I wasn't planning on baking today even though I was meeting friends for a movie and late lunch because I had plenty of baked goods stored up in my freezer from baking this past week. But the expiration date on my carton of buttermilk was fast approaching and that always spurs me to baking action. The easiest way to use up a lot of buttermilk is typically in cakes, certain breads and muffins. Bread and muffins aren't always a good care package component though so I went with this chocolate cake recipe instead. It's from yet another cookbook that I've had for at least 15 years, if not longer, and I've packed and moved it through at least 3 homes and have yet to make a recipe from it. I do remember this book being a gift from a friend and I don't know why I've never baked from it.
But the good thing about my baking challenge to bake at least one recipe from every cookbook I own is it forces me to do just that and rediscover cookbooks I've long taken for granted as part of my bookshelf decor. There seem to be a lot of good recipes in this as I flipped through it last night looking for something that'll use up the bulk of the buttermilk I had left in the fridge. At 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, this cake fit the bill. However, although it's literally called a layer cake, I made it in a 9 x 13" pan instead of two 9" round cake pans. Mostly because squares of cake from a 9 x 13 pan are much easier to package and distribute amongst different care packages and goodie bags than slices of a 2-layer cake.
Both cake and frosting were easy to make but I must say the recipe didn't make very much frosting. It's just the right amount for icing the top of the 9 x 13 cake but if you make this as a 2-layer cake, you might want to 1 1/2 times or double the frosting recipe or else you might run out of frosting to do both the top and the sides of the cake. And I say that as someone who doesn't like a lot of frosting on my cake. This is a good basic chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. It's got the light cakey texture we associate with box cake mixes but infinitely better flavor than a box mix. Use a dark cocoa (not Hersheys please but something a little more upscale) since the chocolate flavor comes from the cocoa - the darker, the better. Overall, I liked this cake as it was moist and had a good, deep chocolate flavor.
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk
Glossy Dark Chocolate Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper cut to fit; butter the paper and set aside. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of wax paper; set aside.
2. In a bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter with the white and brown sugars until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the vanilla.
3. Lower the speed to slow and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until blended, no longer. Divide the batter between the prepared pans; smooth the tops.
4. Bake until the cakes shrink slightly away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the centers emerges clean, usually 25 to 30 minutes.
5. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Carefully loosen the cakes from the pans with the tip of a knife and invert onto the racks; carefully peel off the paper. Turn right side up and cool to room temperature.
6. In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the confectioners’ sugar until very light. Add the vanilla and melted chocolate and beat until shiny and smooth.