The Sensitive Kitchen

Friday, June 14, 2013

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

This is my go-to chocolate cake. It's simply excellent: moist with deep, rich flavor. I like my chocolate mascarpone frosting on it, although a chocolate espresso buttercream is good too. The recipe makes a tall cake, so please don't try to put all the batter in two 9" pans; make a few cupcakes too.

3 ozs semisweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
1 1/2 c hot brewed coffee
3 c sugar
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c unsweetened natural (not Dutch process) cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease two 10" pans with shortening; line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then grease paper.

Place chocolate chips in a small bowl. Pour coffee over; let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. 

Sift sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In a pitcher with a spout, stir together oil, buttermilk and vanilla.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs on medium-high speed until lemon-yellow and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Drizzle in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar-flour mixture; beat on medium speed until just combined well. 

Divide batter between pans; bake in middle of oven until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans; invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove paper. Fill and frost as desired.


Basic Wedding Buttercream

This basic white frosting gets its rich flavor from butter, but holds its shape fairly well (even in the heat) thanks to the shortening. The use of heavy cream instead of milk further fortifies the texture, though you may substitute milk instead, or even a flavoring such as rum, Grand Marnier or Amaretto. The texture is perfect for filling and frosting; it may be further thinned for piping.

1/2 cup butter, well softened
1/2 cup natural vegetable shortening
generous pinch salt
1 pound (2 cups) powdered sugar 2 Tbsp cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, shortening and salt together until thoroughly combined and fluffy, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add powdered sugar; beat on low until mixture starts to come together. Add cream and vanilla; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat until fluffy, at least 30 seconds. Makes 3 cups frosting, or enough to fill and frost one 9" layer cake.

Variation: Chocolate Espresso Buttercream

To basic buttercream, add 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp espresso powder, and 2 Tbsp cream.


Natural Red Velvet Cake

The beet powder in this recipe replaces the customary red food coloring, producing a lovely hue and a complex flavor. This cake can also be made in 9" pans, but the recipe should be increased by half to compensate for the increased pan size. 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups (9 3/8 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp beet powder, sifted to remove lumps
1/2 oz high-quality, natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp high-quality vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8" cake pans by greasing them with shortening, lining them with parchment paper, and greasing the parchment. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, whipping between additions. Scrape down sides of bowl and whip 1 minute. Add beet powder, cocoa powder and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; stir to blend. In a measuring cup with spout, combine buttermilk, lemon juice and vanilla. Stir to blend. Add flour mixture in 3 parts alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat only until mixture comes together. Scrape sides of bowl as needed.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Batter will be thick. Tap pans on counter to spread batter and remove bubbles. Bake 20-25 minutes, turning once, or until tops are slightly browned and sides pull away from pan. Cool 15 minutes on racks, then turn out of pans and cool thoroughly. Frost with Basic Wedding Buttercream or your favorite cream-cheese-based frosting.