Yeah, I made my own birthday cake. Does that make me a complete micromanager? (Don’t answer that.) It’s just, I couldn’t help myself. I made chocolate cakes for my girls’ birthdays and frosted them with chocolate butter cream. Delicious and they didn’t last long. But for my own birthday I knew I had to have my almost holy pairing of chocolate cake with peanut butter butter cream. It is my best beloved. While I always wince a bit when another birthday comes around I was almost literally counting down the days until I could dig into this cake; it certainly helped ease the bite of another year ticked off on the inexorable march to the next decade (looming so close now).
Today’s a lovely rainy and cozy day, perfect for drinking a late cup of coffee during the baby’s morning nap. I have plans for homemade pizza later and a pile of kale salad to use up the kale in the fridge before I do my weekly grocery shop. But my birthday — my birthday was a gloriously warm and sunny day so after a trip the neighborhood park to meet friends we came home, got Elspeth sorted for her afternoon nap and then Sierra and I had a cake-and-tea party in the backyard. It was the perfect way to celebrate the day and the girl does love a good tea party. I won’t say it was a very leisurely cake eating but it was a memory I’ll not soon forget.
About this cake: I’ve posted so many chocolate cake recipes on this site, and they’re all good. Solid. Worthy. Made and tested time after time. And yet there’s still room for another and this one is, at least for the moment, the absolute best chocolate cake recipe I’ve made in my baking experience. It comes from Sarah Keiffer’s The Vanilla Bean Baking Book with some adaptions by me and like every recipe I’ve made from her book (the pumpkin bread, the lemon-cranberry cake, the brownies) it’s rather perfect. Dense and fudgey, deeply chocolatey with a hint of coffee, this is the birthday cake of my dreams.
And maybe Sierra’s too. At bedtime she wished me a happy birthday again and very seriously added, “But we forgot the birthday balloons!”
Bless that sweet heart. They make it much easier to age, if I can spend my days doing so with them.
I baked this in a 10-inch springform pan with a baking sheet placed underneath to catch any drips and kept it as a one-layer cake with lots of frosting on the top and sides. But you could also do two 8-inch layers and fill and frost. Or frost one of the layers and freeze the other for a rainy day like … today.
For the cake
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup freshly brewed coffee, hot
1 cup plain Greek or whole fat plain yogurt
½ cup olive oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
For the frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4-1/2 cup peanut butter depending on how strong you’d like the flavor
2+ cups powdered sugar
Splash whole milk necessary
Make the cake
Heat your oven to 350°F. Butter two 8×2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Place the bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Pour the hot coffee over it and cover with a piece of plastic wrap; let stand until melted.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined. Add the yogurt mixture and whisk very well until smooth.
Whisk the chocolate and coffee together until completely smooth. Pour the coffee mixture into the batter and mix until just combined.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and place in the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out with the tiniest bit of crumb.
Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper and let cool completely.
Make the frosting
In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and keep beating until well combined. Add the sugar a cup at a time until it reaches a nice medium-firm consistency. Add a splash of milk if it seems too stiff or dry, adding sugar and/or milk until spreadable. Taste and add salt if you like. I like mine a bit on the saltier side.