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Classic Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Icing and Chocolate Glaze

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Wednesday, 09 May 2012
List of viewable recipes from "Ruhlman’s Twenty" by Michael Ruhlman

Recipe from Ruhlman’s Twenty by Michael Ruhlman (Chronicle Books, 2011)

Makes one 8-inch/20-centimeter two layer cake

ImageThe processed food industry has trained many of us to believe that making a cake is too hard to do on our own, so we'd better buy an easy cake mix. To be honest, not all cake mixes are bad, but they often have a generic flavor, contain transfats and an unnecessarily high amount of sugar, and typically use chlorinated flour. For a moist, uncommonly flavorful cake, try making one on your own. It's a piece of cake.   

This cake has no butter, which can make cakes heavy. (Don't worry, there's plenty in the icing!) The yolks and whites are mixed separately, with the beaten whites giving the cake the majority of its aeration.   

Perhaps the most important part of baking a cake is thinking-having good mise en place, that is, having everything ready to go, especially a preheated oven and prepared pans. Also, if you have a digital scale, use that to weigh your flour in grams.

  • 9 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups/400 grams sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups/280 grams cake/soft-wheat flour, sifted
  • Chocolate Buttercream Icing (Recipe follows)
  • Chocolate Glaze (Recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C/gas 3.

Prepare two 8-inch/20-centimeter cake pans/tins (or one 9-inch/23-centimeter springform pan) by coating with butter or spraying with vegetable oil and then flouring the bottom and sides, shaking out any excess flour. Line the bottoms with parchment/baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks with half of the sugar and the vanilla. Whisk until the yolks are light and bubbly and the sugar is combined, about 1 minute.

Combine the egg whites and the lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes. With the motor running, slowly add the remaining sugar. Continue to beat until the whites have tripled in volume and formed soft peaks.

Fold half the egg white mixture into the egg yolks, then fold in half the flour. Fold until well combined, then fold in the remaining egg whites followed by the remaining flour.

Pour the batter into the pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert on racks, remove the parchment paper, and gently turn the cakes right side up to cool completely

Slice the top off what will be the bottom layer. (If you used a springform pan, slice the cake in half horizontally to make two layers.) Ice the top of the first layer with the buttercream, then add the second layer and ice the top and sides of the cake. I recommend giving the cake a crumb coat, a very thin first coating of icing, refrigerating it until the icing sets, finishing the icing, and then coating with the glaze.

Serves 12 to 16

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Makes 5 cups/1.2 Liters

When you try this awesome concoction, it will forever shame you for having been tempted to buy the artificially flavored icing from the store. French buttercream is distinguished from Italian buttercream by the use of yolks rather than whites. Italian buttercream is the supremely white icing you see on fancy cakes. German buttercream uses pastry cream, which is thickened vanilla sauce. They're all good, but I like the richness of the yolks in this icing.

  • 3/4 cup/150 grams sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups/455 grams butter, at room temperature, cut into about 30 pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract/essence
  • 6 ounces/170 grams semisweet/plain or bittersweet chocolate, melted but slightly cooled


In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/2 cup/120 milliliters water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. (The sugar syrup should register between 230° and 240°F/112° and 115°C on a candy thermometer if you have one.)

While the sugar syrup cooks, combine the egg yolks and whole egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the eggs on high speed until tripled in volume. This will take about as long as needed to cook the sugar syrup.

Continuing to whip the eggs, pour the sugar syrup slowly into beaten eggs. Continue to whip until the outside of the bowl has cooled, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add a piece of the butter. After it begins to become incorporated, add the remaining butter, a piece at a time. The butter may look as if it's breaking, but keep whipping it, and the mixture will come together.

When all the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla and chocolate, return the speed to high, and beat until the icing comes together (it will change from visibly grainy and unappetizing to smooth and luscious). Ice the cake while the buttercream is at room temperature.

Chocolate Glaze

Makes about ¾ cup 180/milliliters glaze

  • 3 ounces/85 grams butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 3 ounces/85 grams semisweet/plain chocolate, melted

Stir the butter into the chocolate until it is completely incorporated. Cool to room temperature. Spoon over the top of the cake, allowing the excess to run down the sides.


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 May 2012 )
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