A Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Birthday Cake.jpg

I am not much of a baker. I prefer the capriciousness that cooking allows, the liberty to add things here and there as you feel. Yet there are some days (usually cold ones when I don't want to leave the house) when I want to do nothing but bake. Sometimes I bake a few little, simple things, and sometimes I take on a serious project. That's what happened with this recipe; a lazy Sunday morning with no plans in the diary, a chill in the air, and a friend's birthday the next day were the perfect conditions for me to attack a cake. 

The moment I announced my plan Dave gave me a wary look, all too familiar with my aforementioned tendency to not follow recipes to a t. He has, many times, been subject to the results of this type of baking. "Follow a recipe," he warned. Part of me wanted to wing it just to prove him wrong, but then again I was going to give this cake to someone and I couldn't exactly test the recipe once it was assembled and frosted.

This being the case, I played it safe. Not only did I turn to Molly Yeh's reliable recipe database, I made a cake that she made from Sarah Kieffer's The Vanilla Bean Baking Book - there was no way I was going to screw this up. 

And (good news!), I didn't. This Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting was a knockout. The recipe itself was great, but I also made sure to use quality ingredients so that the simple dessert could be the very best version of itself (I have no doubt it would have been very ordinary had I just used processed supermarket ingredients). The only thing I changed from the original recipe was replacing the corn syrup with coconut oil, which worked very well. I had some good fresh cream on hand, so I made the buttermilk and butter from scratch. My flour was fresh, my sugar raw, and my eggs from the farm, giving the cake a truly miraculous yellow hue. As for my cake decorating skills, they aren't anything to write home about; if you're in the same boat, I would remind you that there isn't much that can't be covered up with some very sparkly sprinkles.

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting


3 large eggs

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (297 g) sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks; 227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces



8 ounces (226 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 pound (3 sticks; 339 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoon corn syrup or coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cup (226 g) confectioners' sugar



For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with baking paper. 

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, sour cream and buttermilk until smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, beat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until just combined. With beaters on low, add butter, mixing until mixture looks like coarse meal. In two batches, add the wet ingredients to the dry, increase beating speed to medium, and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides and mix the batter a few more times. Batter may look a bit lumpy still; this is okay. 

Using the spatula, evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans, tapping gently on the counter a couple of times to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake until cakes are golden brown and an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly; remove cakes from pans and allow to cool completely. Wrap cakes in cling wrap and chill in the fridge or freezer (this makes it easier to frost) overnight.


For the frosting:

Add some water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set over boiling water. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla, coconut oil, and salt, beating until completely combined.  Turn the mixer to low and add the confectioners' sugar, a little bit at a time, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until frosting is smooth, creamy, and uniform in color, 2-3 minutes. 

Assemble the cake:

Layer and frost as desired.