Last week I wrote about my husband’s birthday dinner and included a picture of his cake. Several people have since asked for the recipe, including one lovely reader who wants to make it for her father-in-law’s birthday tomorrow! I’ve made it more times than I can count — baptisms, surprise parties, Mother’s Day, birthdays — and it always turns out great. Every once in a while I try a new recipe, but in the end all the fussing over double boilers and unsweetened chocolate squares leaves me wishing I’d stuck with this exquisitely simple, utterly delicious cake. Note that if you’re at altitude, as I am here in Denver, you should reduce the baking soda slightly.
P.S. Kid’s in the Kitchen Tip — Because this cake doesn’t have eggs, you can let your kids lick the beaters or the bowl without fear of salmonella.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
1 2/3 cups white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (not kosher)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (Ghiradelli’s is especially good)
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup olive oil (you can use vegetable oil, too, but olive is healthier)
2 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350. Take two 8-inch cake pans and trace them on aluminum foil. Cut out the circles and put them in each pan shiny side up, then grease and flour like normal. This makes the cakes very easy to remove. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together, then add the cocoa and sugar and mix well. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla and beat well. The batter will be very thick. Spread in pans and bake 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes, then put on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
* If I remember correctly, the reader who wanted this recipe has a dairy-free family member. I don’t know if buttermilk will be an issue. I do know, though, that if you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own sour milk by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk and letting it sit on the counter for 15 minutes. The acid is necessary to activate the baking soda.
Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
This frosting uses a different technique than most frosting recipes. It may look strange, but trust me, it works! The fluffing is very fluffy and much less sweet than frostings made with powdered sugar.
1 cup milk or cream
1/3 cup white flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
Whisk milk and flour in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture is very thick. You may need to whisk hard to remove the lumps. Remove from heat and let cool. Cream sugar and butter for several minutes, then add milk-flour mixture in spoonfuls, beating well after each addition. When frosting is very fluffy, add vanilla. There will be enough to fill and frost a two-layer 8-inch cake. I like to dot it with chocolate chips, as you can see in the picture. (This frosting can sit out the day it’s made, but any leftovers should be refrigerated. Doing so will change the texture of the frosting, however. It’s never as fluffy as the day it’s made.)