I doubled and modified a chocolate cupcake recipe from thescranline.com - check out Nick's site and his Instagram feed if you haven't already; he does some incredible work!
Of note...you'll need either a kitchen scale to measure ingredients in grams OR - you can use this fancy ‘grams to cups converter’. Or just use the conversions I ballparked for you. You’re welcome.
350g all purpose flour (roughly 2 ¼ c)
450g caster sugar (roughly 2 ¼ c)
100g cocoa powder (roughly 1 ¼ c)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c /250g /16 T unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
350ml buttermilk (about 1 ½ ; I used a 2c pyrex liquid measuring cup with mL marks on the back)
2 t vanilla extract
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (180C) or 320 FC (160C) for a fan forced oven. Grease 3 8-inch pans with baker's floured spray and/or line pans with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar. Turn mixer on low speed and allow it to mix for a couple minutes to help everything combine well (or sift the ingredients together). Add in the softened butter until it’s well incorporated into the dry ingredients and no lumps of butter are visible.
Next, add milk, eggs, and vanilla together and whisk until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a slow and steady stream until no dry ingredients are visible. Scrape down the bowl and mix for another 20 seconds.
Fill the three pans evenly - I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part, and each of mine weighed out to about 550g. Bake for 30-35 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cake layers to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting. If you insert a skewer or toothpick and it comes out with wet batter, bake for another few minutes at a time until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Cool completely – set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
Of note - if you're reallyy in a pinch for time 2 boxed cake mixes (which I recommend by doctoring up by replacing oil with melted butter, water with milk and flavor extracts, and adding an extra egg) will work as well!
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- any desired toppings - I used red confetti sprinkles and plastic balloons I ordered from Amazon
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful!
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
I opted for fairly simple decorations for this cake - frosting swirls covered in sprinkles, plastic balloons, and a cake topper that I made - more on that below!
The balloons I bought came with a pinkish-purple one that didn't jive with my color scheme, so I cut that one off with some kitchen shears and just used the red, blue, green, and yellow ones.
I'd seen homemade cake toppers done before, but had always wanted to try one with sprinkles. The first go was a little ugly , but eventually I found a system that worked for me. I piped 'Happy Birthday' one letter at a time onto a piece of parchment paper, and covered the letters with sprinkles before letting the glue harden. I did have to re-shape some of the letters with a toothpick before the glue hardened; adding sprinkles can mess with the shape of the glue letters. Also, don't use foil unless you want the foil to be the back for the letters; the glue will NOT come off the foil. :/
I taped a few cut-out paper circles together to fit the size/shape of the Happy Birthday glue letters I'd made, and glued the letters to the circles. Then I glued everything to a small wood skewer to insert into the cake. I was happy with the way it turned out - though I wish I'd color-checked the paper against the rest of my decorations first. The 'red' paper I used went a little pink against the red balloons and sprinkles, but I didn't have time to do it over. Live and learn, right?
If you give any of the above ideas/recipes a go, tag @IntensiveCakeUnit on Instagram or my Facebook page, or drop me a line at my site email and let me know how it went!