July 6, 2009

Celebrating With Chocolate Cake And Vanilla Buttercream

Thirteen years ago today, our lives changed forever. I don't think we ever realized then (I certainly did not) how one little human being could take over our lives so completely and re-arrange all our priorities.
When we were younger, I remember 21 being celebrated as a milestone birthday by many. Traditionally though, birthdays in India (the ones I'm aware of) are not made much of unless it's a 1st birthday, 60th or 81st birthday.

Times have changed, and it seems like a 13th birthday is a bit of a milestone in itself these days. It seems to signify the end of the "birthday party" era and officially opens the door to the teenagehood.

Since today was a working day and a school day for Akshaya, she decided to celebrate her birthday yesterday. She didn't want a party, but chose to have a few of her friends over for tea instead. As the parents of those children happen to be good friends of ours, we ended up having a full house in the evening.

I have never baked a "birthday cake with buttercream/ frosting" for her birthday before simply because frosting and cake decorating isn't one of my strong points. This year Akshaya wanted a chocolate cake with "lots of vanilla buttercream", and a birthday girl should have what she wants (within reason, that is!)

A year of Daring Baker challenges gave me some confidence to try and attempt a layered (2 layers!) cake with frosting/ icing. This also proved to be the perfect opportunity for me to break in my recently acquired cake decorating set.

I used Gianna's Chocolate Cake which I found at Country Living. That cake was decorated with whipped cream but I needed a vanilla buttercream. I found the perfect eggless recipe for this at My Sweet And Saucy, which is from Elizabeth Faulkner's Demolition Desserts.

I used the given recipes makingonly some minor quantity changes in the ingredients for the buttercream. I added 1 tbsp dark cocoa powder to one small portion of the vanilla buttercream as I wanted a colour contrast to the buttercream to decorate the cake.
Here are both the recipes I used.

Gianna's Chocolate Cake:


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used dark)

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup oil

1 cup milk

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract


Butter the bottoms of two 9-inch (I used 8") round cake pans and fit with two circles of parchment paper. Butter the paper and pan sides and dust with flour. Set aside.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and maintain.

Combine the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Beat in the oil, milk, eggs and vanilla using a mixer set on medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and add 1 cup of the boiling water. This cake batter is quite thin compared to usual cake batter, but the cake bakes well.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake at 180C for about 35 to 40 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Unmould the cakes and return to the wire rack until completely cool.

Vanilla Buttercream:


1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice


Cream the butter and salt for 30 seconds with an electric mixer.
Add half the sugar and the milk to the butter and beat till combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and beat till combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, and beat the buttercream for about 5 to 6 minutes till light and fluffy.

Use on the cake as required. This buttercream is apparently best when used the same day, but can keep in the refrigerator for 3 days, if kept in an airtight container.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of buttercream (this was enough for filling, covering and decorating my cake).

Assembling the cake:

This particular cake doesn't rise very much, so you shouldn't need to level the top of the cake. If required, level both the cakes before assembling and decorating.

Place one cake on a cake plate.
Spread a third of the buttercream over the layer. Top with the other cake and spread a thin crumb-coat layer of buttercream over the top and sides of the two layered cake. Now spread most of the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.

Decorate with the remaining buttercream, as desired. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


This cake is very moist and almost brownie like in texture. It was nice to make a lighter cake with oil instead of butter, especially since the buttercream was rich.

I don't think it would make a very nice cake without the buttercream or whipped cream frosting, but is a delicious cake with the buttercream. The cake also stays soft if you need to refrigerate it before serving. I would recommend refrigerating the cake, especially if you live in warmer climates (like I do) and the buttercream threatens to melt off the cake!

I got rave reviews from every single person who had the cake. If you prefer a less intense chocolate flavour to your cake, use a lighter coca powder.
This cake serves 16 to 20 depending on the size of the servings.


Parita said...

Cake looks delicious aparna, loved the way you have decorated it!

Curry Leaf said...

WARM BIRTHDAY WISHES TO DEAR AKSHAYA.Good to know she enjoyed with her friends.
HATS OFF TO YOU APARNA,cannot take my eyes off the cake.Frosting is never my strong point as well.This is the effect of being a db.Enjoy.

Soma said...

Happy Happy Birthday to Akshaya!
Aparna.. cake decorating not your "strong points"? This cake looks extremely elegant & pretty! Very well done.

aquadaze said...

your cake looks lovely - i esp love the colour combination. Happy birthday to Akshaya.

Nags said...

the day i can ice cakes like that i wud be a happy happy girl!

Gopi Shah said...

Cake looks so yummy and perfect b'day gift for ur daughter!!

A2Z Vegetarian Cuisine said...

Birthday wishes to your daughter. A very beautiful cake and a perfect gift for your daughter.

Simran said...

Belated Happy Birthday to Akshaya. 13's a very special age indeed.

Ria said...

Aparna,so this was the cake!! :) I was soo eager to see it after you told me about it :) It is so elegant!! I loved the sides with those small dots!! And I'm sure Akshaya loved it! :) Belated birthday wishes to her!!! :) Beautiful cake!!

bindiya said...

Looks out of the world delicious!!!

Divya Kudua said...

