This weekend, my Dad had a birthday and I have made it tradition to bake birthday cakes myself. I don’t bake cakes often (birthdays only, usually), so when I do… I want it to be special, dang it! I do love frosting the cakes (very simply) and challenging myself in some way. This birthday, I wanted to match the height of my Dad (he’s very tall) with the height of the cake. This 4 layer monster cake was so easy to put together, I can’t even begin to explain. So I’ll share the recipe and let you try for yourself.
The chocolate cake closely resembles the Hershey’s Cocoa “Black Magic Cake” on the box of cocoa powder you can purchase at the grocery store. I have yet to find a chocolate cake that competes with it. So simple, so perfect. (I do make some changes, albeit small ones. See recipe.)
My Dad’s request: “Chocolate cake. Just a little frosting.” (Sorry, when you decorate a cake… you need more than a smear, Dad!) He did like the John Deere accents (green and yellow frosting and filling). I love frosting the cake simply and adding some fun details that aren’t tough create. A long time ago I got some large pastry tips at Williams Sonoma and some small ones at Hy-Vee. I’ve used them so much.
HOWEVER: If it were up to Dad… his cake would look like this:
PS: We discovered an ‘eligible’ tractor to put on the birthday cake when we dug through the basket-o-tractors long enough that my son finally agreed to lease an old tractor for Grandpa’s cake. Not going to say there weren’t tears… because there were. Who lets frosting get on a TRACTOR?! Once I firmed up the fact that he’d (my son)be licking the frosting off of the tractor, he was better. Much better.
You can kind of see the tractor on the back side of the cake here:
The note on the cake? yes, my son couldn’t pronounce “Grandpa” for the longest time and called my dad “BoBo”. It stuck.
Another note: A large open star tip and disposable pastry bags: cake-baking-girl’s best friends.
This cake is gigantic and will weigh upwards of 15+ pounds (I think). It was roughly 10 inches tall or better by the time frosting was through. Seriously. It could feed 30-40 people (but if you slice like I do… maybe 25.)
This little guy is turning 3 soon… I asked if he wanted a ‘red tractor’ (not John Deere green/yellow) on his birthday cake. He responded with this look:
Here’s a picture of the frosting process. I love my offset spatula. Words can’t describe my love effectively.
Lastly, when you are baking layer cakes (and are an amateur like me), heavily rely on your refrigerator to chill the cake layers, filled cake and crumb coated cake. Frosting a cooled cake is much easier and neater when the cake is cooled. Not to mention, the cake slices easier. Don’t want to serve chilled cake? Bring it out of the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before the party!
Dad’s Tallest 4 Layer Chocolate Cake
Makes 1 large cake (will feed 25-35 people, depending on layer thickness)
By: Cristen www.foodandswine.com
4 C sugar 3 2/3 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C cocoa powder 1 TBSP baking soda 2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 C vegetable oil
2 C buttermilk (can use regular milk and 1 TBSP vinegar to equal 2 C)
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 C hot coffee
1 C hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 4 8” cake pans with parchment rounds. Spray pans over with nonstick spray. In a large mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients together. (sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt) Whisk together until well combined. In a large measuring cup, whisk together: oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Add to dry mixture. Whisk to combine, taking care not to over mix. To the batter, add hot coffee and hot water. Mix well. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into four greased and lined cake pans. Bake cakes at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove, let cool a bit. Turn cakes out onto a cooling rack. Once cooled to at least warm, or cooler, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours. Cakes will get firm and be ready to layer, fill and frost.
Layer and Fill:
When ready to assemble. Remove parchment from layers. Place 1 layer down on cake plate (flat side down), top with green filling. Cover with layer #2 (top side down), top this layer with yellow filling. Cover with cake layer #3 (flat side down), top with green filling (reserve some for outer decorations once cake is frosted). Place last cake layer, #4, on the top of the green filling (top side down so flat bottom is the top of the cake.)
Take 1 C of chocolate frosting (recipe below) and make a crumb coat since the layers are still chilled. This is a thin coat of frosting all around the cake that will make the frosting process go much smoother, later on. Refrigerate cake for 30 minutes to an hour (or more if desired).
When ready to complete, remove cake from refrigerator, spread chocolate frosting over cake, neatly (use an offset spatula for best results). Place remaining chocolate frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe decorative pattern with a large open star tip around top of cake and bottom of cake. Finish decorating by piping rounds of green frosting and yellow frosting in patterns around the cake. Place initial of recipient in center of cake. Place John Deere Tractor on cake somewhere! This cake can be used to make ‘red’ variations of the tractors… if you desire. Following are frosting recipes.
Lightly Chocolate Frosting
By: Cristen www.foodandswine.com
3 sticks of butter
1 bag (2 lb.) powdered sugar
1 C + 2 TBSP cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3-3/4 C milk or more depending on the consistency you’d like for the frosting.
Beat ingredients together. Once combined, continue to beat for 2 minutes until fluffy. Reserve for frosting the cake. Most of this frosting will be used to frost the outside and top of the cake. After that is done, place remaining chocolate frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip.
John Deere Almond Frosting for Filling
3 sticks of butter
9 C powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
Pinch of salt
1/2 C milk (or more to reach desired consistency)
Combine all ingredients, beat 1 minute, until fluffy. Divide frosting into 3 parts. Dye two of the 3 parts green, dye the remaining part yellow. Reserve a small amount of green and yellow frosting to create the embellishments (dots and initial) on the frosted cake. Place those reserved portions in piping bags fitted with a medium round tip and a medium star tip.