January 17, 2014

chocolate espresso cake with vanilla bean frosting

My husband and I see eye to eye on just about everything except missed free-throws and cake. He has mercy on missed free-throws. I, on the other hand, want to charge the court and wring some necks. His favorite dessert of all time is chocolate cake from a box. I, on the other hand, loathe chocolate cake from a box...and most chocolate cakes in general. 

And since chocolate cake from a box is his very favorite (he calls it "chocolate cake with white icing"), I've been a loving wife and made it for him for Father's Day, birthdays, and other Sam-honoring events. But it has killed my soul. Sucked my joy. Because I want desperately to make a scratch cake that he likes and that I can be proud of - and Lord-willing - that I can also enjoy. 

So if you know me at all, you know that I've been on the hunt for THE chocolate cake recipe that pleases both my husband and me. Like, for years I've tried recipe after recipe after recipe. My desire is for chocolate cake that is moist, dense, and has more complex flavor. When I interview him to find out exactly what he adores about chocolate cake from a box, he says, "You know, it's cakey."  What on earth? Of course it's cakey. It's cake. {bangs head on wall}

I surprised him with this "chocolate cake with white icing" when he came home from a week in Boston finishing his doctoral work! Proud'a you, babe! And he loved it. My kids loved it. And I loved it. 

I. Loved. It.

It's rich, dense, chocolately, tender. And the vanilla bean buttercream is so milky that it's just so right with the dark espresso cake. In a weird way, it almost tastes like the most sophisticated Oreo you've ever eaten...if Oreos were sophisticated. 

We ate a few slices; and to keep ourselves from binging on it all week, we divided it and sent it home with friends. There are no beautiful pictures of it either. We were too busy eating it to worry with photographing it. I did try to grab a quick pic of my son's piece before he ate it... #photobomb #lifewithteenagers #foodbloggerprobs #keepinitreal 

So for your weekend baking...I give you cake!

{aka "Chocolate Cake with White Icing"}

-for the cake-
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 (heaping) cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coffee-flavored extract
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature*
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
*Euna Mae's is a Great Day Farms ambassador

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with baker's spray, and set aside.

Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl that fits in your stand mixer. Use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients. Attach the bowl of whisked together dry ingredients to your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and coffee extract to the dry ingredients, and mix together on medium speed. Mix til nicely combined. Reduce the speed to low and carefully add boiling water to the batter very very slowly so it incorporates without splashing too badly. (I heat my water in the microwave in a glass measuring cup with a spout so I can pour it smoothly and easily.)  Lay a kitchen towel over the mixer or use your splash guard, and turn the speed to high, beating for 1 minute to add air into the cake batter. 

Divide cake batter between the two prepared pans and bake on center oven rack for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I always suggest setting the timer for 5 minutes less than the suggested bake time and checking the cake in 3 minute intervals until it's done. You don't want to overbake. 

Remove pans from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely on wire racks.

-for the frosting-
 Scrape in the seeds of one plump vanilla bean, adding the seeds to the frosting as it beats/creams in the mixer.

When the cakes are completely cool, completely, spread a thin layer of frosting on the top of one cake round spreading all the way to the edges. Then set the second cake round on top, and frost top and sides. Refrigerate the cake to set frosting. And serve it cold which allows the cake to cut more cleanly and gives it the best flavor.