A Surprise Birthday Cake

I recently changed departments at work. My old department would collect a dollar from every employee on Friday’s and use the money to buy birthday cakes from Premiere Moisson. My new department does not. The switch from a cake department to a non-cake department hasn’t been easy. I often find myself craving a piece of Opera cake. Or chocolate mousse raspberry cake, which I will try to reproduce at home one day.

I have therefore decided to introduce cake to my new coworkers. Today is my bosses birthday, and I will be bringing a birthday cake to the office tomorrow to celebrate. I checked with Genevieve, and she thinks the department will sing Happy Birthday to her. I won’t, but since I’m making the cake I think that’s ok.

I decided to go with a classic, chocolate cake with chocolate icing, to be sure that everyone will like it. I used the same recipe as the last birthday cake I made, mostly because I didn’t have time to look for a new recipe. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any drama though! I decided to make the cake in a 9 by 3 inch spring form pan instead of baking it in two separate pans. My goal was to limit the domming effect that led to the lopsidedness last time. Bad idea.¬† About two minutes after I put the cake in the oven, it smelled like something was burning. At first I thought maybe some of the milk from the icing (recipe below) had landed on one of my stove burners. I looked but everything seemed fine. Then I opened the oven. The pan was leaking. Thankfully it was a slow leak and some of the batter had landed directly on the element so the smell of burning alerted me to the impending disaster. I pulled the cake out of the oven, poured the batter into two regular 9 inch pans, set the timer and walked away. Thirty minutes later the timer went off. I opened the oven and discovered two completely uncooked cakes. I had turned the oven off when I pulled the springform pan out and never turned it back on again. So I turned on the oven, reset the timer and tried to bake the cake for the third time.

Third time is the charm!

I won’ t repost the recipe for the cake, as you can find it here, and the only change I made was to soak it in a little Kahlua.

I will however post the buttercream recipe. The buttercream is divine. The recommended to me by Janice, who has the answer to all of my baking questions. She described it as tasting like chocolate milk, but I think its more like hot chocolate. It’s a pastry cream based buttercream, and is incredibly easy to make. If you’ve never made a pastry cream before, be careful not to curdle the eggs.

Chocolate Buttercream

Yields about 4 cups.

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 lb butter (4 sticks)
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted


  1. In a large bowl mix egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and cocoa together with a wooden spoon.
  2. Bring milk and 1 1/2 cup sugar to boil in a large sauce pot over medium high heat.
  3. Once boiled, add a small amount of milk to the egg mixture, stir to combine. This will temper the eggs to avoid curdling. Slowly add the rest of the milk mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Return milk and egg mixture to sauce pot over medium heat. Mix constantly but slowly for 2-4 minutes, until you see large bubbles come up. At that point mix quickly for 45 seconds to 1 minute. The pastry cream should have increased in volume and become quite thick.
  5. Whisk the pastry cream with an electric mixer for 5 to 10 minutes to cool.
  6. Once cooled, add the butter 1 tbsp at a time, thoroughly incorporating after each addition.
  7. Add the melted chocolate, whisk till well combined.

I’ll try to get a picture of a slice at the office tomorrow.


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