Who’s Got The Perfect Birthday Cake (and frosting) Recipe?

Photo by Jessica N. Diamond

Today it’s your turn. I got a request that I can’t do myself … not fast enough or well enough, anyway. A reader needs a recipe for birthday cake and frosting, from scratch, and I don’t have a good one. Have you got a good one you can share?

Here’s what Rachel wrote:

Please Help! I would love your help as my grandmother passed before handing down her recipes. They were all “in her head”. (and she was an amazing cook, a German immigrant).

My daughter’s 1st Birthday is next month, and it was tradition for my grandmother to make FROM SCRATCH all the grandchildren’s first Birthday cakes and frosting.

Any amazing recipes? Please make it NEXT!!

Thanks! Rachael

I could go research recipes, find one that looks good, give it a try, learn as I go, post the results (good or bad) and hope that I got it right on the first try. You know, my usual routine. But this one is important. Rachel needs something good, and she needs it now. No time for experiments and, “Well, I’ve always wanted to try …”

Have you got a scratch cake recipe, and frosting to go with it, that works every time? If you’ve got pictures of it or a recipe online, please include a link below and I’ll update this post with the links as they come in.

But don’t feel like you have to have it already online. If you don’t have a blog already, but have a recipe you want to share, put it in the comments.

Let’s see if we can’t help Rachel out here.


Here’s what we’ve got so far. Check in the comments for more as they come in.

The Creaming Method

No matter what recipe you choose, do the batter this way for the best results.


Cakes

Alanna’s Tasty No-fail Chocolate Cake


Gabi’s Chocolate Cake (Plus chocolate fudge frosting, Plus cream cheese frosting)


 
 


Ryan’s Chocolate Birthday Cake


Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake


(Recommended by Kathi)


Jess to the Lo’s GREAT Chocolate Cake


Tori’s Salad Dressing Chocolate Cake with Homemade Frosting


Tonya’s Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Makes a two layer 8-inch cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter again and dust with flour.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil and sour cream, then gradually beat in the water. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix to combine, and finally beat in the eggs until the batter is well combined. Divide among the cake pans. (you will probably have enough batter left for a few cupcakes)

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and peel off the parchment paper, letting the cakes cool completely. These cakes are very soft, and it helps to freeze them for 15 minutes at this point.


Alton Brown’s Yellow Cake

(Recommended by Stephanie)


Hot Milk Cake

1 cup milk
1- stick butter or margarine
Place in pan and bring to boil- Keep warm.

4 eggs
2 cups Sugar
2 tsps vanilla
Cream eggs, sugar, and vanilla well – The more the eggs are whipped, higher the cake.

2 cups Flour
2 tsps Baking Powder
A Dash of Salt
Add the above ingredients to the eggs, sugar, vanilla mixture and mix well.
Add Hot Milk/Butter mixture and mix well.

Bake at 350 degree F
Layer Pans 25-30 minutes
Tube Pans 25-30 min
9 x 13 pan 25-35 min


Frosting

Melissa’s Chocolate Icing

2-3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup icing sugar (sifted)
3 heaping tbsp cocoa (sifted)
2 tbsp evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt (at the end)

Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large bowl. If icing is too thick, add more evaporated milk; if too runny, add more icing sugar. I almost always add a bit more milk, just so you know. The salt incorporated at the end helps make the chocolate flavour more pronounced, but you can skip it and still have great icing.

This recipe makes enough to ice a pan of brownies or a single cake, so if you’re making a layer cake I would definitely double it (unless you want just a thin layer of icing, and who wants that? ).


Bill’s (very) simple frosting recipe

equal parts butter powdered sugar and cocoa
(Bill isn’t the talkative sort.)


Jess the Lo’s mom’s icing

3/4 stick butter
1t vanilla
2-3 C powdered sugar
2-3 T cocoa
milk or cream to thin

mix butter, vanilla, p. sugar, cocoa together and slowly add milk till it’s the consistency you want. If it gets too thin add more p. sugar.


Tonya’s Foolproof Chocolate Fudge Frosting

20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (60 to 65 degrees)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (4 ounces)
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
Pinch table salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.

(*double all amounts to make a generous batch to ice and decorate a 2 layer cake)

[Note from Drew: For what it’s worth, I would choose something without corn syrup, though I’m sure this is delicious.]


Peanut Butter Icing

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup Crisco [Note from Drew: I’d go with lard.]
1/2 – 3/4 cup Peanut Butter
1/2 – 3/4 cup cocoa
1 box Powder Sugar 4X (coarsest grain)
Dash of Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
Milk for Required Consistency

Cream Margarine/Butter, Crisco, Peanut Butter. Add Sugar, salt, vanilla, milk. Whip Until creamy.

