Friday, October 8, 2010

Our favorite celebration cake

Before I get to the recipe post, I have a little story to tell...


A few years ago, it was my husband's birthday.  His favorite cake in the entire world is carrot cake.  He orders it whenever it is on a menu just so he "knows if it is any good."  I decided to surprise him that year with a three-layer, from scratch (freshly shredded carrots and all) carrot cake.  Complete with cream cheese frosting...thick frosting.  When he arrived home and saw his cake he got all misty-eyed over it.  I was really taken aback.  It was just a cake.  We've all had birthday cakes at one time or another.  I mean, this one was rather massive, given that I possess 10-inch round cake pans.  But still, misty eyes on my husband? He just couldn't believe I had snuck in a cake-baking while going through a day of Thanksgiving preparations.  Thus begun our first Clark family tradition.  Each immediate member of our family gets one three-layer, scratch baked cake for their birthday.  We have had the following over the years:  carrot, German chocolate, coconut, dark chocolate, chocolate with peanut butter filling, and more chocolate.  The running theme is chocolate though.  We Clarks love our chocolate. This recipe I am about to share is hands-down our #1 favorite chocolate cake.  It is melt-in-your-mouth moist, deeply dark, sinfully delicious, and not too sweet.  I got the recipe out of Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa At Home" cookbook.  I'll add my own pointers along the way, but truly, this is a cake that you can bake for anyone you love and they will melt with bliss.  (so will you)


Thanks barefoot contessa...love the Clark family.


beatty's chocolate cake


(this is for 2 8-inch round pans...I have to make 1.5 of this recipe to fill my 3 10-inch rounds)


butter for greasing the pans
13/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder (I use Hershey's, and over the years have transitioned to more and more of it being the special dark, with about 3/4 of the amount being regular cocoa powder)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken (don't skimp...get the best buttermilk you can find for this!)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs (I'm not kidding...extra large is a MUST.  Your baking will be so much better-trust me)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Chocolate Frosting (recipe to follow instructions)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans.  Line with parchment paper, then butter and four the pans.  (Don't skip the parchment paper part, unless you don't want your cakes to come out of the pan cleanly)
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 the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  (This is where I always freak out because the cake batter looks like dark brown water.  Don't worry, this is correct.  It looks like chocolate soup, but will be fine.)  Evenly measure the batter into your prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 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 one 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 frosting
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (DO NOT use chocolate chips, because they contain stabilizers and won't melt properly)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 extra large egg yolk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
13/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder


Chop the chocolate and place 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.  Don't whip!  Spread immediately on the cooled cake.


Here are a few tips I've gotten over the years on baking:
Always use extra large eggs...my baking has gotten so much better since I switched.  I can't put my finger on it, but I promise you that you'll notice a difference
Do NOT pack flour into measuring cups!  Drop it in with a spoon until it heaps over, then scrape with a knife to even it off.  
Always sift dry ingredients.  You don't know what you'll find in there.  Blech.



I'll add pics later.  You'll be tempted to lick your computer screen, but don't.  It will make a mess.  Just go bake the cake instead.  


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