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Our Favorite Butter Cake with Creamy Chocolate Frosting

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Recipe from "The Baker's Dozen Cookbook: Become a Better Baker With 125 Foolproof Recipes and Tried-And-True Techniques" by Rick Rodgers, Flo Braker, Baker's Dozen

Recipe for Our Favorite Butter Cake is on page 52 and 53 in The Baker's Dozen Cookbook.

We tested more than 20 butter cakes before choosing this one. Many bakers will recognize it as the everpopular "1-2-3-4" cake (that is, 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs). If there is one recipe to have in your file for making tender, golden celebration cakes, it's this one.Any number of frostings can be used to create your favorite combination. If undecided, then go for the classic marriage of butter cake with chocolate frosting, either Chocolate Buttercream Frosting or Creamy Chocolate Frosting on pages 328 and 330.

Makes 2 (9-inch) cake layers

3 cups all-purpose flour (spoon-and-sweep)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks/8 oz/226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Creamy Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F (180C). Line the bottoms of two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans with parchment or wax paper.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt onto a piece of wax paper; set aside.

3. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle blade, beat the butter on medium speed until it is lighter in color; about 45 seconds. Add the sugar in a steady stream, then stop the machine and scrape down the bowl. Resume beating, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is very light in color and texture, 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Gradually pour in the eggs, about a tablespoon at a time. (If the mixture looks curdled, stop adding the eggs, increase the speed to high, and beat until it looks smooth and shiny. Return the speed to medium, and add the remaining eggs.) Continue beating until the mixture is ivory-colored.The entire process of adding and beating the eggs should take 3 to 4 minutes.

5. Reduce the mixture speed to low. Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with three additions of the milk. After each addition, beat until smooth and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla with the final addition of milk. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pans.

6. Bake until the tops spring back when the cakes are lightly pressed in the centers and a toothpick inserted in the centres comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

7.Transfer the layers to wire cooling racks and cool for about 10 minutes. Invert onto the racks or plates and remove the pans. Peel off the paper liners and place them back on the layers, sticky sides up. Invert onto wire racks, right side up, and cool completely on the wax paper. Frost and fill cake when completely cooled. (The cake can be baked 1 day ahead, cooled, and stored, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Or freeze, overwrapped with foil, for up to 2 weeks.)

Makes 2 (9-inch) cake layers.

Baker's Notes
When making any butter cake, it is very important to cream the butter and sugar thoroughly.This incorporates air and is the key to producing a high-rising cake. Remember that baking powder or baking soda will not create bubbles in a batter; they will only make the existing bubbles larger. Only thorough creaming can create those all-important bubbles. Be sure that all of the ingredients are at room temperature to reduce the chances of curdling. Scrape down the sides of the bowl often during the creaming and mixing stages.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Recipe for Creamy Chocolate Frosting is on page 330 in The Baker's Dozen Cookbook.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups, enough for a 9-inch two-layer cake

Here's and Old Fashioned frosting made in the American style, with lots of confectioners' sugar to give it body.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 cups (1 pound) confectioners' sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick/4 oz/1/2 cup/113g) unsalted butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate in a skillet of hot, not simmering, water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat and let stand until tepid.

2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the sugar, butter and salt to combine. With the machine running, add the milk and vanilla and process until smooth. Add the cooled chocolate and process until well blended and creamy. Use immediately. (The frosting can be stored, covered airtight, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Bring the frosting to room temperature and beat vigorously before using.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Enough for a 9-inch two-layer cake.

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