Everyone loves cake. Cake means celebration. Even if you are just celebrating the fact that it didn’t rain at all today, that totally counts. Well, I was in a celebrating mood and thought of making a chocolate cake. I really wasn’t sure if I had the right ingredients to make a cake, so I searched my cookbooks, Pinterest, and the web to see if I could come up with the right combination for a cake.
When it comes to baking, you have to be precise. I like and loathe this all at the same time. I love coming up with random ingredients and throw a meal together without worrying about measuring. A pinch of this, a pinch of that, you taste along the way, you make it work. But with baking, this really doesn’t work most of the time. You have to follow a recipe to the letter to make it work. Or, you could take a basic idea and play around a bit. It may work, it may not. You have to be willing to mess up and try again.
I think this is why so many people just use cake box mixes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I get it. My kids want muffins in a pinch, so I can buy a box of Jiffy muffins. “Mommy, can we make cupcakes?” I love Betty Crocker, Ghirardelli, and Dunkin Hines to help me out. I am not opposed to the occasional tub of frosting either. They take out all of the guess work. They do all of the combining of the ingredients for you. I just have to add oil and 3 eggs? Ok! Maybe I can try to add in some applesauce or use this cake mix in a random dessert that I saw on Pinterest. Awesome! For the times baking seems too much, I appreciate the box of mix.
But there is just something so therapeutic and gratifying about making a cake from scratch. When I WANT to bake, that means I want to do all the hard work. I get a thrill out of using my William and Sonoma measuring cups. I get to pull out my Kitchen Aid and my paddle and whisk attachment and really get in there. I usually end up with flour and/or cocoa powder on my shirt, hair, and all over the counter, but who cares? When that beautiful creation comes out of the oven, it is worth it.
So on to the recipe already…
I took a twist on an Ina Garten classic. She claimed it was the BEST chocolate cake you have ever eaten. Really? Better than Publix? Better than my friend, the professional pastry chef? Better than the last chocolate cake I ate at a 5 star restaurant? Better than Chili’s molten lava chocolate cake? We will see, Ina Garten… (adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beattys-chocolate-cake-recipe/index.html)
Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken—–I didn’t have buttermilk, so I did an old baking trick. 2 tablespoons of vinegar and add milk to the rest of the cup
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. ——I used 2 loaf pans. I didn’t want a full circle cake; I wanted to make one for now and freeze one for later. Or maybe give one to a neighbor.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-40 for circle pans, 45 minutes for loaf pans, until a cake tester (knife)comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Chocolate Frosting (adapted from Ina’s recipe as well)
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Spread immediately on the cooled cake. I sliced one of my cakes in half and put frosting in the middle and then on top. I like the way this looks…messy, er, I mean rustic and home made. The cake and the frosting are super rich and compliment each other, but the cake tastes yummy without the frosting. Now to figure out the molten chocolate cake…