When it comes to layer cakes (birthday cakes in particular), white icing on a black cake creates a great contrast. Not only does it look good, but the white makes a great background for decorations (you can see what I put on the top of this cake here) because everything “pops” against it.
For the cake to be used in a layer cake, I look for two primary qualities: moistness and sturdiness. Moistness is obviously a desirable quality because nobody likes a dry cake. Sturdiness allows you to move the cake layers around without them crumbling into pieces, which makes the whole cake assembly process a heck of a lot easier, especially if you’re working with a cake that needs to be split into layers.
The cake in question here is an easy-to-use eggless chocolate cake recipe. Also called “wacky cake” because it uses vinegar and baking soda to cause it to rise. It is moist and easy to work with, with a very chocolaty taste. It makes an excellent single-layer cake (just halve the recipe), but works beautifully in a layer cake because it gets even more tender after a day encased in icing. It also happens to be vegan, so it can be used for veg friends, as well.
Getting back to the frosting, I must admit that I have a bias for white frosting. As a kid, I felt that the chocolate was just too heavy (or, in some cases, too artificial) for my tastes, so not only was the color appealing, but the texture. This icing is just what I always hoped to get as a kid. It is light and creamy and cooks up in a few minutes. It does not have the overtly buttery taste of buttercream, which can sometimes detract from the cake itself, but is still rich and satisfying. The only thing bad I can say about it is that it will provide a fairly thin layer of frosting, so double it if you like yours to be piled on thickly (or if you’re planning a batch of cupcakes in a couple of days and don’t mind the extra sitting in the fridge in the meantime).
Easy Chocolate Layer Cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting
(a.k.a. “Wacky Cake”)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cold water
1 tbsp coffee powder
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with circles of parchment paper, and grease again.
In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Dissolve the coffee powder in the cold water (or just use cold coffee for a slightly more mocha taste) and pour the water over the mixture. Stir until smooth. Divide evenly into prepared pans.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Turn cakes out of pans onto a plate (or another rack), remove parchment paper, and reinvert onto racks to cool completely before frosting.
If storing overnight before frosting (they can be made a day ahead), just wrap completely in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
Creamy Vanilla Frosting
1 1/3 cups milk (low fat is fine)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine milk, flour and salt in medium saucepan with the heat turned off. Whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil (about 5-7 min.). Boil for 1 minute then remove from heat. Strain into a medium bowl and cover surface with plastic food wrap to prevent a pudding-like “skin” from forming. Cool to room temperature (about 1 1/2 hours).
When flour mixture is cool, beat together sugar, butter and vanilla in large bowl until light and creamy. Adding a dollop at a time, beat in the cooled flour mixture until frosting is creamy and light. Frost cake, putting a thin layer in the center, as well as on the top and sides.
(Makes enough for one layer cake)