I did something silly. Back in December, I told you that I made a chocolate cake. I’m afraid that in doing so, I failed to convey the seriousness of my actions. Because this cake is serious (if want the video, click here). I went so far as to call it perfect. But then I left it at that. You didn’t get to see pictures of the cake coming together, you didn’t get to listen to me rave about how good it tasted and you certainly didn’t hear about the scandal that comes with this cake.
So I made it again in early July (Surprise! I can have my cake and not eat it too. I’m still sugar-free and working through my back log) because my in-laws kept asking about it.
But first I did some research. I read the reviews online to see if anyone had any little tweaks to make the cake even better. What I found out rocked me to the core. In her book, Ina paints us a lovely little picture about her friend Michael Grimm whose grandmother made this cake for her husband’s milk route customers. Charming, no? Well scroll through those reviews and you’ll learn that this exact recipe appears on the Hershey’s cocoa can! But who am I to judge? Maybe Hershey’s got it from Grandma Beatty? Or maybe it’s a case of Nestlay Toullouse striking again.
Here’s what you’ll need for the cake:
- butter for greasing the pans
- 1 3/4 C all purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 2 C sugar
- 3/4 C cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 C buttermilk
- 1/2 C vegetable oil
- 2 extra large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 C freshly brewed hot coffee
And here’s what to do (with a little bit of my own commentary):
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. *If you are not making the cakes in a advance (which you should feel free to do if you so choose), take 2 sticks of butter out to soften for the frosting now.
Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. Please note that I have actually taken the time to trace the outline of the pans on parchment paper. This cake is good and you don’t want to chance it sticking to the pans here.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Stir until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Ina does this in a mixer. I don’t.
Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until combined. Then, slowly add the coffee and stir just to combine. The batter will be thin.
Looking at that deep chocolate color makes me start to drool.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans (you can whap them on the counter to try and release some of those air bubbles, or you can not give it another thought)
and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
That deep color should give you some indication of just how chocolatey this cake is.
Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes in the pan. Then, run a knife around the outside edges to loosen the cake a little bit.
And ideally, your cake has already pulled away from the edges of the pan as it’s cooled anyway.
Next, put one hand on the cake and one on the bottom of the pan and flip. Here is where you will thank your lucky stars you used the parchment paper.
Set the cakes on a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting. Mine did a weird sinking-in thing here, but I was not deterred.
Now if you read closely and set that butter out ahead of time, you’re ready to make the frosting. Here is what you need:
- 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use chocolate chips even though Ina says not to!)
- 1/2 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk (you can leave this out if you want, but your frosting will not have quite the sheen)
- 1 1/4 C confectioner’s sugar
- 1 T instant coffee powder, dissolved in 2 T HOT water
Melt the chocolate, and set aside to let cool. Since it’s such a small amount, I use the microwave. Beat the butter in a mixer until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the egg yolk (if using) and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Does anyone else’s mixer and counter become an absolute mess at this step?
Add the coffee and chocolate on low speed and mix until blended.
I would tell you to go ahead and frost your cake, but I took more pictures, so instead I’ll show you. You don’t need one of these, but it certainly helps.
Take a large glob of frosting and put it on top of one layer of cake. Oh, and this is a little part of my kitchen that you haven’t seen yet. It has my favorite piece of “art” that we own.
Mine is from World Market, but you can get the poster here.
Anyway….back to the cake. Spread the frosting almost to the edges of the layer. Or don’t. Once you put the second layer on top, the frosting will spread out.
Now, rather than bother with cake saws and cutting off the domed top, you can simply invert the second layer, so the flat side is on top of your cake. It’s not quite as professional as some might hope, but it doesn’t make the slightest difference to me.
This flat-top reminds me of the nineties.
Dollop a whole bunch of frosting on top of the second layer. Once you’ve spread it all over the top, use the offset spatula to work it down the sides of the cake as well.
Ina takes all these fancy-schmancy steps to ensure that there are no cake crumbs or frosting bits on the cake platter. She dips her spatula in hot water to smooth out each layer of frosting. But I make cakes to eat them, and I think they look darn impressive no matter how I’ve plated them. So I worry a lot less about that.
I do give things a final once over with the spatula. But a word of advice. Each time you smooth, you take a little bit more frosting off the cake, and that is not the goal here. The goal is to enjoy the most chocolatey chocolate cake you’ve ever had. Bon appetit!