It’s been a bit of a baking extravaganza this week! I helped plan a going away party for my boss this Friday, a birthday party this Saturday, and a friend’s potluck on Sunday. Chipping away at my production list after work, I managed to make an incredibly decadent german chocolate cake and two chocolate cakes with chai swiss meringue buttercream. YUM.
I’ve made several versions of chocolate cake over the years, but I’ve noticed that most versions I love are some modification of Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake. It’s basically the same version as the Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake except with cocoa replacing chocolate, and hot coffee replacing hot water. It’s a moist, tender, beautiful chocolate cake and it’s my go-to for whenever I need a crowd-pleaser.
This cake can be made in advance and frozen for several weeks, so I like to make a double batch and keep one in the freezer for the next time I have to make a cake. This chocolate cake remains moist when taken out of the oven, and holds up to a variety of flavored buttercreams, whipped cream, fruits, jams and nuts. It’s definitely a master recipe you want to keep in your arsenal.
Did I mention I also found my new favorite place in San Francisco this week? Okay, so maybe it’s not as exciting as the De Young museum or the Golden Gate Bridge, but I am offficially obsessed with the flower mart. Tucked away in an industrial part of SOMA, my coworker told me you could get the most amazing flowers for warehouse prices. Gorgeous buckets of hydrangea, David Austin roses, flowering kale, and stunning deep purple calla lilies filled the hallways, and we wandered around picking out our favorites. It’s incredibly affordable, though you do have to stay in certain areas unless you have a bin number, as it is where florists get their wholesale flowers. If I had a car, I would go here every week to stock up on flowers.
Okay so back to the baking. The only modification I made to the recipe was to add in some King Arthur Flour black cocoa, which enhances the already beautiful rich, deep chocolate flavor of the cake. I finished the cake with chai swiss meringue buttercream, as I love the way the warm, toasty spices pair with the cake. The ratio listed is a great starting point, but feel free to modify the ground spices to taste. For the german chocolate cake, the coconut pecan filling is very sweet, so I made the same swiss meringue buttercream below but swapped the spices for 12 oz. of melted and cooled 60% dark chocolate chips to make a deep chocolate buttercream. I finished the top with coconut pecan filling recipe, which you can find here.
Chocolate Layer Cake ( Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake)
2 cups sugar (400 grams)
3/4 cups good cocoa powder (65 grams)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
optional: 1 Tbl. black cocoa (King Arthur Flour)
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Butter two 8-inch (I’ve also used 9-inch) round cake pans. Butter the pans, line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans (I use cocoa).
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Chai Swiss Meringue Buttercream (modified from The Cake Blog)
8 oz. (227 grams) egg whites 1 cup
11 ounces (312 grams) granulated sugar- 1 1/2 cups
16 ounces (454 grams) unsalted butter softened but not warm- 2 cups
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
3/4 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
Combine sugar and egg whites in a heat-proof bowl and whisk over a small saucepan of simmering water. Be sure that the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk the mixture constantly until the temperature reaches 160ºF and then strain into a cake pan or shallow metal bowl and chill in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until it is quite cool.
Meanwhile, beat the butter in a mixer for 2 minutes on high until the butter is lighter in color and aerated. Add the cooled syrup in two additions to the butter beating 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla, all the ground spices and salt, and beat 30 seconds until smooth. The buttercream can be used immediately at room temperature for 2 days, in the refrigerator tightly sealed for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.