Devil's Food Chocolate Cake with Honey Buttercream

Haley, my daughter, turned 2 last weekend.  My baby angel is growing before my eyes into a big girl, into a toddler full of attitude. She has a inherited a few of Mommy's attitude traits, like the hand on one hip, the way she points her finger and hollers "No, no, no!" and the way she naturally wallops other kids.  After discussion with other family members and friends, we have determined that this little apple had not fallen far from the tree.

I put Haley in a Tinkerbell costume for fun for a little while, just to play, after a morning shower. She let me fix her hair.  I put it up in pigtails.  I like how she tries to say "pretty."  It comes out more like "pree" and she will pat her hair or whatever she's trying to show you that is pretty.

We had a small party at home. Before guests arrived, I changed her into her party dress. Then she didn't want her silver party shoes any more. She wanted the pink Ugg-style boots.  I figured she can wear whatever. It's her birthday, after all. And she loves shoes. She loves to pick out her shoes for preschool and will get very upset if I offer the same pair two days in a row.

Justin's Grandmother Rose, my parents, cousin Joani and her kids, and one friend and her kids were there with us for the party. It was sure cute when Eric ran to answer the door when Billie, Luka and Juno arrived. The boys pressed their faces up to the sidelight window and giggled. They immediately ran off to play.

We all enjoyed the fresh air and decent weather. The kids played outside on the playground. Haley found a few strawberries tucked away under the leaves in the garden. Mom helped pick them and clean them so she could have a little treat. Justin and I grilled some chicken, burgers, and hot dogs. Then we served up some baked beans, watermelon, Frog's Eye Salad, and chips. And let me just complain for a moment. I went to three different grocery stores looking for multicolored marshmallows. Seriously, I thought they'd have something besides all regular white marshmallows. Seasonal things? Hello? So to make it cute, I used mini star pasta instead of acini de pepe to go with the plain marshmallows.

Anyhow, lunch was good. The adults sat at the regular patio tables. The kiddos were super cute sitting at the new kid-size picnic table we built.  Justin and I worked very hard to build their table.  Justin did most of the wood cutting, I sanded, we cooperated for assembly, then I stained. It turned out great!

We called everyone inside to sing Happy Birthday and serve the cake. I think I did a great job with her cake. (Because I am an awesome mom who likes making fufu fancy things!) The finished cake was very cute.

Haley had a little trouble blowing out the candles. She kept puffing out her nose, so the candles barely flickered. It was pretty funny. I handed out cake slices. Everyone dug in and got good and sugared up. Now, I also made a few cupcakes and frosted them with chocolate buttercream.  For some reason, everyone wanted the big bee and flower cake.

Next, Haley opened presents. We gave her a Jessie cowgirl doll from Toy Story. She hugged and kissed her the rest of the day, and even napped with her and the purple unicorn Pillow Pet that Grandma Michel sent. It was a good day.

for the Chocolate Cake (high altitude recipe)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 cups buttermilk

for the Chocolate Cake
1. Cream together the butter, flavoring extracts, and sugar. Beat until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.

3.  Add about 1/2 cup of the flour-cocoa mixture to the butter mixture and mix well,  Add 1/2 cup buttermilk and mix.  Continue alternating additions of cocoa-flour and buttermilk until all is blended in well. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat one more minute so it's mixed well.

4. Grease and flour your pans, or use the Baker's Joy nonstick cooking spray with flour, and pour the batter in evenly.  This is enough for 3 9-inch round pans or about 3 dozen cupcakes. (I like to use cupcake liners because they are cute.)

5. Bake in a preheated 375F oven until the cakes pass the toothpick test.  Cool in the pan about 2 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

6. Baking times:
    Cupcakes: 15-19 minutes, mine took 17 minutes.
    6 inch round: 26-30 minutes, mine took 28 minutes.
    9 inch round: 28-32 minutes, mine took 30 minutes.

Note: For high altitude bakers, I have already adjusted this recipe to work at altitude. Reno is about 4700 feet elevation.  I generally decrease the leavening agent by a quarter and increase flour by 1/4 cup.  Low altitude bakers will probably want to add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and decrease the flour by 1/4 cup.  Also, I typically use aluminum cake pans because they make a better edge than other materials.  If you are concerned about aluminum and its relationship to Alzheimer's disease, don't keep the cake in the pan.

for the Honey Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons milk

for the frosting
1. Cream together the butter and shortening.

2. Add sugar in one-cup additions and scrape sides well.

3. Add the honey, beat well and scrape the sides to incorporate thoroughly.

4. Thin with 2 tablespoons milk. Beat until quite fluffy and smooth. Yield at this point should be approximately 3 to 4 cups.

Note:  For a more subtle honey flavor, you may want to use only 2 Tablespoons of honey.  This recipe makes frosting that will spread well with an offset metal spatula.  However, if you want to be able to pipe it for decorations, you will need to thin it with additional milk.  Add about 2 Tablespoons more of milk and then test the consistency.

I bought some Wilton Gum Paste Mix and made the bees, flowers, and the big pink "2" a few days in advance. Saturday afternoon, I baked the cakes then wrapped them up in plastic and popped them in the fridge overnight. First thing Sunday, I started making the frosting, then assembled and decorated the cake all before my folks arrived.  I piped some beehives with chocolate frosting, stuck the bees here and there and even legibly piped "Happy Birthday Haley" on the side.

These are the gum paste items in progress. First, I made "petals" for the sunflower top, then bees, roses, and a pink number 2.

To decorate the cake, I covered the larger 9-inch layer with the white honey buttercream,  then added the 6-inch layer. I frosted it and the added the sunflower petals. I used extra honey buttercream to help hold the petals in place. I made the petals shiny by just wetting my finger and wiping it over each piece to remove the excess powdered sugar.  I let them dry completely before using on the cake to prevent color bleeding.

I made some chocolate buttercream for the fine piping. I made little dots on top of the sunflower and used it to also pipe the words and beehives.


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