The Story of the Birthday Cake
It all seemed easy enough when my daughter Isabelle asked me to order her favorite Nutella cake from her favorite baker for her 12th birthday party. Until, her favorite baker kindly let me know that she was no longer taking custom orders! She was very generous to offer to provide me with a recipe and directions to follow. After confirming with Isabelle that she would not be upset if the cake was not delicious or very pretty, I agreed to attempt my first bake of a “real” cake! I often bake cupcakes, cookies and cakes for our family and friends, but never had I attempted to make what I would call a “real cake”.
First things first, I ordered all of the supplies off of Amazon.
A rotating cake decorating stand
Cake circle to put on stand and tape to tape the cake circle to the stand
Cake leveler, offset spatula and cake scraper
Disposable pastry bags and icing tips
And a self help decorating book!
Next, I studied a few YouTube videos on cake decorating and searched "Tips for baking the perfect cake" online. One of the best tips I found during my research was to purchase an oven thermometer. Just because we set our ovens to 350 degrees, does not mean they are really baking at 350 degrees. I discovered that one of my ovens runs hot and that I really needed to set my oven to 340 degrees for it to be 350 degrees. No wonder some of my other baked goods were cooking too quickly and drying out. Or at least, that is what I tell myself! This little purchase is worth the $8!
I wanted the cake ready for her party on Saturday so on Friday I mixed up the batter and baked the cakes. This cake was a graham cracker chocolate chip cake with a Nutella buttercream frosting. The cake recipe has an additional graham cracker crust at the bottom and that graham cracker crust is EVERYTHING! After letting the cakes cool completely, I wrapped them in saran wrap and placed them in the fridge overnight.
On Saturday morning, I tackled the frosting and decorating. I ended up needing to double the buttercream recipe. Perhaps I used too much… But I wouldn’t change a thing!
I took the cakes out of the fridge and used the leveler to cut each layer in half. This provided me with 4 thinner layers of cake rather than 2 thicker layers. I stacked each layer of cake with a thin layer of Nutella followed by a layer of the Nutella buttercream. I crumb coated the whole cake and placed it back in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
I added another layer of buttercream to the entire cake. And then last up was to decorate. To be fair, I was really looking for a foolproof decorating idea. I opted for a ring of piped flowers on the top of the cake and then covered the entire area inside of those flowers with dark chocolate curls that were purchased online.
Bonus - they looked great, they tasted great and they covered up any imperfections in the icing! I decided to add graham crumbs to the bottom of the cake for effect (and possibly to cover more icing imperfections) and I topped with a cake topper ordered off of Etsy.
Isabelle was thrilled with how the cake turned out and I have to say I was impressed as well. The cake was delicious!
Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cake
Recipe Adapted from The Cake Darling
11 Full Graham Crackers
4 Tbsps Melted Butter
¼ Cup + 2 Tbsp Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 ¾ Cups + 2 ½ Tbsp Flour
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Salt
1 Stick + 1 ⅓ Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
⅔ Cup Egg Whites, at room temperature
1 Cup Buttermilk, at room temperature
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
Mini Chocolate Chips
Nutella Buttercream Frosting
(Keep in mind I doubled this)
3 Sticks Unsalted Butter
½ Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
½ Cup Nutella
¼ Cup Heavy Cream
6 Cups Powdered Sugar
Nutella, for spreading
Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and dust two 8” round pans.
Place 9 graham crackers in the food processor and blend to a powder.
Mix graham cracker powder with melted butter and brown sugar.
Divide evenly into the 2 pans and pack the mixture down covering the bottom of each pan.
Place remaining 2 graham crackers in the food processor to create more crumbs.
Mix together all of the dry ingredients (flour, graham cracker powder, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix the chunks of butter gradually into the flour mixture on low speed. Continue to mix until you see a consistent crumbly mixture.
Pour in egg whites. Mix on low speed until fully combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Slowly mix in the buttermilk on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add in vanilla and oil. Mix at low speed until fully combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then turn the mixer to high for 15 seconds to thicken up the batter.
Fold in mini chocolate chips.
Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake for 35-42 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow the pans to cool for a few minutes in their pans before flipping them onto a wire rack to come to room temperature. Once the cakes are fully cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer until you are ready to frost.
Allow butter to soften slightly outside of the fridge. (30-45 minutes).
Mix butter on medium speed with the paddle attachments until you see no chunks.
Add salt, vanilla and Nutella.
Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing until smooth in between. If the frosting seems too stiff, add heavy cream. If it seems too loose, add more powdered sugar.
Cut each cake into 2 layers. This will yield 4 thinner cake layers.
Apply a small amount of buttercream to the cake board and spread flat.
Place cake layer on board and press down firmly.
Spread a thin layer of Nutella directly onto the cake.
Next spread a thick layer of Nutella buttercream to top and use spatula to get it nice and flat. Repeat these steps for each layer.
Apply a thin crumb coat, using your cake scraper to get your edges smooth.
Place the crumb coated cake into the fridge for 15-20 minutes allowing frosting to get nice and firm.
Add another layer of frosting to the outside of the cake.
Decorate as you choose.