Happy Valentine’s Day 💝 ! Today is also my twins’ 👫💕 birthday! Valentine’s Day was always sort of like New Years Eve. I felt lots of pressure to do something amazing, and no matter what we did, it rarely met my expectations. That was… until I went into labor and my twins were born (and that was pretty amazing 😉!!)!
There are three birthday traditions in our house: wake up to balloons in your room 🎈🎈, out to dinner at the restaurant of your choice, and I make you a cake 🎂. Remarkably we were able to get balloons ✅, we’ll order in this year ✅, and the cake is made ✅ . -Pretty good considering the circumstances 🎉🥳 !
This cake is composed of several elements: the cake, the frosting, the crumbs, and there’s even chocolate pudding in it. You can make everything in advance over a few days or you can leave some elements out. As written this will make enough cake and frosting and crumbs for three, 8 inch layers of cake and frosting for in between and on top.
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- 1 ¾ cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup natural/non alkalized cocoa powder, sifted or tapped through a strainer to make sure there are no little clumps (If you google natural vs Dutch-processed cocoa powder, you can find out more about the difference.)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup of coffee or water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup vegetable oil – I actually used ¼ cup vegetable oil and ¼ cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons (39 grams) granulated sugar
- ¾ cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (84 grams) lightly packed almond flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 50 grams (about ⅓ cup) salted almonds, chopped
- 2 sticks (226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup cocoa powder, sifted or tapped through a mesh strainer
- 3 ½ cups (454 grams) confectioners sugar sifted or tapped through a mesh strainer
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate Pudding (This recipe is from Epicurious S’mores Dark Chocolate Puddings. I used a ½ batch of just the pudding from that recipe.)
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons cornstarch/corn flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, sifted or tapped through a mesh strainer
- ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk
- 4 oz chocolate (54%-60%), chopped
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons whiskey (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F/175C
- Butter and cocoa powder your pan. To ensure that your cakes release easily from the pan, always butter and flour your pan (for chocolate cake, I use cocoa instead of flour) your pan. I also place parchment paper at the bottom. Just trace the bottom of your pan on a piece of parchment and cut it out. Cut just inside your line to make sure it fits
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the eggs, milk, water/coffee, vanilla extract, and oil. Whisk well to combine. The batter will be thin, but it bakes into a nice fluffy cake.
- Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, remove the cake from the pan and place a wire cooling rack. Make sure the cakes are completely cooled before frosting and assembling your cake.
Use right away or wrap in saran and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Preheat oven to 355F/180C
- With your fingers, mix all ingredients until chunky crumbs form. Turn out onto a parchment lined baking tray.
- Cook for about 20 minutes and rotate the tray halfway through. The crumbs will harden as they cool. Use immediately or store in an airtight container on the counter. If you have any very large chunks, you can just break them up with your fingers or a metal spatula.
These will keep for weeks, but I recommend using them within a week so they’re nice and fresh!
- Combine the milk and vanilla together (you can do this right in the measuring cup) and set aside. Combine the sifted cocoa, confectioners sugar, and salt together in a small bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.
- In a large bowl using a hand held mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the sifted cocoa, confectioners sugar, and salt and beat on the lowest speed until just combined. (I always get a big poof when I turn my mixer back on at this point, so I gently stir everything together with a spatula before I turn the mixer back on.) Add in the milk vanilla mixture and beat on high speed for another few minutes.
Use right away or store in a covered container on the counter for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. Let the frosting come to room temperature before using.
- Whisk sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt together in a small pot. Add egg yolks and whisk together to blend (mixture will resemble wet sand).
- Gradually whisk in milk over medium heat. Just after the mixture comes to a boil, it will start to thicken. Whisk constantly for another minute or 2.
- Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, butter, vanilla, and whiskey (if using) and whisk until chocolate is totally melted and the pudding is smooth.
Place pudding in the refrigerator and let it cool completely before assembling the cake. The pudding can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.
Assemble the cake
If you’re using chocolate pudding in your cake, the cake should not be assembled until the day you’re planning to serve it. If you’re not using pudding, assemble up to 1 day in advance.
If you have domed tops on your cakes, cut them off using a sharp bread knife (save the tops to enjoy with leftover frosting you might have : ) Starting with a flat-topped layer will help ensure that you do not end up with a lopsided cake.
- In the center of a plate that is large enough to fit your cake, place a heaping teaspoon of frosting.
- Place the first cake layer on top of the frosting and gently press down.
- Place some frosting in a piping bag and outline the edge of your cake with frosting. Alternatively, I used a mini scooper and went around the edge with little ½ scoops. Basically you want to make a dam to hold the pudding and crumbs in. Place ½ the pudding inside the frosting outline, then scatter some crumbs around. Add in some little blobs of frosting if you think you’ll have enough. Place the next layer of cake on top and press down. If you’re only using frosting, you can just put about ⅓ of the frosting on the cake and spread it around with a butter knife or offset spatula.
- Repeat above step.
- Once all 3 layers are in place, put some frosting on the top of the cake and spread around. You can decorate the top and the sides (in between the layers) with crumbs or frosting. (You could also use candy or cookies like m&ms, oreos, smarties, malt balls, peanut butter cups whole or cut in ½, or chocolate chips.) I used a star decorating tip for my little swirls. Take leftover crumbs (or whatever it is you’re using) and press them in into the frosting between the layers of cake. Be sure to leave a bit of space in between the crumbs so that your layer of frosting doesn’t just become a layer of crumbs.
I got lazy and wrote my birthday message in some leftover whipped cream we had lying around. I think I used a #3 round tip which was probably a bit larger than ideal (and my cake writing skills have gone downhill over the years).