Sean’s list of acceptable birthday treats were as follows: vanilla ice cream, plain chocolate cake, and plain chocolate chip cookies.
You should know by now that I don’t do “plain.” In an attempt at making something slightly more exciting, I came up with the idea for this cake by combining two of these three acceptably plain desserts. But, before moving forward with my idea, I secured a guarantee from Sean that he would at least TRY the cake. Promise in hand, I searched the internet to see if someone had done anything similar before. The closest recipes I found were on Something Shiny and The Domestic Rebel, both of which made delicious-looking chocolate chip cookie cakes. But because I wanted (needed? I had a promise to fulfill, after all) a chocolate cake base with a buttercream frosting (so as to avoid cookie dough overload and satisfy the birthday requirements), I used those cakes as inspiration for my own creation. And you know what? The birthday boy ate an entire slice. Only folks in my lab will understand, but this is a major success. HUGE. This cake is a keeper for sure!
I combined a few great recipes to make this cake. The chocolate chip cookie recipe I adapted from Cooks Illustrated, the chocolate cake recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, the cookie dough filling recipe comes from Fake Ginger, and the buttercream frosting recipe comes from Gale Gand, on the Food Network. The cookies can be made a day ahead, which makes assembly a breeze. This cake is moist and sweet, loaded with classic flavors and beautiful in its simplicity. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out and hope you like it, too!
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Feel free to use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. This one makes fairly thin, chewy cookies with crunchy edges. It makes a lot more cookies than you’ll need, but who doesn’t want extra cookies? Adapted from Heather Homemade, originally from Cooks Illustrated.
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. cornstarch
¾ tsp. sea salt
12 tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
(Optional: 1 tbsp. ground instant coffee)
Make the cookies:
1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare two large baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or spraying with non-stick spray.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl with whisk; set aside.
3. In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, mix butter and sugars together until well combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla just until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
4. Place by rounded spoonful on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are light golden brown, the edges start to harden, and the centers are still soft and puffy – about 15 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet.
*Note: if you want to decorate like I do, make a mixture of medium and tiny cookies. For the tiny cookies, roll small balls of dough by hand, about the size of a dime, and cook for ~12 minutes.
From Smitten Kitchen, originally from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Directions to make the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottoms and sides of three 8 or 9-inch round cakepans. Cut out a circle of parchment or waxed paper and line the bottom of each pan; grease the paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the oil and sour cream; whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well-mixed. Pour into the prepared cake pans, dividing evenly among all three.
3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. Like Deb notes, these cakes are incredibly delicate. Put them in the freezer for half an hour to make your life infinitely easier. In fact, it’s going to be essentially impossible for you to make a layer cake out of these cakes if you don’t firm them up in the freezer. They’ll defrost once assembled, don’t worry.
COOKIE DOUGH FILLING
Doubled from Fake Ginger.
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Make the cookie dough filling:
Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla until well-incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
From Gale Gand, on the Food Network.
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp. whipping cream
Make the frosting:
In a stand mixer, beat together 1 cup of the sugar and softened butter. Mix on low speed until well blended, gradually adding the rest of the sugar. Increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and cream; continue to beat on medium for 1 minute more, adding extra cream or powdered sugar to reach a spreading consistency.
1. Place one cake round down on your cake platter and cover the top generously with half of the cookie dough filling. Use your hands to press the cookie dough into the place, making sure you go all the way to the edges. Gently put another cake round on top of the filling and spread the rest of the cookie dough filling over it. Top with the third and final cake round.
2. Crumb coat the entire cake with some of the frosting. If you haven’t done this before, I explain it in my banana cake post. Essentially you want to cover the sides and top with a thin layer of frosting to “seal in” all the crumbs. Refrigerate the cake with the crumb coat for at least 15 minutes before frosting the final coat, to make sure the crumb coat sets up.
3. While the crumb coat sets in the refrigerator, cut about 5 large cookies in half. Remove your cake and coat generously with the remaining frosting. You’ll probably end up with some leftover frosting – might I suggest spreading it on your leftover cookies? Just a thought… Gently press the half-circle cookies around the bottom of the cake and small cookies in a circle on top of the cake.
*TIP: It’s a bit difficult to cut through the cookies on top of the cake (the side ones cut just fine), so I pulled them off as I cut and placed them on each slice afterwards. I also brought extra cookies to put on slices that didn’t get the removed small cookies.