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

  • yum! sounds a lot like the last chocolate cake i made – 1 3/4 lbs of butter! *gasp* i actually only had 1 small slice and left the rest for my co-workers though, so i don’t have to feel too guilty. hope you had a nice birthday celebration w/your family :)

  • This cake looks excellent! This weekend I made Ina’s “Beatty’s Chocolate Cake” into mini cupcakes for my cousin’s bridal shower…YUM! Im definitely trying this one next time!

  • This cake looks so good! I’m taking a cake class and looking for recipes, so I’ll definitely have to try this one!

  • This looks absolutely divine! I just want to lick that frosting right off the side of it.

  • Geez, This cake looks really, really delicious. It must taste like heaven on earth. Great job:-)

  • Mmmmmmm….the buttercream looks delicious! I’ve never succeeded in making such pretty frosting…

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  • Erin M

    Hi Annie, I made this cake tonight, and from the look and smell of it, it turned out great! Question for you – how did you keep the frosting from smearing on your serving platter? I tried the parchment paper under the cake thing, and it looks pretty good but still smeared a little bit…any other tips?


  • Annie

    No other tips than that, it just takes practice and a steady hand. And of course, you can wipe off any smears when you are finished.

  • Sara

    I made this recipe this past weekend for my mother’s birthday- it was beautiful and SOO tasty! My question for you is I have a lot of frosting left over. While I could eat it straight from the container (and have done just that for a few days now) I wondered if I could freeze it for later? Or perhaps incorporate it into another recipe? Thanks!

  • annieseats

    Hi Sara, sorry for the delayed response. You can usually freeze frosting and reuse later, though I haven’t tried freezing this particular recipe. One thing to consider is that chocolate frosting containing melted chocolate has a different texture once it has been cooled since the melted chocolate resolidifies. I’m not sure it would have a smooth texture after freezing/thawing. I am glad you enjoyed the cake!

  • Diana

    I am thinking of making this cake for my son’s birthday, minus the espresso. Would there be any reason that wouldn’t still taste good?

  • annieseats

    The espresso serves only to deepen the chocolate flavor. You don’t actually taste it. I recommend using it.