Recently a most beloved friend came through Portland on business and stayed for a night’s visit. This friend — yikes, has it been 20 years? — this friend and I have some history, to say the least. In high school we liked to make batches of cookies in our mothers’ kitchens and deliver them to boys we thought were cute. (Note to high-school girls reading this blog: not necessarily recommended as a flirtation tactic unless you are looking for a real, ahem, mama’s boy….) When this beloved friend walked through my door a few days ago, just a few moments after Orlis had laid down for an afternoon snooze, I asked her, “want to make a cake?”
This sweet friend is game for most anything, most anytime, and alas, we pulled out the chocolate and flour and eggs and got to work — this time, in my kitchen, but still mimicking those subtly ingrained motions we learned from our mothers about how to sift, measure, and wait.
She dusted, I mixed, we chatted — all of the big and small movements of cake-making that turn out something delicious. These are motions we’ve done together dozens of times, in various kitchens and cities, spanning an eclectic mix of life stages. This sweet ritual is one we’ve never actually discussed, but has come to be one of the ways I most like spending time together. The baking…and then the eating too. Food and Wine Magazine published the “Best Of” issue last month and we used the “Best Chocolate Dessert” recipe from there, copied below for you.
Was is the best chocolate dessert ever? Maybe so. A slice of it was scrumptious that night accompanied by a glass of milk, but then again, the company of the best of friends can make anything taste like the best. You be the judge.
The Very Best Double-Chocolate Layer Cake
recipe by Ina Garten as printed in Food and Wine, 2013.
1 3/4 cups flour plus more for dusting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup plus 1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tbsp instant coffee granules (or a tbsp of brewed coffee)
MAKE THE CAKE
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powered, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool and peel off the parchment.
MAKE THE FROSTING
1. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. (or use a few tablespoons of coffee from what you brewed earlier for the cake batter) Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.
3. Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake tot the edge. Top with the second layer of crake, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing…. Eat a large slice immediately with a cold glass of milk and a good friend.