Birthday Cake

homemade yellow cake with chocolate frostingHappy birthday, little blog: Scarpetta Dolcetto turns one year old today!

I’ve been on something of a birthday roll this week (yours truly turned 29 again on Monday): dinner out with family, celebratory mint juleps one night and one of my all-time most-favorite meals (rosé and Zuni Café‘s roast chicken) the next. It’s time now to get back in the kitchen and down to business. Birthdays require cake!

The potential snag here is that the homemade layer cakes of my memory (yours too, probably, if you grew up in America with a busy mom) were Duncan Hines with tub frosting. When I read “birthday cake” that’s the image (and the taste) that pops into my head. And those flavors are specific; a fancy-pants genoise with Swiss-style buttercream just isn’t right. After a few near-misses and almost-theres, I’ve found this scratch version captures that nostalgic, homey flavor combination I’m after, without any weirdo food-lab ingredients. Downy, fine-textured yellow cake and fudgey, creamy frosting, sprinkles optional.

Along with birthday cake, I also want to share my heartfelt thanks, friends, for stopping by the blog each week (or just once in a while), for your support and feedback and good cheer. Y’all have been so nice, and I love hearing from you. Special thanks to my guinea pig friends who’ve eaten their way through the good, the bad and the ugly, and to Matt, my biggest-fan husband, who never once complained that his dinner was getting cold. It’s been a wonderful year!

Yellow Layer Cake
adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, 1988

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 C milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3 C sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8″ cake pans, line the bottoms with circles cut out from parchment paper, grease again and flour. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the yolks, vanilla and 1/4 C milk. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the dry ingredients and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides with a spatula.

Add the egg mixture and mix on medium speed to combine (it will look curdled at first, but keep going), scraping down the sides as needed. In three batches, add the dry mixture, alternating twice with the remaining 3/4 C milk. (In other words, add 1/3 of the dry mixture, 1/2 the milk, 1/3 dry, rest of the milk, 1/3 dry.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake, and the cake springs back lightly when pressed, about 30 minutes. (The sides will shrink back from the sides of the pan only after you take it out of the oven.) Let cool for 10 minutes. Gently run a metal spatula or butter knife along the sides of the pan to loosen, then remove the cakes and let cool completely on wire racks. If desired, use a serrated knife to level off the tops or cut into four layers. Frost (don’t forget to remove the parchment paper!) or wrap airtight for up to 2 days or freeze for 2 months, though the cake’s texture is best the same day it’s baked.

Note: Rose Levy Beranbaum has a unique way of blending cake batters, but I chickened out and used a traditional creaming method. Worked great.

yellow birthday cake and candlesChocolate Fudge Frosting
adapted from Maida Heatter’s Cakes, 2011

  • 8 oz milk chocolate
  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 C sour cream, room temperature
  • 10 oz store-bought chocolate fudge sauce

Roughly chop the chocolates and place in a heat-proof bowl over a small pot with 1″ simmering water. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely melted.

Transfer to a large bowl of an electric mixer. Add the salt, vanilla, sour cream and fudge and beat on low speed until smooth and satiny. (If it’s too thick to frost the cake, thin out with a little bit of hot coffee or water; if too thin, let stand for about half an hour.)

Add a generous 1/4 C frosting between the four cake layers (or 1/2 C if using two layers) with a little extra toward the edges to fill in the gap between the layers. Smooth frosting over the sides and then the top of the cake; smooth the frosting or make a swirl pattern as desired.

Note: the fudge sauce was my addition, inspired by a frosting I often made at the bakery where I used to work. Look for the kind of sauce sold in glass jars that ask you on the label to microwave before serving; Hershey’s-style syrups are too thin.

About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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37 Responses to Birthday Cake

  1. Matt says:

    a year of deliciousness, capped by my favorite dessert: yellow cake with chocolate frosting! here’s to many, many more….

  2. Jeannie says:

    Matt always told me his fav cake was yellow with chocolate frosting. Now I know why! Happy belated birthday Kate!

  3. Happy 1st anniversary to your blog and Happy Belated Birthday! That’s double the reason to enjoy this beautiful cake. 🙂 Cheers to many more years of lovely blogging (and more 29th birthdays, of course!). 🙂

  4. I love Rose, always use her Bread Bible. That cake looks amazing. Happy belated birthday!

  5. Absolutely gorgeous cake!

    Here’s to many more!!!

  6. This is my husband’s favorite cake combo! Yours looks beautiful.

    • My husband’s, too! Thousands of dollars spent on culinary school & he’d always request Duncan Hines for his birthday. 🙂 Glad to finally find a scratch version that fits the bill!

  7. Dacia says:

    Happy Blogiversary! That cake looks beautiful and I cannot wait to try out the recipe. Thank you!

  8. I hope that you had a really happy birthday. Your cake looks awesome and those flowers are just beautiful. Lovely site.

  9. Happy birthday to you and to your wonderful blog..
    wishing you many many more amazing years

  10. Erin says:

    Umm… yum! Happy b-day to the most delicious and inspired food blog around!

  11. Serena says:

    Happy Birthday to you AND Scarpetta Dolcetto. We have SO enjoyed the recipes! Wish we were closer to San Fran so we could give you a big birthday hug in person.

  12. Felice says:

    A very happy birthday to your blog, and also to you. Great looking cake.

  13. susie king says:

    just to be precise, it always had to be Duncan Hines “Swirl” cake mix! This does look a lot better 🙂

  14. Happy Anniversary! That cake looks amazing and those flowers are gorgeous!

  15. Vicki @ WITK says:

    Happy blog birthday! This cake looks like the perfect way to celebrate! Fabulous work this year, keep it up!

  16. yvette memory says:

    congrats on scarpetta dolcetto’s birthday! i may not always post, but i check it out pretty frequently. actually had a friend just start a food blog and i forwarded the link to yours for inspiration! 🙂 keep it going! you are so creative, smart and interesting! fun read always!


  17. Happy birthday to you and your blog! Have enjoyed visiting and discovering your talented creations and photography. I have baked every single cake from the cake bible, except that one! (always wanted too though!) and Maida Heatter is one of my favorites too. Great-looking cake! (I used to work at a bakery where the lady-owner used Duncan Hines boxed mix and frosting to doctor up her cakes; sadly it is common at bakeries in the Dallas area to use mixes).

    • Thank you! Yes, mixes are alive and well in professional kitchens all over the place. At least in San Francisco there’s deep consumer distrust if bakers don’t use fresh/natural/sustainable ingredients. Puts a lot of good pressure on folks to bake honestly. 🙂

  18. Liz says:

    Happy birthday to your wonderful blog!!!! What a perfect celebratory cake! My family would approve 🙂

  19. Judy says:

    Happy Birthday to you and your blog. The cake looks yummy!

  20. BestOodles says:

    I know what the next birthday cake I gonna bake. It looks delicious.

  21. Caroline says:

    Gorgeous cake!! I don’t even like chocolate and this looks fantastic. 🙂

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