What’s your go-to birthday cake? I’m taking a wild guess and crossing my fingers that it’s the best chocolate birthday cake with chocolate frosting.
My dream cake? Literally any cake someone else bakes for me, amen. Though if they happen to bake an angel food cake topped with mountains of fresh raspberry whipped cream that would be the dream of dreams. Bakers know not to be choosers when it comes to their own birthday cakes. Any cake we didn’t make is the birthday cake of our dreams and we thank you.
Let’s talk about your birthday cake…. or your son’s, or your wife’s, or your second cousin’s, or your neighbor down the way – EVERYONE needs cake and heck, in this year of our Lord 2021, let’s make it an unbelievable chocolate on chocolate masterpiece with a smear of peanut butter for good measure.
At the start of the year The Kitchn recreated my version of Everybody’s Birthday Cake – a simple yellow cake that can be made as a 9×13-inch sheet cake, 2 9-inch layers, or cupcakes and I thought – it’s high time for a chocolate version of Everybody’s Birthday Cake. And where there is a chocolate cake recipe, let there be at least a hint of peanut butter.
Ready to grease your cake pans, friends? There’s always a birthday to celebrate – let’s go big!
Now, you might need a few other things on this cake journey. I’ve got you covered.
• How to Frost A Cake– it is, after all, a lifeskill.
• Of course there’s a vanilla version of that’s just as wonderful as a sheet cake as it is a layer cake. Everybody’s Birthday Cake: Vanilla with Chocolate Buttercream
• Maybe you don’t need a whole dang cake but you still want to treat yourself to something melty. Single Molten Chocolate Cake
• And trust me when I tell you that you can coax 12 Frosted Cupcakes from One Stick of Butter. It’s magic.
I’ve made more chocolate cakes than I know how to count and my favorite of all – the recipe I always flip to in my little handwritten recipe stack is – Hershey’s Black Magic Cake. It’s tender and flavorful, light but sturdy, bakes up beautifully in a sheet pan or bundt pan and I find it to be my ideal chocolate cake. This recipe is based on that Hershey classic.
Here’s what you’ll need for the best chocolate birthday cake:
• buttermilk or any kind of buttermilk substitution or dairy substitute you prefer which helps to make the cake extra tender.
• cocoa powder- Hershey’s natural for best results with this cake.
• oil and eggs for richness.
• granulated sugar
• coffee (or espresso powder in warm water) to add a depth of flavor to the chocolate and balance the sweetness.
• all-purpose flour (though you could make this a gluten-free chocolate cake with a gluten-free flour blend also works well), baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
No need for a mixer with this recipe (another bonus!), just a few bowls and a whisk.
First whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, salt and leavening, cocoa powder and sugar.
In a separate bow whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, coffee and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.
Whisk well to incorporate.
Chocolate cake in amazingly simple and forgiving, just make sure no sneaky flour lumps remain.
We’ll bake the cake layers until deeply chocolate browned and a skewer inserted in the cakes comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
While the cake bakes and cools, make the frosting.
Here’s where things get truly irresistible.
The chocolate frosting we’ll use for this decadent chocolate cake is a variation of my Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.
I don’t use the word ‘perfect’ frivolously – it really is that good. The secret? A mixture of Chocolate Ovaltine and whipped cream that whips this buttercream to super smooth. I know it’s odd but don’t skip the special sauce.
Start by creaming together well-softened butter, cocoa powder, and salt.
The butter and chocolate mixture will feel very thick, almost gnarly, just beat until it’s well incorporated.
Add peanut butter to combine. Yep. Yep. It’s all good news.
Beat in the powdered sugar and a few splashes of milk until smooth but still thick.
Now add the cream and Ovaltine mixture, just enough to whip the buttercream to super fluffy and smooth.
Allow the cake layers to cool to room temperature (no joke) before frosting the cake.
Spoon a generous amount onto the center of the bottom layer and spread to the edges in a thin layer or thick layer with an offset spatula.
Top with the second layer of cake, top side down and frost the edges and sides.
Sprinkle with chocolate jimmies and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set before serving.
Can you even believe how gooey moist this is? No matter whose birthday it is, it’s a BEYOND moment having a slice of this cake on your plate.
This cake bakes either a 9×13-inch sheet cake, 2 9-inch rounds, a bundt pan, or about 24 cupcakes. Any way you want to cake!
I hope this chocolate monster makes it way to a birthday table of someone you love. It really is such a special treat, just like every new year we get in the world.
Happy Birthday to you and yours!Print
A perfectly decadent chocolate birthday cake with chocolate peanut butter buttercream.
For the Cake:
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 3/4-cup (222 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (75 grams) Hershey’s cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup strong black coffee
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Frosting:
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (100 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups (500 grams) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup Rich Chocolate Ovaltine powder
- Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside. (Grease and flour a sheet pan or tube pan or line muffin tin with cupcake papers if using.)
- In a large bowl stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large measuring cup whisk together eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla.
- Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth and flossy, about 2 minutes. Batter will be thin – that’s right.
- Divide batter between the prepared pans.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes (18 minutes or so for cupcakes) (35-45 minutes for a bundt cake) or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before running a butterknife around the edges and inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the frosting, cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in peanut butter.
- Add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
- In a 2 cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour half of the cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream. Stop the mixer scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add remaining cream mixture or until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Beat until soft and creamy, about 1 minute.
- Frost the cake or store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Bring to room temperature before frosting cakes and cupcakes. There’s a tutorial here on Joy the Baker about frosting a cake if you need it. Happy Birthday!
Photos with my dear Jon Melendez.