Birthday treats can be SUCH a conundrum.
Often, an entire layer cake isn’t in the cards. Especially when you need a last-minute birthday treat. Like last Monday, when I didn’t have the time to melt chocolate onto a pretzel, let alone bake a layer cake, even though I had promised to make something.
You know those times when you’re not baking for a crowd? You’re just making a little thing for the birthday person to enjoy and MAYBE share if they want to? Well, I. Was. Stumped. I thought about cake balls (had no cake). A mini cake baked in a tin can! (Had no organic tins.) A boxed cake! Not exciting.
But I got to thinking, and then I got really excited (thinking does that to me, sometimes). Because wouldn’t it be cool if you could whip up just ONE slice of layer cake? Just a single perfect slice of birthday cake. The quintessential idea of a birthday treat?!
Yes, I decided. Yes, that would be cool. So the next night, I stirred. I baked. I chilled. I sliced. I stacked. I slathered. And I had one (nearly) perfect slice of chocolate layer cake in about 40 minutes. Yup. Done.
Let’s talk about how excited I am about this. A huge, single slice of layer cake can be yours without having to make an entire cake. Eee!!! But it’s also easy–I actually think this is almost easier than baking a batch of cupcakes. To make those look pretty, I have to whip out my frosting applicator which is a PAIN IN THE BUTT to clean. This is probably the prettiest layered thing I’ve ever made.
You only need to bake one round layer. It’s a one-bowl cake: super easy. There’s not a lot of batter and it will be pretty thin. That’s fine–wait for the stacking!
Once it’s baked, it needs to cool (important) which makes this a good time to talk frosting: you can make this three-ingredient frosting in under two minutes.
What you need: yogurt, cocoa powder, and a sweetener.
I eat trashy yogurt sometimes. This plain nonfat business has 15 grams of sugar! Eek. Does having pectin make this real yogurt? Discuss.
Just regular plain yogurt. (I’ve been stocked ever since the discovery of it being a total magic ingredient.) Yes, I’ve been eating trashy lately. Judge me. Anyway, this + cocoa powder + sweetener = a really tangy, light “yogurt frosting” that I think goes really well with this cake. If I’d had Greek yogurt, I would have used that since it’s less watery and might have looked more frosting-like, and added honey instead.
When your cake is cool, dump it on a cutting board. Make sure you greased that cake pan well so it comes out without breaking. Flip it so it’s right side up onto another cutting board. Cut into sixths. That’s once down the middle. Then make an X so that each side is divided into three triangles. Take your doctored yogurt and start frosting and stacking. I only went five layers high. I crumbled up the last layer and pressed it into the back of the cake:
You could also make a cake ball or two with the scraps. Or press them into heart shapes. I don’t know.
Top with sprinkles. It’s that easy. One perfect, single slice of layer cake for the birthday person in question.* Or, for those rocking the single lady lifestyle in SERIOUS style.
Plus, I learned a GREAT tip about how to bake flat cake layers—probably the best thing I’ve learned all year. Coming soon!
You can bet your bottom dollar I licked all that frosting off the fork. CLEAN.
For other “single-serving” birthday treat ideas, I also considered these:
*I would like to note that I’m not advocating eating this all in one sitting. That would be like a million calories (ahem, 800ish) and you would probably explode.
A perfect single slice of chocolate layer cake
Martha Stewart's one-bowl chocolate cake (made egg-less) yields an incredibly moist yet sturdy cake that can stand up to layering and is easy to throw together. Tangy yogurt frosting is the perfect accompaniment to this decadent single slice of chocolate layer cake.
- For the cake
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pans
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- scant 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons yogurt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- For the frosting
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
- 1.5-2 tablespoons granulated sugar or other sweetener
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 8 or 9” cake pan well and dust with cocoa (optional--I didn't).
Whisk together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/4 cup warm water, milk, yogurt, oil, and vanilla and stir until smooth (don’t overmix).
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake, rotating once, until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 18 minutes for a 9” pan.
Let cake cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing to cool completely. Alternatively, throw in the freezer until bottom is cold, then remove from pan.
To make frosting: stir the sugar and cocoa powder into the yogurt until smooth. This works best if you sift the cocoa powder first to avoid lumps, but is not necessary, especially if the receiving end won’t care.
To assemble, cut cooled cake layer into six wedges. Spread frosting between layers and along the back of the cake, if you wish. I only used five wedges to make five layers and crumbled the remaining piece to decorate the back of the cake. You could also use the remaining layer to make a cake ball, or stamp into cake shapes, or eat.
The original recipe calls for an egg in this cake; I forgot it and happily it worked out since this is 1/6 of the original recipe. You can make this vegan by subbing additional milk or applesauce for the yogurt in the cake. You'd need to use another frosting altogether.
I used a scant half cup of sugar in this; I think you could even go down to 1/3 cup, although keep in mind that the frosting isn't super sweet.
P.S: This is what happens when your phone + sprinkles collide.
P.P.S: This one-bowl mac ‘n cheese is amazing.