Monday, September 15, 2014
I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash even more than usual this week; I’m going to Nashville (!!!) over the upcoming weekend for a family wedding. I inherited a love of country music from my granddad (or maybe television, or, I suppose, both). Visiting my brother in Music City - where he went to law school, and then stayed - is as good as it gets.
After he retired from farming, my granddad spent his time at home vacuuming and watching TV (never at the same time). He didn't miss an episode of Hee Haw or Wild Kingdom, or a chance to see what Vanna White was wearing. I found it more interesting to examine the pattern in the shag carpet underfoot. I sort of enjoyed his reruns of Gunsmoke and Bonanza, but truly loved watching Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters with him. I fantasized about my own future career in country music during their show. We all know how that worked out; still, this weekend, Country Music Hall of Fame, here I come!
I can’t quite believe I have the good fortune of seeing my siblings, niece and nephews twice in one month. Or that my brother and I will be able to celebrate our birthdays together for the first time since we were kids, as we’ll be within spitting distance of both our birthdays this weekend. I’m thinking about baking my best birthday cake to bring along.
North Douglas Chocolate Cake
Adapted from The Fiddlehead Cookbook
The best old-fashioned birthday layer cake around.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Baking and cooling: 1 hour
Completion time: 30 minutes
1 cup water
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup canola oil
3 ½ tablespoons sifted Dutch process dark cocoa
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk (preferably Bulgarian)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ pound plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup Dutch process dark cocoa
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
To prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour two 8 or 9” cake pans, and then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the paper.
Combine the water, butter, oil, and cocoa in small pan and bring to boil.
While the mixture is coming to boil, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
When the butter mixture comes to a boil, pour it over the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the egg mixture and fold together gently. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it equally between the two.
Bake for 20-25 minutes (8” pans will take slightly longer), until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes rest briefly in their pans (no more than 10 minutes), and then turn out onto racks to cool completely before attempting to unmold.
To prepare icing:
In a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add confectioners sugar and cocoa, and mix until partially combined. Stir in the milk and vanilla and beat until smooth and spreadable. Additional confectioners’ sugar may be necessary if the mixture seems too soft.
To assemble cake:
Place one layer, top side down, on the bottom of an inverted cake pan. Spread with ¾ cup of the icing. Place the second layer, top side down, on top of the first. Spread with 1 cup of the icing, allowing a little to go over the sides. Using a straight-sided metal spatula, ice the sides of the cake, filling the cracks between the layers with icing. Smooth out the top of the cake and use the remaining icing to decorate the cake as you like. Chill the cake briefly to firm the icing.
Using a large spatula, transfer the cake to a cake plate. Serve at once, or cover and store at room temperature.
Yield: 1 8- or 9- inch, 2-layer cake.