My best friend celebrated her birthday in late August and, as I have been experimenting with baking all summer, I wanted to create something special. For her party, I decided to make her this classic and elegant birthday cake.
Although an exciting idea, this task was especially daunting for me because I’d never successfully constructed and decorated a multilayer cake. I’ve always admired smooth and beautifully decorated cakes on Instagram but constantly avoided attempting them myself. But what else could I bake? It was a birthday party after all!
This recipe is adapted from Half Baked Harvest’s Better Together Chocolate and Vanilla Birthday Cake. I absolutely fell in love with this cake as it was gorgeous, simple, and the perfect birthday party crowd-pleaser. Especially cut, I adored the contrast between the chocolate and vanilla layers.
The first part of this recipe was making the cakes! I used three 8-inch round baking pans to make two chocolate layers and one vanilla. After scooping a third of the batter into each pan and spreading it, I suggest letting them sit on a table for a couple of minutes to level out. I found that the vanilla cake, which I scooped first, baked to be more level than the chocolate cakes, which both turned out to be a little lopsided. After the cakes are completely cool, it was time to level them and prepare the vanilla buttercream. I leveled the cakes using a regular knife and a turntable. I found that it’s best to keep the knife still as you rotate the table to get an even and flat top. I used vanilla buttercream to spread between each layer and do a crumb coat around the edge and top of the whole cake. Finally, I let the whole cake sit in the fridge to chill overnight.
In the morning I took the cake out of the fridge and began to decorate it! The best part of making this cake by far was getting creative with the decoration – which, ironically, was the part I had feared the most. In particular, I tried a drip with chocolate ganache for the first time and now can’t wait to try and perfect this technique on more cakes. The first step in decoration was making the chocolate buttercream and spreading it evenly around the edges. This took me more time than I would like to admit but using a turntable and spatula, I finally got a pretty smooth surface. After letting the cake chill again, I prepared the chocolate ganache for the drip. Like mentioned before, this was my first attempt at a drip cake so there were a few learning curves and mistakes. I found this video extremely helpful to watch before trying the drip for the first time.
After letting the drip set, I began decorating with the leftover icing, the berries, and stenciled white chocolate letter. Overall, I really loved how this cake turned out and it was so rewarding to create. If I were to go back and do it again, I would use a little less buttercream around the edges and a drizzle of simple syrup in between each layer before stacking to keep the cake moist.
Layered Chocolate and Vanilla Birthday Cake
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- ¼ cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- ¼ cup hot black coffee
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ¼ cup heavy cream
Chocolate Ganache Drip
- 60 g 60% dark chocolate chips
- 60 g heavy cream
- 60 g White chocolate chips for lettering
Baking the Cakes
- Begin by preheating your oven to 350° F. Butter and line three 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
- In a separate bowl, combine the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to mix until well incorporated. Add the greek yogurt and the vanilla.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients slowly. To the wet ingredients, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the whole milk until everything is well mixed.
- Remove about 3 cups of batter and spread it in a cake round with the back of a spatula. This will be your vanilla cake. Set aside.
- Using an electric hand mixer, add the cocoa powder and coffee to the remaining batter.
- Divide the chocolate batter between the remaining two pans and spread evenly. Let sit for 5 minutes before placing all the cakes in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Let the cakes cool completely before continuing.
- When your cakes have completely cooled, place each one on a turntable and level. Set in the fridge to chill.
- Begin making the vanilla buttercream by beating the butter and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate the vanilla and beat until fully combined.
- Place a leveled chocolate layer on a plate and spread the top with vanilla buttercream. For this to work well, your cake should be cool and your frosting room temperature.
- Stack the vanilla layer and spread more buttercream on the top.
- Stack the final chocolate layer on top of the vanilla layer and frost the sides and the top of the whole cake in a light layer of the remaining buttercream. Place the assembled and coated cake in the fridge to chill overnight or until set.
- Begin making the chocolate buttercream by beating the butter and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate the vanilla, cocoa powder, and heavy cream into the mixture and beat until fully combined.
- Take the chilled cake out of the fridge and place the plate on a turntable. Use a spatula to fully cover the sides and top of the cake in chocolate buttercream. Try to have the frosting be as smooth as possible.
- Set the cake in the fridge to chill for 40 minutes or until the frosting is fully set. Set aside the remaining chocolate frosting for decoration.
- Prepare the chocolate ganache by combining the chocolate and heavy cream in a bowl. Microwave on low for 20 seconds and mix well. Repeat the microwaving and stirring process in short increments until the chocolate chips are completely combined with the cream. Place the ganache in a piping bag.
- Take the chilled cake out of the fridge and pipe delicately around the rim of the cake. Alternate pressure to create a variation of long and short drips around the edge of the cake. Use a spatula to spread the remaining ganache over the top of the cake. Once again set the cake in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes or until the ganache is fully set.
- Put the remaining chocolate frosting in a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe eight evenly spaced dollops on the top of the cake around the edges. Decorate between the piping with mixed berries. Cover the bottom edge of the cake in mixed berries as well.
- Optional: Write a message on parchment paper and place the paper on a baking tray. Melt white chocolate chips with a little bit of oil in the microwave. Mix well and place in a piping bag. Trace the message in white chocolate on the parchment paper and place in the freezer to chill until set. Remove the letters carefully and place them in the center of your cake.