I'm convinced that there isn't enough cake in my life. In any given year I get to make two cakes, one for my husband in July and one for my son in September. My husband generally requests German chocolate cake which is pretty straight forward for me at this point; I've been baking him the same cake for over 10 years now. If I try to change things up on him he tells me to stop messing with perfection.
These days I tend to listen.
My son's cake on the other hand is one I look forward to ever year. It's so much fun sitting down and sketching out ideas or browsing pinterest for inspiration. I love to see his eyes light up when he first sees his cake, although this year it wasn't a complete surprise because he came in the kitchen to "help" me make it. What he really wanted to do is steal as of the chocolate rocks and chocolate covered almonds as he could get his hands on. Being a good mom I bought an extra half pound so he could happily munch away and I could get the icing and decorations on the cake. This is the first year I've had the cake ready before 9pm, which means my time management skills must be improving. We decided to have cake before dinner and once we were done there was hardly enough left for the next day. Overall, I'd say the cake was a huge hit, now I just need to come up with an idea for next year.
Vanilla Bean and Almond Layer Cake
makes two 9 inch layers
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons pure almond extract
1 vanilla bean
1 cup buttermilk
yellow gel food coloring
6 ounces extra dark chocolate chips (63% cocoa)
⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Two 9 inch round cake pans
double boiler or sauce pan and mixing bowl
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter both 9 inch cake pans and place a parchment round in the bottom to prevent the cake from sticking.
- Separate the yolk and whites from two of the eggs and set aside.
- In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt then whisk ingredients until combined.
- Using a stand mixer set on medium, add butter and beat with the paddle attachment until soft and creamy. Add sugar and beat for an additional two minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time, then egg yolks making sure to beat the mixture for 1 minute each time you add an egg. Periodically stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the batter. Add almond extract and optional yellow food coloring.
- Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and alternately add buttermilk and dry ingredients.
- Scrape down the bowl, then transfer batter to the greased cake pans ensuring the batter is evenly distributed. Bake for 26 - 30 minutes or until the cakes are done in the center and start to pull away from the sides of the pan. You can check if the cakes are done by inserting a toothpick into the center, if it comes out clean you're cakes are ready to be removed from the oven.
- Allow cakes to cool for 5 minutes on the stove before running a butter knife around the edges. Invert over a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. Once the layers have cooled they can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored overnight at room temperature or placed in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- In a double boiler add chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and half of the brown sugar. Stir occasionally until all of the chocolate is melted and the sugar is evenly distributed. Remove from the heat, but do not allow to cool completely.
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment add unsalted butter and beat on medium for 2 minutes or until the butter is soft and fluffy. Add remaining brown sugar and continue to beat for an additional 2 - 3 minutes. Add salt and vanilla extract, then reduce the speed of the mixer to low.
- Slowly add the chocolate from the double-boiler, then the confectioners' sugar. Once both ingredients have been added set the mixer speed to medium and continue to beat for several minutes. The icing should be light and fluffy and ready to use immediately.
- Once the cake layers have cooled you can begin assembling the cake. I suggest making the cake layers a day in advance to allow ample time for cooling.
- If necessary, trim the cake tops so they are level. Place 1 layer on your serving plate or stand, add a good sized amount of icing to the top and spread it out evenly.
- Place the second cake layer and remove a good sized chunk to create the dirt pit. Nibble on the remains as necessary (it's important to taste test along the way!)
- Spread icing on the top and sides of the cake. You can use an icing knife to make this step easier, but don't feel like you need to make the icing completely smooth. Make sure there is ample icing in the pit so the "dirt" doesn't slide when you move the cake.
- Crumble the brownie brittle or Oreo cookies, add it to the pit, and top with a few chocolate rocks.
- Wipe away any excess icing on your serving platter. Place your construction vehicles and candle, then add dark chocolate almonds around the base of the cake for a more finished look.
You may be able to find the dark chocolate covered almonds and chocolate rocks in the bulk bins at your local grocery store. Otherwise they can be ordered from Amazon using the links above.
Cake layers and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting adapted from Dorie Greenspan's
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