Our son Ryan is celebrating his birthday today, ironically he's here to spend it with us. He is spending a few weeks here while waiting for his new apartment in Milwaukee to be available in October. Moving back home isn't the happiest place to be when you are over 30, but he's making the most of being here, eating at his favorite restaurants, and ordering me not to bake or have unhealthy food in the house. Not sure who raised this kid, but it may have been wolves!
Every year on his birthday for as long as I can remember the birthday cake has been vanilla with chocolate frosting. The recipe is the same every year, and when I make this cake, it's so satisfying since it always turns out perfectly every time, and the frosting is really special. I always marvel at people who have 6 different vanilla cakes that they could make, when if you have one great recipe, you should stick with it. This one is my go-to vanilla cake recipe and this one is my go-to chocolate cake.
Ryan's Happy Birthday Cake
Makes two 9-inch layers
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, and cut into 1/2-inch bits
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
1 recipe Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Coat two 9-inch round baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar, and butter, until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add the dry ingredients, and gradually stir in the buttermilk and vanilla paste, beating until the mixture is smooth.
Divide the batter evenly equally between the 2 prepared pans. Smooth the tops, without pressing down on the batter. Bake until golden and a skewer inserted into in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the pans to a rack and let cool completely.
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover with plastic wrap or put in zipper-top plastic bags and refrigerate for 2 days or freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost before continuing.
When the cake has cooled, lay 2 1/2-inch-wide strips of waxed or parchment paper around the outside of the cake platter (this will to catch the drips of icing (and you can remove it them later, leaving your platter edges clean)
If the cake layers have domed centers, meaning it’s they’re not quite level, use a serrated knife, to cut level the tops of the layer so it is flat. Place the a layer, upside down (bottom side up,) over the strips and spread 1 cup of the frosting, from the center of the cake out towards the side edge. Place the other layer, bottom side up, over the frosted layer, and spread another cup of frosting out from the center to the edge. With an offset spatula, spread the frosting around the outside of the cake in an even layer.
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sour cream, plus extra to thin the frosting if needed
Stir together the sugar and cocoa in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. With a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or a hand-held mixer with beaters, beat in the vanilla, butter, and sour cream on medium-high speed until the mixture reaches a spreading consistency. Add more sour cream if the frosting is too thick.
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months. If refrigerated or frozen, bring to room temperature, as it will be difficult to spread when it’s taken directly from the refrigerator. Beat to soften; you may need to add a bit of sour cream to it to help.