Sunday, April 19, 2015

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

I have been writing Kitchen and Cake for a while now and I realized I have yet to include a chocolate cake.  I don't know how that happened, but it is time to remedy it.  I have made countless chocolate cakes but one of my favorites is an old-fashioned variety made with buttermilk.  It is the kind of cake our mothers or grandmothers would have made.  Moist, chocolatey, sweet and nostalgic the chocolate cake partners well with many kinds of frosting but this chocolate buttercream is easy to make and even easier to spread and it holds its shape nicely.

To make the cake a bit more fancy I decorated the sides with rosettes.  I frosted the cake with a thin coat of buttercream, then added the rosettes around the perimeter.  Obviously, it isn't necessary to decorate the cake this way, but it sure is satisfying and therapeutic.  So if you are up for a little piping have fun, if not simply frost the cake to your liking and enjoy any extra buttercream sandwiched between graham crackers.  Left-over buttercream will keep for a few weeks in a airtight container in the refrigerator.  Just bring it to room temperature before using or microwave for a few seconds then stir if needed immediately for an afternoon snack-attack.

Single rosette made with a star tip
I was tempted to pipe rosettes on the top, as well, but I preferred to leave it flat and smooth.  If you are feeling the need for complete coverage, go for it.  Keeping with the nostalgia of an old-fashioned cake I wanted the rosettes to look more like a cabbage roses, so the piped rosette is twice around with a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Technically they are a double rosettes.  Whatever you choose to do be creative and have fun.  If you don't like the results scrap them off and start over.

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

4 ounces (115 g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces/225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup (300 g) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃).  Butter two 9-inch (23-cm) cake pans and dust with flour.  Line the bottoms of the cake pans with a round of parchment or waxed paper.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed until light.  Add the sugar and beat 2 minutes more.  Add the eggs one at a time followed by the egg yolks beat well between each addition.  Stop the machine and scrap down the bowl a few times during the process.

Add the vanilla and the melted and cooled chocolate beat to incorporate.  With the machine on low speed alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in three additions.  Mix just until incorporated after each addition and scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure the batter is mixed.

Divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake on the center rack in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes.  Run a knife around the cake edge and invert on a rack to cool completely, leaving the parchment or waxed paper round on the cake.  While the cakes are cooling lightly cover with a clean light-weight kitchen towel to allow the heat to escape but keep the cakes moist.  Once cooled the cakes can be filled and frosted.  If not using immediately wrap tightly in plastic wrap and left at room temperature overnight.  Or refrigerate up to two days.  Freeze for longer storage, up to a month.

Chocolate Buttercream

9 ounces (252 g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cup (12 ounces/340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (420 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 cup (63 ml) boiling water

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and the melted and cooled chocolate mix to combine.  With the machine on low speed add the confectioners' sugar a little at a time until incorporated.  The mixture will be very thick and stiff.  Add the boiling water one tablespoon at a time until a smooth spreading consistency is achieved.  Add more water or confectioners' sugar to correct consistency if needed.  The buttercream is ready to use.

The recipe makes plenty of buttercream to generously frost the cake.  Left-over buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks.  Freeze for longer storage.  Bring to room temperature before using.

To assemble the cake:

Remove the parchment or waxed paper rounds from the cooled cakes.  Place one cake layer on a 9-inch (23-cm) cardboard round or a serving plate.  Generously spread a layer of chocolate buttercream on top.  Invert the other cake layer and place on top.  Frost the cake with a thin coat of buttercream.  Don't be too concerned with the sides as they will be covered but try to make the top flat and smooth.  Fit a pastry bag with a star tip.  Make two rows of rosettes around the perimeter of the cake stacking the rosettes on top of each other.

The cake can be stored at room temperature for a few days covered with a cake dome.  Refrigerate for longer storage.  The cake is best served at room temperature.