Sunday, June 30, 2013

Classic Yellow Birthday Cake


Each year on my birthday my friends and family take delight in making fun of me for baking my own birthday cake. This year was no different. They don't seem to care that I actually enjoy making it. My polite response to their tease is usually, "It's my party and I'll bake my own damn cake if I want to!" Who can argue with that? 





This year was a no-brainer. Sometimes I like to flip through cookbooks or magazines to get inspiration on what to make, but all I was in the mood for was a classic yellow cake with good ol' fashioned chocolate buttercream frosting. Although it's extremely simple, I often find it's less than perfect when bought at bakeries. Maybe this cake has always been intended to be made at home. To me, it's the quintessential birthday cake, especially when eaten with a big scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. This cake just screams childhood and in my opinion, is one of the most comforting desserts on the planet. Who doesn't like to feel like a kid again from time to time? Naturally, this kid cake demands sprinkles. Naturally.







I've never been one for extravagant birthday parties; I much prefer celebrating with a small gathering of friends and family, as I did this year. It was a laid back evening spent with a bunch of wonderful folks. Between the company, cake, and cocktails, it was a very happy birthday indeed! 





CLASSIC YELLOW BIRTHDAY CAKE
Adapted from Stephanie Jaworski, joyofbaking.com 

Ingredients:

For the cake:
3 cups sifted cake flour 
3 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
2 tsps. vanilla extract

For the chocolate frosting:
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsps. vanilla extract 
Cake sprinkles, optional 

For the simple syrup mixture:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract



For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment circles. Butter again and dust with flour. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or using a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks three at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until well combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until just combined. 

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing out the tops of the batter with a rubber spatula. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. 

Place the cakes on wire drying racks to cool in their pans, about 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the drying racks and re-invert them so the tops are right side up. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting. 

For the chocolate frosting:
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until the chocolate has completely melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or using a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar in thirds, alternating with the milk, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the room temperature chocolate and beat until fully incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting appears smooth and glossy, about 2 minutes more. 

For the simple syrup mixture:
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool.

Assembly:
Place one cake layer on a serving plate and lightly brush with the simple syrup mixture. Using a cake or rubber spatula, evenly spread a layer of frosting over the cake. Place the second cake on top, brush with the simple syrup mixture, and frost. Use the rest of the frosting to frost the sides of the cake (it's o.k. if you have some left over). Sprinkle the frosted cake with sprinkles, if desired. Cover the cake and store at room temperature for a number of days. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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