Chocolate Birthday Cake

I’ve been making my own birthday cake for several years now, and each year I tend to think I’ve outdone myself. But this really might be the year. This is the year of Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Filling and Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting.

If we’ve met in real life or if you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you’ll know that after chocolate, my other dessert favorite is dulce de leche (caramel’s thicker, sultrier cousin). These are a few of my past birthday cakes: Yellow Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Rum and Dulce de Leche Pie, Chocolate Cake with with Cherry Preserves and Sour Cream Frosting, and Julia Child’s Chocolate Almond Cake.

Baking my own birthday cake is fun. Planning out the flavors, waiting for the layers to cool, frosting the cake, there’s something oddly relaxing but deeply enjoyable about it. But I like it even more now because I get to share it with my husband Matt, as our birthdays our only two days apart!

This means that I also need to take into consideration Matt’s favorite flavors. This is the guy who gleefully eats Olive Oil Dulce de Leche cake for breakfast (yes, I absolutely married the right one). So it only makes sense to make this cake.

I used to not like chocolate cake. (I’m serious!) It’s just that most chocolate cakes that I used to get from restaurants are dry and flavorless. But this all changed when I made my own chocolate cake, using a recipe by the Barefoot Contessa herself. The cake base was tender and moist and actually tastes like chocolate, with just the slightest tang. The secret was using coffee and buttermilk. I tweaked it a little and I’ve since used that base as my go-to chocolate cake, and it has never failed me.

For the frosting, I made a simple but decadent whipped dark chocolate ganache. I used equal parts dark chocolate and heavy cream. That’s it – no pinch of salt, no vanilla, no butter, no sugar. It turned out to be rich and fluffy, with just the right amount of creaminess and density. It tasted like a good truffle, dark and delicious. Here’s a good tutorial from The Kitchn on How To Make Chocolate Ganache for Any Dessert.

For the filling, I used store-bought dulce de leche, which I always have in our cupboard. There are many brands out there, and my top two are Nestle and Trader Joe’s. If you want to make your own, check out this article on Serious Eats on How to Make Dulce de Leche from Canned Condensed Milk.

As for how the entire cake turned out, well I already said that this cake may be the cake to beat out all my other past birthday cakes. I love the soft chocolate cake, sweet dulce de leche filling, and truffle-like dark chocolate frosting.

I ate a (large) slice, downed it with a glass of cold milk, and cozied up with my husband on our little couch, and I thought to myself: this is exactly what I want.

Yield: 1 layer cake

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Filling and Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes



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


13 oz (1 can) dulce de leche


12 oz good quality dark chocolate
12 oz heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Make the cake. Butter and flour two 8-inch round pans.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, and chocolate extract.
  5. Slowly add in the wet ingredients to dry, mixing until combined. Add coffee and stir until smooth.
  6. Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes. Set aside and let cool completely before frosting.
  7. Make the ganache frosting. Chop the chocolate and place in a large bowl.
  8. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and place it over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until it's hot (but not boiling). The cream is ready when you can place a finger in the cream and keep it there for 3 seconds. Turn off the flame and remove from the stove, and pour over the chocolate.
  9. Let chocolate and cream sit for a few minutes, so the chocolate can soften and melt. Then stir with a wooden spoon, until smooth and shiny.
  10. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to cool the ganache. The ganache will thicken over time. Check every 20 minutes or so and stir so ganache cools evenly, then place back in the refrigerator until it is thick but still soft. I chilled my ganache for a total of 1 hour. Once the ganache is thick, beat with a hand-held mixer on high for 2 minutes, until it has lightened in color and is fluffy in texture.
  11. Assemble the cake. Slice off any domed tops to have a flat/even surface on both sides of each cake layer. Place a small dollop of dulce de leche in the middle of the cake stand, to "glue" the cake down while you are frosting it.
  12. Place the first layer down and spread the dulce de leche for the filling. Stack the second layer on top.
  13. Frost the top and sides of cake with the whipped chocolate ganache. If you like, decorate with sprinkles or chocolate shavings.

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.

i also suggest making the ganache while the cake is baking, to save some time.


2 Responses to “Chocolate Birthday Cake”