Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Last night I posted on my Instagram stories one of my favorite cakes to make. Many of you wanted the recipe so I thought it would be easier to share here because there are quite a few steps between the cake and the chocolate buttercream.

I have been working my way through The Art Of French Baking cookbook, trying to learn the proper techniques to amp up my baking game. I LOVE this book because of the wide array of recipes and the notes on how to perfect your desserts. Everything from the proper oven temperature to syrups and sauces – this is sort of my holy grail when it comes to baking. I will say some of the recipes are quite complex and my kitchen often looks like something exploded. I spend more time prepping and cleaning up and often my desserts fall short of what I was hoping for, but the process and determination to get better has been oddly fun… or maybe it’s just because I cant go anywhere else!

The chocolate buttercream is from this book, but I don’t love the actual cake recipe they have. I have been using a variation of this one for years. I feel like Mel has perfected the recipe for soft delicious cake. I just add a teaspoon of fresh orange zest, a small dash of cinnamon and a small squeeze of fresh orange juice. You can completely omit those, I just love the subtle citrus hint with a buttery chocolate frosting.

Featured Piece: The Art Of French Baking

Chocolate Buttercream

*This is a very technical recipe so I have found it is best to follow step by step and not improvise at all or your buttercream can come out runny.

{taken directly from The Art of French Baking}

STEPS FOR MAKING SUGAR SYRUP (read recipe below before making this)

  • The saucepan must be absolutely clean without any trace of grease.
  • The sugar and water should be stirred with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves
  • The syrup should not be allowed to boil until the sugar dissolves
  • Once the syrup boils it should not be stirred because this could cause crystals to form, making the finished syrup lumpy and unusable.
  • To cook the syrup evenly you can gently swirl the saucepan occasionally
  • Any foam that rises to the top of the sugar syrup should be carefully skimmed off using a metal spoon
  • For this recipe you want to boil the syrup until it reaches small or soft – ball stage. This is (239 – 245.5 F) if you have a candy thermometer OR you can tell it’s done by dipping a metal spoon into the syrup and blowing on the surface to see if bubbles break loose and blow away.


2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup of water
3 egg whites
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I had sweetened so I used that)
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened


Place the sugar in a small saucepan and add 1/2 cup water, and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Raise the heat and boil until the syrup has reached the small or soft – ball stage. This is the crucial step, see directions above.

With a handheld or stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until they from stiff peaks and continue whisking as you add the finished sugar syrup in a thin stream. The syrup should not touch the blades of the whisk, so that it produces and evenly blended mixture. Continue whisking as you add the cocoa powder and finally the butter, adding this a little at a time. Once the butter has been incorporated, stop whisking so that the buttercream does not lose volume. Use as soon as possible to decorate cake.

  1. Nancy says:

    Superfine sugar is aka Bakers’ Sugar, granulated sugar is just regular sugar.

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