My Go-To Birthday Cake

comments: 139


For many, many years, one of both parts of this cake have made their ways into almost every birthday cake I've baked for someone else or requested for my own birthday. I am super picky about cake. The one I made for Keels on MondayHershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake and my mom's Cloudburst Frosting — is probably the only way I really, really like it; chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is way too much chocolate, yellow cake is good, I cannot stand cream-cheese frosting, buttercream is okay but Cloudburst is lighter and better, etc., etc., etc., etc. I'll drive you crazy if you let me. I've tried a couple of variations on this chocolate/white frosting combo (adding pastry cream layer, using a different cake recipe), but to me the cake you see above and the recipe I'll give you below are just about perfect together. The cake is so heavy and so dark and so moist, the frosting is light as a cloud. If you put it in the fridge for about an hour before you serve it? Oh. Do that.

Normally I wouldn't reprint a recipe as-is like this, but I live in fear that Hershey's will change their link or delete their web site or somehow I won't be able to find it again. The only thing I do differently from their recipe is switch out 1/2 of their 1 cup of boiling water with 1/2 cup of very hot coffee (you don't taste the coffee, but, as Ina taught me, a little bit of coffee brings out the flavor of the chocolate). So, with apologies to Hershey (and a link for high-altitude directions and more info):

Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa (I use either the regular or the Special Dark, whatever I happen to have)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup steaming hot (brewed) coffee

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9" round cake pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes. Carefully stir in boiling water and coffee (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

Now, the frosting for this cake is my mom's old recipe for something we in our family called "the milk and flour frosting." When I was growing up, she always made it for chocolate cake, too. We have never been able to find an official recipe for frosting like this, probably because we don't know what its official name is. When I first put it on the blog several years ago (and if you hang around here you'll remember me talking about several times since), I renamed it more romantically and called it Cloudburst Frosting. This frosting had a long history in our house of being very temperamental but it is totally worth it. We think we have it down now, but you have to do it exactly this way. You just do. Don't ask me why. We really do not know.

Cloudburst Frosting

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup WHOLE (it has to be whole) milk
1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

In a small pan, gradually add the milk to the flour, whisking them together into a totally smooth mixture — you don't want any lumps here. Simmer (barely) until thick over low/medium heat, whisking constantly so you don't get any lumps. (Do not walk away from the stove for even a minute — trust me. If you do get lumps, just push it all through a sieve.) You want it to be the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and let it cool completely but NOT in the refrigerator (Mom says if you put it in the fridge it won't work). Let it cool for a few minutes, and then push a piece of plastic wrap down on the surface of the mixture (so a skin doesn't form) and let it sit on the counter for an hour or two or three until it's completely cool. Cream together the butter and almond; add the confectioner's sugar and beat on high for several minutes until it is very fluffy. Add the milk/flour mixture and beat until it is super fluffy. The frosting will sometimes appear to separate when you add the milk/flour mixture, but just keep beating it on high until it whips up into smooth, fluffy clouds.

To frost the cake, trim off the top of one round so it is flat, and mound half of the frosting on it. Put the other round on and mound the other half of the frosting on it. I never frost the sides because 1) I'm lazy and 2) I think it looks a lot prettier with bare sides. Top with accessories. Chill before serving for maximum deliciousness.

*Update: Sounds like this is called "Butter Roux Frosting" and is a traditional red velvet cake topping. Yay! Thanks guys!


I just made this for my daughter's first birthday cake. It was soooooo good. Thank you for sharing the recipe!!!1

Nancy Wirz says: June 07, 2012 at 01:26 PM

I have made the Cloudburst frosting with great success. It's not rocket science but DO use the WHOLE milk. I only had 2% milk one time and it does effect your end result. I'm in agreement with the addition of coffee to the chocolate cake. It gives it a boost! YUM!!!!!

Julia West says: June 10, 2012 at 05:45 PM

I laughed a bit when I read your update because as I was reading the recipe I kept thinking "this is the frosting from Red Velvet cake". The name Butter Roux also makes sense because like most good southern recipes "first you start with a roux..." although I have to agree Cloudburst is a much more romantic name. Can't wait to try this, and while I am at it a long overdue Red Velvet Cake may be called for as well. I think I need to plan a party....

Robin Rose says: July 06, 2012 at 07:17 PM

When I put together a little cookbook for my 3 kiddos, for chocolate cake I simply said "the one on the back of the Hershey's can!" I too worried the Hershey's folks might change things up and typed up the recipe for the cookbook addendum. Can not wait to try it with the Cloudburst Frosting!
Just found your site. I was wondering if you were in Portland when I read about the rainstorm - it was awesome! We are also Corgi pet parents but the other variety - Pembroke. Next my husband wants a Cardi though. Lovely, lovely blog!

Thank you for the frosting recipe! I used it today for a special birthday and it was gorgeous and flawless.

fab.u.lous! thanks for this amazing cake recipe. I linked to you today!

i just came back here to look at the frosting recipe you linked to today. and, like i guessed it might be, it's the same flour-in-it frosting my mom always made growing up. she would always let me make graham cracker/frosting sandwiches with the extra (extra? who ever has extra? she must have set some aside for me!). i'd wait patiently while they set-up/hardened a bit in the fridge. ohhhhh, yum. you must try that.
thank you for always bringing a touch of beauty into my day. your amelia is a doll.
blessings to you all.

Hello there,I made this cake yesterday (Valentine's Day) and it was so tasty! My hunsabd was all praising and I was all smug, lol. But I did cheat with the sauce; I used 1/2 cup cream and 1/2 of fat free milk. I used 1/2 cup of muscovado sugar and 1/2 cup of light brown sugar. As for the butter, I think I used probably 1-2 tablespoon. Then I simmer until the sauce thickened slightly. And we ate the cake with frozen yogurt. Thank you so very much for this yummy recipe.

Soooo love this blog, it brightens my day, puts a smile on my dial and gives me that good ole warm fuzzy feelin inside....Thankyou for sharing your life Alicia:))

oh my word! I was just looking for a good white icing for my daughter's cupcakes for her birthday treat for school tomorrow, and in my Mennonite Country Style cookbook is an icing called "Boiled Flour Icing." A terrible name, but it's almost the same as your recipe! It calls for vanilla instead of almond extract and 1 c. regular sugar instead of confectioners. And there's an option to add 2 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa for chocolate frosting. Definitely making the white variation.

Brandy Leigh Cykala says: August 14, 2018 at 04:26 PM

Can this be made into cupcakes? Thanks!

Can you use vanilla extract instead of almond?

Juli Ulvestad says: February 23, 2021 at 07:44 PM

This has been my go-to chocolate birthday cake since it was on the Hershey's cocoa packaging and we always frosted it with chocolate buttercream. Now I have a nine year old son with an autism diagnosis and a mixer obsession and I needed a high maintenance frosting to go with a cake that may survive obsessive over-mixing. Both recipes work well in this pretty specific case and I want to say thank you for planting the seed of this frosting in my mind a zillion years ago before my son's birthday.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.