The Best Yellow Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting
This year for my Aunt’s 80th birthday, her birthday cake request was simply put - “Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.” But just because something sounds simple, doesn’t mean it has to be boring! And this special request gives me the perfect opportunity to bring you two of my favorite recipes which, when paired together, create pure deliciousness.
Two thoughts before we dive in - I’m not a light and fluffy yellow cake person. I find that they’re often too dry, and lack complexity of flavor. So, when I began my search for my favorite yellow cake (which is actually different from white/vanilla cake…a topic for another time), I knew I wanted something with a tight crumb and lots of moisture, and jam packed with flavor. You’ll find that this particular recipe is definitely on the dense-cake side.
Second is that this frosting - while most certainly the BEST fudge frosting in the history of the universe - gets pretty solid once chilled. I’ve never left a cake out long enough to see if it returns to its naturally glossy and silky smooth state after refrigeration (I imagine it might take 10+ hours to find out), but it’s still damn good either way. If you frost the cake the day before or the day of, and your house isn’t so warm it might melt, just leave it out - covered - for up to about 30 hours. If you do need to refrigerate it after frosting, it will still be great, but the texture of the frosting might end up being more solid/cold-ganache-like than what you see when you’re done making it.
Okay - without further delay - Happy Baking!
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum & Cook’s Illustrated
MAKES one 9” 2-layer cake (thick layers!)
CAKE LAYERS - INGREDIENTS/SUPPLIES
8 large egg yolks*
1 cup and 1/3 cup sour cream, separately (240g & 80g)
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 cups of cake flour** (measure after sifting, or you’ll use too much!) (400g)
2 cups sugar (400g) (Rose suggests using superfine sugar - I’ve never done this, but why not! No need to buy it, just blast yours in your food processor for 30 seconds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into ~1TB pieces (room temperature - must be soft!)
2 9” cake pans
*What to do with 8 leftover egg whites? Here are some great ideas:
**If you don’t have store-bought cake flour you can make it quite easy. Per each cup of all-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons and then replace them with two tablespoons of cornstarch. Remember to do that for each cup! So, for this recipe, you would measure out 3.5 cups of all-purpose flour, then add 1/2 cup of cornstarch (8 tablespoons), and then sift it, making sure to use only 4 cups of the sifted mixture.
CAKE LAYERS - DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Apply cake goop a la the link above and the picture to the right, making sure to cover the sides thoroughly. If you don’t have cake goop (you should! go make some!), you should cut out parchment circles that will fit inside the bottoms of your pans, then grease the pan with butter or shortening, line the bottoms with parchment, grease the parchment & pan sides, and cover all the surfaces with flour, tapping out the excess into the sink or trash. Now, see? Wouldn’t cake goop be SO MUCH EASIER? Also, it works better. Okay I’ll step off my soapbox now...
In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together the 400g cake flour (4c after sifting), 400g sugar (2c), 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp baking soda, and 1/2tsp salt. Should take about 30 seconds on low.
In a separate mixing bowl, gently whisk together your 8 egg yolks, 1/3c sour cream, and 1TB of vanilla.
Add your 3-sticks-worth of butter pieces and your 1c sour cream, and mix on low until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 minute until fully combined.
Scrape down the sides of your bowl, then add half of your egg mixture. Beat for 20 seconds on medium, then add the rest and beat 20 more. Scrape down your bowl (check to make sure everything on the bottom is incorporated!) and mix for 10 more seconds.
Evenly divide your batter between your cake pans, either using a digital scale (which you should have!), a large cookie scoop (which you should also have!), or by eyeballing it (not the best method, but you gotta do what you gotta do).
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the tops of your cake layers spring back when pressed gently, and the edges are pulling away from the pan. Depending on your oven, it really could take as little as 35 minutes, or as many as 45, so make sure to start checking the layers every two minutes as of about 33. Don't overbake.
Let your cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks and let them cool completely to room temperature. Don’t try to frost warm cake layers! If you need to speed things up, once they’re not super hot, throw them in the fridge or freezer for a bit, but don’t forget about them - you don’t want them to dry out. Chilled layers are easier to work with anyways.
FROSTING - INGREDIENTS/SUPPLIES
2.5 sticks unsalted butter, room temp (important!)
1 cup powdered sugar (113g)
3/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa (63g) (I’ve used natural and it’s turned out fine)
3/4 cup light corn syrup (234g)*
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces milk and/or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (I like to do half and half - also, don’t use chocolate chips!)
*You may notice that in the picture, my corn syrup is in plastic wrap in a bowl. This is because a) if you put plastic wrap in your bowl/measuring cup before measuring you'll have one less dish to clean, and b) when you go to add it to your recipe, you lift it up like a little bag o' corn syrup, and snip the bottom so it starts pouring out, and then you can squeeze it thoroughly and really get all of it in there, rather than leaving a nice coating on your measuring vessel that was SUPPOSED to end up in your recipe.
FROSTING - DIRECTIONS
In a food processor, blend your 2.5 sticks butter, 113g powdered sugar (1c), 63g cocoa (3/4c), and pinch salt for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend 15 more seconds.
Add 234g corn syrup (3/4c) and 1tsp vanilla, and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
Scrape down the sides of your bowl, then add your melted chocolate and process until smooth and creamy, about 10-15 seconds.
Here's what the frosting should look like before and after you add your chocolate:
Because these cake layers are pretty thick, I like to use an equally thick layer of frosting in between the two, like this!
Make sure you level off the top of your cake layers before filling & frosting, so that everything stays even.