When I get a craving for a particular food it's like an itch. I can ignore it for a bit, then it's back stronger. I can try other foods that are like the craved item, but they don't quite hit the spot. The itch won't go away until I've made just what I've been craving.
The other day I thought about chocolate cake. I like chocolate cake. I always have. I have a philosophy about chocolate. It's good. And when you put more chocolate on it, it's better. So chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is a favorite. And after I'd thought of chocolate cake I thought about how much I'd like to have a piece of chocolate cake. After eating a handful of chocolate chips, a mini Snickers bar, and a piece of bread with Nutella on it, I decided to do my waist a favor and just make a chocolate cake.
I had my copy of Barefoot Contessa At Home on the counter and flipped it open to a picture of a double layer, deep, dark, chocolatey cake with delicious, chocolate frosting. Yummm. Yes, that would definitely hit the spot!
I set to work and in no time had the batter made. As I poured the batter into the cake pans, I thought that they seemed quite full, but maybe this was a cake that didn't rise much. I slid the cake layers into the oven and set the timer. Then I went downstairs to do a few things and when I came up again, why was I smelling smoke??? I looked in the oven and was horrified to see my cake layers had turned into twin volcanoes, spewing molten cake lava onto the bottom of the oven. I quickly stuck a cookie sheet onto the bottom rack of the oven to catch the rest and opened a window to let out the smoke.
What had happened to my cake? I reviewed the recipe step by step and I'd measured and done just as instructed. We made the best of the situation, eating the cake with whipped cream (I wasn't going to bother trying to frost such an ungainly cake) and it tasted just fine. But I was perplexed. Was it me? Was it the recipe?
So when I talked to my sister, who I knew had the same cookbook, I asked if she'd ever made the cake. I don't think so, she said. I described the cake making process to her and when I reached the part about the cake pans looking full, she said, Yes, Yes! She'd made that cake and had the same thing happen to her. And then she'd called a baking friend who'd recommended the cake and complained. That friend had had the same experience and forgot to warn her.
Aha! It was the recipe! So, as a public service to my readers, not at all because I still was wanting chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, I made the cake again. This time using 9-inch cake pans instead of the 8-inch called for in the recipe. Worked like a charm.
So if you've got Barefoot Contessa At Home, go get your copy right now, before you forget, open to page 165, cross out 8-inch and write in 9-inch for the cake pans. And then make the cake. You know you want it. Dark chocolate with just a hint of coffee. Nothing else will satisfy, so get baking!
Mocha Non-Volcano Cake
adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, then butter and flour them.
Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. 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 the mixer still on low, add the cofee 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.
Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Loosen the edges by running a knife around the inside, if needed, turn the cake onto a plate, peel the parchment paper off the bottom, then turn the cake onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
When the layers are completely cooled, place one 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, roudned side up, and sspread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
6 oz. good semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp instant coffee powder
Place a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and place the chopped chocolate inside. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer 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 tsp 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.