I am still on the fence about this one. I like that fact that you can get 4 to 6 servings from this small cake which makes it an excellent choice for a small dinner party or anniversary dinner. The cake is certainly rich, dense and moist with an intense chocolate flavor and it keeps well for several days without getting dry. Still, this cake failed to deliver all the subtleties that I was expecting from it. I think the problem for me lay in the vanilla buttercream. Regular readers will know that I am not a huge fan of Rose’s frostings in this book and that I frequently have problems with them being too soft and runny. I usually forgoe them in lieu of the tried and true Julia Child buttercream recipes when buttercream is called for. This time, being that the cake was small and I was intrigued by the dense chocolate and subtle vanilla combination, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give Rose’s buttercream another try. Well, this time, the buttercream worked like a charm. It was smooth and creamy and I had no problems filling or frosting the cake, and for that matter, piping it on the cake. All worked out fine. The problem here, if you really want to call it a problem, was that I really didn’t get that hit of vanilla flavor I was looking for. To me, the buttercream tasted more like just whipped butter and vanilla. Not that it was bad, it certainly wasn’t. It was delicious but it just didn’t deliver the way I expected. I am not giving up on this one though. The cake is perfect as is but I am going to try it again and this time I am going to use vanilla sugar and a vanilla bean as well as the vanilla extract and hopefully that will give me the vanilla flavor that I am after to pair with this intense chocolate cake. Keep your fingers crossed. Okay, into the kitchen and let’s bake this little gem.
This cake is very easy to make and really the only difficulty here is the pan. 6×3 inch pans are a bit tricky to find. I have a 6×2 inch pan from the Wilton wedding cake set but only one. I also have two 6×1 inch springform pans. Simply for the ease of baking them all at once I opted for the 6×1 inch pans even though Rose does not recommend that size. They came out perfectly and I didn’t notice any loss of texture in the finished product so no complaints here.
In a medium bowl pour the boiling water over the chopped chocolate, stir to melt the chocolate and set aside until the chocolate is no longer warm to the touch. When cool and still fluid, stir in the vanilla and set aside until needed.
In another medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg on high speed for about 3 minutes, until thick and light in color. Lower the speed to medium and add the oil and blend until emulsified.
Add the buttermilk and the melted chocolate and mix until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the bowl and beat on medium-high for about 2 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until done. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then unmold the cake onto a rack, remove the parchment and reinvert the cake onto a rack, cover with plastic wrap and cool completely.
I must compliment Rose’s method here for the buttercream. I may be imagining it but this recipe seems different from her others. She seems to have taken the best from my trusted Julia recipes and streamlined them so the process is much less daunting. Kudos Rose.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using a whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about a minute to lighten it. Set it aside in a cool place until needed. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and stir to moisten the sugar. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy, turn off the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Continue whipping the whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add the sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.
Place the sugar syrup back over medium heat and boil until it reaches the firm ball stage ( degrees), with the mixer off, gradually add the hot syrup to the whipped egg whites in three additions, turn the mixer off with each addition. Lower the speed to medium and whip the whites for about 2 minutes until they are cool to the touch. Refrigerate the whites until they are no warmer than 70 degrees.
In the meantime, whip the medium high for about 3 minutes until it lightens in color and is no warmer than 70 degrees. Add the whipped whites to the butter and whip on medium speed to combine and then continue to whip for about 2 minutes until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla. I know this sounds like a daunting task but this all comes together very quickly and is not as difficult as it sounds.
Place the bottom layer on a serving plate and add half the butter cream. Place the top layer on the buttercream and frost the top of the cake. Decorate as desired.
Next Up: Southern (Manhattan) Coconut Cake with Silk Meringue Buttercream