Blend the batter: Pour the oil and half of the cocoa mixture into the stand mixer bowl. Run the mixer on low speed just long enough to fully incorporate the flour into the liquid components. After pausing the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, mix on medium for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is smooth and pasty. Add the whisked eggs and the remaining cocoa mixture to the bowl after pausing to scrape down the sides and bottom once more. After about a minute of medium speed beating and a few scrapes down the sides and bottom of the bowl, the batter should be very silky and have the consistency of thin pancake batter.

Step 6

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans as you pour it in. (Use a scale for even layering; each pan will hold roughly 550 grams of batter.) Place two of the pans on the upper rack and one on the lower rack in the oven. Space them apart so that the pans above don't obstruct the pan below. After 20 minutes, continue to bake, turning the top two pans from side to side and rack to rack, until the cakes' tops are domed, springy to the touch, and a toothpick or cake tester put into the center comes out clean, which should take another 25 to 30 minutes.

Step 7
After taking the pans out of the oven, let them cool fully on a wire rack.

Step 8

First, prepare the pudding base before making the buttercream: In the stand mixer bowl that has been cleaned and equipped with the paddle attachment, place the chocolate. Mix the 50 grams (¼ cup) of sugar and the milk in a small pot. Remove from the heat and set aside after bringing to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Combine the flour, ¼ cup (50 grams) sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and remaining sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until well blended. The mixture will appear quite thick at first, but it will soften up. Add the yolks to the bowl and whisk slowly to incorporate. Then, whisk more quickly until the mixture is pale, thick, and smooth. After carefully pouring in about half of the heated milk mixture while continuing to whisk the yolk mixture, return the bowl's contents to the saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and let it cook for one to three minutes, whisking continuously and scraping down the sides, until it becomes thick and bubbly. Scrape the pudding right away from the chocolate in the bowl of the stand mixer.

Step 9
To make the buttercream, let the pudding mixture lie for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Then, use a paddle mixer set on low speed to mix the pudding until it is smooth and glossy and the chocolate has entirely melted. After 10 to 15 minutes, increase the speed to medium and continue beating until the bowl's exterior is cool to the touch. Once you have a smooth, glossy, spreadable frosting, add the butter a few pieces at a time while the mixer is running. Wait for each addition to fully incorporate into the pudding before adding the next. Put the mixer on stop, give the bowl's bottom and sides a good scrape, and then add the vanilla. Beat just until well combined again.

Step 10
Cakes should be unmold and leveled. To do this, cut around the cooled cakes with a butter knife or tiny offset spatula, firmly pressing the blade against the pan sides to loosen them. Turn the cakes over onto a wire rack, take off the parchment paper if needed, and then flip them over again, this time to place the domed side up, onto another rack or cutting board. To level the layers, hold a serrated knife parallel to the work surface and cut each cake's surface horizontally. (The leftovers make a great snack.)

Step 11

Using a serving plate, cake stand, or cardboard cake circle, place one of the layers, cut side down. Place a generous amount of one cup of buttercream in the center and use an offset spatula to distribute it evenly to the edges. Next, center the second layer, cut side down, and cover with an additional cup of buttercream. After cutting the top layer down, place the third layer on top and gently press to level. Using the spatula, spread the remaining buttercream around the cake's surface and down its edges, sponging about half of it onto the top and covering it completely with a thin coating of frosting. (Just the crumb coat; the cake will peek through in a few spots.) Place the cake in the fridge and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the frosting solidifies, before covering it with the remaining icing.

Step 12

The constructed cake will last for one day at room temperature if it is loosely covered. (To help the frosting set, chill the cake for 15 minutes before coating it.) Place the cake in the refrigerator after a full day, making sure to cover any sliced areas tightly. Before serving, let the cake come to room temperature.

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