It is not often these days that I make a cake, but for the occasion of S.'s birthday, we wanted something dark and rich and damp. This cake, adapted from one in a 1999 issue of Gourmet, fits the bill to a T and was a great hit with everyone who ate it. The amount of batter made is a little more than I needed for two adorable 6" rounds. It would make one 10" round or perhaps two 8-inchers.
You could frost it and make it into a layer cake, but I think that rather detracts from the pure, velvety blackness of the cake itself. Whipped cream seems to me to be the order of the day. Baking times are always approximate, but all the more so when you play around with cake pan sizes. The 6" rounds took about 45 or 50 minutes in our oven; the 10" is supposed to take from an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it and take it out as soon as a tester comes out clean. If the middle caves in a bit as it cools, well, just serve it upside down and no one will be the wiser.
CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE
1 1/2 oz. of good quality semisweet chocolate
3/4 c. hot coffee -- either freshly brewed or made up from espresso powder will do
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
6 T. vegetable oil
3/4 c. buttermilk, shaken well
1/2 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter your pans, then line their bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper and butter the paper. Chop the chocolate fine and put it in a bowl. Make the coffee, and the hot coffee over the chocolate. Let this mixture stand while you get the other ingredients ready, giving it an occasional stir. In the end you want the chocolate to be melted and the mixture to be smooth.
Meanwhile, sift the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. In another large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs until they've thickened slightly and turned lemon colored. I don't think you'd want to do this by hand. It should take about 3 minutes with a stand mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held electric mixer.
Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, beating until combined well. Add the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed just until everything is well combined.
Divide the batter between pans if you're using two, and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. This could take as little as 40 minutes or as much as an hour and 15 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of the pans. As soon as the tester comes out clean, cool the cake or cakes completely in their pans, on cooling racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert. Carefully remove the wax paper. The cake will keep nicely if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, either at room temperature or in the fridge.