No-fail Chocolate Cake with Ombre Buttercream Frosting

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I bake cookies for a home biz, I consider myself a fairly intuitive cook and an overall can-do individual. Until now the one thing that I could NEVER do was bake a cake I liked. It just. wouldn’t. happen. Too eggy, not spongy enough, too dry, meh, underbaked, overdone — I’ve done it all. I gave up on cakes a long time ago.

And then a friend pointed me to Laura Vitale, an Italian chef whose recipes she swears by. I was skeptic but I gave it a try. And boy, was my friend not kidding! I adapted the recipe a bit and made the best dozen chocolate cupcakes of my life. The structure transfers well to cake as well. Soft, spongy and intensely chocolatey.

One of the oddities of the UK is that buttercream isn’t popular here as a frosting, fondant is. And I can.not stand that thing. It’s too rubbery and just…bleh. V wanted a buttercream cake, and it’s almost impossible to find a bakery that will make one here. So I decided (again) to give it a go.

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The cake rose beautifully the first time and I fell in love with those luscious cracks. The taste is slightly fudgey (although the cake itself ins’t dense at all) and caramely because of the brown sugar.¬†Once cooled, the cake holds its shape without being dry, perfect for layering or tiering.

For the birthday cake, I baked two of these babies and sliced each in half horizontally. Piped a buttercream dam and filled with chocolate ganache before piling up the layers. Crumb coated with buttercream, then divided the remaining into 4 colours : moss green, teal, nursery green and white. Check out the various ombre cake tutorials on YouTube for the actual technique. It’s super simple, highly forgiving of beginners and offers dramatic results.

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Notice that my cake is slightly lopsided and unfinished at the bottom, mistakes to rectify for the next time. (Also, I ran out of buttercream.) But it was so well received by a bunch of 11yos, and most importantly my highly picky son, that I was mighty pleased! Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

You’ll need:
Makes one 8″ round cake

120gm butter
3/4c granulated sugar
1/4c brown sugar
2 med eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1c AP flour
1/2c cocoa
1/2c buttermilk (make your own by adding 1tsp white vinegar for every 1/2c of milk)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coffee powder, optional

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda together in a separate bowl, set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a couple of times.
  3. Add eggs one at a time beating between each addition, followed by vanilla and beat until well combined.
  4. Add flour-cocoa mix alternating with buttermilk in 3 total additions (so, starting with flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Only mix until combined…DO NOT over-beat.
  5. Bake in a 350 oven until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool before lifting cake from pan.

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