For my sister, birthday cake is synonymous with chocolate cake.
And, as of February 15th, she is 22 years old! It blows my mind! But, even though she’s changed through the years, her tastes haven’t–every year she wants a chocolate cake for her birthday. A chocolate cake with chocolate chips in the cake and frosted with chocolate frosting.
I’ve made a lot of cakes in my life, but when it comes to my sister’s birthday, I’ve almost always made this one. I’ve made it into cakes and cupcakes and I periodically switch up the frosting, but the cake is perfect. It’s moist, supremely chocolately, and can be paired with whatever frosting/filling combination you desire. The cake gets its moistness from buttermilk and its perfect chocolate flavor comes from cocoa powder (no surprise there) and a cup of black coffee! My sister is NOT a coffee drinker and used to absolutely hate the taste of coffee, so I’ve never told her that there’s coffee in her favorite cake (sorry for lying to you, Sarah!). And she’s never noticed! The coffee simply enhances the chocolate flavor; you’d have to add quite a bit of extra coffee or espresso powder to get any mocha flavor in the cake.
If you’re skeptical of the coffee situation, believe me–you can’t taste it! My sister has never noticed it and Dan made a disgusted face when he heard I was putting coffee in it but after one bite of cake, his immediate response was along the lines of “wow”. Which is definitely saying something–Dan’s not a big fan of chocolate cake in the first place, but he thought this one was great.
As for Junior, he got no cake. He’s still at my parents’ house, so I doubt he even knows cake was made. But, even if he did, I doubt he would mind; he’s more than happy to eat and roll in the snow.
But honestly, the cake is fantastic: it’s easy, has never failed me, and is the ultimate crowd-pleaser.
The Perfect Chocolate Cake
makes one cake, or 16-18 cupcakes
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 room temperature eggs*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coffee (I used instant coffee, but leftover from your morning coffee works too!)
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
Butter and flour for greasing the pans
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 9-inch pans with parchment paper (cut to fit the bottom of the pans) and butter and flour the pans. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir the dry ingredients until there are no lumps. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well-incorporated. With the mixer still on low, pour in the coffee and mix to combine.
Pour half of the cake batter into each pan, and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly on top. Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, until they are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. Cool the cakes in the pans for another 30 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Frost the cooled cakes with whatever frosting you desire (my recipe follows)**.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
makes enough frosting to frost both layers of the cake above
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk, at room temperature*
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Melt the chocolate in a microwave or a double-boiler, and set aside to cool. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the softened butter on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the salt and mix until well-incorporated. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, beating to combine. Slowly, on low speed, add the powdered sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Finally, slowly pour in the melted chocolate and stir until everything is just combined. Use to frost cakes, cupcakes, brownies–the possibilities are endless!
*If your eggs aren’t at room temperature, place them in a bowl of hot water for about 5 minutes to warm them up.
**To frost the cake, place one cake layer on your desired serving plate and spread a layer of frosting on top. Place the second layer on top of the first, and frost the top and sides of the cake. To avoid getting crumbs in your frosting, make sure the knife you’re using only touches the frosting, not the cake itself.