Ina’s Chocolate Cake + Quick Cream Cheese Buttercream

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Houston we have a (mixer) problem…. 

I really need to get my hands on a new standing electric mixer (like this gorgeous Smeg) because mine is severely wounded :( :( :(

I was in a hurry to make a cake for my friends birthday party on a recent Saturday night but it was still unclear if I’d take it to the party (which was at a bar) or just take it to her the next day. I figured I’d get started on the cake and see how much I could accomplish before I needed to leave for the party. I quickly made the ganache and baked the cake.  While the cake was cooling, I whipped together the cream cheese buttercream in my treasured 1960s vintage standing mixer; swiftly but thoroughly I rushed through the notions of frosting-making that have been imprinted into my brain. 

I added the last little bit of powdered sugar as the bowl spun around the beaters and the mixture became pillowy like the the fur on a samoyed pup. (Think: this scene in The Proposal.) As I scraped down the sides and bottom of the bowl, the beaters halted suddenly as if something struck them. That something  might have been the butter knife in my hand. There was a pattering from the machine and then the mixer fell silent… and just like that my samoyed pup was lifeless.

I put down the butter knife I was holding and checked the circuit; no such luck. I gave a firm tug to the beaters to try to detach them from the mixer, again with no luck. As I pulled the head/neck of the machine up tilted on its hinge, I discovered mangled beaters entangled in frosting. I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh or chuck the butter knife through my window. I licked the frosting instead and walked away from the kitchen for some fresh air.

Even the most amateur baker knows better than to use a butter knife to scrape the sides of the bowl when an electric mixer is running. Right? If the knife nicks any part of the beaters, it will most likely put a giant crater in the attachment, like it did to mine. 

The upside? There’s no metal in this cake. I suppose it’s better than the time I let a rubber spatula get caught in the beaters and tiny bits of rubber were dispersed into the batter. (Two tough lessons to swallow.) Needless to say, my vintage mixer will be laid to rest and I’ll be suffering in hand-mixer purgatory until I get a replacement. RIP buddy! (PS. Mom, if you’re reading this… you know when my birthday is.)

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Broken beaters or not, a mixing bowl and a whisk will suffice for this frosting if your butter and cream cheese are soft enough. I added the ganache layer just because I’m EXTRA like that but it would be fine to leave it out. This cake isn’t quite as rich as Beatty’s chocolate cake; it’s light and fluffy, and not too powerful. How easy is that?!

Ina’s Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Makes a two-layer 8-inch round cake (or 1 quarter sheet pan for a three-layer 6-inch round cake)

Cake:

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups AP flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp brewed coffee

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans or line with parchment paper. (I cooked mine in a quarter sheet pan with silpat and then used a 6-inch cake ring to cut it out.)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until combined, approximately 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds. Mix the batter only until blended.

Divide the batter evenly between two pans or a quarter sheet pan. Bake on the middle rack for 25  to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Frosting:

Ingredients 

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temp
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3.5 cups confectioners sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy, about 30 seconds to a minute.

On low speed, gradually add in the confectioners sugar, mixing until well combined. Add the vanilla and mix until fluffy, about two minutes.

Chocolate Ganache:

Ingredients

12 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring often. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Transfer ganache to a bowl and chill, covered, until thickened but spreadable.

Cake Assembly:

Split cooled cake layers horizontally (or using a 6-inch cake ring, cut three layers from the sheet pan cake). Arrange 1 layer on a cake round or plate and spread a thin layer of ganache as the cake crumb, then chill in refrigerator or freezer 15-30 minutes until hardened.

Spread 1/2 or 1/3 (depending on how many layers you have) of the frosting over the ganache and top with the following cake layer. Repeat process.

Decorate the top of your cake Jackson Pollock style with the leftover ganache. (If it’s too thick, you can heat it in microwave for a few seconds to soften.)

*I used half/half unsweetened and dutch process cocoa powder because I only had about a half cup of each. I increased the sugar to 3/4 cups to adjust the sweetness. Alexandra over at Alexandra’s Kitchen gives a great explanation of the difference between dutch process and unsweetened cocoa powder in this post. (And now I want to try her chocolate cake recipe, because it looks flawless!)

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  1. A modern day culinary tragedy. Solution- get married and throw one of those vintage mixers on your registry. No other remedy…

    If it’s any consolation, I’ve been mixing by hand for the past 2 years, and they are easily my best feature. Oh, and bautiful cke.

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