When holidays roll around, Cake Monkey Bakery pastry whiz Elizabeth Belkind calls upon recollections of favorite childhood treats. The recipe for her brown butter devil’s food cake is an adaptation of Michelle Rizzolo’s (Big Sur Bakery) grandmother’s chocolate cake.
Yields one three-layered, eight-inch round cake that’s easy on the eyes and serves nine to twelve
For the cake
1½ c. brown butter, melted/hot
4 c. pastry flour
3¼ c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. baking soda
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1¾ c. buttermilk
1¾ c. boiling water (measure after boiling the water, not before)
1 c. high-quality alkalized cocoa powder (such as Valrhona), sifted
For the frosting
3 c. soft, room-temperature unsalted butter
5¾ c. powdered sugar, sifted (sift first, then measure)
1½ tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. whole milk
1 tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. pure peppermint extract
Pink gel food coloring
Crushed candy cane pieces
Tiny white pearls
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Prep three eight-inch round baking pans by coating them evenly with vegetable oil spray, lining each with a circle of parchment paper, then spraying the bottoms and sides again. Set aside.
2. Heat a stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Add butter. Lower heat to medium and allow butter to melt and begin to bubble. Whisk occasionally to prevent from scorching but keep at a rolling simmer until rust-colored specks float to the top. Turn off heat and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
4. In another bowl, whisk eggs. Add vanilla and buttermilk. Slowly whisk in the butter, incorporating thoroughly.
5. Measure out the boiling water. Slowly whisk water into sifted cocoa powder. Combine thoroughly. While the cocoa water is still very, very hot, add it to the egg and buttermilk mixture.
6. Mix the dry ingredients for 1 minute on low speed. Add about a third of the wet ingredients. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium-high speed for 1 minute to form a smooth chocolate paste. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
7. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly drizzle in the rest of the wet ingredients, stopping two or three times to scrape the bottom of the bowl.
8. Divide the dough evenly among the cake pans. Bake in the middle and top racks of your oven for 15 minutes. Turn the pans half way. Then bake another 15 minutes. Test each cake with a toothpick (tester should come out clean). Remove pans from oven.
9. After 10 minutes, turn the cakes out of the pans and allow them to rest with their parchment paper liners still attached until completely cool.
10. In the meantime, prepare frosting by mixing butter until smooth and glossy but not melted or greasy: about 2 minutes on medium-low speed.
11. Add powdered sugar in two or three increments, mixing on low speed, until completely incorporated and smooth.
12. Add salt and mix for 1 minute. Add milk and extracts and mix until smooth. Add pink coloring gel, a little at a time, until you get the pink you like.
13. Frost one layer at a time, using about half a cup of frosting for each and the rest to cover the sides of the cake. Sprinkle with tiny white pearls and crushed candy canes. Voila!