Clara Turns Six!: King Arthur Flour's Classic Birthday Cake

I was delighted when my friend Jim told me that his daughter Clara had asked if she could come over (along with her two older sisters) to bake her birthday cake with me. Jim's girls are utterly delightful and I love to encourage kids who are interested in baking.

Clara asked for an ice cream cake (i.e., a cake that appears to have a melting ice cream cone on top of it, and not a cake made of actual ice cream), which is the same general design her older sister Stella requested for her seventh birthday two years ago. When I asked about flavors, Clara requested vanilla cake with chocolate frosting.

My only criterion as I was searching for a recipe was that it had to be straightforward enough that the girls could make it in a fairly short span of time. A few days before our scheduled baking date, I was still undecided about what recipe to use. But then I received an order from King Arthur Flour, and a recipe card for King Arthur's 2019 Recipe of the Year -- a Classic Birthday Cake comprised of yellow cake with chocolate frosting -- was included in the box. The recipe fit the bill perfectly.

I thought the method for making the batter was slightly unusual; it includes both oil and melted butter. You whisk room temperature eggs with sugar and vanilla; add in the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder); and slowly incorporate a hot mixture of scalded milk, oil, and melted butter. We divided the batter between two parchment-lined 9-inch pans to bake.
Because we would need to use cake scraps to form the scoop of "ice cream" on top of the cake, I purposely didn't use bake even strips on the pans, figuring that I would get the scraps from any domed portion I trimmed off. So I was surprised when the cakes baked up perfectly level. After they were cool, I used my Agbay leveler to trim a short flat layer from both of the cakes to get the scraps we needed.
The frosting is an American buttercream that's a mixture of butter; powdered sugar; and cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt dissolved in hot water and vanilla. The girls crumbled the cake scraps and we mixed in enough frosting until the crumbs held together and were scoopable. We filled and frosted the cooled cakes, and then the girls added the chocolate ganache drip (a 50-50 mixture of bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream applied with a squeeze bottle to get neat drips). I spread ganache over the top of the cake, and we added our ice cream scoop in a sugar cone, affixing it to the cake with a wooden dowel. After covering the scoop with ganache and adding some sprinkles, we were done!

Clara and her sisters were thrilled with their cake and cleaned their plates. I thought the cake itself was fine, but the flavor was average and the crumb was not as fine or soft as I would have liked. Also, because the cake is made with whole eggs and not just egg yolks (or with any extra egg yolks) the color of the cake was not as vibrant as what I expect in a yellow cake. The frosting was very sweet, but it worked well with the cake. It's definitely not my 2019 recipe of the year, but I consider the cake a success, especially for a baking project with kids!

Recipe: "Classic Birthday Cake" from King Arthur Flour.

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