After reading about twenty-five recipes for devil's food cake, I realized that there was no agreement on the ingredients of this truly American chocolate cake. So I created my own version. I decided it should have a light texture, fine crumb, and a dark chocolate color—just like these dark, moist devilish cake layers.
Makes two 9-inch round layers
Makes one 10-inch round layer or one 9-inch square cake
Makes two 10-inch round layers or two 9-inch square cakes
1. Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of the baking pan or pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment or wax paper and butter the paper.
2. Place the unsweetened chocolate in a heatproof container and melt it in the oven, about 6 to 8 minutes. As soon as the chocolate is melted, remove it from the oven and stir it smooth. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the chocolate aside to cool slightly while you mix the batter.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside. Put the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed for 15 seconds. (Use a 5-quart bowl for two 10-inch layers.) Add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and lightens from yellow to cream color. The mixture will look sugary. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl during this mixing. Beat for 2 more minutes. Decrease the speed to low and mix in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl during this mixing. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 flour, 2 buttermilk). Let the mixture absorb the flour before adding more buttermilk. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl after the last addition of flour. The batter is ready when the final addition of flour is mixed completely into the batter. If any flour is clinging to the sides of the bowl, stir it into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan or pans and smooth the top of the batter.
4. Bake for about 40 minutes for 9-inch round layers and about 50 minutes for 10-inch round layers or 9-inch square layers. To test for doneness, gently press your fingers on the middle of the cake. It should feel firm. If it does, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. When the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.
5. Cool the cake in the baking pan on a wire rack.
Take the time to beat the butter and sugar well and to beat the eggs into the batter for the time directed. These two thorough beatings develop the cake's structure.
Adding the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk is only a matter of combining them thoroughly into the batter and does not require long beating.
Use sturdy pans with 1-3/4 to 2-inch-high sides. A 9-inch square pan should have 2-inch-high sides.
Cold cake layers are easy to cut and handle, so when filling and frosting frozen cake layers, defrost them just enough to cut easily. Then fill and frost the layers and return them to the freezer. If I am filling and frosting a cake layer and returning it to the freezer, I freeze it only for up to 2 months since it can remain frozen for a third month after the frosting is added.
Doubling the Recipe
For more than two 9- or 10-inch layers, prepare separate batches. Use a 5-quart mixing bowl when preparing two 10-inch layers.
Use a small sharp knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Invert each layer onto a piece of plastic wrap. Carefully remove and discard the paper liner. Wrap the cooled cake tightly with plastic wrap and then with heavy aluminum foil. Label with date and contents. Freeze up to 3 months. After the layers are frozen, they may be stacked in the freezer.
Remove the cake layers from the freezer and defrost the wrapped cake at room temperature. Fill or frost the layers as soon as they are thawed enough to cut into thinner layers.
To Serve Plain Cake Layers
Defrost the cake at room temperature at least 4 hours or overnight. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with ice cream or whipped cream and/or Slightly Thinner Chocolate Truffle Sauce contained in the book. Leftover plain cake can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature up to 4 days.
Bake and Freeze Chocolate Desserts
by Elinor Klivans
Broadway Books, $27.50
306 pages; 1997
Reprinted by permission.
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