Birthdays sometimes go unnoticed in my office, and while I can’t bake a cake for everyone, I try to do something. We hired a new project assistant a couple months back and we kind of forgot her birthday. My excuse was that I was working from home because of my never-ending knee problems. But I decided I would bake a cake for her 25th birthday + one week. You know, keep everyone on their toes about whether or not there was going to be a cake.
I didn’t really know what kind of cake she liked, but I figured that most people like chocolate (how can you not?) and I had seen this stunning cake on tastepotting. I was a little thrown off by the ingredients because I was unfamiliar with golden syrup. I knew it was popular in England (coincidentally, I had read about it just the day before I cake across the recipe), but I didn’t want to go from store to store trying to find it. I have since learned that it’s actually available in every single grocery store I shop in. Oh well.
I happen to love, love, love this chocolate cake recipe that I found on Smitten Kitchen a few years ago and I figured I would just make that with the white chocolate cream cheese frosting. And somehow I ended up with a completely different frosting recipe. So in the end, that photo I saw on tastepotting really just led to inspiration, but that was a very important step because I never would have thought of white chocolate and cream cheese frosting on my own.
I don’t like frosting to be too sweet and white chocolate can sometimes be achingly sweet. But I was intrigued and wanted to see how it would turn out. It’s actually pretty great because the tang from the cream cheese plays perfectly off of the sweetness from the white chocolate. Throw in a deep, rich, moist chocolate cake and you end up with something pretty great combination.
I have this one coworker who is extremely opinionated on all things and enjoys nothing more than to expound his views as truth. Luckily he’s a pretty funny guy (please don’t tell him I said so or he’ll become completely insufferable), so we let him get away with it. Anyway, he stuck around long enough for a horrible rendition of “Happy Birthday” (I think there’s nothing worse than singing in the office – it seems to bring out the worst in everyone) before he left, disgusted/outraged by the idea of white chocolate cream cheese frosting and refused to even try it. He returned only a few minutes later because the director of our center had oohed and aahed over the cake and insisted that he try it. One bite and not only did he come back for a slice, but he declared that this was the cake he wanted for his next birthday. If it was good enough that he was willing to admit he was wrong, believe me, this cake is worth making!
Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
You can make the layers a day or two in advance, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them. The cake is bit more delicate than some, so it’s a little easier to work with the layers while they are frozen.
For cake layers
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300F and butter three 9-inch round pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment and butter the paper.
Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium-sized nonreactive bow. Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate and let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
In a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.
Cool the layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool the layers completely. These cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature, or can be frozen for several days.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
This makes just enough frosting to top each of the three layers. If you want to frost the sides, double the recipe.
6 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
12 oz (1 1/2 cups) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
In the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl, melt the white chocolate, stirring often. Remove from the heat once melted and let cool to lukewarm. Transfer the melted white chocolate to a large bowl, and add the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Beat together at medium speed until you have a smooth sauce. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.