Butter cake with chocolate frostingButter cake with chocolate frosting

We had a dinner party last night that I almost begged out of, since four of the five guests are fervent supporters of the two-headed monster. But I was pretty confident in a victory in South Carolina, so I went all out and cooked for two days. I made a delicious lentil soup with cinnamon and speck, the best lentil soup I’ve made yet (sadly, one guest was randomly allergic to lentils, so he missed out). I also made an enormous lasagna entirely from scratch, which I’ll post about later this week.

And for dessert, I made a celebratory yellow butter cake, again from Martha Stewart’s baking handbook.


This is the first traditional cake I’ve ever made. It came out well, although I ran into some problems with the frosting, which I’ll get into presently. My first little crisis came with the flour. Martha asks for a mixture of all-purpose flour and cake flour. There were approximately 800 kinds of flour at Fairway, and I picked up some pastry flour, thinking it was the same thing as cake flour. Not so, apparently. When I opened the bag and saw that it was brown, I called mom. The conversation went something like this:

Mom created a new combination of starches for me, a mixture of a-p flour, pastry flour, and a bit of cornstarch. It worked perfectly and the cake was delicious. The frosting was a different story. It came together easily and tasted good, but it hardened up after a short time. I thought it was because it spent some time in the refrigerator, but even after being out overnight, the frosting is still hard. It might have been the cocoa powder (which wasn’t Dutched, as the recipe called for), but more likely I just messed something up, since it was my first frosting. It’s a good, easy recipe though, and I’m sure I’ll make it again.

The cake

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • 1.75 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1.25 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ. Butter two 9 × 2″ cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter and flour the paper. Sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle for a few minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the batter into the pans and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the sides begin to pull away from the pan (thanks for that tip, Mom). Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Remove the cakes from the pans, peel off the parchment, and cool completely with the top sides up. Use a serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes to make them level, and frost with dark chocolate frosting.

The frosting

(This recipe is halved, and it was plenty for the cake.)

  • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate and allow it to come back to room temperature. Combine the cocoa and boiling water in a small bowl and let the cocoa dissolve. In a mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate on low speed, and then beat in the cocoa mixture. (When I finished, my frosting was soft and luxurious. If anyone can think of what I did wrong to make it harden, please let me know!)


I don’t know how cool your house is in the winter, but that’s a lot of chocolate, which would naturally harden up again once it cools off, plus the butter in my house is pretty firm right now even sitting out on the kitchen counter. But chemists and kitchen engineers out there may understand the science of the hard frosting better than I. Did Martha give you to understand that it would remain soft and creamy, or did it look that way in the photo?

Hard frosting or not, the cake looks divine. I have always found that Billy’s Cupcake chocolate frosting remains nice and creamy. I think you can find it on Martha’s website.

p.s. Why isn’t Mom posting these days? No tales from the trip to France??

That sounds like a delicious menu and the cake is beautiful.

Did you make your guests watch Barak Obama’s victory speech as you ate your celebratory yellow butter cake?

I just discovered your blog (randomly through Facebook). As one of the four guests for this dinner party supporting the “two-headed monster” I’m so glad you didn’t beg out. Everything was wonderful and it was sad that Scott was not able to enjoy the lentil soup, but it did make for a great laugh. I would consult Julia Child for a solution to your frosting problem. That said, the cake was DIVINE!

You mean your frosting was hard and brittle like Hillary? I barely noticed. My guess is that your butter and sugar combo might not have had the fluff it needed because the butter might not have been as warm as it needed to be when you incorporated it.

Andy and Scott: You queens! That butter had been sitting out for six hours, and it was oozingly soft.

Izzy’s Mama: Leland’s Mama has been lunching on her posting. Any day now.

now that’s a cake i could eat.

and what about the cocoa?(Combine the cocoa and boiling water in a small bowl and let the cocoa dissolve.)and then where did you add on?

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