It has paired beautifully in the past with chocolate mousse, mocha buttercream, cookies and cream ice cream, chocolate ganache, vanilla bean cream and berries, and spiced cherry compote.
Most recently, I dressed it up in salted caramel buttercream for Master O's 2nd birthday. I know, two!
Everyone should have a go-to chocolate cake in their life skill set. This one's a keeper. It is based on the cake recipe here, with a few tweaks.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
3/4 quality cocoa
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup espresso, cooled slightly
First, make your coffee and leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease and line the bases of two 8" cake tins with non-stick baking paper.
Mix together the dry ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed until combined.
Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and oil in a bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Add the coffee and mix again until just combined. The batter will be quite wet.
Pour into prepared cake tins and bake for 35-40 mins or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool cakes completely in tins and then turn out onto wire racks.
Trim tops with a bread knife to level.
Spread buttercream icing on top of one of the cakes and top with the other cake. Spread icing on top and sides of the cake with a pallet knife. (I use a gyprocking trowel to obtain a really smooth look. Get them from Bunnings for about $8).
Salted Caramel Buttercream
170g caster sugar
125g cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup double cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
250g unsalted butter at room temperature or softened
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the caramel, have your ingredients measured and ready.
Place the caster sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat and melt it without stirring. Swirl it around the saucepan until it is molten and all the sugar has dissolved, taking care not to burn it. Adjust the heat as necessary.
When small bubbles appear on the surface, wait a couple of seconds (to take it just a little further into a complex rather than purely sweet taste) and then add your butter, cream and salt. Take care here as the mixture will spit.
Turn off the heat and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until everything is combined and you have a smooth, glossy caramel.
Pour it into a heat proof bowl or container and set aside to cool.
You will only need half for the buttercream. Keep the rest for ice cream sundaes.
For the buttercream, beat the butter with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for a further 5-8 minutes until very pale and fluffy. Add half the caramel and beat until just combined.