Chocolate birthday cake

There’s magic in the phrase “chocolate birthday cake”. It makes me think of childhood birthday parties, with silly paper hats, off-key singing by kids missing their front teeth and pink and blue candles from the grocery store.

I baked this for my older brother, whose birthday lands just a few days after my own. In fact, I was brought home from the hospital on his birthday, and as family folklore has it, he was disappointed that his “birthday gift” wasn’t a puppy.

We’re both a bit nuts for chocolate – growing up I had to hide my holiday candy stash and keep close tabs on how much of my solid chocolate Easter bunny was left each time I took a bite. This is the kind of cake batter that we would always fight over to see who got to lick the bowl clean.

Chocolate layer cake
1 cup butter, softened
1½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1½ cup buttermilk

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time; beat in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of buttermilk.

Spoon into 2 greased and parchment-paper-lined 9-inch (1.5L) round metal cake pans. Bake in centre of 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean.

Let cool on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on rack.

Chocolate icing
1½ cup butter, softened
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled

In bowl, beat butter until fluffy; gradually beat in cream. Beat in vanilla. Beat in icing sugar, adding about 1 cup at a time. Beat in melted chocolate until fluffy.

Makes 16 to 20 servings.

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