This cake is a miracle any way you slice it (pardon the pun). It makes two 9-inch layers, and I often serve one, haphazardly flung with a jot of confectionary sugar, for a simple dessert. I stash the second layer in my freezer for when I need something on the fly. Also, these layers stack beautifully for a kick-your-heels-up chocolate layer cake. You could even sneak this in as brownies if you bake in a 9×13-inch pan and cut it into bars. Honestly, I’ve even used it to make a wedding cake. A pretty hefty little thing, think of this cake as the little black dress of the dessert world.
Heat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Mix the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda together. Set aside.
Using a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler), melt the chocolate and butter over medium heat until melted and glossy. Do this gently, and do not overheat because the chocolate will get grainy and lose its structure. If you’re not opposed to such things, a microwave in short 20 second bursts works just fine for this task. The trick is, warm it just enough to allow the residual heat to do the melting. In other words, take it out before it’s totally melted, and stir it a few times. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the eggs and sugar in a large bowl, and whisk until the mixture looks pale and a little frothy. Add the vanilla and mix well. Have the buttermilk measured out and close at hand.
Now you’re ready to put the whole thing together. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until all the streaks of chocolate have been incorporated. Next, mix in the buttermilk and give it a few turns of the whisk. Last, but not least, add in the flour mixture and stir until there are no visible dry pockets and all the buttermilk is mixed in. Divide between the two pans (you can decide on how anal you want to be here. I usually just eyeball it, but for those of you who want to be precise, this makes about 500 grams batter altogether.)
Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pans halfway through baking time. Let it cool for about an hour before slicing. If you’re making a layer cake, freeze the layers a bit for easy icing. Savor with delight and gratitude.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting
This recipe was adapted from the ever-useful Flour cookbook by Joanne Chang.
- 340 grams semisweet chocolate (12 ounces), chopped
- 240 milliliters heavy cream (1 cup)
- 228 grams unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks or 16 tablespoons)
- 140 grams confectioners’ sugar (1 cup)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
First things first, find a small saucepan that has a good lid, and make sure you have your chocolate measured out and at the ready. Only then, heat the cream in your small saucepan over medium-high heat until vigorous bubbles start to form. Before it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and pour the chopped chocolate into the heated milk. Cover, and let sit for a few minutes. When you can’t stand it anymore, lift the cover and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Congratulate yourself because you’ve just made ganache, and with ganache, you can make any number of sweet things to indulge in. For now, let the ganache cool completely so that you can add it to your buttercream and frost this everyday cake. To cool, let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, or you can cover it and put it in the fridge for a half hour, stirring every 10 minutes.
When the ganache is cooled, pop the room temp butter into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat on medium until the butter looks pale and lighter in texture. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla, and beat until everything comes together and looks fluffy. This should only take about 2 minutes, so don’t overmix. Smell that? Raw, sweet butter is permeating the air. Scrape the sides of the bowl to release any butter clinging for dear life. Turn the mixer back to medium speed and add the cooled ganache. Beat until it’s thick and tumescent. Dip a finger in and taste.
The frosting will keep at room temperature for several hours. If you decide to refrigerate it for later use, bring it back to room temperature before re-paddling. At that point, use immediately.
This will make enough to frost a 2-layer cake.