We Tried Ina Garten’s Famous Chocolate Cake
This cake blew our expectations out of the water. Here's how to make it.
I’m a sucker for a good cake recipe. Even if it’s not someone’s birthday, I’ll jump at the chance to whip up a multi-tiered treat. And vanilla, pumpkin, pound—I enjoy almost any cake flavor. But like a lot of people, I’ve got a soft spot for chocolate.
That’s why when I stumbled across a recipe for Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten, I knew I had to try it. This beauty has over 2,000 reviews and still maintains a 5-star rating! So, on a snowy day, I gathered up my ingredients and put her recipe to the test. Here’s what happened.
Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake Recipe
For the Cake:
- Butter and flour, for greasing pans
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- ¾ cups good cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
For the Chocolate Frosting:
- 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (Ina recommends Callebaut)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
I went into this recipe with pretty high hopes. I wanted the cake to live up to its 5-star reputation! That being said, I was a little skeptical of the coffee. One cup seemed like a lot, but I was eager to see how it transformed the overall flavor of the cake.
Step 1: Get Ready to Bake
I started by prepping my pans and ingredients. First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. Next, I used butter to grease two 8-inch by 2-inch round cake pans, then I placed a parchment circle on the bottom of the pan, buttered the paper, then lightly coated the surface with flour. (If you’ve never done this before, check out our no-fail guide to greasing a cake pan).
Next, I measured out all of my ingredients. This technique, called mise en place, may create a few extra dishes, but it makes the baking process a whole lot easier. When everything is pre-measured there’s no need to stop and level a cup of flour or worry that you forgot to add an ingredient.
Step 2: Sift Dry Ingredients
Once my ingredients were ready to go, I used my KitchenAid Sifter + Scale attachment to quickly combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of my stand mixer. I mixed the dry ingredients on low until they were well-combined.
Step 3: Combine Wet Ingredients
Then, in a separate bowl, I combined the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Before adding the buttermilk I made sure to give it a few quick whisks since Ina specifically mentions in the ingredients section that the buttermilk needs to be shaken. I turned my mixer back on low, then slowly incorporated the wet ingredients with the dry.
Step 4: Add the Secret Ingredient!
At this point in the recipe, the batter looked (and smelled!) delicious—but I still hadn’t added Ina’s secret ingredient: freshly brewed hot coffee. With my mixer on low, I added the coffee until it was just combined.
Step 5: Pour and Bake
I divided the batter between my prepared cake pans and popped them in the preheated oven. As I poured the mixture, I realized that the batter was really runny. It made sense—since the recipe called for 2½ cups of liquid—but I was a touch concerned that the cakes wouldn’t firm up.
Step 6: Remove the Cakes
After 35 minutes, I checked on the cakes—and they were perfect! Clearly, I had nothing to worry about. Ina knew what she was doing. I set my timer again—this time for 30 minutes—to let the cakes cool. Once time was up, I worked a butter knife around the edge of each pan to help loosen the cakes, then flipped them onto a wire rack to cool.
Step 7: Melt Chocolate
While the cakes cooled, I started on Ina’s chocolate buttercream frosting. First, I chopped and melted the chocolate in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, it’s super easy to make one. All you need to do is nestle a heat-proof bowl over a few inches of simmering water. And, voila! Double boiler. Once the chocolate melts, set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.
Step 8: Beat Butter Until Fluffy
For the next step, I used a hand mixer to beat the butter on medium-speed until it was light and fluffy. About three minutes should do it. Then, I added the vanilla and continued to beat for another three minutes. Now, you likely noticed that Ina’s original recipe calls for an egg yolk. I chose to omit this ingredient because the FDA recommends cooking egg yolks until firm. And, in light of the recent egg recalls, I wanted to play it safe. If you choose to add the egg yolk, you’ll end up with a richer, more decadent frosting. But honestly, it tasted great without the yolk, too.
Step 9: Finish the Frosting
When the butter and vanilla was light and fluffy, I added the confectioners’ sugar and mixed until creamy. Then, I measured out 2 teaspoons of hot tap water, and dissolved the instant coffee powder in it. While continuing to beat on a low speed, I added the chocolate and coffee to the butter, mixing until blended.
Step 10: Frost the Cake
Since the frosting contains melted chocolate, it firms up the longer it sits, so I knew I needed to work quickly. I started by placing four small pieces of parchment paper on the edges of my cake plate. These would catch any frosting drips and keep my cake plate clean as I worked.
I placed the first cake, flat side up, on my plate. I used an offset spatula to spread a generous layer of frosting over the first layer. Then, I placed the second cake on top of the frosting layer. I used my spatula to frost the top and sides of the cake. After smoothing the surface, I created texture by gently working my spatula from side to side, creating waves in the icing. To finish, I slid the parchment pieces out from under the cake.
I cut myself a slice of cake and—Oh. My. Gosh. It was so good. The coffee really boosted the chocolate flavor, creating a dark, rich cake. And the frosting? To die for. It was thick, luscious and extremely decadent. I only needed a small piece to feel satisfied.
I asked a few family members to try the cake, too. They all agreed it was delicious, but one mentioned that it was a bit dark for her taste. She prefers sweeter cakes and is an avid fan of milk chocolate, so keep that in mind if you’re baking for a major sweet tooth! Another tester thought that a fruit curd—like lemon or raspberry—in the middle layer would take the treat to a whole new level.
Wait, I’ve Seen This Recipe Before!
If this cake looks familiar, it’s because Ina’s recipe is the same as Hershey’s Black Magic Cake. She admits on her show, The Barefoot Contessa, that the recipe came from her florist friend Michael’s grandmother. The only question that remains is who developed the recipe first!
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