Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

I woke up a few mornings ago and walked down to the little playground down the street from my house with every intention of sitting in the sun for a few minutes with my over-microwaved mug of coffee and the Times travel section- because now I can actually read for pleasure again whaaat? But the moment I sat down, the sky got dark and still. I knew the rain was coming and I should pack up, but I just stayed put, breathing in that summer pre-storm smell. Memorizing the grayish blue tint of everything around me.

I’m happy. For the first time in long time, I catch myself smiling about nothing. This sounds silly, I know. Many people probably have no trouble finding things to smile about on a regular basis. But I’ve been like this for a while. I don’t dwell on the good stuff as much as I gulp it down in the moment. And then I’m left with nothing but emptiness until the next good thing reveals itself. I was a fairly serious little kid, always wanting to be a grownup so I could have important things to think about. At family gatherings the real adults would laugh at me as I sat in the corner reading or looking around while the other kids screamed and ran around in the dirt. I wanted to be grown so badly; surely then no one would think my solemnity was so funny. But since I’ve actually “become” one, (air quotes because let’s be real I don’t pay for my health insurance I’m not an adult yet am I?) I’m beginning to understand why they were so serious, and why they found my behavior so funny. Being older is hard. There aren’t a lot of things to smile about. If I’ve discovered that anything is constant over the last few years, it’s that life is bursts of joy and misery. Peaks and valleys and all that. In the past I’ve rarely savored the good moments, and sometimes find myself wallowing in the not-so-good. And then I get stuck in waiting for something better. I was always waiting. And all that waiting only made me more serious. But I don’t need to live that way anymore. I never needed to, really. But there were circumstances outside of my control encouraging that life. The constant waiting. The looking down instead of up. There’s enough horror in this world without dwelling on the mean reds of my own making.

It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem. Can blue solve that problem, or can it at least keep me company within in? –No, not exactly. It cannot love me that way; it has no arms. But sometimes I do feel its presence to be a sort of wink– ‘Here you are again,’ it says, ‘and so am I.’           -Maggie Nelson, Bluets

I’ve treated a few posts here in the past as little shoutouts to the good and allusions to the bad going on in my life. This is a good one. I haven’t wanted to sit and smile in a while. Some of those smiles are being shared nationwide and some are just for me. Some are for things not quite fit to talk about here and some are for raspberry buttercream, which you’ll learn about very soon.

But there are things to smile about.

Cake (from the Magnolia Bakery)

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat convection oven to 375 degrees F. Butter two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom of each pan, butter the paper, then dust with flour. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add egg mixture into the sugar-flour mixture and whisk until combined. Whisk in boiling water just until combined (the batter will be watery.) 3. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Raspberry Frosting (adapted from My Name is Yeh)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam + extra for cake assembly

Whip the first four ingredients together until light and fluffy with an electric mixer, then add the jam.


seedless raspberry jam

Cool cake layers completely (I like to refrigerate mine wrapped in plastic for at least a few hours if not overnight. This prevents the cake from getting really crumbly when you’re frosting it.) If you want to be a real professional, level off the cake domes using a serrated knife. Line a cake plate with three thin pieces of parchment or waxed paper to catch any frosting drips. Place the bottom cake layer on the plate. Dollop a good amount of frosting on top of the bottom layer and spread it out, then add a thick layer of raspberry jam. Place the second layer of cake on top and press it down gently. Form your crumb coat by spreading a very thin layer of frosting all around the sides and top of the cake with an offset spatula- thin enough so you can still see the cake underneath. Put it back in the fridge for another hour, then frost up the rest of this bad boy however your heart desires. Add sprinkles because sprinkles make everything better. If you want to be impressed and/or up your layer cake game, check this tutorial or this one. Feed this to all your friends because in my opinion pie is better but shhhhh.

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