Grandma's Birthday Cake


This past weekend my grandma turned something like a thousand years old or something so the whole family went down to Florida for a party and I got to cook for them! It was kinda like being in San Diego, except for every single person I know was there. Anyway, I made my grandma a surprise birthday cake as my present to her! Heads up that I also made crazy meatball- and mozzarella-stuffed arancini, but that's for another day.

Have you ever had a cake that was so moist you thought it might melt through the prongs of your fork? That's this cake. It's pillowy and wet and pumped full of chocolate insanity. The buttercream, if used sparingly, actually contributes to the more savory aspects of the cake layers such that it doesn't give you a sugar headache when you eat like six pieces in a row. And did I mention that this cake is moist AF? There's like a ton of oil in it, so it's super moist. Ok, I can't help it if cake descriptions sound extra sexual. Happy Birthday, Grandma?!?! Anyway, gluten-free version on the way!

Butter Count: 32 Tbsp



2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp espresso powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup canola oil

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water



1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour two 9-inch cake pans (doubled the recipe and used three differently sized cake pans for tiering, and it worked great).

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Combine well with a paddle attachment on low speed.

3. Still on low speed, add the milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients. As the mixture becomes more wet than dry, increase the speed to medium. Mix until well combined.

4. Reduce the speed to the lowest setting and add the boiling water. Continue mixing until well combined. 

5. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. The batter should be very wet and liquidy. Bake about 35-40 minutes. Check that the center of the cakes are fully cooked using a knife or toothpick, which should come out clean. 

NOTE: Depending on the wattage of your oven, you will have to bake longer or shorter. The cake should be very very moist at the end of the bake, but the cake tester should still come out completely clean. Continue cooking until the cakes are totally cooked.



2 cup unsalted butter, softened

7 cups powdered sugar, sifted

4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp whole milk



1. Cream the butter in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment at medium speed until the butter is smooth, about 2 minutes. Do not over-whip.

2. Turn the mixer off. Add 1/2 cup of sugar. Gradually turn the speed up to the highest setting for about 10 seconds. Repeat this step until all of the sugar is incorporated.

3. Add the vanilla extract and salt and combine fully. Add the milk and continue whipping until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.



NOTE: These instructions are for making a single-tier 4-layer cake, not a 3-tier cake as shown in the picture.


1. Remove the cakes from the pans. Level them and slice them each into two layers using a serrated knife.

2. Place one of the layers onto a cake stand and spread an even layer of buttercream across the top, about 1/2 inch thick. Place the next layer on top of that and repeat. Do this with the next two layers as  well. 

3. Place the stacked cake in the freezer for at least an hour, or the refrigerator for at least three hours. It's fine to leave it in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight.

4. Remove it and spread an extremely thin and even layer of buttercream (crumb coat) around the entire cake. Place the cake back in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

5. Remove the cake and rub any hardened bumps off of the buttercream layer with your hands. Spread or pipe the remaining buttercream over the outside of the cake in the desired style. Decorate as desired.