Baking a cake from scratch is more than just a challenge, it’s a feat…an art, a battle! Not only are there so many little tricks, ranging from ingredients & their temperatures to the pans & instruments to use, but the crucial oven temperatures & post-baking care all play such an important role in the results one only wishes for when following the instructions. Having done my reading, and understanding the little tidbits that grannies & bakers pay attention to, I finally ventured into the amazingly rich luxury item that is a truly from-scratch layered chocolate cake with buttercream frosting!
I have to say, I have lots to learn when it comes to baking; and the hardest part wasn’t even the baking, it was the post-oven workout that comes with putting the cake together! As you can see in the picture, my three-tiered chocolate-packed baby was no showcase gem, but the tastes were magnificent and I really think I can share this recipe with ease, for it yields a fluffy, sweet, & moist chocolate cake that is sure to wow anyone with a chocolate craving.
For the Chocolate Cake
- Butter & flour (for coating the cake pans)
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 3 cups of granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups of buttermilk
- 1-1/2 cups of warm water
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
To begin, be sure to have all your ingredients to room temperature. Ever since I began doing research on ingredients and kitchen know-go’s, I’ve learned the secret (and importance) of ingredient temperatures for different recipes. Considering an article I recently read on why eggs are refrigerated in the U.S.A. & not in Europe, I would recommend you follow American guidelines on egg storage…but since we live in Germany & I’ve read all about eggs at room temperature yield the best results in the kitchen: I’ve decided to keep my eggs in a basket on my kitchen windowsill!
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter three 9-inch cake rounds & dust with flour, tapping out the excess. I only have one, which only made baking times triple…one…by…one. Who really needs three 9-inch cake rounds? My kitchen can only store one, to be honest.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, & salt. You can either use a stand mixer on low speed, or simple whisk by hand. This is another important baking step. Mixing should never be done with a high speed mixer or over beaten, this only results in stale baking goods. So keep your mixing to a minimum!
Add eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat or whisk until smooth. Again, this should only take a couple of minutes, keeping the mixing to a minimum. Divide the batter into the three pans (or in our savvy case, it takes just over 3 cups of the batter to divide it evenly…for the three separate baking rounds).
Bake each layer for approximately 35 minutes until the cake meets the toothpick/knife test (I will assume we all know what that is). When taking out of the oven, let the pans cool for about 10 minutes on wire racks by the window. Turn out the cakes onto the racks and repeat the baking process until all three cake layers are cooled completely.
While the cakes are baking, you can go ahead and work on the chocolate cream cheese buttercream frosting. Hint, hint: use extra dark cocoa powder for a rich, dark, almost black frosting & cake. More on cocoa powder below!
For the Buttercream Frosting
- 1-1/2 cups of butter, softened
- 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
- 1-1/2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 7-8 cups of powdered sugar
- about 1/4 cup of milk (or as needed)
In a large bowl, beat together the butter & cream cheese until fluffy. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer for best results. Add in the cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Beat in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add milk as necessary to make a spreadable consistency. The frosting should be very thick and will thicken even more if refrigerated! Layer the cakes with about a 1/2-inch buttercream frosting filling between each layer. Frost the rest of the cake…patiently without licking the spoon and good luck with spreading, it’s an art!
On a final note, there’s a lovely, special touch to this particular chocolate cake I made. As I mentioned before, using extra dark cocoa powder gives you a really rich & dark chocolate cake. My version was extra special (but a bit lighter): the cocoa powder I used was all-natural, organic Honduran cocoa powder…the finest in the world according to the Honduras Chocolate Company. Honduras has such a diverse range of cacao beans with a history dating back 4,000 years, and I would love it if you guys read more about our wonderful crop. You can read more about The Cocoa Journey in the highly-acclaimed Dutch family chocolate company Bensdorp‘s website. Experts such as Lee McCoy (founder, owner, & member of the Academy of Chocolate & Member of the Guild of Fine Chocolate) also rave about Honduran cocoa powder in their professional chocolate tasting adventures in the Chocolatiers, and the Honduran local Biosphere Cacao produces & sells original, organic cacao harvests from Wampusirpi in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Caribbean coast of Honduras.