I love birthdays. I love the celebration of life, the annual "notching off" of our years.
And I love making birthday cakes.
Today is the birthday of my dear friend, Anjie. Anjie and I have been friends for over 9 years. She makes me laugh almost every time we talk (which is at least once a day). She is one of the most encouraging people I've ever known. She's a fantastic mother to four handsome boys, and an amazing, supportive wife to her husband, Kevin. I go to her for advice on everything from mothering, to house-cleaning, to drug-interactions and child dosages, to fashion, and our faith. She is an indispensable part of my daily life.
So I made her a cake!
The recipe that follows is from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. My copy automatically opens to chocolate-stained page 194; I've been baking this cake since 2000, and it always gets rave reviews.
Chocolate Buttercream Cake
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
Chocolate Buttercream (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, butter the paper, and dust the pans with flour, knocking out any excess. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light--approximately 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter only until blended.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, remove from the pans, and allow to finish cooling.
Place one cake on a serving plate, flat side up. Frost the top of that layer with the buttercream. Place the second layer on top, also flat side up, and frost the top and sides.
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup egg whites (3 extra-large eggs) at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound (4 sticks!!!) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons dark rum, optional
Chop the chocolates and melt in a bowl over simmering water until smooth. Allow to cool.
Mix the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Heat the eggs whites in the bowl over simmering water until they are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes (watch to make sure they don't start to bake on the sides of the bowl!). Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes, or until the meringue is cool and holds a stiff peak.
Switch to the paddle attachment. Add the butter, 1 luxurious tablespoon at a time, while beating on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl, add the chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and rum, if using, and mix for 1 minute or until the chocolate is completely blended in. If the buttercream seems very soft, allow it to cool, and beat it again.
Now lick the bowl and the beaters, of course!