A Minecraft Birthday

I fail at blogging. Moving on…

For ZiZ’s birthday, I made a chocolate cake with cinnamon sour cream frosting, in the shape of a minecraft crafting table with the cake recipe in the grid. It was meta, it was geeky, and it was delicious.

The Cake


For the cake, I used my always go-to suuuuper rich chocolate cake of NOM recipe, originally from Epicurious.


  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate, either chopped finely or as chips.

The quality of this chocolate isn’t a huge factor, but I would recommend something at least a step above, say, Nestle chips

  • 1½ cups hot coffee

As hot as possible, you’re going to use it to melt the chocolate

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

This is going to be where most of the chocolate flavor comes from; I would advise using the very best cocoa powder you can get your hands on.

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla


So the very first thing you want to do is put the chocolate in a small bowl along with the hot coffee. Now that your chocolate is melting away, remember to stir it periodically until it is completely melted. Now is the time to pre-heat the oven. The original recipe calls for 300°, but I find that even that low temperature has a tendency to make the cakes fall. I’ve had better luck at 275° at high altitude, but it will taste good wherever in that range you elect to go.

Next, you want to grease your pan(s), parchment the bottom and then also grease the parchment. This makes a huge difference and is totally worth the effort. On the topic of pans, here’s the deal:

  • This time around, I baked the cake as 3 layers in 8″ square (by 2″) pans
  • The original recipe calls for 2 layers in 10″ round by 2″ pans
  • I’ve also made this guy in 9″ round by 1″ pans, and made a 2/3 recipe

So the cake is pretty tolerant of changing pan sizes. I’ve generally used this chart of sizes to confirm that my batter will actually fit the pans before I get going; this cake has been known to rise to about twice the height of the batter you put in the pan.

Okay, so you have melting chocolate (go stir it!) and buttered pans. Now it’s time to put your eggs in your stand mixer and start it up on about medium to medium high (like 7/10). While that runs, measure out the dry ingredients (sugar through salt, here) into a bowl and stir them together. The eggs should now be a lighter, fluffier version of themselves.

Turn the mixer down to low-ish and measure in (carefully) the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Make sure those are well mixed, and then add the dry ingredient bowl slowly, and mix until juuuuust combined (scrape down the bowl once during that mix). Pour the batter into your various pans/layers as evenly as you can manage, and pop them in the oven for about an hour. You’ll know they’re done when a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a wire rack in the pan for about 15 minutes, then de-pan (carefully, they’re still going to be warm and delicate) and allow to cool the rest of the way. Now, if you plan to decorate, I highly recommend wrapping them in a double or triple layer of plastic wrap and freezing overnight. This will make life sooooooo much better.


For the frosting, I tried out a new recipe. On flavor and non-decorating spreading, I was thrilled with it, but I wouldn’t use it to decorate again — it was both prone to developing sudden lumps (apparently as a result of being colored?) and breaking during the rigors of decorating. But it was easy for a frost/fill, and yummy as crud.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons flour

Yes, I know this is weird, but bear with me, I promise it’s tasty!

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), allowed to heat up to room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)


For the minecraft cake, I made a double recipe of this frosting and then used about 3/4 for the primary frost-and-fill, and the last 1/4 for decorating. Step one is of course to realize you forgot to take out the butter and do so. Fortunately there’s another waiting step in this recipe, so you’re not too terribly off course yet :)

Now, you’re going to make a roux with the milk and flour. I like to do this by adding the flour first into a fairly wide pan, then adding the milk slowly, with vigorous whisking to get everything mixed. Put the pan over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens; you want something akin to a very thick cake batter or a brownie batter. When you get there, take it off the heat and add the vanilla. Now, let it cool down completely (I would say at least 30 minutes, and make sure it’s room temperature before you start the next step).

Now that your flour-stuff is cooled off, put the butter and sugar in a mixer (you really want a stand mixer for this one) with the whisk attachment, turn it on, and leave the room. Let it cream up on high for at least 10 minutes or so; you want it to be so incredibly mixed. When you wander back into the kitchen, turn the mixer down to low and then slowly add the flour/milk mixture. Turn the mixture back up and don’t look inside the bowl for a while — what you have right now is going to look terrifying and broken and not yummy at all, don’t think about it. After another 5 or so minutes of whipping, you’ll have frosting, and it will be yummy.

At this point in the minecraft cake I pulled out about 1/4 of the frosting to decorate with, and to the remainder added (about)

  • ¾ cup sour cream (cold is fine)
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon (or possibly more, just taste and make sure it punches you in the face)

If you do plan to color the frosting (I just used the cinnamon color already imparted for this cake), then I would advise adding color to it while you still have it in the mixer, to avoid losing the fluffiness (which I currently theorize helps stabilize the frosting). I refrigerated the frosting overnight before using it, but it should be fine to fill and frost right away.

Have a look at the next post for how to go about filling, frosting, and decorating a cake, if you’ve never done it :)



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