Chocolate Birthday Cake

I recently professed my love of supermarket cakes to someone in the food world and they were appalled. It is the nostalgia that gets me and I will take a supermarket cake any day over a fancy schmancy cake. I grew up on Publix cakes in the southeast and I can still smell the way that bakery smells all these miles away.

Since we don’t live anywhere near a Publix I am making my own birthday cakes these days. In honor of my husband Luke’s birthday today, we are having birthday cake! This is my absolute favorite cake that I make him every year. Since I know that my skills are below average when it comes to cake decorating (that is a whole other skill that I completely admire) I am covering the whole darn thing in sprinkles! (Just a word of warning, they get everywhere when you are making this cake).

First, you can obviously use this recipe for other things besides a birthday cake. You can even make it into a 9 x 12 sheet cake - because sheet cakes are so easy and dreamy.

The frosting is from the NYC bakery Baked.  It is the only vanilla buttercream I use, mostly because it does not involve boxes and boxes powdered sugar. It start off a little funky - you make a pudding on the stove top and then whip that into a frosting - but I promise it is worth it. 

Also if you don't have bittersweet you could use semi-sweet chocolate, however I would pull back the sugar by 1/4 cup so it is not too sweet. 

Lastly, this cake freezes really well. You can bake it, let it cool, wrap really well in plastic wrap then freeze for up to a week before icing and eating.

Chocolate Birthday Cake 

For the cake: 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups brown sugar (light or dark) 
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder mixed with 1 Tbs. water
  • 6 oz. melted bittersweet chocolate 

For the frosting: (originally from Baked NYC

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk 
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 sticks (16 oz.)  unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 


  • 1 cup your favorite type of sprinkles 


Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Line 3- 8" cake pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. 

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

In another medium sized bowl combine the sour cream and warm water. Set aside. 

In a large bowl cream together the brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla and espresso. Mix well. Add melted chocolate and mix until completely combined. 

Alternate adding in the flour and sour cream mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  

Divide batter among prepared cake pans. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cakes cool slightly in the pan, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least until cold - you could throw it in the freezer for a few minutes if you are in a hurry). 

Make the frosting by combining the sugar, flour, milk and heavy cream in a medium sized pot. Over medium high heat, cook the mixture until thick and bubbling, about 10 minutes, whisking constantly. 

Transfer mixture to a stand mixer (or hand mixer). Fitted with the paddle attachment beat the mixture on medium until room temperature. With the mixture on low, gradually add the butter. Mix until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 to 5 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. 

When ready to ice the cake, stack the cake rounds on top of each other, placing and even layer of frosting in between each one. Ice the entire cake with the remaining icing. 

If covering your cake with sprinkles, place your cake on a sheet tray (this will help with the clean up) Sprinkle the sprinkles all over the cake. Gently press the sprinkles on the sides of the cake and continue until the cake is covered completely. 

Serve 8 to 10 people.  Makes 3- 8" cake rounds/1- 9 x 12" sheet cake/2-9" cakes