Monday, April 7, 2008
In honor of my sister Beth's birthday, which is today, I made a chocolate cake. But this was not just any chocolate cake. It was purple. She made very clear to me that she wanted our Bubbe's buttercream frosting recipe instead of a chocolate one. But who leaves a buttercream frosting white when you have every color of the rainbow on your palette? Beth's favorite color is purple so the answer was easy.
I took this cake assignment as an opportunity to try a new recipe. I don't make birthday cakes that often, and I have 10 billion cookbooks, so I made the brave decision not to use our grandmother's chocolate cake recipe (GASP!) this time around. As it turns out, I quickly realized while following the recipe, that this one is not all that different from my grandmother's. Main differences are the use of semisweet chocolate (instead of German chocolate) and separating the eggs to beat egg whites to medium peaks (instead of mixing the eggs right in).
The cake turned out great, though I'm not going to lie, I'm partial to my Bubbe's.
~Classic Chocolate Cake~
Recipe by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans, and Lou Seibert Pappas in Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking
Makes one 9-inch layer cake
4 oz. semisweet (plain) chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups cake (soft-wheat) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with circles of parchment (baking) paper cut to fit. Butter the paper and dust the bottoms and sides of the pans with flour.
Place the chopped chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and stir to melt. Set aside to cool.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of parchment paper or onto a plate. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the butter and granulated sugar. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla, then beat in the cooled chocolate mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in one-third of the dry ingredients until almost fully incorporated. Fold in one-half of the buttermilk, then fold in another third of the dry ingredients, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and, using a light lifting motion and turning the bowl continuously, fold in until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Do not fold too vigorously, or the cake will be tough.
In a clean bowl, using a balloon whisk, a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form. The whites should fall over gently when the whisk or beaters are lifted. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly. Bake the cake layers until a toothpick inserted into the center of a layer comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.
Transfer to wire racks and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of a cake and invert them together. Lift of the pan and peel off the parchment. Repeat with the remaining cake layer. Let cool completely on the racks. Cover the cake layers with a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel so that the outsides do not dry out as they cool.