Chocolate Cake with Real Buttercream Frosting

This is an awesome chocolate cake! I had been eyeing this recipe in my copy of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook for a while, waiting for the right occasion to make it. Sean’s 6th birthday party seemed like the perfect time!

We were having between 30-40 people so I decided to make a double batch to fill a large 11 x 15″ cake pan. I carefully calculated the double amount of each ingredient and wrote them out ahead of time. That helps me avoid mistakes when making the recipe and make sure I buy enough ingredients to make the recipe!

chocolate cake batter

This batter is so thick and rich!

The cake batter includes buttermilk and sour cream so I knew it would be fantastic. And it was. The batter was the most delicious chocolate cake batter I have ever tasted!

chocolate buttercream spread on chocolate cake

It was so smooth and creamy and tasted delicious too!

I was a little intimidated by the buttercream frosting. I’d never made it before, and this was a real buttercream from a meringue base, not vegetable shortening. It took a while to make–melting the chopped chocolate, separating and whipping the egg whites, mixing in the butter one tablespoon at a time, but it was definitely worth the trouble! This buttercream is smooth and rich and spreads like a dream.

With the cake being so much work I kept the decorations at a minimum. We had a Lego Pirates of the Caribbean theme so I decided to make a pirate treasure map. The palm trees are plastic by the way, I wasn’t feeling that crafty at 11 pm! (They came from Michael’s craft store in the California Missions supply area.) I used some Milk Duds for rocks, blue sprinkles for the water and Wilton Turtle Brownie Crunch sprinkles for the sand.

treasure map cake

My little pirate had a great birthday!

Here is the recipe for Ina Garten’s Chocolate Buttercream Cake. It is found in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (and I found it listed online as well). I can’t say enough good things about this cookbook. I’ve made almost all of the dessert recipes and several of the others. Ina uses simple quality ingredients and most recipes are very easy. This chocolate cake and buttercream frosting is a lot more involved than other recipes in the book.


For the cake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 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 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons milk

For the frosting

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup egg white, at room temperature (from 3 extra-large eggs)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
2 Tablespoons dark rum (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350°F 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 tablespoons 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 inches 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.


  • I used the brewed coffee in the cake, but left out the espresso and rum in the frosting. I was afraid the coffee flavor would be too strong for the kids.
  • I made a double batch of the buttercream but it wasn’t necessary. A single batch would have been plenty since I didn’t have multiple layers to frost.
  • If you make this cake ahead be sure to refrigerate it, just to be safe. Unlike buttercream make with margarine, this will not have moisture bead up on it from refrigeration. And I just didn’t like the idea of having an uncooked meringue based frosting sitting out for 12 hours.
  • Pull the cake out of the fridge a few hours before serving so the frosting can soften. Think butter in the fridge vs butter on the counter. That stuff was hard as a rock when it first came out!

2 thoughts on “Chocolate Cake with Real Buttercream Frosting

  1. Mmm, I can almost taste it from here! Looks and sounds delicious!
    And you are so creative to think of how you decorated his cake…nice!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s