This is the cake everyone in my family requests for a birthday cake. It’s rich, decadent and luscious. Chef John Clancy taught me how to make the buttercream frosting. I have scoured my cookbook collection and the Internet for the perfect chocolate cake. This is as close as I have come.
I have made two changes from Christopher Kimball’s chocolate cake in The Cook’s Bible. First I have substituted an extra ¼ cup of cocoa for ¼ cup of flour to make it more chocolaty. Secondly, I have used a technique I learned from cake decorator Scott Woolley for helping to assure a moist cake. Instead of allowing the cake to cool off when removed from the oven and thereby losing moisture, he wraps the layers immediately in aluminum foil and places them in the freezer. This also makes frosting the cake easier as there are no loose crumbs.
1 ¼ cups cake flour
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
2 t instant espresso powder
¼ t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t kosher salt
12 T unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg white, room temperature
1 ½ t vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1. Grease the bottom of two 8-inch baking pans. Line with parchment paper. Grease paper (I use butter) and flour pans. Turn pans upside down and lightly tap to remove excess flour.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in the middle position.
3. Sift flour, cocoa, instant espresso, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
4. Add butter to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 1 minute or until light-colored.
5. Add sugar gradually and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes until mixture is very light-colored and fluffy (scrape down 2 or 3 times).
6. Add whole eggs and egg white one at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat for 10 seconds.
7. Add the flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk. Beat on low speed after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Do not overbeat.
8. Pour batter into pans and bake 25-30 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick. It should come out clean.
9. Now here’s the part that might surprise you. Don’t let the cake cool. Instead, wrap well in aluminum foil and place in freezer. This will help to insure a moist cake that will be easy to frost.
Mocha Buttercream Frosting
¾ cup milk
3 egg yolks
1 ¼ cups confectioners sugar
¾ lb. unsalted butter (3 ticks) softened but cold
2 T instant espresso
1. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a heavy sauce pan and with a wooden spoon, mix them together until well blended.
2. Put the milk in a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.
3. With a wire whisk, beat hot milk gradually into sugar mixture. Cook on low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon.*
4. Place the hot yolk mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until double in volume and down to room t temperature. Add the instant espresso.
5. Turn the mixer down to medium speed and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time.**
6. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for about 2 minutes until the buttercream becomes light in texture and forms soft peaks.
7. Remove cake layers from freezer. Place one layer on the pan it was baked in turned upside down. The cake and the pan will line up perfectly thereby allowing you to frost the sides and transfer the cake to a platter without any mess. Spread frosting on the top of the layer. Then place the top layer on. Spread frosting on the top of the cake and then the sides. Allow the cake to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Optional: Make a syrup of 1/3 cup cold water and 3 T sugar. Stir and cook until sugar dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 T Amaretto or Kahlau liqueur to syrup and brush on cake layers.
*The way I tell that the mixture is thick enough is that it begins to thicken on the bottom of the pan. At that instant, scrape it into bowl of mixer.
**At this point the frosting will look gloppy, to use a technical term, but fear not. It will come together and become glossy when beat at high speed.
Photo by sweetpaprika