Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Everyday Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing


The time-change has me feeling a little more out of sorts than usual. Quite possibly my sub-conscious has been affected by all of the recent daylight savings time stories citing the numerous impacts time-change has on our mind and bodies. Given my frequent unusually high levels of gullibility I would venture to say this more than likely partially explains my temporary altered state. Beside undergoing the recent time-change brainwashing, the winter season in the midwest has been a little outside the norm. Up until the return of the winter wonderland this week, we have been relatively snowless for almost two months. Having summer and spring-like days interspersed amongst wintery weather ones here in February has felt good, but at the same time it has also felt a bit strange. One day you are bundled up wearing layers of winter clothes and boots, the next day you are wearing flip flops and turning off the heat. It's a good thing I didn't change out my closets for the seasons this year (or truth be told any year). Even my cravings for sweets has been different lately. It seems I only want the Cadbury chocolates imported from across the pond or cake.


Kind of like this cake, this Everyday Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing. One that should probably be called 'Love at first sight, love at first bite' cake.

As far as chocolate cakes go, this one is the kind you want to eat when you are happy, melancholy, euphoric, out of sorts, stressed, or filled with joy. In other words, it's a cake where in one bite everything is immediately all is either right or better with the world.


The recipe for this chocolate cake comes from someone who seems to understand there is greatness in simplicity. In her first cookbook, 'Small Victories', Julia Turshen uses ordinary, easy to find ingredients and transforms them into extraordinary dishes. In reading through her recipes, you are convinced you will make each one more than once. The recipe for the the buttercream icing comes from Sarah Kieffer's cookbook, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. Another baker whose recipes also seemed destined to go into the timeless classics category.


There are a million reasons to always keep buttermilk in your refrigerator. The million and one reason would be this chocolate cake.


If you made (or have already made) buttermilk is one of your staples, you can make this deep chocolate, moist, just the right amount of sweetness chocolate cake whenever you get a craving for it. Or, whenever the day calls for cake. Which for some of us could be pretty much almost every day. If you can boil water, you can make this cake. Not that you necessarily need to boil any water. Essentially you only need is a large bowl, a whisk, some measuring spoons, and some measuring cups (and/or a digital scale) to make it. It's a cake recipe proving great homemade cakes don't need to be complicated. They only need to made with love using good quality ingredients.


All of the dry ingredient are whisked together in a large bowl.


After all of the wet ingredients are added, the batter is whisked until it is smooth and slightly thickened. That's it. Your cake batter is ready in a matter of minutes.

The 8" inch rounds of cake bake up in approximately 30 minutes in a 350 degree (F) oven. Buttering and lining your cake pans with parchment paper helps ensure they will come out of the pan perfectly. Allow the cakes to cool completely before you begin frosting the layers.


The icing recipe makes just enough to ice this two-layer 8" cake in the naked style. If you want a heavily iced on the sides cake, increase the recipe proportionately. A standing mixer with a paddle attachment makes for an incredibly creamy icing, but you can achieve the same results using a hand mixer and some patience. 

The original recipe for the cake called for a chocolate icing and slathered a generous half-cup of raspberry jam as the middle layer. As much as chocolate and raspberry are perfect flavor combinations, I was in the mood for just cake and icing. And almost uncharacteristically, I had a craving for vanilla buttercream icing rather than chocolate icing.


Simple cakes call for simple finishes. But it you are making this cake for a 'fancy' occasion, make it as fancy as you want.


If you have yet to have a go-to chocolate cake in your recipe file, make this Everyday Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing it. It will never disappoint. Never. If you have never added coffee to your chocolate brownies, cookies or cakes to enhance the flavor of the chocolate, your chocolate loving palate is in for a surprise. A really good one.


Top with candles and serve alongside your favorite vanilla ice-cream and you have a cake worthy of celebrating any birthday, anniversary or special occasion. But actually, you don't even need the ice cream. The cake all on it's own is that good. And you definitely don't need a special occasion to make it.


I completely agree with Julia Turshen. This is one of those 'decadent without being too heavy or too sweet' cakes. And we all deserve a little decadence in our lives. Chances are the Everyday Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing will become one of your favorites.

Recipe
Everyday Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing (minor changes to Julia Turshen's Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake recipe as shared in her cookbook "Small Victories: Recipes, Advice, and Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs" and not even a change to Sarah Kieffer's American Buttercream recipe as shared in her cookbook "The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics"
Serves 8-12 people, depending on how you slice it

Ingredients
Cake
1 1/4 cups (150 g) all-purpose flour 
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (75 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons (120 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup strong black coffee cooled or 1 rounded teaspoon espresso powder mixed into 1 cup boiling water then cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla

Icing
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons good quality vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups (339 g) confectionary sugar, sifted
Optional: Food coloring and/or sprinkles for decorating

Directions
Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Butter and parchment paper line two 8" baking pans. Lightly butter top of parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add melted butter, eggs, coffee, buttermilk, and vanilla. Whisk until batter is thick and smooth.
4. Divide batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Lightly tap the cake pans to remove any air bubbles. Note: Using a digital scale helps to ensure each pan has equal amounts of batter.
5. Bake until tops of cake spring back when lightly pressed and edges begin to come away from the pan. Approximately 30 minutes of baking time.
6. Transfer cakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

Icing and Assembly
1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until creamy (approximately 2 minutes).
2. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add vanilla and salt. Mix on low until incorporated. Then beat on medium for one minute.
3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the sifted confectionary sugar until all is incorporated. Stop to scrape the bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy (approximately 6-8 minutes).
4. Place one of the cakes upside-down on your serving platter or cake stand. Spoon slightly more than 1/3 of the frosting on the cake. Spread evenly over cake.
5. Place the second cake layer (again upside-down) on the frosted layer. Top cake with approximately 1/3 more of the frosting. Use the remaining frosting to frost the sides of the cake. Smooth out top layer using an off-set spatula.
6. Wait at least an hour or lightly cover cake and chill in the refrigerator before serving. This is one of those cakes that is even more delicious when served chilled.

Notes: (1) If you don't own either of the cookbooks referenced in the recipe, you should. They are destined to become classics. (2) I am a big fan of King Arthur All-Purpose flour, but use whatever high quality flour you have available to you. (3) If you want a raspberry jam filling instead of the buttercream filling, use a generous half cup of your favorite jam.


A wintery March day at Morton Arboretum (2017).


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