golden birthday cake


since i was born on the last day of january, i won’t get to experience my golden birthday until i turn 31. that’ll be in more than a decade! because i have to wait so long, i’ve been living vicariously through other people’s golden birthdays for as long as i remember. people usually either forget or don’t know what a golden birthday is, so it’s fun for me to break the news to them. a few days ago, i reminded my friend that he was turning 19 on the 19th, and subsequently made him this caramel drenched birthday cake.

if i hadn’t been so pressed for time, i would’ve loved to go all out with this cake: maybe edible gold leaf, sparkly gold candles, and gold star sprinkles. i settled for gold luster dust and good old salted caramel.



  • 1 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream

salted caramel

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt


  • gold luster dust
  • edible gold leaf (optional)

for the cake, preheat oven to 300º. grease two 6-inch round pans and line with parchment paper.mix the chocolate with the hot coffee and set aside (don’t stir). whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, and salt. in a stand mixer, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. add the oils, buttermilk, and vanilla. stir the chocolate-coffee mixture and add it to the wet ingredients. add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat for twenty seconds. pour evenly between the pans. bake for about 30 minutes — just keep an eye out and check it with toothpicks until they come out with a few moist crumbs attached. let cool for five minutes in the pans, then turn out onto a rack and let cool for at least an hour (or stick in the freezer for 15 minutes).

for the buttercream, beat cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. add the powdered sugar and beat for 3 more minutes. add the extract and heavy cream and beat a few minutes longer, until white and light.

for the caramel, place the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a saucepan. heat over high heat, occasionally swirling the pan, until it turns a golden amber color (about 8 minutes). remove the saucepan from the heat, then slowly and carefully whisk in the cream. add the butter and continue to stir until melted. add the salt and vanilla and stir to combine. add some rosemary, and stir. pour the caramel into a bowl and refrigerate it for at least an hour, then strain it through a fine mesh sieve.

to assemble, place one cake round onto a 6-inch round cake board. spread some buttercream on top, then add another round. crumb coat the cake, chill it, then frost it completely. pour the cooled caramel over the top, spreading it down and around the sides. chill, then top with a border of frosting and some luster dust and gold leaf.

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