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Sometimes if the kids are anticipating something sweet – but I don’t want the temptation to indulge, I will make them cake, brownie or cookies from a mix. When my son asked for a boxed yellow cake mix for his Birthday Cake – of course I followed his wishes – and I also made a Chocolate Cake with Ganache and Praline Topping from scratch.

As well as cake, he requested a steak dinner and a sleep over birthday party. All but 2 of his friends braved the colossal snow fall to come, and after a sit down dinner for 7 adults and 14 kids, complete with cloth napkins and crystal glasses, we sang happy birthday and cut the cake. However, it was neither the yellow cake or chocolate cake I had made – rather one a friend had baked and brought, and thought the kids would enjoy.

We ALL loved it – there was nothing left but crumbs at the end of the evening.

candles– The Chip-it Cake my friend brought, which ended up being THE Birthday Cake


chocolate cake with ganache and pralineCAKE

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes


3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped


Heat oven to 350F.

Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray. Line with parchment. Spray parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out any excess.

Place butter and cocoa powder in medium bowl. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over, stir. Let stand 2 minutes, whisk until blended. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in another medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, egg and vanilla in large bowl. Gradually whisk  cocoa mixture into buttermilk mixture, whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, whisking to blend between additions (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Run knife around pan edges to release cake. Invert onto rack, remove pan and parchment. Cool completely.


Place chocolate and cream in microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Stir in butter. Let stand until spreadable, about 30 minutes. Spread over top and sides of cake. Transfer cake to plate. Chill 2 hours.


Stir brown sugar, cream and butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat until butter melts. Boil 1 minute with out stirring. Remove from heat, whisk in sugar and vanilla. Add pecans, stir just to incorporate. Quickly pour praline over cake. Spread just to edges.