Today is my husband’s birthday and I made him a cake. Not just any cake, this one is a bit playful, fanciful, fun…well if you knew my husband you’d get it.
My husband has this wonderful sense of whimsy, one of the many reasons I love him. About a month or so ago we were at the Tanger Outlets in Riverhead, NY and of course stopped into the Williams-Sonoma Outlet store. As I meticulously combed through the aisles looking for some new gadget I came across these funky cake pans:
When I showed the box to my husband he smiled and asked if I would make this as his birthday cake this year. Sure, why not. Great, he said, there’s just one thing, could you make a vanilla cake with chocolate filling instead? Hee hee, see, whimsical (yes, I know there are Oreo cookies like that, but this is a cake, let’s just go with it). Although my husband likes chocolate, he’s not a big birthday cake fan and less so a chocolate cake fan so in addition to inverting the flavors, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t overly sweet.
Not a problem. I made my trusty classic yellow cake recipe from the “King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion” cookbook. The recipe itself is not too sweet so I knew he would be happy with this choice. The only change I made was to use one teaspoon of vanilla and one of almond, rather than two vanilla (he really likes almond). Normally I use buttermilk when I make this recipe because I like the tang it gives the cake and I suppose that helps prevent it from tasting too sweet but by some miracle of absentmindedness, I forgot to buy it; so I used one cup of milk and a half cup of Greek yogurt. It worked.
Note: These pans are shallower than typical cake pans so you will have batter left over…I made cupcakes! 🙂
The only thing I was a bit concerned about was the pans themselves. There were so many nooks and crannies that I had a moment of panic as I was greasing and flouring every divot, every letter, every…you get my point. Hey, what is the difference between a “nook” and a “cranny” anyway? Got any ideas? Let me know.
Ahem, I digress… as it turned out both layers came out fine, although I think I was holding my breath as I removed them from the pans.
I decided to wing it a bit with the buttercream. I wanted something a little stiffer than normal so I could make him a “double-stuff” cake and not have to worry about ooze. This recipe is inspired by one in the “King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion” cookbook and one that I scribbled on a piece of paper from who knows when and who knows where.
I always like to use a little espresso whenever I make something chocolate. It does two things for me: enhances the chocolate flavor and cuts some of the sweetness, especially in a buttercream.
Here’s my recipe for Stiff Chocolate Buttercream
1/2 stick room temp butter cut into cubes
pinch of salt
1/2 tbs instant espresso powder
1/2 cup milk (plus more if needed)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 – 1lb of confectioners sugar (depending on how sweet you want it, I used 3/4 lb)
1. Whip the butter and salt until it’s smooth and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
2. While that is going, dissolve the espresso powder in the milk. The brand I use is so fine that it will dissolve in the milk without heating it.
3. On slow speed add about 1/3 of the confectioners sugar and mix until blended.
4. Add half of the espresso-milk mixture and all of the vanilla, mixing until combined.
5. Continue alternating the sugar and expresso-milk mixture, mixing until blended between each addition.
6. Carefully add the cocoa powder and mix until combined.
If it’s too stiff add additional milk a tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistancy you want.
Note:You can refrigerate the buttercream until ready to use but make sure you allow it to soften before doing so.