This indulgent chocolate and vanilla layer cake is exactly what you need to get through the winter. The frosting is light and fluffy and the chocolate cake is moist and spongy and perfect for stacking. The white-on-white painted buttercream mountains and trees give it a subtle but show-stopping beauty, and is easy to execute.
**A quick warning that this cake does require a fair amount of time to make, so if you're looking for something easier I have an Instructable for a much simpler (but not any less stunning) wintery chocolate cake that only takes less than a couple of hours**
Step 1: Ingredients:
For the Cake:
2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (plus a little extra for dusting pan)
1 cup (223g) unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups of flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
a few tsp of vegetable oil (for greasing pan)
For The Frosting:
Salt (roughly 1 tsp)
5 tbsp Ice water
100g vegetable shortening
100g unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
4 cups sifted powder sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
A squeeze of lemon juice
A few springs of rosemary
Useful decorating tools:
A flat paint brush
- This does not have to be specifically a cake decorating paint brush, any clean flat one will do.
- Alternatively you could use a butterknife or off-set spatula, however a brush is much easier to work with.
A piping bag fitted with a round nozzle
- Alternatively you can use a ziplock bag, however I do reccomend using a nozzle in order to ensure straight lines when piping.
A straight piece of cardboard or cake scraper
-This is to help get the layer of buttercream really smooth before painting, it is a quintessential step.
- I just ripped the cardboard off the top of a cereal box.
Step 2: The Cake
**preheat the oven to 175C or 350 F**
1.Pour boiling water into a bowl with the unsweetened cocoa powder, stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
2.In a large mixing bowl combine butter and sugar. Using an electric mixer beat until light and fluffy.
3.Add in eggs and vanilla extract and continue beating until well incorporated.
4.Turn mixer off and add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to butter-sugar mix.
5. Pour in the chocolate mixture on top of the flour and beat until everything comes together.
6.Lightly grease pans with vegetable oil and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder.
7. Fill pans 3/4 of the way full with batter. Tap filled pans on the counter to release air bubbles
**Cake will fill 3 small pans, if you only have two like me, simply set remaining batter aside and bake it when a pan become available**
8. Bake cakes for approximately 15-20 minutes (note this can vary based on size and shape of the pans as well as the oven it is being baked in)
9.Remove cakes from oven and place of cooling wrack, you can test if they're ready by sticking a knife through them and having it come out clean
10.Set aside to cool entirely before trying to take them out of their pans or frost them!
**step 10 is crucial when making layer cakes**
Step 3: The Frosting
1.In a glass combine ice water (at least 5 tbsp) and salt. Stir until for the most part dissolved.
2. Add vegetable shortening and butter to a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer beat until light and fluffy.
3. Slowly add in sifted powder sugar, alternating it with the salt water solution. (Note that this recipe is heavily reliant on the consistency of the frosting, all of either the sugar or water might not be needed. Continue adding until a light fluffy, yet stiff consistency. Make sure to taste it to make sure it is the right level of sweet as well)
4.Add in vanilla extract and lemon juice, mix well.
**By adding salt and lemon juice to the frosting we create salty and sour agents that counter the sweet. Though the final icing will not taste of lemon or salt, it will taste nicely balanced**
**Using ice water instead of milk or cream makes for fluffier frosting**
Step 4: Frosting the Cake
**Note: for those whom are not accustomed to stacking and frosting cakes, the following steps must be handled with care and patience. The best tip I can give you is take your time**
1. Level off each of your cake layers using a serrated knife (a bread knife works wonderfully). You want to ensure their tops are completely flat for stacking.
2.Spread a small dab of buttercream onto your platter (or turntable) to act as glue. Place your bottom layer directly on top of the dab of buttercream.
3.Stack your cake layers, spreading a thick platform of buttercream between each one. (You want this to be thick enough to produce stunning cake slices, but not too thick that it makes the cake unstable) When spreading each layer of buttercream make an effort to try and get some of it to hang over the edges, this will help in icing the sides of the cake. Take care that each buttercream layer is spread evenly.
4.Using a spatula or knife spread the overhanging buttercream from the layers onto the sides of the cake. Cover the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting. This is called the 'crumb' coat, it catches all of the chocolate crumbs we don't want to appear in our white icing in the final layer.
5.Place crumb coated cake into the freezer to chill and set for 10 minutes.
6.Frost the cake over in a new layer of buttercream, trying to get the frosting as smooth and even as possible.
7.Use the straight side of a cake scraper (or in my case a piece of cardboard) to further smooth down the frosting. We want the frosting to be as smooth as possible for painting on.
8.Place fully frosted cake back into the freezer to chill for another 10 minutes.
**For a festive and spicier flavor than just vanilla and chocolate, grate some fresh ginger in between the layers of cake**
Step 5: Painting the Cake
1.Prepare a piping bad (or plastic ziplock) with a small round nozzle.
2.Carefully pipe the outline of mountain all along the sides of the cake. (I googled a mountain chain silhouette as a reference)
3.Once the boarders of the mountain are piped, pipe frosting into the boarders and smooth it downwards with your flat brush.
**Take care to respect the initial outline of the mountains when piping and to clear the brush of excess buttercream frequently when brushing**
4.Pipe on large pine trees along the sides of the cake as desired.
5.Top cake with springs of cut rosemary to resemble trees.
6.Share with friends, family and loved ones!
** If you like the look of this cake please check out my Instagram: @Madebyizie
As an aspiring baker, feedback and positive reinforcements from fellow food enthusiasts really motivate me to keep putting my work out there.