Chocolate Cake

One little slice of this cake looks so innocent. From here you can’t tell it’s been enhanced with freshly brewed coffee and buttermilk. The combination makes this cake rich, irresistible, and moist. (You won’t taste the coffee, but it wakes up the chocolate flavor). Ina Garten spares you any butter in the cake itself, only to make up for it with two sticks of butter in the frosting. Dang, girl.

Are you a frosting or cake person? I think most people prefer frosting. I often skip it and instead eat the cake part of cakes. But this chocolate buttercream frosting is so light, so airy and oh-so-delicious. You can smell the chocolate before you see it. And the next day when you pull it out of the fridge and “share” with your boyfriend, the cake has changed a bit. The frosting has hardened, which is not a bad thing at all. One bite and you’ll see that now you get to enjoy letting the buttercream melt in your mouth.


Splurged on some fancier chocolate for the frosting. This was a birthday cake after all. Actually, two birthdays! With 24 candles for a 25-year-old and a 23-year-old.

One day my frosting skills will get better. It’s been a while since I baked a cake. Still looks luscious, and I want to dive right in.

It’s dangerous that something this good is so easy to make. I might find myself with leftover coffee after breakfast one Saturday and realize how close I’d be to having this cake again. Too close. At least I could count on giving away most of it to friends. They said they want more.

chocolate cake

serves 8 to 10, adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (and a little more for pans)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • butter for greasing the pans

Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. (You can use cocoa powder to keep it all the same color).

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until combined. 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 mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine. You may need to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Pour the batter into the round pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place one layer, flat side up, on a plate or cake stand. With a knife or spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

chocolate buttercream frosting

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 pound (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

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and let cool.

Beat the butter on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer down to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as you need to until it’s smooth and creamy. On low speed, add the chocolate to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip. Spread frosting immediately on the cooled cake.



9 thoughts on “Chocolate Cake

  1. What a lovely looking cake! I just have one question though – how much coffee powder do you need for the chocolate buttercream frosting? It seems to be missing from the list… I’d like to try making this 🙂

    • Thanks! I skipped the coffee powder in the frosting, but you can dissolve 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of very hot tap water and then add it into the butter mixture on that last step with the chocolate.

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