Tomorrow is my father's birthday. Tomorrow is also six days before my wedding. Yikes.
I love my dad. So much. A lot.
However, I realized several weeks ago that his birthday and my wedding were dangerously close, and I was not sure that I could pull off a truly good birthday cake just days before my wedding. That is why I baked him this cake several weeks ago. Hopefully the memories of it and a lovely dinner out will make up for the lack of cake tomorrow.
Ever since I can remember, my father has always had the same birthday cake - yellow cake with chocolate frosting.
While his palate can be adventurous, his favorite things are the simplest. Cherry pie, soft pretzels, and my mother's cherry-almond biscotti - these are a few of his most cherished edibles. His simplistic routines are comforting to me - a person who seeks out innovation but finds the greatest joy in sameness.
Daddy's yellow cake begins like most cakes - with that strong and faithful team that is butter and sugar.
You already know what's up, don't you?
Butter and sugar are creamed, eggs are added, then our dry team and liquid teams bring it all together.
Hey there, you big ole' pan of batter! Why are you so heavy?
If I eat you will I be that much heavier afterwards? Nah, that kind of math is not allowed at birthday celebrations.
While the cake bakes, buttercream calls. Chocolate buttercream, that is.
My father and I have a history with chocolate buttercream.
When I was somewhere between 18-24 months old, my mother made me pancakes. She then left my father to feed them to me while she escaped for a few minutes of solace.
When she returned, my proud father gushed about how heartily I had devoured pancake after pancake. My proud but skeptical mother was astonished for a moment as well, before discovering that every last one of those much-adored pancakes had been slathered with chocolate frosting.
Clearly, my daddy loved me very much. He was always the one that would put brown sugar on our carrots and let us have as much maple syrup as we would like. Dads are cool.
About twenty years later, I am still in love with chocolate buttercream.
I like a really powerful chocolate flavor in my buttercream, and I've found that a combination of both melted chocolate and cocoa powder brings the most to the party, flavor-wise.
I like my dad because he will forever insist upon hating certain shows, and then we will find him lurking behind the couch watching them with us. His surprised annoyance when we turn them off in the middle of the episode is kind of a giveaway...
I like my dad because once he took my styling mousse to try to make his hair more like Adam Levine's.
I like my dad because as children we knew that if we told him we were going to make a fort and started doing a really shoddy job, he would come in and build us a freaking castle.
I like my dad because he has supported me in all my efforts. From business building to cooking...even before I knew how to cook. Sorry, dad.
I love my dad because he made mistakes, and then he admitted it.
Happy birthday, Daddy.
your pedantic daughter
Daddy’s Birthday Cake
recipe adapted slightly from Baking At Home with the Culinary Institute of America
for the yellow cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare three 8-inch cake pans by spraying with nonstick spray and dusting with all-purpose flour. Flip and tap the pans to remove any excess flour.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter for one minute; until fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly beat in granulated sugar. When all the sugar is mixed in, beat the mixture for one more minute.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each.
In a separate bowl, sift to combine flour and baking powder.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Follow the flour with 1/3 of the milk. Continue add the flour and milk in alternating increments, beating well after each, and scraping down the sides as needed.
When the batter has come together, add vanilla extract.
Divide the batter evenly amongst the three cake pans and bake, until the layers spring back when the center is touched lightly; about 25-30 minutes.
Place the pans on cooling racks, until the cakes have cooled completely. Run a butterknife along the sides of each cake to loosen it from the pan.
Use a sharp, serrated knife to level the top of each cake. Gently dust off the crumbs.
for the chocolate buttercream
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- pinch of salt
Place chopped chocolate in a small, glass bowl. Microwave at thirty second increments, stirring after each, until the chocolate is fully melted. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the frosting.
In the work bowl of your stand mixer beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute; until fluffy. Beat in cocoa powder. Add melted chocolate and 1/2 of the confectioner’s sugar and beat until well combined. Continue mixing on low speed and slowly incorporate the remaining confectioner's sugar. Add heavy cream and salt and beat until smooth.
Place a small amount of buttercream in the center of a cake plate, stand, or turntable. If you do not yet own a cake turntable, it is SO worth the investment. It made me actually enjoy the frosting process and that was a first.
Lay the first cake layer (top-side facing down)* on top of the buttercream and press down slightly. Spread a thick layer of chocolate frosting onto the top (which would actually be the bottom of the cake) of the first layer and cover with the second layer. Place the second layer top-side down as well. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes.
Cook's Note: Though all of the refrigerating periods may seem tedious, speaking as one who has had many a cake failure, a set frosting will save you from many a cake disaster.
When the cake has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and cover with a second layer of buttercream. Place the final layer on the cake - again, top-side down - and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an additional 15 minutes.
When the layers of frosting have set, cover the entire cake with a thin layer of buttercream. Refrigerate the cake for 20-30 minutes, until the outer frosting is somewhat firm.
Cover the cake with a thick layer of the remaining buttercream and smooth with an offset spatula, or, my new favorite tool - the icing smoother.
Decorate with cocoa powder, sprinkles, or whatever the heck you want. It’s birthday time. Enjoy!
*Since the cake layers will likely need to be leveled off with a knife, it is best to place them upside down so that you do not have to deal with the frustration of trying to spread icing onto a crumby cake.