Today is photographer Emily’s birthday. She’s finally 21, and her birthday came at the perfect time this year because today is the last day of classes! She didn’t waste any time celebrating either… she was at the bar by 12:01 this morning. Happy Birthday Emily!
When I found out her birthday was coming, I thought “Birthday? What a great excuse to bake!” So the recipe search began. I got an insider tip on her favorite combination (chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, thank you Mrs. Emily’s mom), but I was also a bit nervous because I really wanted to find a cake that had a rich chocolate flavor but wasn’t crumbly and dry.
And now is when I admit–I have a secret. I think this may revoke my privilege to identify as a female, but I actually do not usually like chocolate cake. I think it may be the result of an overexposure to store-bought chocolate birthday cakes during my childhood, but that flavorless “chocolate” cake paired with the sickeningly sweet, super-bright-what-the-heck-am-I-even-eating colored frosting was usually a huge disappointment. I always ate it, of course, but as I got to be a little bit older, I learned that there are much better baked goods to be eaten, and began to prefer cheesecake and strawberry shortcake over chocolate birthday cake.
This chocolate birthday cake, however, is different. I found this one on La Mia Dolce Vita, and knew it was the recipe. It is originally from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself, so obviously it had to be good. Also, the pictures from La Mia Dolce Vita are incredible (topped off with pink frosting and donuts!) Boy, was it a good pick. Because it is made with hot coffee and buttermilk, it has an intense chocolate flavor and is really, really moist. The cake is not grossly filling either (unless you cut yourself a gargantuan portion like I did…), so you won’t feel the need to hibernate after eating. Like, La Dolce Vita, I topped it off with a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. After a slice of this cake, I think I can say I am officially a converted chocolate cake lover.
Chocolate Layer Cake
Makes two 8-9″ round cakes
All-purpose flour, for dusting
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour two 8″ round pans (I used 9″, it worked just fine).
Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the cocoa 2 times into a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using a fine mesh sieve, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder (for the third time), baking soda, baking powder and salt. Attach the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and slowly mix on low speed until just combined (do not over-mix). Gradually add the hot coffee and mix until fully combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking tins. Bake until a cake tester/knife inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes; then invert the cakes and return the cakes to the wire rack to cool completely.
Recipe from Ina Garten
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 1.5 cups of frosting, or enough for two 9″ round chocolate cakes
7 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Gel Paste food colouring (Wilton Pink)
Using a spatula, stir the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the white chocolate and vanilla and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low. Add the confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup at a time, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Using a toothpick add a drop of gel paste food coloring and mix until well combined. Repeat until you have reached the desired colouring.
Pictures by Emily- check out her portfolio! (Yes, I made her take pictures of her own birthday cake, but she likes it so it’s okay).