Judging by how many birthday cakes I’ve been asked to make in the last few weeks, spring really does get everyone’s sap rising! Anyway, the lovely Natasha Bailie (parental types should check out her blog, the milkstand) asked me to make a cake in honour of her baby boy’s first birthday. The babies attending Max’s birthday party will be having something a little kinder to young tummies and teeth, but the grown ups are getting the big-fat-birthday-cake experience with this totally chocolaty bad boy.
The instructions for making the ganache are given last as covering the cake with this divine mixture is the last stage of the cake. However, as the ganache needs to cool before using, it’s actually a good idea to make it first, or around the same time as you make the sponge.
Totally Chocolaty Birthday Cake
For the cake:
- 225g butter, softened
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 50g cocoa, sifted
- 175g self raising flour
- half tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 – 2 tbsp milk
Heat the oven to 175C and grease and line 2 8″ cake tins with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in two of the eggs until well mixed and smooth. Add the cocoa and a bit of the flour and mix again, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is being well incorporated. Beat in the third and fourth egg, then the remaining flour and baking powder, then the vanilla and syrup, and finally slowly add the milk, mixing until you get a soft batter that drops easily off a spoon. Divide the mixture as evenly as possible between the two prepared tins, flattening it out with a spatula. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes – the cake is done when the middle springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, a skewer comes out clean and it’s beginning to come away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, remove the greaseproof paper and cut in half with a large, serrated (bread) knife. You now have your four layers ready for filling and covering!
For the white chocolate buttercream:
- 200g butter, softened
- 400g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g white chocolate
If you have a free standing mixer or electric hand whisk, I’d suggest using it for this.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla (start slowly to try and avoid covering your kitchen in icing sugar). Beat for longer than you think you need to – this way you’ll get a lovely soft, lightly whipped textured buttercream. Melt the white chocolate (either in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or very carefully in a microwave in bursts of 20 seconds, stirring in between). Allow the chocolate to cool a little before adding to the buttercream and give it a really good beating to make sure it’s well mixed.
Place one of your layers of cake on a cake board or whatever serving plate you’re planning on using. Dollop about a third of the buttercream on and use a palatte knife to spread it out to the edges in an even layer. Add another layer of cake, taking a little time to make sure it’s on straight and pressing down lightly to secure it. Repeat the process with the buttercream and cake layers until you have all four layers of cake sandwiched together with three generous layers of buttercream.
For the chocolate ganache:
- 300ml double cream
- 500g milk chocolate, chopped
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- small pinch salt
Warm the cream in a medium sized saucepan until just under boiling point, a few small bubbles at the edge of the pan are fine. Turn off the heat. Add the chopped chocolate and stir into the cream with a spatula until completely smooth and no lumps of chocolate remain. Add the vanilla and a very small amount of salt (sea salt for preference over table salt) and mix well. Allow to cool completely, stirring occasionally. The mixture will become thick, but spreadable.
Dollop most of the mixture on the top of the cake, then use a spatula or large palatte knife to smooth it out to the edges and down over the sides (this video will show you how far better than I can explain it!). If you want a really shiny finish, dip your metal palatte knife in hot water, dry it on paper towel and use the hot knife to smooth the surface of the ganache. Decorate however you wish – I melted a little white chocolate and piped the birthday boy’s name and age, but be as creative and flamboyant as you feel befits whoever the cake is for!
I have plenty of cake recipes that would all make wonderful birthday cake, click here to check them out.