Birthday Cake

April 14, 2008

At a restaurant, I love to peruse the menu and think about what the people at the table with me will order. It’s too bad that this isn’t a game in Vegas, because—frankly—I’m prett-y, prett-y good at it. When it comes to predicting Kevin’s order, I’m usually spot-on. And, while I’d love to claim prescience, it’s not exactly rocket science: he’s a man who knows what he likes. If there’s anything on the menu involving deep-frying, a delicious steak or molten-chocolate-ness, you can safely bet Kevin will find it, order it and love it. (At this point, I should mention that Kevin is, inexplicably, quite thin and in very good health. We don’t recommend, however, that you try this at home.)

So, when Kevin lodged a very specific request for his birthday cake—white cake with chocolate frosting—I knew better than to deviate. But, predictably, I had to gussy it up just a little bit, which led me to a vanilla bean cake with chocolate ganache frosting. I ran it by the boss, of course, and he graciously granted his consent.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Good thing, too, because it was delicious. Appropriately, it was a cake that practically screamed birthday. Its festive four layers lent a towering height that demanded a crown of flickering birthday candles. And its decadent frosting all but begged the birthday boy (or the baker) to swipe a furtive finger-tip-ful for himself (or herself). And its delicate, fragrantly vanilla cake layers played perfectly against its jacket of deep, dark ganache. It was a happy birthday to Kevin, indeed.

Vanilla Bean Cake

1 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 cup whole milk
9 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean, scraped
4 1⁄2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
2 1⁄4 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter and flour two 9- inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract and beans; set aside. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until combined, about 2 minutes.

Working in several batches, alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture, ending with milk mixture. Beat after each addition until the mixture is just combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cakes are beginning to brown around the edges and a tester comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in their pans on a rack for about 5 minutes. Remove the cakes from their pans and allow to cool completely.

If the cakes are domed, slice off the domed portion to create a flat cake. Slice each cake horizontally into two even rounds. Set one of the four layers on a cake stand, slipping pieces of parchment paper between the layer and the stand. Using an offset spatula, slather the top of the cake layer with frosting. Top it with another layer and repeat with the next two layers. Finally, place the fourth (last) layer on top and heap on the remaining frosting. Smooth the frosting out over the top and down onto the sides of the cake.

Allow the cake to set for at least an hour before slicing and serving.

Chocolate Ganache frosting recipe here (note: I made 1.5 times this recipe and had a perfect amount to ice the four layers).


11 Responses to “Birthday Cake”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Well I can say that all three slices I’ve had have basically knocked me out. They were big slices. But it was well worth it. Definitely my favorite birthday cake yet. Thank you! Although the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream cakes as a child were really breathtaking as well.

  2. Ali Says:

    This looks awesome!! I hope the birthday celebration carries over into our big family dinner plans tomorrow night… (aka, Kevin don’t eat it all before I get there!)

  3. I think most men prefer to play it safe when it comes to many things in life, including food. 🙂
    That cake looks beautiful!

  4. Maria Says:



  5. brilynn Says:

    That cake looks awesome and vanilla bean would have made it extra special!

  6. eggsonsunday Says:

    Vanilla bean in the cake sounds like a great idea!
    I love the photo of the frosting squidging out between the layers…mmm. What a lovely birthday cake! –Amy

  7. Kaykat Says:

    Wow! Insanely decadent. I could totally use a (huge) slice right now 🙂

  8. Mandy Says:

    What a pretty cake! I need to find a special occasion to bake this.

  9. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink Says:

    Kev: Thank you. But I’m pretty sure you’re required to say these things.

    Ali: By now, you know that I managed to tuck away a couple slim slices for you (or …. an entire half a cake … which you really should share with your roommates).

    Patricia, Maria, Brilynn: Thanks!

    Amy: I am so using the word squidge as much as possible from here on out.

    Kaykat: We’ve got so much leftover, so I wish I could share!

    Mandy: Thanks! If you try it, let me know how it goes. I’d be especially interested to get feedback on the cake (versus the ganache).

  10. brandi Says:

    Hi! I clicked over here from Serious Eats today and I love your site. This cake looks delicious, but the reason for my comment is to ask… is your “prett-y prett-y good” a Curb Your Enthusiasm reference? I really hope so. I say that all the time and no one ever gets it!

  11. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink Says:

    brandi: Thanks for stopping by! And, yes, it was a Curb reference. Glad someone got it …

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