It’s time for my annual make my own birthday cake tradition! Okay it’s not really annual, given that on one birthday I made roasted cabbage instead… but every now and then I make a cake to share with loved ones as we commemorate my getting older.
And this chocolate cake is not just any old chocolate cake. This is something special. Fudgy and moist chocolate layers, filled with cherry preserves, brushed with Grand Marnier, and finished with a dark chocolate sour cream frosting. It has all my favorite things in one bite: I love chocolate and cherry together, I love boozy desserts, and I love frosting.
It’s an updated version of this Double Chocolate Cake I made three years ago (!) with a few little changes for extra flavor and better texture.
I used real buttermilk in the cake batter, brushed the cake layers with Grand Marnier before frosting, and spread sweet and tart cherry preserves in between the cake layers. I also used coconut oil for a richer taste, added an extra egg for more fudginess, and stirred in chocolate extract.
The resulting cake was PERFECT. Fudgy (but not fudge brownie-consistency), moist (with added moisture from the orange liqueur) and velvety with rich chocolate flavors. The tart cherry preserves provide a nice contrast to chocolate, and the whole cake is generously frosted with tangy dark chocolate frosting.
I used to be intimidated by layer cakes, thinking it was too tedious to make one. (I also used to be intimidated by springform pans, thinking it will trap my baked good in it.) But making a layer cake is actually pretty easy. It’s really just a matter of baking two cakes in two pans, choosing a filling, then frosting generously (always generously). You can use a boxed cake mix to make things even more convenient for you, but this recipe is already easy as is – there’s no need for a mixer, just two separate bowls. You can whip up the frosting (by hand!) in minutes. I find that these three tips in making layer cakes are helpful: 1) freeze the cake layers before assembly so they don’t break (especially if you have a spongey cake) and it will be easier to slice off the domed tops to create an even layer. 2) When frosting the cake, line the platter with strips of parchment paper. This lets you frost with abandon, without messying up your serving platter/cake stand. Just remove the strips before serving. 3) Don’t worry too much about making it look perfect! Everyone loves cake anyway and there’s a certain appeal to imperfect, homemade ones made with love.
I didn’t care too much about prettying this one up, or doing everything neatly. I just slapped on the sour cream frosting, used a spoon to create some rustic looking swirls, and then my friends and I went to town. We paired it with red wine, and I paired leftovers with hot tea and a 10 pm bedtime. That’s right. I’m embracing my old age with hot tea, adequate sleep, and anti-aging serum. And lots of chocolate frosting.
Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Frosting
1 tablespoon butter for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract
1 cup hot brewed coffee
1/4 cup Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
1/2 cup cherry preserves
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
18 oz good quality dark chocolate
3 cups sour cream, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Make the cake. Butter and flour two 8-inch round pans.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, and chocolate extract.
- Slowly add in the wet ingredients to dry, mixing until combined. Add coffee and stir until smooth.
- Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake fo3 35 minutes. Set aside and let cool completely before frosting. I suggest making the cake a few hours or a day ahead, and freezing for an hour or so (make sure you wrap it in plastic wrap before freezing or refrigerating). This will make it easier to slice off the domed tops so you'll have a completely flat surface to work with for the cake layers.
- Make the frosting. In a large bowl, whisk together the room temperature sour cream, honey, vanilla, and salt.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate. Heat on full power for 1 minute, then remove from microwave and stir. Everything would have started to melt but you’ll still have some lumps. Heat again in 30-second intervals and stir until the mixture turns smooth. I heated everything for a total of 2 minutes. You can also melt the chocolate in a double broiler.
- Important: if you want smooth frosting, let melted chocolate cool until tepid! If you combine the hot melted chocolate with the sour cream mixture immediately, the chocolate will seize/harden into little bits. I don't mind this but if you want a smooth frosting, then let the melted chocolate cool first.
- Fold in melted chocolate into sour cream mixture and mix well. If you live in warmer temperatures, chill frosting for about 20 minutes to let it thicken a little bit before using.
- Assemble the cake. Slice off any domed tops to have a flat/even surface on both sides of each cake layer. Using a pastry brush, brush the cake layers with Grand Marnier (or Cointreau, or any other liqueur you prefer.)
- Stack layers on top of each other, with the cherry preserves in the middle.
- Frost the top and sides of cake. The frosting recipe makes a lot so be generous with the frosting!
If you don't have chocolate extract, just substitute with more vanilla extract.
If you don't like or have orange liqueur, you can replace with rum or brandy. If you would prefer to keep this alcohol free, just omit completely.
Cake recipe is modified from Ina Garten's Beatty's Chocolate Cake
Both young and old will enjoy this cake. Just remember that there’s a little bit of liqueur in the cake if you’re serving this to babies.
Looking for other cake ideas? Check out my favorite birthday cake, mini orange pound cakes, hummingbird cake, pineapple upside down cake, and coconut cheesecake.