I've modified this recipe several times over the years to achieve the perfect flavour and an ideal texture that stands up to buttery frosting. The original recipe was passed on from a friend and you can find it here. The buttercream recipe is my own.
For the cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup cocoa powder (dutch processed is best)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup boiling water
For preparing the cake pans:
2-3 tsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp flour
For the buttercream frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (dutch processed is best)
3 tbsp whole milk
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, prepare two 9-inch cake pans by greasing them well with 2-3 tsp butter or margarine and "flouring" them using 2 tbsp of flour. Many professional bakers suggest using cocoa powder to "flour" cake pans being used for chocolate cake, but I've had bad luck with this method a few times. If I'm going to frost the cake (which I am in this case), I flour the pans with all purpose flour and make sure to tap out as much of the excess flour as I can; you only want a very thin layer to coat the inside of the cake pans so it disappears as the cakes bake.
After the cake pans are greased and floured, measure the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt into a large mixing bowl through a sieve or flour sifter. This will help prevent lumps in the dry ingredients.
Once you've pushed the dry ingredients through the sieve, give the mixture a stir with a wire whisk to combine all the ingredients.
To a separate bowl add the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla and whisk them together with a fork.
Now is a good time to set your kettle to boil some water. You'll need 1 cup.
Dump the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir them together with a rubber spatula to combine.
You'll be left with a thick, scraggly mess, but don't fret! You're about to add the secret ingredient...
Switch to a wire whisk and very slowly pour 1 cup of boiling water into the cake batter. It's a good idea to add about 1/4 cup of the boiling water first, whisk it in well, and then slowly add the rest. This will bring the temperature of the mixture up slowly and prevent any clumps of batter from being "cooked" by the heat of the water. Be sure to whisk the mixture gently and constantly as you add the water.
You'll be left with a beautiful cake batter!
Pour the cake batter evenly into your prepared 9-inch cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30-35 minutes. After 30 minutes, if the cakes appear to be done, test the middle of one with a toothpick. If a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out pretty much clean, they're done!
It's important to let the cakes cool about half-way in their pans. This will help the cakes pull away from the sides of the pan naturally and they'll be much easier to get out!
After they've cooled significantly, place a wire rack upside down over the top of each cake pan. Invert the cake pan and the cakes should slip right out, upside down, onto the wire racks. Leave them like this to cool completely.
Once the cakes have cooled completely to room temperature, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 2 hours (overnight is fine too!). This may seem like a useless step, but if you don't do it you will quickly realize its importance! Refrigerating the cakes will help them to stay together as you frost them. Because the cakes are so tender, they'll fall apart easily if you frost them with thick buttercream icing while they're soft.
When I make cakes like this, I often make the cake on one day and then make the frosting the next day because it breaks up the work and all of a sudden the job doesn't seem as daunting. It's also helpful for incorporating the step of refrigerating your cakes before you frost them...you're not stuck waiting around for hours for your cake to chill. Who has that kind of time, anyway? Not me!
While the cakes are refrigerating, you can begin to prepare the buttercream frosting. Add the butter to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 1-2 minutes or until it's smooth and creamy.
Add the icing sugar and cocoa powder to the butter through a sieve or flour sifter to remove any lumps.
Beat the icing sugar and cocoa powder into the butter on medium-high speed. Just when you see the mixture beginning to come together (it will look lumpy and a bit powdery), add the milk and continue to beat until it looks like buttercream frosting! You'll need to scrape down the sides a few times to make sure all the icing sugar and cocoa powder are incorporated.
Once the cakes have refrigerated for a few hours (or overnight), remove them from the fridge and from the plastic wrap.
Slide one of the cakes onto a plate (or a cake board if you want to get fancy...but fancy isn't really what this cake is about!), making sure the cake is right-side-up. This means the bottom will be flat and the top will be slightly rounded. Since this is not one of those fancy-schmansy cakes, we're not going to bother levelling it or anything like that. It's supposed to look rustic and homemade...that's what's so beautiful about baking for someone you love.
Place a large dollop of frosting on top, in the middle of the cake using an offset spatula (a butter knife also works well in a pinch!). Carefully spread the frosting outward until it reaches the sides of the cake. Be aware of the motions you're using: don't push and then pull the frosting. This will cause crumbs on the top of the cake to lift up and become mixed in with the frosting. This is not a good look! Just be careful and spread the frosting outward and downward.
Once the top is covered, place the second cake on top of the first, but upside down (flat side up!). Place a large dollop of frosting in the middle but don't spread it yet! You'll save it for the end after you frost the sides of the cake.
Using your offset spatula, spread a large amount of frosting around the sides of the cake, making sure to fill in any holes or cracks, especially the large gap between the layers.
Once the sides are covered, spread the frosting on top of the cake, creating whatever kind of rustic pattern you like. I chose to create small, natural-looking swirls with the same offset spatula I used to frost the cake. Carry this pattern down the sides of the cake and when you're satisfied with the way it looks, you're done!
Of course, it won't look like it came from a bakery, but what's better is that it will look like you made it and that you know what you're doing (because you do)!!
It's a good idea to refrigerate the cake again for at least an hour before you serve it. This will make it much easier to cut evenly and it will help the frosting to set.
Are you drooling yet? Doesn't this just look like the perfect chocolate cake?? Moist and tender and so dark with creamy, light frosting. Yum!
You probably didn't need me to tell you this, but this cake is not going to help you on your journey to a healthy body. It's 16 Weight Watchers PointsPlus for one large slice (this cake serves 12), which is still a much lower PointsPlus value than many commercially prepared chocolate cakes. It's one of those foods that's meant to be enjoyed once in a while to celebrate a special occasion, like we did this weekend in our family as my dad returned home from his trip to Spain.
I really hope you enjoy this one, and let me know in the comments below if you give it a try!