Adjust Peanut Butter and Cocoa to taste.
 
 
 

Comments

  1. I make my frosting by eye, so I can’t help there. But I can offer an amazing, easy chocolate cake recipe that anyone can make. I’ve made it for many birthdays:

    http://expatrecipes.blogspot.com/2009/05/tasty-no-fail-chocolate-cake.html

  2. http://ryansrecipeblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/chocolate-birthday-cake.html

    This is a pretty chocolatey cake!! Yum! my lady loved it.

  3. Have you ever heard of salad dressing cake? It’s good and simple. I also have an awesome homemade frosting recipe included in that post. Even if you decide not to make the cake, the frosting is probably worth checking out.

    http://torispath.blogspot.com/2009/03/salad-dressing-chocolate-cake.html

  4. Melissa says:

    Here’s my chocolate icing recipe. You can make it well in advance if need be and store it in the fridge; just take it out 30 mins or so before you want to use it so it will soften up.

    Chocolate Icing

    2-3 tbsp butter
    1 1/2 cup icing sugar (sifted)
    3 heaping tbsp cocoa (sifted)
    2 tbsp evaporated milk
    1 tsp vanilla
    pinch of salt (at the end)

    Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large bowl. If icing is too thick, add more evaporated milk; if too runny, add more icing sugar. I almost always add a bit more milk, just so you know. The salt incorporated at the end helps make the chocolate flavour more pronounced, but you can skip it and still have great icing.

    This recipe makes enough to ice a pan of brownies or a single cake, so if you’re making a layer cake I would definitely double it (unless you want just a thin layer of icing, and who wants that? ).

  5. Stephanie says:

    I found a really good recipe for a yellow cake from Alton Brown.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/gold-cake-recipe/index.html

    It is so good, and easy. He also has a few varieties of frostings. I personally make the chocolate frosting from the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa Powder, and use jam as a layer filling.

  6. This is my favorite from-scratch cake: http://www.hersheys.com/recipes/recipes/detail.asp?id=184

    It’s so moist it doesn’t even need frosting, unless of course it’s a birthday cake which MUST have frosting (it’s a law, I think). I’ve never tried the frosting recipe on the same link so can’t give you an opinion on it. The cake, though, is superb.

    Kathi

  7. Jess to the Lo says:

    http://nihao93.blogspot.com/2008/06/great-chocolate-cake-recipe.html

    I love this cake! I was nervous about adding cinamon to a chocolate cake, now I make nothing but this cake. I personally prefer using dark cocoa but milk works just fine.

    My Mom’s icing is:

    3/4 stick butter
    1t vanilla
    2-3 C powdered sugar
    2-3 T cocoa
    milk or cream to thin

    mix butter, vanilla, p. sugar, cocoa together and slowly add milk till it’s the consistency you want. If it gets too thin add more p. sugar.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Jess, Cinnamon and chocolate seem to work so well with each other. I only found that out after I moved down here to Houston and had a hot chocolate from a taqueria. Now when I make anything chocolate at home, the cinnamon goes in.

  9. Laura P. says:

    I’ve had this buttercream frosting recipe saved for awhile (yet to have time to try making it). here it is (it has 4 different recipes in it):
    http://www.crumblycookie.net/2008/02/10/four-vanilla-frostings/

    If I have time, I’ll see if i can dig up a good cake recipe for you.

  10. Laura P. says:

    Here’s a link to a classic white cake with strawberry buttercream frosting…I’ve been thinking of making this for my sister’s birthday sometime.

    http://www.culinaryconcoctionsbypeabody.com/2008/09/16/getting-fresh/

  11. Anonymous says:

    Every 1st BD needs a chocolate cake and here is my favorite. I got it out of the Oregonian News Paper in Portland, OR several years ago.

    * Exported from MasterCook *

    Gerry’s Chocolate Cake

    Recipe By :Gerry Frank of Portland
    Serving Size : 12 Preparation Time :0:00
    Categories : Cake And Frosting

    Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
    ——– ———— ——————————–
    2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
    1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
    1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
    1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder
    1/2 Teaspoon Salt
    2/3 Cup Butter
    1 3/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
    2 Large Eggs
    1/2 Cup Water
    3 Teaspoons Vanilla
    1 Cup Buttermilk

    Frosting———————-
    6 Ounces Chocolate Chips
    1/2 Cup Half And Half
    1 Cup Butter
    2 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with waxed or parchment paper and butter and flour the paper.
    Shift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Set aside.

    Cream the butter, gradually add the sugar and beat at medium speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each egg. Gradually add the water and vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Do not overbeat.

