Judy’s Famous Birthday Cake – My Family’s All Time Favorite Cake!

Bake this incredible white cake with rich chocolate frosting for any special occasion! 

I have three children. Randi is my oldest; she’s 25 years old. Next is Danny- he’s 22. And last but definitely not least is Benji- he’s 18. When my children were little, I started the tradition of cooking a special birthday dinner for them, which of course had to include a birthday cake. I adapted this recipe from a recipe of my mother’s (Nana to my kids).   I have so many wonderful memories of all these birthday dinners that all ended with this amazing cake. The combination of the fluffy, buttery cake with the incomparable dark, glossy, chocolaty icing is so good, you will not be able to stop eating it! I know one thing for sure. To this day when I bake this cake, even though my kids are pretty much grown, they still fight over who’s going to get to lick the spatula or the bowl when I make the icing! I promise you – if you make this cake once for your family, you will want to start your own family tradition of making this cake for your children’s birthdays!

For the cake:

  • 3 cups Swans Down or Pillsbury Softasilk cake flour (I sift it first, then measure it)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I try to use aluminum free such as Rumsford)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons  kosher salt  (If using unsalted butter, use 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. If using salted butter use 1 teaspoon salt.)
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I’ve eliminated the extra 2 tablespoons, not necessary)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans  ( in 2020- I’ve been using 4 tablespoons over the last year or so for a moister cake) Hint- if you take the butter right out of the freezer or refrigerator, put it in the microwave one minute at a time on power level 1 until it is just soft, but not melted. It will probably take you about 1 or 2 min. Do not put the 2 tablespoons in the microwave with the 1 stick because it will melt down; do it separately for less than 1 minute)
  • 2 jumbo or extra-large (choose the biggest ones in the box) or jumbo eggs at room temperature  
  • 1 1/4 cups regular or whole milk (room temp)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (not artificial)

For the icing:

    • 1 pound (about 4 cups) confectioners’ sugar (If the sugar is really fresh you don’t have to sift it, but if it seems lumpy, sift if to get the lumps out.)
    • 6 1 oz. squares of unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s or Nestle’s) (last time I baked cake, I used 7 oz. Baker’s chocolate, and I liked the results, and now that is what I’m doing.)
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter or margarine (margarine works just as well, but I can only recommend Fleischmann’s- the last time I baked this I did use the Fleischmann’s salted margarine, and the icing was exquisite!!!! (Thanksgiving ’09))
    • 10 tablespoons whole milk (I added about 3 tablespoons more to get a creamy consistency as I whisked the icing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (if you are using unsalted butter or margarine, increase salt to 3/4 teaspoon)

Note – The last few times I made the cake, I increased the chocolate in the icing to 7 oz. of unsweetened chocolate.  I liked the result and now that is what I’m doing permanently.

Of course, my critic Benji suggested that I make this as a layer cake the next time.  But I told him I wouldn’t- it is so much more labor intensive, and you don’t get as many pieces out of the cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13  non-stick baking pan or 2  nine inch cake pans (If I am making a layer cake, I use the most amazing 9 in. pans- they have removable bottoms, so I never have to worry about getting my cake out). I usually bake the cake in the 9 x 13,  because it is so much easier to frost, and no one will care that it isn’t a layer cake because the only thing they will be noticing is the amazing taste!

Measure out your flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment,  cream the room temperature butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar, and cream on high speed till fluffy again. Add the room temperature eggs one at a time, and mix until mixture is light and fluffy.  On low speed, add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in three or four parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. This is very important and will insure a light and fluffy cake:  When you add your dry ingredients, just mix until blended!  Add your vanilla in after your last addition of milt.  You may need to scrape down the bowl during mixing. Mix until just combined and smooth.  Do not overmix!

Pour the batter into your prepared pan or pans. Bake 35-40 minutes (about 20-25 min for the round pans) until the top is slightly browned, the cake has separated slightly from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for about 50-60 minutes until cool.

Now, make the icing.  I do not use a double boiler, but you may use one.   Put butter or margarine in the bottom of a 2 or 3 quart heavy bottomed saucepan (I love using my 28 year old Farberware saucepans) on the tiniest flame possible. When the butter begins to melt, put the squares of chocolate in. Keep moving the chocolate around as it melts to make sure it doesn’t burn.

As soon as the chocolate and butter are completely melted, pour the confectioners’ sugar in and immediately pour the milk in. Whisk together on low flame  until sugar is dissolved, and mixture is smooth. This will take a very short time! Add salt and whisk in.  Take pan off stove and whisk in the vanilla.

If you are using the 9 x 13 pan, immediately, pour icing over cake and smooth with either a knife or a a rubber spatula. I like to use a small rubber spatula. If you are using round cake pans, then place one cake layer on your flat serving plate, and spread with the icing. Place the second layer on top, and frost the top and sides.  Cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature until you serve this masterpiece.

Note:  When you make the cake in the 9 by 13 pan, you may want to reduce the icing.  I make the entire recipe of icing, and the layer of icing on top of the cake is quite thick.  That’s how my family likes it.  But if you like less icing, here are your quantities:  3 cups of confectioners sugar, 5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, 6 tablespoons margarine or butter, 8 tablespoons regular milk, scant 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *