Sunday, bloody Sunday.
Unless you have a great day out planned, or you really, REALLY love your job and can't wait to go into work on Monday morning, Sundays have the potential to be one really long afternoon of dread.
In my case, a very long and stressful previous week, coupled with my partner in crime being called into work (yes, I know -- working on a weekend beats my sitting-at-home dread hands down) and therefore plans going down the drain, added up to one very unhappy me.
Luckily, I belong to the Marie Antoinette school of self-medicating: eating (and baking) cake. Whenever I have a funk to get out of, I like to get out my mixing bowls, baking pans, chocolates creams coconuts chips you name it. Better than a stiff drink, though (with apologies to Sex & the City) I do worry sometimes about ending up in the Betty Crocker clinic. Probably unfounded as no one has staged an intervention yet, but mid-bowl licking, with batter all over my hands and face, I probably look a step away from a support group.
Anyway, today's blues called for the hard stuff: chocolate and coffee. I needed a rich chocolate base for a frenzy of mocha frosting. That meant cocoa, and lots of it. The cake stays moist without being overly fudgy -- distinctively cake, and with a good crumb -- and also without suffering, as many chocolate cakes, from drying out too much. The frosting is a classic buttercream, but with coffee cutting the sweetness and the chocolate rounding out the flavor.
I decorated the cake with little chocolate buttons, but as it was only made for me the finished product didn't last long. And yes, I had two pieces: so apart from a little bit of a stomachache, I felt much better.
Chocolate Cake (Recipe from June 2009 Bon Appetit)
Butter and flour for dusting
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mocha buttercream frosting
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tsp. instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules
3 Tbs. milk
1 C. (8 oz.) butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
4 C. powdered/icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper, then butter and dust pan and paper with flour, tapping out any excess. Sift 2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Sift cocoa into another medium bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water over cocoa; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add butter to egg mixture and beat until blended. Beat in cocoa mixture. Add buttermilk and vanilla; beat to blend. Add dry ingredients and beat on low just to blend. Transfer batter to prepared pans; smooth top.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pan on rack. This cake can stand to be slightly underbaked.
Either melt chocolate in a double boiler or in microwave (put chocolate in small, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds; stir. If pieces retain some of their original shape, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until melted. Cool to room temperature). The former is traditional, the latter is much easier.
Beat butter, vanilla extract and salt in large mixer bowl for 3 minutes. Beat in melted chocolate until blended, scraping occasionally. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Dissolve instant coffee in milk, then beat into buttercream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired spreading consistency is achieved. Add more milk if necessary.
Invert one layer onto cake dish. Spread thick layer of buttercream over top of the layer, then set second layer, right side up, on top of filling. Smooth buttercream over top and sides. Decorate as the muse takes you, or leave plain for a classic look.
Serves 12 happy people, or 3-4 depressed people