At Last...

After nearly two years of teasing you with mentions of my go-to, fool-proof, all time favorite chocolate cake, I have finally actually baked one so I can blog about it. I really can't say enough about the perfection that is this cake: it is fluffy, moist, and finely-textured like a box mix, but the flavor is deeply chocolatey, rich, and devoid of the chemical undertones that plague cake mixes. I stumbled across the recipe for it a number of years ago in a Food and Wine annual anthology and decided to try it largely because the original version of the recipe called for it to be baked in a Bundt pan, and at the time, Bundts were the only cakes I felt comfortable baking. The results were so astoundingly tasty that it quickly became the cake that I made whenever someone's birthday rolled around, including my own.

For my 24th birthday party, however, I decided to kick things up a notch (to borrow Emeril Lagasse's parlance), and turn the familiar Bundt into a layer cake, thereby fusing two of my favorite chocolate cake traditions, the other being a technique learned from my great-aunt Lois, who is fond of elevating box mixes with extra ingredients and special frostings. When my Paw-Paw passed away, Lois frosted a basic chocolate box cake with a vanilla icing so light and ethereal that I actually enjoyed eating it, and I seriously hate frosting. I got the recipe from her, and for a long time I served it the same way she did -- on chocolate cake from a box. If the chocolate Bundt cake was amazing, and the frosting was delicious, then the combination of the two ought to be divine, according to my line of thinking.

My instincts turned out to be dead on -- the cake was fantastic. Yet, somehow, since I didn't have a birthday party last year, and didn't do much to celebrate at all, I've managed to go two years without making it again. Given the caloric content of this cake, that might not be such a bad thing, but my taste buds tell me that it's been way too long. Since I'm expecting about 14 guests for my party tomorrow, the cake will be divided enough ways to minimize the diet carnage, so I'm excited to indulge once more with less guilt.

If you're looking for a special cake worthy of your celebration, I truly hope you'll consider this one. It's one of the best things in my baking repertoire, it's relatively simple to make, and it always turns out perfectly. After waiting this long to read about it, you practically owe it to yourself to give it a try. Trust me.

Double Chocolate Cake
adapted from The Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2007

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1 c. sugar
1 egg
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 c. water
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350.
1. Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with vegetable spray. In the microwave, melt the 2 ounces of chopped chocolate in a large glass bowl in 20 second bursts, stirring between each. Let cool slightly. Whisk in vegetable oil, and sugar until smooth, then whisk the egg into the chocolate mixture.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture along with half of the buttermilk and half of the water; whisk the batter until smooth. Add the remaining dry ingredients, buttermilk, and water and whisk again until smooth.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake in the lower third of the oven for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cake cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes, then turn it out and let it cool completely before frosting.

Aunt Lois' Frosting

1 1/2 c. Crisco
1 c. sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 can evaporated milk

1. Beat Crisco until fluffy, using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer.
2. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat, 15-20 minutes.
3. Slowly add evaporated milk and vanilla, continuing to beat.
4. Beat 45 minutes to an hour, the longer the better!

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