Are you a Designated Birthday Cake Baker (DBCB)?

The person who, every time someone in the office has a birthday, receives the "nomination" to make the cake?

Not only are you nominated – you run unopposed, right?

And that's the way you like it. Baking is a pleasure for you, not a task. For most people, even going to the store and buying a boxed cake mix is too much trouble. But for you, it's fun to pull out the butter and sugar, eggs and flour and vanilla.

And cocoa; let's not forget that key ingredient. In my many years of experience as a DBCB, chocolate is the runaway favorite on the most-requested birthday cake list.

I do have a vanilla/berry Blitz Torte recipe ready, for those few-and-far-between who DON'T like chocolate. And my MIL needs her lemon cake every year.

But the vast majority demand chocolate – and fall into a state of blissful catatonia once they taste Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake.

Every DBCB needs their go-to cake, a sure-fire winner every time.

This one's mine.

It's one of the best-loved recipes on our site, with 43 glowing five-star reviews.

And for a four-layer cake, it isn't nearly as fussy to make as you might think. It starts out as a standard two-layer cake; each layer is cut in half, iced with an easy filling, and stacked.

The result is a moist cake that keeps well without refrigeration; looks spectacular when cut, and tastes even better than it looks.

Are you a DBCB? Bookmark this: Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

2 cups sugar
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons Instant ClearJel® or cornstarch
3/4 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

*Don't worry, the espresso powder (pictured above) doesn't add any coffee flavor here; it simply enhances the flavor of the chocolate. I highly recommend it for all kinds of chocolate baking.

Stir to combine.

Add the following:

4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water

Beat until smooth.

Lightly grease and flour two 8" x 2" round cake pans.

Note: These pans need to be at least 2" tall; if you have non-standard, shorter 8" pans, substitute 9" round pans.

Or grease the pans, then line with parchment, then grease the parchment; this provides extra insurance against sticking and/or crumbling.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes for 35 to 38 minutes (a bit less if you use 9" pans), until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

This is why your 8" pans HAVE to be at least 2" deep.

Measure before using; less expensive pans often skimp on height to save metal.

Run a table knife or spatula around the edges of the hot cakes, so they settle evenly.

Cool the cakes for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans, removing the parchment.

Cool completely on a rack.

Cut each layer in half horizontally. A long serrated knife works well here.

Now, what flavor should we make the filling?

Simple chocolate is fine, of course.

But this is also a great place to sample some of our extra-strong flavors.

We're making a simple ganache here. Put the following in a microwave-safe bowl:

12 ounces semisweet chocolate
6 ounces cream (light, whipping, or heavy)*

*Hint: Between this filling, and the icing that follows, you'll need 10 ounces of cream. If you want to limit yourself to buying just a single 8-ounce carton of cream, use 4 ounces cream + 2 ounces milk in this filling; and the carton's remaining 4 ounces cream in the icing.

Heat until the cream is very hot, and the chocolate very soft.

Stir to melt the chocolate completely. At first, it'll look like an uncooperative mess.

Just keep stirring, reheating very briefly if necessary, until the ganache is smooth.

Don't forget to add about 1/4 teaspoon (to taste) of your favorite extra-strong flavor.

Or, for an "adults only" cake, flavor with liqueur. Use all one flavor, or use a different flavor for each layer of filling. For all one flavor, use 3 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur – Frangelico (hazelnut), Kahlua (coffee), or Framboise (raspberry) are all good choices. Or try 2 tablespoons rum.

To mix and match flavors, divide the filling into three parts, and flavor each differently to taste, with an extra-strong flavor; or with about 1 tablespoon liqueur each.

Place one layer on a serving plate.

See how I've laid strips of parchment under the cake? They're there to catch any drips.

Spread with 1/3 of the filling. Don't bring it right to the edge; the pressure of the succeeding layers will do that for you.

Add a second layer, with another 1/3 of the filling...

...and a third, with the remaining filling.

Top with the remaining layer.

The cake could be a little unstable at this point, with its hot filling. To prevent "slip-slidin' away," bamboo barbecue skewers are a great stabilizer.

Now for the icing. Place the following in a microwave-safe bowl:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 ounces cream (light, whipping, or heavy)

Heat until the cream is very hot, and the chocolate very soft. Stir to melt the chocolate completely, reheating very briefly if necessary.

Pour and spread the icing over the top of the cake...

...letting it drip over the edges and down the sides.

Once it’s done dripping, you may smooth the sides with an icing spatula, if desired.

Kinda messy...

But pull out those parchment strips, and TA-DA! Clean as a whistle.

Allow the cake to rest, covered with a cake cover (or a big turned-over bowl) until the chocolate is set; overnight is good, though several hours are sufficient.

Cut and serve. Take a bow.

Couldn't resist one final shot. And yes, this is as good as it looks!

We hope you enjoy our recipe for Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake! And if you want to make 2 dozen cupcakes instead of a layer cake? Try our recipe for Favorite Fudge Birthday Cupcakes with 7-Minute Icing.

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.PJ wa...
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