Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Espresso Buttercream

Eugene turned 31 last Wednesday, and I decided to make him a birthday cake. I actually make him a birthday cake every year, but this year it was especially important as I wasn't really able to do much else.

I'd gotten back from Vermont on Sunday night nursing the beginnings of a bad cold. I was achey and feverish and way too stuffy to do much of anything but lay around in bed watching On Demand episodes of Elementary (I'm obsessed).

Going out to celebrate was off the table, and I didn't even have enough energy to walk 5 blocks to the drugstore to get him a birthday card.

(It didn't help that it was, like, 2 degrees outside.)

So I definitely had to make a cake.

A trip to the grocery store was out of the question, so I looked around the cabinets to see what I had to work with.

Flour. Sugar. Cocoa Powder. Eggs. Coffee.

I could totally work with this.

For the cake portion, I chose one of my favorite Ina Garten recipes: Beatty's chocolate cake.

It's a moist and rich dark chocolate cake recipe that's enhanced with the addition of a full cup of black coffee. Whenever I make it, I like to pump it up with a bit of espresso powder.

I also add a bit more vanilla, cut down on the sugar, and use large eggs. (Because, seriously, Ina--what's with the extra-large egg obsession?!?)

For the frosting, I made a simple Espresso Buttercream, using salted butter, sugar, vanilla and instant espresso to play up those coffee flavors. (Eugene is a fan of coffee-flavored things.)

The cake actually only took me about an hour and a half to make and frost (thank goodness since I kind of put it off all day!), so I was able to bake it, hide it in the fridge and clean the kitchen all before Eugene got home.

We each ate a big slice for dessert that night, and then I sent the rest of it to work with him in the morning.

(I do kind of wish I'd kept another slice...)

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Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Espresso Buttercream
Makes one 9" round cake. Cake adapted from Ina Garten's recipe for Beatty's Chocolate Cake

For the Cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup olive oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 cup black coffee, cooled

For the Frosting:
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I like salted in this one, but unsalted works, too!)
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line two 9" round baking pans with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk, olive oil, eggs, vanilla, espresso powder, and coffee.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir gently, just until batter is smooth with no dry parts.

Divide evenly into two pans, and bake 35-40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in cake comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, make the frosting:
Whisk the extract and espresso together and set aside.

Whip the butter with an electric mixer for five minutes, until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and slowly beat in the sifted powdered sugar. Add the espresso mixture and continue to beat.

Frost the cake
Place one layer of the cake down and top with half the frosting, spreading so that it just reaches the edges. Top with the second layer, and frost with the rest of the frosting, leaving the sides and edges unfrosted. Garnish the center with cacao nibs.

Serve immediately or cover with a cake cover and chill up to 8 hours before serving.

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