Chocolate Chip Birthday Cake with Bananas and Dulce de Leche

Birthday cakes should be big and decadent, and this one totally fills the bill. I sprinkle loads of semisweet chocolate chips into a sour cream–enriched vanilla butter cake batter, then spread the cake layers with gooey dulce de leche, sweet sliced bananas, and vanilla whipped cream. It looks impressive and tastes like a party.

Chocolate Chip Birthday Cake with Bananas and Dulce de Leche
Makes one (8- or 9-inch) three-layer cake, plenty for 8 to 10 guests

1 recipe Vanilla Butter Cake with Chocolate Chips (recipe follows)
2 (11-ounce) jars dulce de leche or thick caramel sauce
3 ripe yet firm bananas, peeled and sliced on a slight diagonal, about 1/4-inch thick
1 recipe Whipped Cream Filling (recipe follows)

To assemble the cake:
Place a cooled cake layer on a stand or presentation platter. Spread with a third of the dulce de leche or caramel sauce. Cover evenly with a layer of banana slices. Carefully spread with a third of the Whipped Cream Filling. Place the second layer on top; repeat the layers of dulce de leche and bananas. Repeat with the third layer, decorating the top of the cake with just a few banana slices or a sprinkle of chocolate chips (or both).

Vanilla Butter Cake with Chocolate Chips
Makes 2 or 3 (9-inch) cake layers, or 3 extra-high 8-inch layers (that’s the one shown here)

3 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for coating the pans
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Step 1: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2: Generously butter three 8-inch-by-2-inch or 9-inch-by-2-inch round cake pans (you can also use two 9-inch pans to make thicker cakes which you can split for four layers total). Line the bottoms of the cake pans with a circle of parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment and dust with flour; tap the side of the pans on the countertop to dislodge any excess flour.

Step 3: Onto a sheet of parchment, sift together the measured flour and baking powder.

Step 4: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the measured butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until lightened and fluffy.

Step 5: Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while beating.

Step 6: On low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and beat until combined.

Step 7: Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

Step 8: Add the remaining dry ingredients and the chocolate chips, beating until combined.

Step 9: Divide the batter among the prepared pans (you can make sure they are divided easily by using a scale to weigh them).

Step 10: Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Step 11: Let cool in the pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes.

Step 12: Invert the cakes onto the racks, peel off the parchment, and let cool before frosting.

BUTTER CAKE VARIATIONS
• To make a plain vanilla cake, omit the chocolate chips.
• To make lemon cake, omit the chocolate chips and add the zest of 2 lemons when beating the butter.
• To make orange cake, omit the chocolate chips and add the zest of 1 large orange when beating the butter.

Whipped Cream Filling
Makes enough to fill and top 1 three-layer cake

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Using a whisk or an electric mixer with the whip attachment, beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla to medium peaks (when you lift the beater, it should look like a Dairy Queen soft-serve curl). Be careful not to overwhip or it will become grainy and, eventually, turn to butter.

Photos and animated GIF by Chris Rochelle; styling by Kim Laidlaw

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook editor and the author of Home Baked Comfort, Baby & Toddler On the Go (an IACP Cookbook Awards finalist), and Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day. She teaches baking and pastry classes at the San Francisco Cooking School, and is a recipe developer and former professional baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. Follow her on Twitter @kimlaidlaw.