As I get older, I’ve become less of a birthday party person. I get a bit overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family. People go the extra mile to make sure you have a wonderful celebration, and sometimes, I can’t quite handle the pressure of having that expected sentiment on one day. However, I love celebrating other people’s birthday and I hardly ever refuse an opportunity to bake! For my cousin Fiona’s birthday this year, I made her this three-layer chocolate cake.
The cake itself is very light and moist, and pairs nicely with the dark, rich flavors of the frosting. Nothing goes better with a chocolate cake than chocolate frosting! It’s smooth and silky, without that grainy texture buttercream frosting tends to have. And there is coffee in the frosting, which complements and accents the depth of the chocolatey goodness going on here. People really seemed to enjoy this cake, and my friend Jason even declared this to be the best cake he’d ever had. That is some mighty high praise, as far as I’m concerned!
The ombre frosting and the piping method steal the spotlight in this one. I was mesmerized when I first saw this technique, not to mention that I love anything and everything ombre! I was in a rush when I made the cake, so I didn’t photograph the steps. I’ll do a separate tutorial on this method soon. Pinky swear.
An advice on transferring the frosting from the bowl to the piping bag: you might accidentally leave a few spoonfuls of frosting in the mixing bowl, but try to avoid that at all cost. Not that I’ve been doing that or anything. Once you’re done frosting, you know what to do with the bowl and spatula, right? I’m confident that you do.
Moist and Fluffy Chocolate Cake
(makes two 8-inch cake layers)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 ¼ cake flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
¾ cup milk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar with a hand-held mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and white vinegar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, beat in flour in three additions, alternately with milk in two additions, just until blended, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally among both.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from the pan and cool thoroughly to room temperature before frosting.
Dark Chocolate Frosting
Recipe from Spago Chocolate cookbook
(makes 2¼ cup)
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup strong coffee
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
In a medium glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate pieces, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, over low flame, dissolve the cocoa powder in the coffee, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, scrape the melted chocolate into the saucepan, and stir to combine thoroughly. Let cool to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with a hand-held mixer on medium speed until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the chocolate mixture, one tablespoon at a time, and beat until smooth and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it becomes desired consistency.
*After the second step (adding melted chocolate to the coffee and cocoa powder mixture), the mixture should resemble Play-Doh. Don’t worry, you’re on the right track.
*Make sure that the coffee-chocolate mixture is cooled to room temperature before adding to the butter-sugar mixture. Otherwise, the residual heat will melt the butter. If the frosting becomes too thin before you finish incorporating all of the coffee-chocolate, put the entire bowl and the detachable whisks into the refrigerator, and then resume once it has cooled down.
*The frosting can be prepared one day in advance. Store in the refrigerator until needed.
*If you’re serving it to children, omit the coffee and use water instead (add two teaspoons of vanilla extract)
*This frosting can be very tricky to make. If you have any questions or need help troubleshooting, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try my best to answer them.