happy birthday cake to me: black magic cake with vanilla bean buttercream

black magic cake

I tend to get a little excited about birthdays. I love making cakes for my loved ones and friends and when it comes to my birthday, I love to make myself a cake too. Last year I baked two cakes for my birthday. The previous year I baked the fantastic Winning Hearts and Minds cake from Orangette. The year before that I made two kinds of cupcakes for a karaoke and shuffleboard party at the local legion (which I transported there via bike). And before that I made a yellow cake layered with lemon curd and drizzled with dark chocolate ganache. Really, if it’s not obvious already, I have no problem baking for myself. Not at all.

happy birthday to me

It’s usually a big decision on what kind of cake to make. I cast my net wide and then narrow down the choices until I’ve found something perfect. This year, however, I had it all figured out. The week before my birthday, Cornelius and I went out for dinner at a local diner – the kind of diner with formica countertops, comfy booths and where you probably should order pie, except we never do. So as we walked to the cashier to pay our bill, I saw the most wonderful looking chocolate cake in the display case. The cake was skyscraper high and covered in the fluffiest white frosting. I kicked myself for days for not ordering that chocolate cake. My cake fate was sealed. One chocolate cake coming up!

Chocolate cakes can be tricky. Sometimes they’re dry or just not very special tasting. I wanted a cake with a wow factor and luckily, I had one cake bookmarked for years that I was eager to try. The black magic cake by Hershey’s always seemed to get rave reviews and the truth of it is, I liked the name. Not to mention that the recipe is as easy as….cake. I think the key to the magic is the coffee as it helps to deepen the chocolate flavour. I made sure to make mine extra strong and used instant Italian espresso powder – 3 teaspoons to one cup of boiling water. I dunno if that was the trick, but this cake was amazingly flavourful and moist. This is, in my mind, the most perfect chocolate cake!

As for decorating, I usually keep things simple. But this year, I was kind of smitten with ruffles. I hate ruffles on dresses and blouses, but I do love them on cakes. Sweetapolita had a gorgeous one and then Thus Bakes Zarathustra (sadly now defunct) made it look simple – just some zig-zags. I could do that! Unfortunately, you need a proper cake decorating tip and because I have a pathetic collection of 4 tips found at a garage sale, I didn’t have the proper one. But, I was eager and didn’t let it stop me. I was gonna make a pretty cake or a pretty ugly cake – I was willing to take either option. Unfortunately, it was the latter and looked more like noodles than ruffles, but I was okay with that. The frosting? Just a simple vanilla buttercream with real vanilla. It was buttery and sweet and with the chocolate cake tasted like a giant Oreo cookie in the best possible way. I loved it and so did all my friends who happily ate up their slice.

chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream

elsewhere: Maybe you don’t want to think about cake (you’re crazy). Maybe you’re concentrating on dinner, if so, head to Poppytalk and check out my steamed fish with kale. It’s healthy and delicious and it makes it easy to have cake for dessert. You know, if you really do want cake.

39 comments to “happy birthday cake to me: black magic cake with vanilla bean buttercream”

  1. 1
    Shirleen   May 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Wow! You had me at chocolate cake. And ruffles. Oh, and also ‘…like a giant Oreo cookie…’. I’ve NEVER baked myself a birthday cake. Perhaps this year is a good one to start since its one of those milestone years! And your black magic layer cake hits all the right notes. 🙂
    Oh – did I wish you an early happy birthday some time ago? I think I did. If I didn’t…happy birthday!! x.

  2. 2
    christine [the sugar apothecary]   May 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    THAT is one spectacular looking cake! I love when people get excited about their birthdays, because I do too. Whether it’s my sister’s or my own, everybody deserves a cake made with care. Yours looks wonderful 🙂

  3. 3
    Jacqui   May 16, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Now that’s a cake! I love baking b-day cakes for people and myself as well!

  4. 4
    aynsavoy   May 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Looks scrumptious! I just bought some vanilla beans, too…

  5. 5
    Kimberley   May 17, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Yeah, that cake looks pretty amazingly lovely! (It takes a special cake to get me excited.) Happy Birthday to you, lovely lady!

