Two weekends ago I had the best weekend. I went to spend the night with my mom because my dad was out of town, which is like a mini vacation that I definitely don’t take often enough. We went shopping for baby clothes and spent Saturday morning talking on the back porch and then browsing through the farmer’s market.
Then I made this cake for my mother-in-law’s birthday, another wonderful time with family, all of Gerrit’s brothers and their significant others together, which I wish could happen more often than it does.
This past Friday we had our first baby shower, which was so lovely and joyous. The amount of work people put into it, and the people who showed up even when they had so many other things going on in their lives, was so meaningful to both of us.
Then on Saturday we found out that a woman who goes to our church, a woman who has been in and out of my life in various capacities from the time I was born, passed away unexpectedly. It was really a shock to both of us as well as our whole church.
Today, after working up at our church this morning and fielding calls and questions about the funeral this weekend, I had a doctor’s appointment (where everything checked out fine). It is still unbelievable to me that we are having a baby in just a few months, not just because it is an incredible thing in and of itself, but also because several months ago I wasn’t convinced that I would be able to state that at this point in time.
I don’t have an exact point to all of this, except that these are things I needed to say, and that they are a witness to they way life goes, with moments of great joy and contentment, followed by moments of shock and tragedy. And then you have the miracles to pick you back up again.
This buttercream is perhaps the richest thing I have ever put in my mouth. The recipe makes entirely more than you will need to frost the cake, so you can try to half it if you would like. I’ve put the rest of mine in the freezer for later use though. I’ve added weight measurements here, which I think is always helpful when you’re making a cake. And keep in mind how rich the cake is when you are deciding how many people you want to serve; only very small slices are needed. You can wrap the leftovers up in plastic wrap and aluminum foil for a treat in a couple of weeks or months.
- For the cake:
- 2 1/2 cups (315 g) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (130 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 lb. (2 sticks or 225 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (195 g) light brown sugar
- 3 large (or extra-large) eggs, room temperature
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (355 g) buttermilk, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (170 g) sour cream, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons brewed coffee (or water)
- For the buttercream:
- 1 lb. (453 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or good quality chocolate chips)
- 12 oz. (340 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped (or good quality chocolate chips)
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups (150 g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 lb. (6 sticks or 675 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
- Make the cake first. (I always like to bake my cake layers a day or two before I’m ready to finish the cake and keep them wrapped in plastic in the freezer.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, and then spray the parchment paper as well. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Stir in the salt (it probably won’t it through the holes of your sifter). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix until combined.
- In a small bowl, or a glass measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee or water.
- Then, on low speed and the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients alternately in thirds to the creamed butter. Start with the buttermilk and end with the flour mixture. Mix just until blended, and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure that all the ingredients are combined at the bottom of the bowl.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans, and use the spatula to make sure it spreads out nicely. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake pans cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes. Then run a knife along the edges of the pan and gently remove the cakes from the pans (I think it’s easiest to turn the pans upside down and let the cake loosen and gently drop back onto the wire rack, using your hands to shield the cake from a hard fall).
- Let the cakes finish cooling and then wrap them in plastic and place them in the freezer for at least an hour (cold or frozen cake layers are much easier to stack and frost later).
- To make the buttercream, begin by melting the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium-sized heat proof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, stirring often, until melted. Alternately, you can place the bowl in the microwave and heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until the chocolate is melted. Set aside and let the chocolate cool.
- In a large heatproof bowl (to be used with an electric mixer), combine the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Whisk together to combine and then place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Cook until the egg whites are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the heat source, and mix the egg whites on high speed until the egg whites hold stiff peaks.
- Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time while beating on medium speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl every once in awhile. When all of the butter has been added, add the melted chocolate, the vanilla, and the rum (if using). Mix until completely blended. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure all the ingredients at the bottom on mixed in.
- Unwrap the cake layers from plastic and place them on whatever surface you would like to ice the cake on. Spread however much frosting you would like on the first layer. Stack the second layer on top and then frost the top and sides of the cake. Let the cake layers come to room temperature (or at least unfreeze) before serving, but the cake is best stored in the fridge later.