This was a custom cake for a birthday girl whose favourite animal is panda. If not for her, I would never have a chance to make this wonderfully adorable cake. I totally love how it turned out!
As an adaptation of a monkey cake that I made before, the hardest part about making this cake is not to get the black frosting on the pure white cake, and it was nearly impossible. My solution for this is to chill the cake before adding the black parts.
If you are not into using black colouring, you could use dark chocolate buttercream.
Ingredients (one 8-inch 3-layer cake):
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 to 3 drops of black food colouring paste
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour two 8-inch cake pans a 8-inch diameter 3-quart stainless-steel bowl and 1 cup of a muffin tin. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Crack in the egg, spoon in the sour cream, and pour in the oil and the vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Pour in the boiling water, and slowly mix until smooth and liquidy.
Pour 1 1/4 cup batter into each cake pan, fill one muffin tin and pour remaining batter into the stainless steel bowl.
Transfer everything to the oven. Bake 15 minutes for the muffin, 25 minutes for the cakes, and 35 minutes for the domed cake. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.
To prepare frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes.
Transfer 1/4 frosting to a small bowl. Stir in black food coloring. Set aside.
To assemble the cake, place one flat cake layer on a serving plate, spread 3/4 cup frosting on top and top it with another flat cake layer, spread another 3/4 cup frosting on top, top with the domed cake. Frost buttercream over the entire head. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to harden the frosting.
Cut cupcake in half vertically for the two panda ears. Smear black buttercream over cupcake ears. Attach ears to sides of the head, top of cupcake facing forward, securing with toothpicks.
Place remaining black frosting in a piping bag fitted with a small plain round. Pipe panda eyes, fill in with frosting leaving a small opening, and smooth. Pipe nose.
Cover the cake and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator an hour before serving.