Choose Your Own Cake Adventure

Erin Gardner, author of the new book Erin Bakes Cake, joins us to talk about food as an art form, troubleshooting cake baking and decorating, and how cakequations are changing the baking game.

Kara Rota,
September 26, 2017
Episode #168

piece of chocolate cake

Erin Gardner is a self-taught pastry chef, Craftsy instructor, creator of ErinBakes.com, and author of Great Cake Decorating. She’s a regular contributor for The Cake Blog and Craftsy’s Cake Decorating Blog. Erin worked as a pastry chef in numerous New England kitchens, including Boston’s legendary Locke Ober, before opening Wild Orchid Baking Co. in 2009. She quickly became the go-to cake designer for premiere events, competing on and winning Food Network’s Sweet Genius.

The cakequations in Erin Bakes Cake teach you how to combine her cake, buttercream, cookie, and candy recipes in endless mouth-watering ways. Erin’s cake recipes aren’t sorcery―they’re science. They all share similar ratios of ingredients that add tenderness, strength, or flavor.

Bonus Recipe: Chocolate Birthday Cake

Doctor, doctor! The boxed equivalent to this recipe would be a devil’s food or dark chocolate cake mix. For a denser cake that more closely resembles homemade, add 1 large egg yolk and one 3.5-ounce box of instant chocolate pudding mix to the ingredients called for on the box.

Yields: 10 cups batter Two tall 8-inch round cakes Three regular 6-inch round cakes

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened 2 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar 1 ½ cups granulated sugar 2 teaspoons baking soda 2 teaspoons kosher salt 8 large eggs 1 ½ cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder 2 cups warm water 1 cup whole milk 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for the pans)


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray and flour pans in your chosen size.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment  (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), beat together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt at medium speed until fluffy and lighter in color, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no butter lumps, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through mixing and after adding the last egg.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and warm water until combined. Once the cocoa powder has dissolved, add the milk and whisk to combine.
  5. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour to the butter mixture until just incorporated. Slowly add half of the milk mixture until combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the remaining flour and mix until just incorporated. Add the last of the wet ingredients and mix until combined.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake, rotating the pans’ positions halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs clinging to it, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch round pans or 30 to 35 minutes for 6-inch round pans.

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