  6. 6
    Joanne   May 17, 2011 at 3:27 am

    I love baking for myself on my birthday! It means that I’ll absolutely get the cake that I want (and I’ll get to lick the bowl…score). Black magic sounds good to me! That deep dark chocolate with the luscious vanilla buttercream…swoon!

  7. 7
    Meister @ The Nervous Cook   May 17, 2011 at 5:38 am

    You baked yourself the gorgeous cake you deserve! Happiest of happy birthdays.

  8. 8
    cory   May 17, 2011 at 5:51 am

    i love this! i have salivated over both cakes at sweetapolita (that pink!) and thus bakes (just gorgeous!) and i rather like the ruggedness that yours has with the thicker icing zigs and zags. it fits with the speckled buttercream & the side view of the cut piece looks amazing. great job!!!

    i really want to try this technique, but need to get another couple of round cake pans. im holding off because i have registered for them….but have seen so many pretty cakes lately im *so* tempted to buckle!

  9. 9
    sweetsugarbean   May 17, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Great looking cake – a girl must have chocolate on her birthday!

  10. 10
    heather   May 17, 2011 at 6:29 am

    I have cake on the brain too, but I have no way to bake it. We’re still in a vacation rental before heading on our long road trip this weekend, and can finally move into… wait for it… another vacation rental while we search for a home to buy! Love it. Soon we’ll have a proper kitchen with proper baking utensils, pans and ingredients. I’ll need an appropriately grand cake to break it in.

    Cheers and happy, happy, happy birthday,


  11. 11
    Rach   May 17, 2011 at 6:34 am

    That looks SO GOOD! I love the elegance and simplicity of the crisp vanilla buttercream against that near-black cake. I’ll add it to my list of chocolate layer cake recipes.

  12. 12
    Rach   May 17, 2011 at 6:35 am

    PS – how on earth do you manage transporting cupcakes by bike?? I managed to crush a batch to smithereens when I tried to bike them somewhere, though I suspect Amsterdam’s cobblestone streets might have played a part in their demise.

  13. 13
    Danabee   May 17, 2011 at 6:37 am

    THIS is a fabulous chocolate cake. I found this same recipe on the Food Network site, titled “Beatty’s Chocolate Cake”, while searching for a chocolate cake for my nephew’s birthday. It’s the answer to my chocolate cake prayers, too! I used an addictive whipped cream frosting from here: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/sturdy-whipped-cream-frosting/Detail.aspx
    But that vanilla buttercream looks gorgeous so I’m going to try it on the cake this weekend for my little boy’s 4th BDay party.
    And your cake there is really lovely. Kind of basket weave-y. Me and frosting, we don’t always get along and my cakes end up having to hide under sprinkles or flower petals or cocoa powder or somesuch.

  14. 14
    vanillasugarblog   May 17, 2011 at 7:07 am

    awww was it your birthday? happy birthday sweetie!
    you made a fabulous cake. perfect buttercream. i might have to use this as i have never made a vanilla “bean” buttercream.
    and i LOVE having hot coffee with my cake too!!

  15. 15
    Rachel (Olalliberry)   May 17, 2011 at 9:13 am

    What a beautiful cake! My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and I am thinking of baking my own cake… glad to know I’m not the only one!!

  16. 16
    Kali   May 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Guess what I’m veganizing next week? That baby up there!

    Happy belated birthday, by the way!

  17. 17
    Redpath Sugar   May 18, 2011 at 7:38 am

    This looks SO delicious! We posted it on our Facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/redpathsugar



  18. 18
    Rach   May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    p.s – you could TOTALLY do rows of shell borders with a star tip, a la this stunning cake http://shop.herriottgrace.com/product/candy-dish-15

  19. 19
    kickpleat   May 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Shirleen, well, I think this is your kind of cake! And yes you did – my birthday was May 8th & you were actually the FIRST person to wish me! Thank you!!

    Christine, glad I’m not the only one 🙂

    Thanks Jacqui!

    Aynsavoy, I bought some vanilla beans a while ago and was just itching to use them up. This is what I call a very good use of the beans. Though ice cream would also serve well.

    Thanks Kimberley!

