Classic Chocolate Cake

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We made this cake for Elsie’s birthday, and it turned out very well, with a rich, fudgy frosting.  Elsie and her sister helped make the frosting, which was a memorable and time-consuming process, but great fun for the girls! This recipe is adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking.  It is a rich cake (note the 3 cups of butter) and will easily make 12 servings.


4 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

½ cup boiling water

2-1/2 cups cake flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup, unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature


1-1/2 lbs. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put baking parchment circles in the bottom of two 9-inch cake pans.  Grease and flour the pans.

Put the chopped semi-sweet chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Pour on the chocolate the boiling water, and stir to dissolve.  Set aside to cool.

Mix together the cake flour, baking soda and salt.

In the large bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar using the paddle attachment, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla and then beat in the chocolate and water mixture.  Remove the bowl from the mixer, and fold in a third of the flour mixture, half of the buttermilk, a third of the flour mixture, half of the buttermilk, and the final third of the flour mixture.  Do not overmix, which would toughen the cake.

Beat the egg whites until medium peaks form, either in the mixer or in a separate bowl with a whisk.  Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.  Rotate the pans halfway through the baking.  Remove the pans from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Then remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool fully on wire racks.  (We made the cakes a day in advance, and allowed them to fully cool in the pans after ensuring that they were not sticking on the side.  Once cool, we covered the pans with plastic wrap until we were ready to frost them the next day.)

To make the frosting, place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over (but not touching) barely simmering water and heat, stirring, until the chocolate and butter melt.  Remove the pan from the double boiler and allow to cool and thicken for about 10 minutes.  Add the vanilla and whisk in the confectioner’s sugar.

When the cake is cool, put the bottom layer on a plate and frost it.  Put the second layer on top of the first layer and frost it and the sides.


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