Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Best. Cake. Ever.

I rang in another year surrounded by family and friends; stretching my birthday from one day into a multiple day celebration.  Lucky me!  Saturday night’s celebration was loud and chaotic, thanks to Haley and Charlie...our “twin” two year olds.  Cousins just 6 months apart, they race around with enough energy to power a space shuttle.  Sweet baby Izzy watched wide eyed at the pandemonium laughing and smiling at her brother and cousin’s antics.  All too soon, Izzy will be joining the fray. 

The celebration was capped off with a legendary chocolate cake.  My sister-in-law Paige has made this cake synonymous with birthdays in our household.  Even my uber-health minded, anti-dessert, brother has requested this cake three years running.  It is that good.  Rich chocolate with undertones of coffee - in a word this cake is decadent. 

As a loyal Weight Watcher member, I generally am careful if not OCD about counting my points.  I couldn’t bear to calculate the points in a piece of this cake.  It was my birthday, and everyone knows calories don’t count on birthdays.

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake
Courtesy of Ina Garten

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
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows

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.

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 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Buttercream:
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate  
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
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

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 and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended.  Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

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