Yellow Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

August 11, 2010

Whenever someone has a birthday, instead of thinking about how great it is for that person, all I think about is that I finally have an excuse to make a layer cake. Someone would literally have to hide the circular cake pans from me if they really wanted to put an end to the insanity. But why do that? I've said it before, it doesn't matter how old you are, the sight of a decked-out layer cake makes you feel like a six year old. Good or bad, birthdays come up once a year, so why not indulge your inner, sugar-high, child? As someone who loves to bake, I find layer cakes to be the golden chalice of desserts (perhaps one of many.) When the soft cakes slide smoothly out of their pans, the domed tops come off in one easy slice, and you don't use up all the frosting in the middle layer, it's as though the stars are in alignment. There's nothing like the feeling of pulling off a perfect cake.

I've made this cake and frosting before, but this was the first time that I used them together. The cake itself is an unbelievably moist yellow cake with a healthy amount of buttermilk and silky cake flour. When I sliced off the domes (because they were too high, not because I was hungry,) I remembered how amazing this recipe is. You could eat the cake alone, it's so good. I brushed on a layer of vanilla simple syrup to keep the layers moist and, just for the middle, I added strawberry jam to go along with the sour cream chocolate frosting. I can't say enough about the frosting, it's tangy and rich, and just fuses perfectly with the sweet cake. I had enough of the frosting left over to enjoy with some salty pretzels. I should patent that combination.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
(adapted from the smitten kitchen)
*printer friendly Recipe*

Cake ingredients
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment and lightly flour the entire pans. *Note: I was worried that my cake pans were not deep enough (they should be at least 2 inches. Instead I made my layers in a 9-inch spring form pan and baked them one at a time. If you decide to use a spring form pan, be aware that the baking time may need to be increased by about 10-20 minutes. But, as my oven is a temperamental beast, be sure to check after the minimum time.*

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour. Well wrapped, the cakes can be refrigerated for 2 days.

Vanilla Simple Syrup (optional)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a slow boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, brush/spread the syrup over the entire surface of both cake layers.

Strawberry Jam Layer
1/4 cup of strawberry jam (or whatever flavour your prefer.)

In a small sauce pan, and stirring constantly, bring the jam to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and while it's still warm, spread the jam over what will be your bottom cake layer.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup (I ended up only using 1/4 cup)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.

There will be plenty of frosting for the entire cake (including the middle) so throw caution to the wind while frosting the middle layer. Some of the warm jam will have sunk into the cake so just mix the chocolate frosting into what's left of the strawberry.

Makes one fabulous 9-inch layer cake


  1. Looks delicious! I very much would enjoy a generous slice of that fantastic cake!

  2. What a wonderful recipe. Thanks so much for posting. If you get a chance, please visit my blog as I am having a great giveaway.

  3. Ooh! Yellow cake with chocolate frosting-my all time favorite, Valerie. And this one even has sour cream (sigh)... I hate my new no sugar diet ;)!
    BTW, the crew of the Northwestern obviously does not know what they're missing...

  4. Thanks, Susi. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to take a picture of an actual slice.

    That's great Kat, I'll be sure to take a look! :)

    Thank you, Stella. :)
    So you're sticking to the no sugar diet? That is very admirable! The headaches alone would drive me crazy, but keep it up! And feel free to vent anytime. :D

  5. You are so funny, you are going to get on that crab boat one way or another!
    I agree with you about birthday cakes, they are essential to the celebration. this one look delicious.

  6. beautiful!!! I love this, looks so celebratory!!!

  7. That cake looks spectacular! I've already had a request to make it from my youngest daughter, my partner in sweet-tooth heaven.

  8. Your cake looks quite delicious! I've never eaten leftover icing with pretzels but I like the way you think! Yum!

  9. A gorgeous-looking cake, truly. It's like all the birthday cakes in all the cake books (yellow cake, chocolate frosting) - but one I have never made! (imagine that). This looks stunning with the sprinkles - and very childlike! It emenates of "Happy Birthday"!!!

  10. This looks absolutely delicious. Bookmarked for my next occasion!

  11. Bravo!!! Beautifully done! :-)


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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