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Boozy Yellow Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache

yield: 1 six-inch, 3-layer cake


For the Yellow Birthday Cake

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • zest from 1 large orange
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 10 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Grand Marnier Simple Syrup

    (makes around 1/4 cup)

    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, divided in half
    • pinch of fresh orange zest

    For the Chocolate Ganache Frosting

      (makes around 3 cups)

      • 10 ounces 70%-cacao dark chocolate, roughly chopped
      • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
      • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
      • 2 large egg yolks
      • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

      For the Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache

        (makes around 1/3 cup)

        • 4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
        • 1/4 cup heavy cream
        • a pinch of kosher salt


        For the Yellow Birthday Cake

        • Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Prepare 3 six-inch cake pans by liberally spraying with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle. Spray the parchment paper as well, and set aside.
        • In a small bowl, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and the fresh zest from 1 large orange. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar, incorporating it throughout the bowl to mix the two together. As you rub the zest into the sugar, your sugar should become fragrant as you're helping release oils from the zest. Set aside when the two are well combined.
        • In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.
        • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and the orange-infused sugar (from the 2nd step). Beat on medium speed until light colored and fluffy, at least 10 to 12 minutes. Add 10 large egg yolks in 3 additions, beating until completely combined after each, about 2 minutes per addition, and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula before adding more yolks. Once the yolks have all been added, increase the mixer speed to its highest setting and beat for another 30 seconds to fully combine, before turning the mixer off completely. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
        • In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 2/3 cup buttermilk and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Set aside.
        • Turn the mixer back on to its lowest setting. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients (from the 3rd step) in 3 additions alternating with the buttermilk mixture (from the the 5th step) in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. After each addition, beat until just combined, being careful not to overmix. It's best to stop the mixture early with one or two flour streaks left, and finish the rest by hand by scraping down the bowl and folding the mixture one or two more times.
        • Use a cookie dough scoop to divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, using an offset spatula to smoothen the tops. Bake in the preheated oven for around 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cakes are lightly brown and a skewer inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean
        • Transfer the cakes to wire racks and let cool for about 20 minutes, before turning out onto the wire racks to cool completely.

        For the Grand Marnier Simple Syrup

        • In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, and a pinch of fresh orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, remove from heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier, stirring to incorporate into the mixture. Let cool to room temperature.

        For the Chocolate Ganache Frosting

        • Combine 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate and 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar in a medium, heatproof bowl.
        • In a small saucepan over medium, bring 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream to a gentle simmer, whisking occasionally. Pour the hot cream into the medium, heatproof bowl containing the chocolate and confectioner's sugar mixture (from the 1st step). Stir the mixture with a heatproof rubber spatula until the sugar is dissolved.
        • Once the sugar has dissolved, nestle the medium, heatproof bowl over a medium saucepan of simmer water to make a double boiler — be sure that the water in the saucepan doesn't touch the bottom of your heatproof bowl or you might burn your chocolate! Gently cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat.
        • In a separate, smaller heatproof bowl, whisk together 2 large egg yolks. Pour about 1/2 cup of some of the melted chocolate mixture into the yolks while whisking, to temper them. Pour the tempered mixture back into the larger, heatproof bowl containing the rest of the original mixture and whisk to combine. Add 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and stir until smooth.
        • Allow the ganache to cool for about 10 - 15 minutes, before using immediately. There's a sweet spot in which the ganache is still warm but not runny and easy to mold, allowing you to frost smooth cakes or perfectly messy designs with ease. That's what you're aiming for — if you let the ganache cool too much, it's a pain to work with (but if that happens, just pop it in the microwave for 10 second intervals until it warms up again).


        • Level the top of each cake and brush away any excess crumbs from the cake layers. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of each cake layer with a generous amount of the Grand Marnier syrup. Each cake should receive about a generous tablespoon of syrup.
        • Set your bottom cake layer on a work surface (or a serving platter) and scoop about 1/2 cup chocolate ganache frosting on top, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly across the cake top. Nestle the second cake layer on top and repeat the process, nestling the third cake layer on top of the chocolate frosing. Use the remaining chocolate ganache frosting to cover the cake entirely and allow to "set" in the refrigerator for about an hour before making the caramelized white chocolate ganache.

        For the Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache and Finishing the Cake

        • In a double boiler (or create a makeshift one by placing a glass bowl over a medium saucepan containing water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water) over medium-low heat, melt 4 ounces finely chopped white chocolate completely, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir occasionally.
        • Once the white chocolate is completely melted, increase the stovetop heat to high. Cook the white chocolate, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir constantly (this is KEY — if you're not stirring the mixture constantly, it will start to seize and crumble) until caramel and tan streaks start to appear in the chocolate. Once these streaks appear, lower the heat to medium-high and continue stirring the chocolate around until it turns into a more uniform golden caramel/tan color. It should take around 3 to 4 minutes for the initial browning, and you can control how caramelized you want the chocolate to be from here — cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes for a deeper, bolder flavor, but be careful not to overdo it. Be sure to continue using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir constantly.
        • Once you've caramelized the chocolate to the point you desire, remove the pot or bowl from the stovetop. Slowly pour 1/4 cup heavy cream into the mixture, whisking constantly. Once the cream is fully incorporated, whisk in a pinch of salt.
        • Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, before pouring over the chilled chocolate cake. It's important that the cake has set in the refrigerator, or the caramelized white chocolate ganache might cause some of the dark chocolate ganache frosting to melt. Allow the cake to cool in the refrigerator for another 10 to 15 minutes to "set" the white chocolate ganache topping and serve at your leisure.


        Adapted Miette and Food52, mostly