Updated: May 31
Okay, so this is not my recipe. I found it about 10 years ago watching Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa but, to be fair, It's not Ina Garten's recipe either. It's her friend's recipe, Beatty Something-Or-Other and it's fabulous and easy. It has become a staple in my family for birthdays and gatherings, but be prepared...Your nephew will like it so much that he will ask you to make it for his birthday party each year and your sister will be over-joyed because she hates to bake and doesn't want to buy a cake. Your mom will ask if she can take a slice home and maybe another piece to keep in the freezer for later and because it keeps very nicely in the freezer.
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 Frosting: 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut) 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 **
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.
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. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
*Regular cocoa powder is good but dark cocoa powder is great and I substitute it in all of my chocolate recipes. It gives a deeper chocolate flavor. I know there are very expensive, high-quality cocoa powders out there and I'm sure they are amazing, but I have had delicious results with Hershey's Cocoa Powder Dark and you can grab it at most local super markets.
** I'm not a fan of the instant-coffee-flavor in this otherwise perfect chocolate icing and the kids don't seem to like it either so I just omit it.
***I rarely use a double boiler. It's so fancy and sophisticated and who am I trying to impress? Instead, let me impress you with my sexy practicality. I don't chop chocolate. I put chocolate-chip morsels in a microwave-safe bowl and heat the chips in 30-second increments, stirring in between. It typically takes me a total of 90 seconds to melt the chocolate silky smooth. (Now that's hot.)
Also, I almost always need more icing so, just to be safe, I double-batch it. You will have leftover-icing but it's better than coming up short, although half-iced cakes are all the rage these days. Whose idea was that?