Happy Birthday to Akshaya..:).You say you have limited decorating skills and come up with this..??It looks straight out of a bakery and I wouldn't mind getting old every year if it was for this cake..looks perfect..Kudos to you..mother of a teen;);)

Arundathi said...

Happy Birthday Akshaya! And the cake looks absolutely beautiful!

Suparna said...

hi Aparna,

Happy B'day and Best wishes to Akshaya!

Aparna you've made a very classy looking cake :) wow! the slices look neat n can tempt any one who set their eyes on them...yummm..
Kudos to ur effort n love that has gone into making this gorgeous cake!!

di_ani said...

Happy Birthday Akshaya!
Dear Aparna,
cake looks delicious & beautiful!!!
Congratulation, Diana

Miri said...

Happy Birthday to the newly turned teen! What a milestone :)

Being another person who has no confidence in her icing skills, I completely appreciate your going out on a limb to do this for your little girl (I attempted marzipan for my lil ones birthday last year!!- the things we do!)
- but seeing that you have been so good at it before, don't think you should have worried much! It looks fabulous and no wonder everyone loved it!

jayasree said...

Belated b'day wishes to dear Akshaya. Aparna, the cake has come out really nice. Well decorated. Good job. I am sure the cake met Akshaya's expectations.

Priya said...

Belated Birthday wishes to Akshaya..Wat a gorgeous cake AParna, Well decorated and delicious slices..

jayasri said...

first of all belated birthday wishes to akshaya, i can't take my eyes of ur cake it is looking so beautiful, i love cakes it is so early in the morning here and i feel like taking a slice from the plate, i have never tried decorating a cake ! i am kind of scared !, you have done a very good job...

Hari Chandana said...

Belated Happy Birthday to Akshaya... cake looks awesome... soo delicious n yummyyy... gr8 job dear :)

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Happy birthday to a demanding teen! I'm glad she asked for buttercream coz I know you wouldn't have gone in for something this rich otherwise!! YAY....Aparna, you've done a fab job with the frosting, & the cake with oil is a great idea. I'd love to try this, & the buttercream one day.

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

OMG that cake looks sooo good!! Welcome to teenagehood Akshaya [I say this having just left it less than a month ago :(]
What cake decorating 'set' did you get? Because your cake looks sooo good!!! You frosted the cake really professionally!

Nithya said...

The cake looks really professional and nice. Brilliant colors and nice designing. keep it going.

Red Chillies said...

Happy belated birthday wishes to Akshaya. Looks like her dream came true. The cake looks very professional, Aparna.

Bergamot said...

The cake looks just great... perfect a birthday party. Your daughter must have been delighted.

Sharmila said...

Happy b'day to your daughter Aparna! And what an absolutely beautiful cake! How did you get that very light brown colour ? Looks awesome! :-)

Manggy said...

Would never have known that decorating isn't one of your strong points-- it looks magnificent! Very well done and happy birthday to the young one! :)

Bong Mom said...

First happy B'day to dear Akshaya. Every b'day is precious and of course 13 needs to be celebrated :)

Second your cake is to die for. What a piece of art. With cake like this, she would claim for quarterly b'days

Madhuram said...

Aparna, very many birthday wishes to your daughter.

After creating so many amazing DB treats, you should not have doubted your cake decorating skills.

I tried a similar recipe but tofu instead of eggs and I know that the texture is amazing. Also I'm so glad to see the eggless version of buttercream icing.

Vanamala said...

belated bday wishes to your daughter..Cake looks amazing..

Karine said...

Wowow you did a really good job at icing that cake!

Ivy said...

Happy belated birthday wishes. OMG Aparna, I am sure your cake tasted great but the decoration is a piece of art.

Jayashree said...

Happy birthday Akshaya.
Aparna, that cake looks absolutely perfect.

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

Wow!! That is a super cake!!! I'm amazed that you achieved such a professional look!!

Belated happy birthday to Akshaya!!

Sig said...

Belated happy birthday to Akshaya, 13 huh? Wow, officially a teen now :) And did you say cake decorating isn't one of your strong points? That cake sure looks professional though!

♥Rosie♥ said...

Happy birthday Akshaya from England and I hope you had a lovely time with your friends.

Aparna, that cake is gorgeous!

Pari said...

Belated happy birthaday Akshaya.
And the cake looks beautiful straight out of a bakery shop. I need to take frosting lessons from you.

Aparna said...

Thank you all very much for the kind comments on my cake decorating.
I'm really not an expert despite the way my cake looks. If you will look carefully, I have only used a star nozzle to pipie the edges and a writing nozzle to do the design!

Akshaya also wants me to convey her thanks for all the birthday wishes. Yes, she enjoyed her birthday and the cake too. :)

Deeba, you know me well. ;)

Avanika, I'll take that as a compliment as I have seen your decorated cakes. They're awesome!

Sharmila, I just added 2 tbsps of dark cocoa powder to the plain buttercream and beat it well. That gave me the light brown colour.

Mark, she's not so little. At least, she doesn't think so! :)

Sandeepa, she wouldn't mind celebrating every month!!!

Pari, Thanks but I'm not good enough to give lessons (yet!) :D

Mishmash ! said...

Aparna, it's a neat work...and i don't believe it's ur first time....as it has come out perfectly...good job :)

Belated wishes to ur daughter :)