Every year, I manage to ruin Stephen’s birthday cake.
The first year we lived together, I decided to throw him a “surprise party”. His family never made a big deal about his birthday when he was younger, so I wanted to give him the birthday party he never had. But, it wasn’t really a party. It was just me, an apartment decorated with streamers and balloons, and a birthday cake.
I don’t remember for sure, but I’m guessing Betty Crocker had more of a hand in making the cake than I did. What I do remember for sure is that I didn’t level the cake layers. And because the bottom layer was so domed, the top layer broke into four pieces and began sliding down the sides of the cake. At that point I didn’t really have time for a backup plan, so I stuck some candles on it and resigned myself to moping. Stephen thought it was hilarious.
I don’t recall what happened the next year, but I’m sure it was horrifying. Probably so much so that I’ve completely blocked it from my memory.
By the third year we lived together, Betty and I had gone our separate ways. The cake I made from scratch was absolutely delicious. But by no means did that prevent me from promptly throwing it in the trash and buying a cake at Safeway when the top layer slid halfway off the bottom layer and wouldn’t go back. (This time too-thin frosting was the culprit). The perfectionist in me couldn’t bare to look at it.
2 cups sugar
1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder (such as Hershey’s)
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat three 8-inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Spray each pan again and coat with a thin layer of flour.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the boiling water; the batter will be very thin.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.