This birthday cake was a triumph! Sweet, but sour, rich, but balanced; it’s a cake everyone went back for seconds. Here are the recipes for all the components of this cake:
Makes an 9-inch double-layer cake.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of 2 9-inch round cakepans with tinfoil so the edges reach over the sides of the pan (the tinfoil will allow you to remove the cake from the pan with minimal damage.) Grease the entire interior of the pan and foil.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 2 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert first layer onto your cake plate and place the other on a cooling rack. (Note from Smitten Kitchen: “These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.”)
Sour Cherry Compote
Adapted from an old Bon Appetit recipe
2/3 cup water
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2 1/2 cups (1 pound) cherries, pitted
Combine water, sugar and lemon juice in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into saucepan; add bean. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until thin syrup forms, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add cherries. Stir 1 minute. At this point, if you would like to keep your cherries whole and lovely as they are, stop cooking it and you’re done.
Pomegranate-Cherry Cream Cheese Icing:
1-1/2 cups Pomegranate-Cherry Juice
4 oz. soft unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
14 oz. powdered sugar
Reduce the pomegranate juice, over low heat, down to 3 fl. oz., Allow to cool, place butter into electric mixer bowl with paddle attachment and cream on medium-high speed for 1 minute, add the cream cheese and continue to mix for 2 more minutes, turn the speed down to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar and the pomegranate juice reduction, mix until the sugar is fully combined.