    With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the sifted flour mixture and buttermilk. (Add the flour mixture in four parts, buttermilk in three, beginning and ending with the flour.) Blend only until the flour no longer shows. Do not overbeat.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pans and tap once to settle the batter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes before inverting on wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.

    To make frosting, combine the chocolate chips, half-and-half and butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the powdered sugar. In a bowl, set over ice, beat the icing with a wire whisk until the frosting holds its shape, about 10 minutes.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 644 Calories; 33g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 87g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 588mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 6 1/2 Fat; 4 Other Carbohydrates.

    Nutr. Assoc. : 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

    Bev

  12. My mother has passed down her Buttercream frosting to me…it is good on cakes and sugar cookies (pretzels or crackers too!)

    Buttercream frosting

    1 stick of softened butter (let sit in a bowl on the counter for a while)
    1 pound powdered sugar (give or take some since it usually comes in 2 pound bags!)
    1/2 tsp – 1 tsp vanilla
    2-5 Tbsp milk (depending on consistency you want the frosting)

    Mix sugar and butter together. Add vanilla and mix. Add milk, only 1 Tbsp at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. Truthfully, I do not measure out the milk, I will eyeball it. I have recently found out that my mom has used half & half in place of the milk in a pinch!!

    If you would like colored frosting, just add in your food coloring!

    Enjoy! And HaPpY 1st BiRtHdAy to your little one!!!

  13. onlinepastrychef says:

    First birthdays are important (every birthday is important:) If you’re not used to baking from scratch, you’ll need good directions for making a cake using the creaming method: http://www.squidoo.com/the-creaming-method Good luck with it; I’m sure it will be wonderful!

  14. Rebekah says:

    I hope I am not to late to input to the cake recipe. I got this recipe from a Boss of mine years ago. It is an awesome cake, so Delcious

    Hot Milk Cake

    1 cup milk
    1- stick butter or margarine
    Place in pan and bring to boil- Keep warm.

    4 eggs
    2 cups Sugar
    2 tsps vanilla
    Cream eggs, sugar, and vanilla well – The more the eggs are whipped, higher the cake.

    2 cups Flour
    2 tsps Baking Powder
    A Dash of Salt
    Add the above ingredients to the eggs, sugar, vanilla mixture and mix well.
    Add Hot Milk/Butter mixture and mix well.

    Bake at 350 degree F
    Layer Pans 25-30 minutes
    Tube Pans 25-30 min
    9 x 13 pan 25-35 min

    Peanut Butter Icing

    1/2 cup margarine or butter
    1/2 cup Crisco
    1/2 – 3/4 cup Peanut Butter
    1/2 – 3/4 cup cocoa
    1 box Powder Sugar 4X (coarsest grain)
    Dash of Salt
    1 tsp Vanilla
    Milk for Required Consistency

    Cream Margarine/Butter, Crisco, Peanut Butter. Add Sugar, salt, vanilla, milk. Whip Until creamy.

    Adjust Peanut Butter and Cocoa to taste.

    **My note – I haven’t been able to make this for my little ones because they had egg allergies.”

  15. Try flavoring the standard buttercream (butter, powdered sugar to taste (more than you might think) plus a few drops of whatever liquid to thin it) with whatever flavoring strikes your fancy – I’m particularly fond of cinnamon frosting, or also lemon or orange (use juice to thin, add zest if you like bits), or cold strong coffee, or peppermint extract, etc. etc.

    My favorite fudge frosting comes from Cook’s Illustrated:

    ULTRA-RICH AND CREAMY BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE FROSTING

    Makes about 2 cups

    INGREDIENTS
    6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    2 tablespoons corn syrup (or golden syrup or honey)
    Pinch table salt
    2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    8 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 8 pieces

    INSTRUCTIONS
    Place chocolate in food processor fitted with metal blade. Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to boil in small saucepan (or in microwave); stir to combine. With food processor running, gradually add hot cream mixture through feed tube; process until mixture is smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl once. Add sugar and vanilla; process until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once. With machine running, add butter one piece at a time; process until smooth and no butter chunks remain, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer to small bowl and let stand at cool room temperature until thick and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

    It’s probably very possible to do this without a food processor, with a blender or hand mixer instead or a sturdy arm and a whisk – just let the chocolate melt a bit when you add the hot cream mixture before you start mixing rapidly.

