Hungry Like the Wolf

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This past weekend, I witnessed something truly terrifying.

My family is comprised of me, my little sister, my mom, and my dad, who eats less than my mom. As a result, I have rarely been around growing boys at dinnertime.

All the women( and my dad) were in the kitchen, preparing dinner, (yeah, yeah, let the misogynistic jokes begin) when the boys began to literally circle around the kitchen table, asking when the food would be ready. We put out the chicken wings early to placate them. 72 wings, gone in a matter of minutes.

The rest of the food, the salad, the ribs, the steak, the giant bowl of soup, the three pasta dishes, were devoured in a similar manner. I felt as if I’d stepped into the world of mythology where chimeras comprised of vultures, hyenas, and wolves ate everything in sight.

My father once asked his colleague, Ed, if he ever took his family out to dinner. Ed replied that his family could only go to buffets because he had two boys. I never understood how having two boys could be so different from having two girls until I saw six hungry boys eat and eat and still clamor for dessert.

This chocolate cake was one of the desserts served. I had planned to take a picture of a cake slice for this blog post, but people were clamoring at me to serve the cake. It’s a fantastic cake. Easy recipe, moist with a deep chocolatey flavor, finished off with light yet decadent chocolate frosting. Added bonus: since the cake is so dense, it succeeded in finally sating the appetites of six hungry boys.

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Chocolate Buttercream Cake (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook) – serves 8-10

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar (I cut this to 1/3 cup)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
2 tbsp brewed coffee (I used coffee liqueur)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 8-in round cake pans and line the bottoms with wax paper, then butter the wax paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee (liqueur). On low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter only until just blended.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes (I had to bake for 35-40 minutes), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then invert the pans onto the rack and let cool for another 30 minutes.

Chocolate buttercream:

10 oz bittersweet chocolate
8 oz semisweet chocolate (I used 18 oz semisweet chocolate chips and no bittersweet chocolate)
1/2 cup egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb unsalted butter (I used 3/4 lb)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp coffee liqueur

Melt the chocolate 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. Whisk the egg whites on high speed for 5 minutes, until the meringue holds a stiff peak.

Add the butter, 1 tbsp at a time, while beating on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl, add the chocolate, vanilla, and coffee liqueur, and mix for 1 minute or until the chocolate is completely blended in. If the buttercream seems very soft, refrigerate for a few minutes, then beat it again.

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