Friday, November 14, 2008

Cleo's "Happy Birthday to Me" Cake

You should bake a cake. Seriously, why not? No one actually makes layer cakes anymore. You can buy them at the bakery or even at the supermarket but the artificial ingredients or dry cake make them not worth the money.

We had some people to dinner on Thursday and I remembered an AMAZING cake my friend Kelly had made at our cookbook club one night. It was Ina Garten's cake from Barefoot Contessa at Home. The recipe is called "Beatty's Chocolate Cake" and a fudgy buttercream-frosting recipe follows it. It could not have been any easier. I baked the cakes late morning, let them cool while I prepped other stuff for dinner, frosted them mid-afternoon and finished it with a sprinkle of flaky Maldon sea salt. If you don't know yet, I love adding salt to my sweets and this cake definitely benefited from the simple garnish.

We served the cake after a dinner of pan roasted chicken with Meyer lemons, creamy orzo and green beans sautéed with pancetta. Our youngest guest Cleo, just three years old, kept calling it her 'happy birthday to me cake’, which I think is just the perfect name.

Try it for yourself, your friends, or your neighbors. You'll be glad you did.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake (from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten)

2 8-inch round cake pans, buttered, floured, and lined w/buttered parchment
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Take the bowl off the mixer and stir in the coffee just to combine, using a rubber spatula to scrape any dry bits from the bottom of the bowl. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out without any wet crumbs. Cool the cakes, on a rack, for 30 minutes in their pans then turn then out onto the rack and cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

6 ounces good quality semi-sweet or bitter-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks butter, room temp
1 egg yolk, room temp (I left this out as my cake was sitting for a long time at room temp)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tbs instant coffee powder, dissolved in 2 tsp hot water (optional-I use it because it really intensifies the flavor of the chocolate)

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot w/1-inch of barely simmering water. Stir gently until the chocolate melts and remove it from the heat. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high speed until it is light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the egg yolk (if using) and vanilla and beat 3 minutes more. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. When all the sugar is in, increase the heat to medium, scraping down the bowl as needed, until the mixture is light and fluffy. At low speed add the chocolate and coffee and mix just until combined.

Frost the top of one cake, spreading about 1/2-inch layer of frosting all over the top, leaving about 1/4-inch border around the edge. Top the cake with the second cake and use the remaining frosting to cover the sides and the top. Sprinkle the cake with about 1 tsp flaky sea salt and serve.

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