This weekend I was in dire need of old fashioned comfort food. The mid-January doldrums have set in, not to mention the disaster that was downtown DC (interpret that as you may) all had me craving one thing and one thing only. Chocolate. Not elaborate confections, oh no. There was no stout, or extracts or even ganaches. This is chocolate cake, pure and simple. And, with quite possibly the best frosting I’ve made to date. It should come as no surprise this recipe came from her holiness, The Barefoot Contessa.
I’ve always been a big Ina fan. I have yet to make a recipe of hers that has failed to impress. When she came out with her latest cook book, I knew I had to have it. And, let’s be honest…it is my life couple goal to be her and Jeffrey.
I will tell you I was a bit skeptical when I first saw this recipe. The frosting has to mix for an hour (!!!), but Ina swore it was worth it. And, to be honest, at first taste I was not all that impressed. I was literally cursing her name vain after the time spent on it. But, then something magical happened. The day after I made this cake, it was like something switched. It was literally some of the best frosting I’d ever tasted. So, my friends, just give it some time and you too will be thanking the frosting gods Ina came up with this. And the cake, even though there is no melted chocolate it almost has a brownie-like consistency to it. So, if you too need some uplifting this week you really can’t go wrong with Jeffrey’s favorite chocolate cake.
p.s. Ina if you read this, pls consider adopting me.
For the Cake
3/4pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot brewed coffee or espresso
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
For the Coffee Meringue Buttercream
2 cups sugar
6 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds (6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlúa
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
chocolate covered expresso beans, for garnish
For the Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9 × 2-inch round cake pans (I used 8-inch, I like a taller cake), line them with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and beat until well mixed, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
3. Whisk the cocoa powder and hot coffee together in a small bowl. With the mixer on low, add it into the batter.
4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture to the batter, then all the sour cream, then the remaining flour mixture, mixing each addition until combined. With a rubber spatula, fold the batter until it is well mixed.
5. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, turn out onto a baking rack, and cool completely.
6. To frost the cakes, slice them in half horizontally with a long, thin knife. Place the bottom of the first cake, cut side up, on a flat serving plate and spread a thin layer of buttercream on the top only (not the sides) with a palette knife. Place the top of the first cake, cut side down, on top and thinly frost the top only. Next, place the top layer of the second cake on top, cut side up, and thinly frost. Finally, place the bottom layer of the second cake, bottom side up (so the top of the cake is flat). Frost the top and sides of the cake.
7. Heat a palette knife or frosting spatula in hot water, shake off any excess water, and use it to smooth the buttercream on the sides and the top of the cake. Continue heating the palette knife and shaking off the excess water, until the buttercream is smooth. (A revolving cake stand will make it easier.) If there is extra buttercream, fill a pastry bag with it to decorate. Garnish with the chocolate espresso beans.
For the Coffee Meringue Buttercream
1. Combine the sugar and 2⁄3 cup of water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the sugar dissolves, uncover the pan and place a candy thermometer in the syrup. Cook over high heat until the thermometer registers exactly 240 degrees. (Don’t stir!)
2. Meanwhile, place the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks.
3. Carefully pour the syrup into a 2-cup glass measuring cup. With the mixer still on high, very slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream. Leave the mixer on high for about 1 hour (trust me!), until the mixture is completely at room temperature. (If the mixture isn’t absolutely at room temperature, the butter will melt and deflate the egg whites!)
4. With the mixer on medium, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. If the butter starts to melt, stop and wait for the mixture to cool. With the mixer on low, add the coffee liqueur and vanilla. Do not refrigerate; frost the cake while the buttercream is at room temperature.