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Devil’s Food Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

This devil’s food cake with vanilla buttercream takes a bit of work, but it’s worth the effort. To give this cake the best devil’s food chocolate flavor, be sure to use natural, not Dutch-processed or European-style, cocoa powder. The vanilla buttercream is a great contrast to the deep chocolate flavor.

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Preparation time: 1 hour

Baking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 12 to 14 servings

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 1/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened

4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cup hot water

1 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup toasted and finely ground hazelnuts

  1. Separate 2 eggs, placing the yolks in a large mixing bowl.

  2. Add 2 whole eggs to the bowl and beat them with an electric mixer until they’re very pale colored and hold a slowly dissolving ribbon when the beater is lifted, about 8 minutes.

  3. Combine 1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, the water, and cream of tartar in a 2-quart heavy-duty saucepan.

  4. Heat the mixture, without stirring, until it reaches 242 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

    Wash down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush twice as the mixture is cooking to prevent the formation of sugar crystals.

  5. Turn the mixer on low and pour the sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow stream.

  6. Turn the mixer speed to high and beat until the bowl is cool to the touch, about 8 minutes.

  7. Beat in 1 3/4 cups butter a couple of tablespoons at a time and continue to beat until the buttercream is fluffy and well blended, about 3 minutes.

    It may look curdled, but keep beating and it will smooth out.

  8. Add 4 tablespoons vanilla extract and beat until smooth and the set this buttercream mixture aside.

  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  10. Cut two rounds of parchment to fit the bottom of two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans.

  11. Use 1 tablespoon of butter to grease the inside of the two 9-x-2-inch cake pans and the tops of the parchment paper rounds.

  12. Dust the inside of the pans with 1 tablespoon flour and shake out the excess.

  13. Place a parchment paper round in the bottom of each cake pan, butter-side up.

  14. Over a large piece of wax paper, sift together 2 cups cake flour, the baking soda, and salt.

  15. Place the cocoa powder in a small mixing bowl.

  16. Add the hot water and stir until smooth.

  17. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.

  18. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy.

  19. Add the brown sugar and 1/2 cup sugar to the butter and cream together well.

    Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally.

  20. In a small bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs lightly with a fork.

  21. Add the eggs to the mixture and blend well.

  22. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately in 3 stages, blending thoroughly after each addition.

  23. Divide the batter between the two cake pans, using a rubber spatula to smooth and even the top.

  24. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

  25. Remove from the oven and cool on racks.

  26. Invert the cake pans to remove the layers and then peel the parchment paper off the back.

  27. Re-invert onto cardboard cake circles or plates.

  28. Slice each cake layer in half horizontally.

  29. Place one layer on a 9-inch cardboard circle.

  30. Reserve 1/2 cup of the vanilla buttercream for decoration.

  31. Spread a layer of buttercream, about 1/4-inch thick, evenly on the cake that you placed on the cardboard.

  32. Place another cake layer on top of the buttercream.

  33. Repeat Steps 31 and 32 with the remaining cake layers.

  34. Cover the top and sides with buttercream, smoothing it evenly.

  35. Press the ground hazelnuts into the sides of the cake up to the top edge.

  36. Fit a 12- or 14-inch pastry bag with a large, open star tip.

  37. Fill the bag partway with frosting.

  38. Pipe a design of shells or rosettes around the top outer edge of the cake and scatter any remaining nuts across the top of the cake.

  39. Refrigerate the cake, well-covered with aluminum foil, until 20 minutes before serving.

  40. Store the cake well-covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Per serving: Calories 619 (From fat 352); Fat 39g (Saturated 20g); Cholesterol 174mg; Sodium 183mg; Carbohydrate 63g (Dietary fiber 2g); Protein 6g.

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