Chocolate Birthday Cake with Espresso Bourbon Frosting + Cookie Crumbles

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Twenty five, hello.

This one feels like a very real number. It's going to be a big year for a lot of reasons. Having a wedding, and everything that goes along with that feels pretty monumental, and I have this running list in my head of resolutions for my 25th year, as if it's New Years Eve rather than the quarter century celebration. I was reminded of what amazing friends I have, and how very important they are to me. With Robert traveling on the west coast for work, they made sure I had the most incredible time on my birthday. I'm beyond grateful for the lot of them. 

Everybody has their favorite birthday cake. The cake that they anticipate, year after year. My sister and I are two days apart, lending to shared family birthday parties, with the same family cake. I get excited just thinking about that chocolate cake that I grew up with. Handwritten in my mom's cookbook, it's one of those straight from the 1950's, your grandmother's classic cake recipes that you don't need to mess with. My sister reiterated that notion to me when she sent me a photo of the recipe. 

Despite not needing to mess with it, this year I messed with it. Why the hell not, right? The cake is exactly the same, but the frosting and cookie crumbles take it someplace a little more decadent. I am an aries through and through, and the eternal kid in me loved the thought of this adult take on cookies and cream. When I sent photos to my family, my sister was so excited that she asked my mom to make her this version for her birthday. She loved it.

Chocolate Cake
makes 2, 9" cakes | suggested tools: cake strips, for even layers

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup oil
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350° and prepare cake pans with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a stand or electric mixer, beat the eggs with buttermilk. Add oil, and continue mixing until smooth, followed by water and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the cake batter is completely smooth. Pour batter into two prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until cooked through and a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool cakes for 15 minutes before flipping onto plate. Cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Cookies
1 1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir together the cocoa powder, all-purpose flour and salt in a bowl. Using a stand mixer cream the butter with sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one a time, followed by vanilla, stirring to incorporate after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and stir until batter forms. Pour the batter onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Roll each half into about an 8 inch long by 1 inch high log. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Preheat oven to 325° when ready to bake. Slice the logs into 1/4 inch cookies and place on baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges have browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. When ready to use for the cake, break the cookies up into small crumbly pieces. 

*note, you can use store bought cookies if you'd prefer to skip the homemade ones. When my mom made this cake, she used Lorna Doone chocolate shortbread cookies and they worked perfectly

Espresso Bourbon Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons bourbon
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar slowly, about 1/2 cup at a time and scrape the sides of the bowl as you go. Add bourbon, followed by espresso powder and stir until completely incorporated. 

to assemble the cake
Frost the first layer, and top with larger crumble cookies. Carefully dollop frosting on top of the cookie layer, this will help keep the cake slices from falling apart as easily. Add the second cake and another layer of frosting. Top with cookie crumbles.