Chocolate Cake....vanilla are going to love this. - Belle Année
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Chocolate Cake….vanilla icing….you are going to love this.

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I have been called stubborn before.  I can’t remember when or why but it rings in my ear like a familiar tune.  I prefer to think of myself as not stubborn but dedicated.  That sounds better.  That sounds like I have the ability to refocus my attention – I simply choose not to.  As opposed to stubborn, which sounds like I blindly follow one path throwing sensibility, and caution, to the wind.

We can argue the merits of being stubborn but it’s a moot point because you are going to really, really benefit from my dedication today.  Here is why:

A few years ago my son requested a chocolate and vanilla birthday cake.  Not chocolate cake with vanilla icing, but one layer of chocolate and one layer of vanilla (with a mango curd in the middle).  Naturally I made the cake.  More for me than for him, and really just to see if I could do it — and if it would be edible — but let’s not tell him that.  (You can erase the internet, right?)  Nearly everything went well.  The vanilla cake was terrific, the buttercream was great, even the mango curd, though time consuming, tied the whole thing together.  Unfortunately the chocolate cake was super dry.  Not just not-really-that-moist but rather oh-my-god-pass-me-some-water dry.   We did what any family would do – we fed him and his sister the dry chocolate cake layer and we ate the nice vanilla cake layer and the next day began the quest began for a super soft and moist chocolate cake.

The journey took 14 months.  I tried loads of recipes and loads of options.  Okay, maybe not loads but a few.  Enough that I was getting annoyed.  For his birthday this year he decided he wanted a flourless chocolate cake and I served him Mollye Weizenberg’s wedding cake – score – so I bought myself some time.   He LOVED that cake and I loved that it required being made a week in advance and served simply with whipped cream dolloped on top so we were both pretty happy this year.  However, I still couldn’t chalk this up in the WIN column.  I still needed a stackable chocolate cake.

And boy did I find one.

I started with a recipe from Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence that was supposed to turn in to Mint Chocolate Cake, but I was super jet lagged when I was baking it and I accidentally left an egg out.  Then, when it was done, I was too tired to do anything with it so I stuck it in the freezer for three days until I went to Gabrielle’s house (the photographer behind these gorgeous photos) for some cooking and shooting.  When it was time to finish it I was a little buttercreamed out (what?) so I ended up making two different icings which sounds like a total pain in the *ss, because it is, but it was really worth it.   I put a sweet “traditional” icing in between the layers, and I covered the whole thing with a silky vanilla buttercream.

The end result got sprinkled with pomegranates, because they are so pretty and delicious right now, and was perfectly moist with just enough creaminess from the buttercream and sweetness from the icing that it all came together in the gorgeous chocolatey cakey explosion….that you deserve.

So.  That’s what happens when you are stubborn.  You get good cake.  Have I convinced you yet?

Chocolate cake & assembly instructions
  1. Bakers Joy or similar cake oil + flour spray
  2. 2 cups whole milk
  3. 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  4. 3 cups cake flour
  5. 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch process
  6. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 tablespoon espresso
  10. 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  11. 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  12. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  13. 3 large eggs, room temperature
  14. 1 tablespoon vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and adjust the oven racks to middle position. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans with oil + flour spray, line with parchment paper, then spray again.
  2. Combine milk and cider vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Using stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars together for about 4 minutes until they are light and fluffy. About half-way through scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla and espresso, beat for a minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beat for a minute after each addition.
  5. Turn the mixer onto low and add half of the flour mixture, mix until well incorporated, about a minute. Add half of the milk and cider vinegar mixture. Mix for a minute. Add the remainder of the milk mixture then slowly add the remainder of the flour mixture. Mix until well combined.
  6. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until a paring knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Set on a cooling rack for 30 minutes then remove from pan. Wrap in cling film and freeze for 3 days.
To assemble & frost the cake
  1. Place first layer on the bottom of a cake serving plate. Add half of the icing mixture (recipe is below) and spread in an even layer over the entire layer. Then place the second layer on top of the first layer and add the remainder of the icing, spreading evenly. Lastly, add the top layer of cake.
  2. Spread a thin layer of buttercream (recipe below) over the whole cake - top and sides.
  3. Place cake in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then remove and frost with the remainder of the buttercream.
  1. Sprinkle with pomegranates, tiny chocolate chips or rainbow sprinkles
Belle Année
Vanilla Icing (to use in-between cake layers)
  1. 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick) at room temperature
  2. 4 cups confectioners' / powdered sugar
  3. 4 tablespoons whole milk
  4. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a mixer fitted with a whisk. Beat for 2 minutes. That's it!
  1. Makes 2 cups.
Belle Année
Vanilla Buttercream
  1. 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  2. 4 large egg whites
  3. 26 tablespoons (370 g) unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
  4. 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  1. Combine your egg whites and sugar into a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of just barely boiling water and whisk until the sugar granules dissolve. About 5 minutes.
  2. Pour the egg and sugar mixture into a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk for about 4 minutes until the mixture turns white and doubles in size.
  3. Add the vanilla, whip for a minute and scrape down sides.
  4. Add the butter two-tablespoons at a time and whip until the mixture is white and the consistency thickens. Scrape down sides with a rubber spatula then mix for a minute. When the entire mixture is the consistency of room temperature cream cheese you are ready to go!
Belle Année

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Jessica Bride

I am a Notting Hill based lifestyle writer and Instagrammer. My reason for being is my family plus a combination of food + travel + art + life between London and New Orleans. Find me at @belleannee or covering arts & culture for @London.

  • Kim

    February 11, 2015 at 14:36 Reply

    How many would you say this feeds? I need to bring a cake to a baby shower.

    • jessica

      February 27, 2015 at 10:16 Reply

      I’m so sorry for the delay! I think I’ve answered this but it is enough for a 2-layer n 8″ round cake.

  • Good

    June 3, 2015 at 22:53 Reply

    Thank you ,I will try to do it.

    I have never tried vanilla cake , These vanilla cake looks awesome!

  • Audris Odhner

    June 23, 2015 at 17:33 Reply

    I cannot wait to try this for my hubby’s birthday. I don’t have much space in my freezer. Is it necessary for the cake to be frozen?

    • jessica

      June 24, 2015 at 09:12 Reply

      I think there is a huge difference after freezing. It makes it a bit more dense and moist — but I have also had it same day and it was great. Good luck! Let me know how it turns out!

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