Three 8 by 2-inch round cake pans, greased and bottoms lined with greased parchment paper circles
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1 ounce) lightly packed premium unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup (6 3/4 ounces) full-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the unsweetened chocolate and the cocoa into a small bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and allow it to steep for 1 minute. Whisk the mixture together. Whisk in the sour cream and vanilla. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until light, about 3 minutes. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, drizzle the oil into the mixture until blended. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat until the batter is fluffy, about 3 more minutes. Blend in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, adding the next one as soon as the previous one has disappeared into the batter. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the chocolate mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl. Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not overbeat the batter.
Divide the thick batter equally among the prepared pans (there will be approximately 1 pound 2 ounces per pan). Smooth the tops and tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter and eliminate any large air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the oven until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 22 to 25 minutes.
Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans, leaving on the parchment paper until you assemble the cake. Let them continue to cool on the rack, top sides up, until they reach room temperature.
To assemble the cake, lay one of the cakes top side up on a cake plate. Using a metal spatula, frost the top with 3/4 cup of buttercream, spreading it out to the edge of the cake (the filling will be about 1/4 inch thick). Stack the second cake top side up on top of the frosted cake and spread another 3/4 cup of buttercream on top of it. Stack the last layer of cake top side up on top. Look for any frosting that may have oozed out beween the layers and spread it along the sides of the cake. Apply a thin layer of frosting all over the cake to create a "crumb coat." Place the cake in the refrigerator until the frosting is firm, about 10 minutes. Take it out and frost the cake with the remaining buttercream, using your spatula to make decorative swirls.
Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Sugar Syrup to the Rescue
At Baker & Spice Bakery, before frosting a cake we coat the layers with sugar syrup, which helps to keep the cake moist and adds flavor at the same time. This trick will also help to salvage a dry cake. To make a sugar syrup, combine 1/2 cup boiling water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or other flavoring (such as Kahlua or Grand Marnier) and stir until dissolved. Let the syrup cool, then brush a coat of it onto the top of each cake layer before you frost it.
Basic Buttercream and Variations
Yield: Makes about 5 cups (enough to frost one 8- or 9-inch layer cake)
6 egg whites
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Using a hand whisk, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the clean bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. The egg white mixture will be gloppy and thick, but as the mixture begins to warm up, it will become more fluid. Continue to gently whisk the mixture until it is very hot to the touch (130°F on a candy thermometer).
Move the bowl to the stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whip the whites on medium-high speed until they have tripled in volume and are thick and glossy and hold stiff peaks (like meringue), 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the mixer down to medium-low speed until the mixing bowl is just cool to the touch, 1 to 2 minutes. Kick the mixer back up to medium-high speed and add the butter one piece at a time, adding the next piece just as the previous one has been incorporated. Stop the mixer every so often to scrape down the escaping buttercream from the sides of the bowl. At some point, the buttercream will take on a curdled appearance; don't worry, this is normal. Just keep on mixing until it comes together. Once all the butter is incorporated and the frosting is fluffy and creamy, blend in the vanilla and salt until fully combined.
Covered with plastic wrap, buttercream will last 2 days at room temperature or 7 days in the refrigerator. If refrigerated, the buttercream must be brought to room temperature before you use it. Either way, the buttercream must be rewhipped—either by hand if kept at room temperature or with a mixer if refrigerated—before you frost a cake with it.
Mash and strain 4 cups (10 ounces) of raspberries, fresh or frozen, through a fine mesh sieve to catch the seeds. (If using frozen berries, measure them before thawing.) Discard the seeds and set aside the puree while you follow the method for making Basic Buttercream. Add the berry puree at the end of the recipe, with the vanilla and the salt.
Source: Epicurious.com August 2012 by Julie Richardson Vintage Cakes
Prepared by: Lena for the September 2012 meeting.