making changes & a recipe: chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately. I’m torturing myself with homemade cakes.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been revamping my eating habits. I’m eating healthier, and I’m eating smaller portions. Along with the changes in my diet, I’ve started running again. Well, a bit more walking than running, but I’m following a training program, and I know that soon there will be more running than walking.

chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting | the merry gourmet

After I had my daughter, I was heavier than I’d ever been. I joined Weight Watchers, even attended meetings, and managed to lose 45 pounds. I finally liked how I look in the mirror, but more importantly, I felt in control of my health and my life for the first time ever.

While I was losing that weight, I kept a bowl of candy – chocolates, my favorite sweet – on my desk. I might have one piece, but more often than not, I completely resisted. Looking back, I believe I put those chocolates there as a challenge to my willpower. A small daily test. As each day passed that I ignored that candy bowl, I felt more strong and empowered.

chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting | the merry gourmet

I’ve slid backwards these last five years, since having my second child, my son. Sure, initially my clothes weren’t fitting well because of baby weight, but after a year had passed, my only excuse was that I overindulged too often and regularly. Exercise was not a priority, and I sacrificed that part of my life for other things — work, spending time with the kids, cooking or blogging even. I’m an expert at finding excuses not to exercise.

I’m revamping my lifestyle now, and I feel great about it. I’m ready for change.┬áMore importantly, I’m ready to wear smaller pants.

So, I baked another cake (remember the lemon one last week?) this weekend. Maybe I’m testing myself again, just like I did with those chocolates that sat on my desk, begging to be eaten. I’m proving to myself that I can do this, that I am stronger than the call of desserts. Even chocolate desserts.

After eating one small piece of this beauty, I won’t have any more. The rest will be shared with family and friends.

And tomorrow, I run.

chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting | the merry gourmet

Yield: 10 servings

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Rich chocolate cake slathered in creamy vanilla buttercream. What could be better? Serve this cake for your sweetie's birthday and you'll earn yourself lots of hugs and kisses.

Ingredients:

For Cake:
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup cocoa powder (Dutch process is preferred)
1 cup boiling water
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Frosting:
4-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

To Prepare Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper, then butter the parchment. Lightly dust the pans with flour, shaking out the excess. Set aside.

Combine the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Add the cup of boiling water and whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside.

On low speed in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined. In another bowl, stir together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients. With the mixer still on low, add the melted chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined, using a rubber spatula to scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Pour the batter into the cake pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in their pans on a rack for 30 minutes, then invert them onto the cooling rack to cool to room temperature. Note: Cakes may be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap at this point and refrigerated until ready to use.

To Prepare Frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 60 seconds. Reduce speed to medium low and slowly add confectioners' sugar. Beat until smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together salt, cream, and vanilla; stir until salt is dissolved. Add cream mixture to butter mixture, increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Note: Frosting can be made ahead, up to 2 days, and refrigerated in a tightly covered container. Bring to room temperature when ready to use, and beat on medium-low in the stand mixer for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Frost the Cake:

To frost cakes, place 1 layer on a cake plate. With an offset spatula, spread top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, and spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.

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