  16. Memória says:

    Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake recipe along with the buttercream icing posted here: http://therepressedpastrychef.blogspot.com/2008/05/buttercream-icing.html

  17. Here’s my never fail always chosen birthday cake…
    http://www.thefeastwithin.com/2009/05/18/happy-birthday-dear-rick/

    Try it – you’ll like it :)

  18. This is my go-to, never fail, beloved by all birthday cake recipe that is almost impossible to screw up. Don’t sub ingredients and don’t take any shortcuts. The frosting has the most amazing texture which comes from being made in the food processor but don’t try doubling it unless you have a large (14 cup) processor, it makes a large batch!

    Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
    Makes a two layer 8-inch cake

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 1/2 cups sugar
    3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 cup canola oil
    1 cup sour cream
    1 1/2 cups water
    2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 eggs

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter again and dust with flour.

    Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil and sour cream, then gradually beat in the water. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix to combine, and finally beat in the eggs until the batter is well combined. Divide among the cake pans. (you will probably have enough batter left for a few cupcakes)

    Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and peel off the parchment paper, letting the cakes cool completely. These cakes are very soft, and it helps to freeze them for 15 minutes at this point.

    Foolproof Chocolate Fudge Frosting

    20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened (60 to 65 degrees)
    1 cup confectioners’ sugar (4 ounces)
    3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
    Pinch table salt
    3/4 cup light corn syrup
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.

    (*double all amounts to make a generous batch to ice and decorate a 2 layer cake)

  19. Ok, I have to say, this is my favorite cake EVER. My mom has made this every year for my birthday since I was four, and I will be 33 this year. It's a black joe cake, so it's super moist from the coffee, even though it really just tastes like a chocolate cake that's less cloyingly sweet than most chocolate cakes. This means you can eat more without feeling sick. The icing is actually a coffee icing that requires a really long mixing time but becomes so smooth you will be amazed. The icing does require raw eggs, but as long as you keep the cake in the fridge I don't think you'll have a problem. It's well worth the risk. Like I said, I have been eating it for almost 30 years and have never had a problem. (Or you could get the eggs made to be used raw, though they can be hard to find.)

    Ok, here goes. First the cake. You will not likely find another cake/icing recipe like this.

    BLACK JOE CAKE
    Sift together:
    2c sugar
    2c flour (spoon into measuring
    cup and level)
    3/4 c. cocoa
    2t baking soda
    1t baking powder
    1/2 t salt

    Into that, add:
    2 eggs
    1/2 c crisco oil (veg oil is fine)
    1 heaping tsp instant coffee
    dissolved in 8 ozs boiling H20
    1c milk

    Mix until smooth. The batter will be runny. Grease and flour 2 round cake pans and bake at 350 for 35 mins or until done.

    COFFEE ICING

    1c sugar
    1c crisco (solid)
    3 eggs
    1t vanilla
    1T instant coffee granules
    1 dash of salt

    Combine all ingredients, beat on high speed for about 15 minutes.

    **NOTE**
    The icing is so smooth it sometimes makes the top layer of the cake slip off. You can correct this by putting toothpicks halfway down into the bottom layer after frosting it and then laying the top cake onto them so that the top half of the toothpicks are in the top cake. Just be sure to warn your guests.

  20. Alexis, I'm sure it's delicious, but I have this thing about Crisco: It's not food.

  21. I'm sorry Drew, I understand your reservation. Perhaps you can come up with an acceptable substitute. If you do, please let me know. This recipe has been in my family for quite some time, and I have the feeling that one of the reasons it was popular is because Crisco, though bad in quantities (but what fat isn't?), happens to be kosher. My Jewish granny probably appreciated that. In the meantime, give the frosting a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Truly, this is an old recipe and much better than it reads on paper. A lil' Crisco now and then….

  22. Alexis, I don't usually think about what's kosher and what isn't, but that's a really good point. I'm sure Jewish people made pastries before the invention of Crisco … I wonder what they used?

  23. These recipes are terrible. You should be utterly ashamed of yourself. My daughter’s birthday party was disasterous as everybody spit the cake out. I understand that it worked for “the famous cake boss,” but were you tring to poison me?

    Just kidding! It was delicous. Thanks so much for the help.

  24. Wow, you had me going for a second there. :-)

  25. I got excited there for a moment …. Birthday cake recipes – I figured they had to be white cake! :( I have tried 3-4 recipes and all were @#$! Fails! I do have to recommend the Hershey Chocolate Cake recipe – it uses boiling water and it is reallllly thin batter but cooks up AMAZING! (and I made the icing as a stiffer buttercream – also a win – I filled mine with homemade raspberry jam – HOME RUN!)
    If you ever get the chance – try the Wegmann’s Ultimate White Cake – it is a grocery chain in NY – there is a couple stores in Erie, PA – Vanilla Bean to die for, seriously….

  26. Coconut oil would be a good substitute for Crisco shortening. The really good organic stuff is expensive but worth it!

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