My Birthday Cake – White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache

The past weekend I baked my birthday cake early. I don’t mean a few days early, I meant a week early. Why? you ask. Well, this weekend I’m pretty busy with going to the Cook.Eat.Live food event, meeting up with a bunch of friends for dinner, and trying to fit in some studying time for the GREs in between (I’m planning to go back to grad school.) I thought I might as well bake it early and eat my way through with the help of my parents and Helen.

Broken pieces of Scharffen Berger Milk Chocolate Baking my birthday cake
Broken up chocolate & baked cake

Once again, the good people of Scharffen Berger came to my aid, providing me the milk chocolate for this cake recipe. The recipe, white velvet cake with milk chocolate ganache is also from Scharffen Berger’s The Essence of Chocolate. Frankly, after trying multiple recipes from their book this is a great book for baking anything chocolate-related. Six recipes attempted and all were successes. I highly recommend.

My birthday cake

To explain what’s in the white velvet cake, it’s basically a pale yellow/white cake with a very fine texture due to the use of cake flour. It’s a very simple cake that my mom wondered why I want to do such a thing on my 24th birthday? Frankly, I don’t want to deal with a fussy recipe and don’t want to put in too much time with my birthday cake. I’m aiming for simplicity this year.

My birthday cake My birthday cake
Cake slice

Anyway, the cake was good as it sounded. A delicate crumb cake, that has a hint of butter, barely sweet, sandwiched and coated with milk chocolate ganache. What’s so great about Scharffen Berger’s milk chocolate is the caramelized milk flavor that’s very swoonworthy. (Heck, when I was decorating the cake. I was scraping a third of my ganache into a pastry bag, my mom walked over to the counter where I placed the nearly empty bowl, picked up the spatula, and licked it. She told me the ganache was delicious and wanted more! Alas, I can’t spare any.)

My parents' birthday gift to me
My parents’ birthday gift to me

My parents also gave me a pretty special birthday gift – a vintage Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac. They bought this several years before my existence into this world and this was and is meant to be a collector’s item. I don’t have any intention to drink this anyway since my alcohol tolerance is ridiculously low that I couldn’t finish that bottle in my lifetime. Thanks Mom & Dad!

Recipe from The Essence of Chocolate by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger
White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache; recipe contributed by Rose Levy Bernabaum
*My own instructions in italics.
Serves 6.

For the cake
3 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising, or if necessary, substitute with 1 3/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the ganache:
15 ounces 41% milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the whites, about 1/4 of the milk, and the vanilla until just combined.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining milk and mix on low until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the batter is light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.

4. With the mixer running, add the egg mixture in 3 batches, mixing for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a rubber or offset spatula. (The pan will be about half-full.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. The cake should spring back when pressed lightly in the center and a skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. The cake will start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after it is removed from the oven.

6. Cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Lightly butter another cooling rack. Loosening the sides of the cake with a small spatula and invert onto the rack, then, to prevent splitting, reinvert the cake onto the first rack so the top is up. Cool completely. (At this point, the cake can be stored in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag for 1 day at room temperature, refrigerated for 3 days, or frozen up to 2 months.)

For the ganache:
1. Place the chocolate in the bowl of a food processor and process until very finely ground. (Or you may chop it into fine bits, like I have.)

2. In a small saucepan, or in a heatproof glass measuring cup in the microwave, bring the cream to a boil. Immediately, with the processor running, pour the cream through the feed tube onto the chocolate. Process until smooth, about 15 seconds, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the vanilla and pulse a few times to incorporate.

I used the double-boiler technique for step 2 since I don’t own a food processor. I used a small saucepan, fill it about a 1/4-inch of water and place a heatproof glass bowl, that’s filled with the finely chopped chocolate and the heavy cream, on top and patiently stirring until it’s completely melted.

3. Transfer to a bowl and allow the ganache to stand for several hours, until it reaches frosting consistency. To speed the process, the ganache can be refrigerated; stir gently from time to time for even cooling and setting.

4. To assemble, using a serrated knife, slice the cake into two even layers. Place the bottom layer cut side up on a serving plate. Spread about 3/4 cup of the ganache over the top. Top with the second layer, cut side down. Spread the remaining frosting over the top side of the cake.


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. nyker says:

    Hi, Happy Birthday to both of us! mine is tomorrow but sadly, i can’t bake a cake so no yummy white velvet cake for me.:-( great that you’re heading back to grad school? i need to haul my butt back to grad school too. do you mind if i ask what you’ll be studying? take care.

  2. thewanderingeater says:

    nyker: Happy birthday to you, too! As for no cake, :( I’m planning to study hospital administration.

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