[Presents! from the Ferry Building, June 2007]

I got a piece of rather spectacular news the other day, but I’m going to hold on to it a bit until I have something more concrete to show for it. Needless to say, an already gold-star day of 80-degree temperatures here in San Francisco was elevated to new and glorious heights.

Yesterday was my friend Logan’s birthday, and the girls drank sparkling wine and went out to eat. We opened a bottle of Gloria Ferrer for a pre-dinner libation, and noshed on baked white beans and feta, Moroccan vegetable tagine, a seafood soup, and halibut at Nopa. And after all that we feasted on a chocolate cake I had made the night before despite the heat. For birthdays, there is never an excuse to not have cake, and in this case, I definitely served it forth.

I also made the cake in question last fall, for a wonderful lunch I did for a close family friend — it was her birthday, too, and as is my wont, I put on a bit of a do. This was right around the time my blog in its previous incarnation crashed and burned, and the lovely write-up I did of that luncheon was lost forever. But as it’s a shame to miss out chronicling an extraordinary meal, I feel the need to briefly recount it here: to start, a very garlicky hummus with whole wheat bread and olives, then a first course of roasted red pepper and tomato soup; the main course consisted of salmon with lemon and tomatoes, fresh basil pesto (one made vegan, for my pa), and a large salad; dessert was chocolate cake and champagne. We sat around the table for three hours which in my book is the mark of a good party.

I love this cake because it’s not too fussy, yet still very decadent. There is a lot of butter (1.5 sticks), eggs (4), and buttermilk (a cup), and I top it with a rich sour cream-chocolate ganache type of frosting (note to self: next time try with a basic chocolate buttercream). It comes together in about 40 minutes from mixing bowl to out-of-oven, which for time pressed cooks like myself is very important.

Plus, it tastes really good. And in the end, isn’t that the most important consideration when baking a birthday cake?

Feel the love:

[Birthday cake for Logan, June 2007]

Devil’s Food Cake with Chocolate Frosting, from

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the bottoms of two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Lightly butter the paper and the sides of the pans and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the brown sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour, beating after each addition.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Let the cake layers cool completely before frosting.

Serve immediately or keep covered at room temperature until ready to serve. Makes one 9-inch cake; serves 10 to 12.


4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

In a medium-size, heavy saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and cream. Heat, stirring frequently, until the butter melts. Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; let cool to barely lukewarm, about 8 minutes.

Whisk in the sour cream until fully combined. Then whisk in the confectioners’ sugar. Let stand until thick enough to spread, about 10 minutes. If the frosting becomes too stiff to spread, rewarm briefly over low heat and whisk again until smooth.

I served this with Strauss raspberry ice cream (thanks, Carolynn!), and champagne.

nicole spiridakis © copyright 2023