I love my Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  It has absolutely stunning, beautiful pictures and lots of wonderful recipes that don’t disappoint.  From the moment I got it, I have been dying to try this cake, as it is featured on the back cover and makes me drool almost every time I look at it.  However, the future doctor in me has a hard time making any recipe with nearly 1.5 lbs of butter in it, so I waited and waited for the right opportunity.  January is full of birthdays in our immediate families, with my mother- and father-in-law’s birthdays within nearly a week of my own.  We went down to visit our families and celebrate birthdays, and I saw my chance.  Finally I had a reason to make and taste my dream cake, but I also was able to just leave it at someone else’s house and therefore not feel quite so guilty about the ingredients.  Problem solved.

The cake was just as good as I imagined it to be.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the inside with the pretty layers, but you can imagine.  I ended up probably only using 1/2-2/3 of the frosting because I just couldn’t bring myself to use it all, but it was delicious regardless.  This cake is wonderfully rich and chocolatey – I would recommend a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a glass of milk on the side.

Chocolate Buttercream Cake
For the cake:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp. espresso powder
2 tbsp. milk  

For the frosting:
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate
8 oz. semisweet chocolate
½ cup egg whites (3 extra-large eggs), at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt
1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tsp. water  

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper, butter the paper, and dust the pans with flour, knocking out any excess.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.  On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix the batter only until blended.  

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, remove from the pans, and allow to finish cooling.  

To make the frosting, chop the chocolates and melt in a bowl over simmering water until smooth.  Allow to cool.  

Mix the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk.  Heat the egg whites in the bowl over simmering water until they are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes.  Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes or until the meringue is cool and holds a stiff peak.  

Add the butter, 1 tbsp. at a time, while beating on medium speed.  Scrape down the bowl, add the chocolate, vanilla, and espresso and mix for 1 minute or until the chocolate is completely blended in.  If the buttercream seems very soft, allow it to cool and beat it again.  

To frost the cake, place one cake layer on a serving plate, flat side up.  Frost the top of that layer with buttercream.  Place the second layer on top, also flat side up and frost the top and sides. 

Source: adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter, 1999