There’s something so celebratory about a layer cake. Somehow a birthday or other celebration wouldn’t be complete without one. And once you go beyond the standard two layers, the wow factor goes up dramatically. While you may normally reach for a boxed mix, this homemade version is simple to make and will have your guests impressed you made it from scratch. The cake itself is super moist and chocolaty and starts with a one-bowl recipe. Once the cake has baked and cooled and the frosting is made, the fun really begins. You will get as much enjoyment decorating it as you will eating it!
STEP 1: To split the cake layers, create a cutting guide by partially inserting toothpicks every few inches into the side of each layer at the midpoint. Using a long serrated knife, start cutting at toothpick level using a gentle sawing motion and cut toward the center a bit at a time until all the way through, rotating the cake as you go.
STEP 2: Place the bottom of one cake layer on the cake board or serving plate. Place a generous amount of frosting at the center and spread gently around with an offset spatula as you work towards the edges. If desired, top filling with rainbow sprinkles. Top with corresponding cake layer half and repeat filling and sprinkles, if using. For the third layer, use top of the remaining layer top-side down and repeat the filling process. Add the remaining layer to top placing the bottom side facing up to create a flat surface for decorating.
STEP 3: Crumb coat the cake by applying a thin layer of frosting to top and sides that will keep crumbs from getting caught in the final frosting. Place cake in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crumb coat has set.
STEP 4: Cover cake with remaining frosting, starting with a generous amount on top and working toward edges. Apply frosting to sides and use the spatula to create a clean edge. Clean frosting off spatula with each pass to help create a smooth finish. A warm spatula will also help keep the frosting smooth.
CIRCUS DECORATION: Decorate the top with sprinkles. You can keep the sides smooth or, if you prefer a textured edge, use a smaller spatula or knife to create a pattern. Place cookies around the cake in alternating colors and a few grazing on top.
CHOCOLATE TIRE: For chocolate lovers, this simple decoration also gives you a guide for slicing. Apply fudge sticks to sides and a chocolate kiss on top and everyone gets their own.