There are some things a woman cannot do without.
I don't care if you're a mum of 1 or 14, a sworn spinster with 3 cats because you believe that within every effeminate male beats the heart of a chauvinistic pig or you simply bat for the other side, whatever your reasons for who you are, there are some things a woman cannot do without.
And a recipe for a really really good, simple, fail-proof chocolate cake is one of them!
Long before kale went from being the curly green bit on our foods that we'd promptly discard to the new 'it-food', every woman knows the power of a really good chocolate.
A new love, a soon to be old love, dumping a guy or getting dumped all warrant an excellent chocolate cake in the aftermath (or before). And when you ride and survive the rocky waves of a tumultuous relationship and find yourself married and pregnant with a youngling as testament to your love (or an excellent bottle of bordeaux for that matter) you finally find yourself holding an itty bitty youngling or two.
Which brings me to where I'm at. My youngest of my two itty bitty younglings has turned 7.
I'm afraid that what I'm about to say next may feature in his therapy sessions decades from now.
Until today, I have never baked him a birthday cake.
I have for his older brother but never for him.
In my defense, his birthday falls in the same week school begins and we always seems to be recovering from our vacation week and so we always end up celebrating his birthday at a restaurant where we end up eating cake.
Therefore, no mum made cake.
(Dear son, please be reading this before you book that appointment with your therapist. Mummy loves you. I swear I do!)
But this year was different.
I'm turning the page and I'm going to fix this. And what better way to sooth mea culpa than, my very best, never-fail chocolate cake. Because let's face it, when you're dealing with some things in life, especially one's own conscience, only the best will do.
And this dear friends, is as good as it gets.
So happy birthday my darling boy!
And may this cake be the first of many more to come.
PS: This blogpost was originally published on Sept 13, 2013. My 7 year old has since turned 14 and many a birthday cake has followed since.
Perfectly Simple Chocolate Cake Recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping Magazine
Makes 2 qty - 2 layer, 9" cakes OR 1 qty - 4 layer, 9" cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup hot water (tea kettle hot)
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp orange emulsion Ganache and Glaze:
1 lb. semisweet chocolate chips (like Ghiraldelli) 1- 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tsp orange emulsion
1 tsp vegetable oil for the glaze only Decoration:
1 punnet fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
Lightly grease 2 qty 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Spray some non-stick baking spray to lightly grease the paper and keep it from shifting while you pour the cake batter in.
Dry ingredients: In large mixing bowl or directly in the bowl of your electric stand mixer, measure the all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Wet ingredients: Crack the eggs in a small bowl, disposing the shell.
In a medium mixing bowl, measure the hot water, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and orange emulsion.
Beat the dry ingredients on low speed (with a hand mixer) or using an electric stand mixer until well combined.
With mixer running, add all the wet ingredients including the eggs. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth, scraping bowl occasionally to especially dislodge any dry flour stuck to the bottom of the bowl.
Divide the batter between prepared pans. Bake in the hot oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes.
Once cool enough to handle, invert onto racks and peel away and discard the parchment paper.
Allow the cakes to cool completely at this point.
Make ahead tips: Cakes can be kept at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, overnight.
The next day, a few hours before serving:
Place the chocolate chips in large heatproof/Pyrex bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream on medium-high until just bubbling. Immediately pour over chocolate. Let it stand for 1 minute and then whisk until smooth. Add the orange emulsion and whisk to combine.
Return 1/3 ganache (about 1 cup) to the saucepan, add 1 tsp oil and whisk to combine. Set aside for glaze.
Refrigerate the remaining ganache, uncovered, for anywhere between 20-40 minutes regularly stirring with a wire whisk. Repeat chilling and stirring until ganache is the consistency of frosting and becomes light brown.
Cook's Note: One way to know the frosting is the right consistency is that it should be thick enough to hold the indentation of a finger when pressed, yet soft enough to be spreadable.
Tips on cutting the cake:
If you are making a 4 layer cake, you will first need to level the cakes by cutting away the cake domes. Since I am making just a 2 layer sandwich cake, I am more concerned with cutting the cakes in half, horizontally and uniformly.
To get the cakes uniform in depth, place toothpicks at the halfway point around the edges of the cake layer about 2" apart. Using a long serrated knife, use the toothpicks as a guide and cut the cake aligning to the top edge of the toothpicks.
Frosting and glazing:
Place 1 layer of the cake, cut side up, on a wire rack set over waxed paper to catch the glaze drippings.
For each 2 layered cake:
Divide the frosting into 2 equal portions.
Using only 1/2 of the frosting for each cake, spread the top of the cake with frosting and top with the domed cake top layer. Thinly spread remaining 1/2 of frosting over top and sides of cake to seal in crumbs. Let stand in cool place for frosting to harden and set.
For the 4 layered cake:
Spread the top with 1/4 of frosting and top with another cake layer, cut side up.
Spread with another 1/4 of frosting place another cake layer on top. Spread with another quarter of frosting and top with final cake layer.
Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake to seal in crumbs. Let stand in cool place for frosting to harden and set.
Meanwhile, heat the ganache on low just until runny, stirring constantly.
Pour glaze over cake and immediately spread to evenly coat top and sides. (Excess glaze will run through rack.)
Let cake stand until set. Carefully transfer to cake plate. Decorate with fresh raspberries.