    So true, Joanne. Thanks.

    Aw, thank you Meister.

    Cory, thank you for praising my rugged and sturdy ruffles 🙂 I only have one cake pan, so the oven was on longer than it should have been. Maybe I’ll get myself some proper cake pans too!

    I agree, sweetsugarbean!

    Heather good luck with house-hunting! Enjoy all the upcoming fun!!

    Rach, this is such a good cake recipe. And thank you for the inspiration. As for the cupcake transport – the key is no bumps. Luckily there aren’t many cobblestones here.

    Danabee, I’ve made a similar frosting to that sturdy whipped cream for my red ale cake on this site. It’s delicious and it would be great with this cake too. Have a great weekend!!

    Thanks vanillasugar, it was! Thanks and coffee and cake are perfect partners, aren’t they?

    Rachel, do it. I love baking my own cake – and cakes for other people’s birthday. I’m no snob!

    Kali, let me know how it goes!!

    Aw, Rach, thanks for the tip. I should have tried that – looks gorgeous!

  20. 20
    Tiberia   May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    The ruffles are great – remind me of some really cool mid-20th century architecture…and it’s tasty! 🙂

  21. 21
    Julie   May 18, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Happy birthday! Happy cakes! Love the vanilla ruffles!

  22. 22
    Tiff @ Love, Sweat, and Beers   May 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

    If I had a cake like that, I’d be excited about birthdays too! Happy Birthday!

  23. 23
    Bijoux   May 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Looks delicious of course! I love cake with frosting! You did a great job masking the cake too! Hope you had an awesome birthday 🙂

  24. 24
    Phyllis   May 20, 2011 at 4:56 am

    So my birthday is Sunday… should I make this Saturday evening (and will it need refrigeration if I do?) or, should I wait till Sunday to make it?

    Oh, if I make it Saturday…. I promise to wait till my special day to cut into it. Doesn’t mean I won’t be taste testing the frosting every time I get near it. :~)

  25. 25
    kickpleat   May 20, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Aw, thank you Tiberia!

    Thanks Julie!

    Tiff, I’m excited about birthdays always 🙂

    Thanks Bijoux. Is masking some kind of technical term?

    Phyllis, I’d bake the cake on Saturday and then frost the cake on Sunday – that way the cake is cool. I’d refrigerate the cake and then it can stay out on Sunday (unless it’s really hot where you are).

  26. 26
    Bijoux   May 20, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Yes, it just means covering the sponge with frosting 🙂

  27. 27
    Phyllis   May 21, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Thanks for your answer. After I got to thinking about this… I had decided to do exactly as you said, bake saturday and frost sunday. Well, except for refrigerating overnight.

  28. 28
    Elizabeth   May 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Your cake is beautiful!!! Happy belated birthday, and here’s to a great year ahead.

  29. 29
    kickpleat   May 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks Bijoux for the education 🙂

    Phyllis, glad I could help! Let me know how you like the cake.

    Thank you so much, Elizabeth!

  30. 30
    Mandy   May 25, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Wow this cake looks very intimidating! Happy belated birthday!!! 😀

  31. 31
    kickpleat   May 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Mandy, the cake is the easy part. Trust me 🙂

  32. 32
    whitney   May 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I’m totally behind on blogs, and twitter and all sorts of other things, so happy belated birthday! I didn’t know ours were so close!

  33. 33
    Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen   May 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Those flecks of vanilla bean in the frosting look heavenly. Happy belated birthday!

  34. 34
    kickpleat   June 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

    They are Whitney! Happy birthday to you too 🙂

    Thanks Adrianna!

  35. 35
    stephen   June 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    this is not a sandwich. please stay true to your goal and remove all cake posts.

    stephen (an unsatisfied sandwich enthusiast)

  36. 36
    Ashley   June 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    A very belated happy birthday to you!! I would love a slice of this right now and am debating whether it’s too late to bake right now…

  37. 37
    Naomi   June 12, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Thinking about making cupcakes out of the recipe! Any tips on yields or bake times?

  38. 38
    corny   June 13, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I’d check times at about 20-25 minutes to see how it’s doing, Naomi! Let me know how it goes!

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