Chocolate Buttermilk Fudge Cake

“Here is one really great chocolate cake in all its aspects. It’s high and
mighty, it’s the essence of chocolate, it’s moist, and its fudge frosting
is just right. And you can make it yourself in your own kitchen.”



For the cake pans:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons flour

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter,
  • cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, preferably
  • Dutch process
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (scooped and leveled) bleached
  • cake flour

For assembling the cake:

Special equipment suggested:

  • Two 8- by 2-inch round cake pans
  • Parchment paper
  • A pastry brush
  • A whisk
  • A microwave oven (useful but not essential)
  • An extra-wide rubber spatula with
  • blade 2 1/2 inches across
  • 1 or 2 cake racks
  • A thin-bladed very sharp serrated knife
  • A palette knife or an offset spatula
  • A cake stand or a serving platter



  1. Preliminaries:  Set a pan on a piece of the parchment paper and trace a circle around the bottom; cut just inside the line to produce a circle that will fit comfortably inside the pan without wrinkling; make another for the second pan. Brush a light coating of melted butter all over the bottom and sides of the two pans, line them with the parchment, and butter the parchment. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour into each pan, roll and shake it to cover the bottom and sides evenly, and knock out the excess. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and set the rack on the lower level.
  2. Preparing the Chocolate Base:  Heat the buttermilk and butter pieces in a small saucepan over moderately low heat until the butter has melted and the temperature of the liquid is about 100 degrees F. Meanwhile, stir the cocoa and 1/2 cup of the sugar together with the whisk in a large mixing bowl; when thoroughly mixed, blend in the baking soda and vanilla, and finally the warm buttermilk-butter mixture. Whisk gently until the sugar and cocoa are completely dissolved. Set aside while preparing the egg whites.
  3. The Egg Whites: In the bowl of the electric mixer, whip the egg whites on high until foamy and then gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, pouring it down the sides to avoid overwhelming and deflating the whites. Add the sugar slowly will also ensure that it will dissolve. Continue whipping at high speed until peaks form. The result will be a meringue-type mixture that will hold its shape when folded into the chocolate base. Set the bowl of whites next to the chocolate mixture.
  4. Finishing the Batter:  Whisk the egg yolks into the preceding chocolate base, and then whisk in the flour until it is completely incorporated. Use the wide rubber spatula to transfer the egg whites onto the top of the chocolate and then to fold them in gently but thoroughly. Pour the batter into the pans, dividing it evenly between them. Rock the pans gently to spread the batter evenly. Proceed at once to the oven.
  5. Baking: About 35 minutes at 325 degrees F. Set the pans on the rack in the preheated oven, spacing them at least 1 inch from each other and from the sides of the oven.
  6. When Are They Done?  The cakes will have shrunk about 1/16 inch from the sides of pans. Press each cake gently with the balls of your fingers near the sides of the pans; press again halfway to the center, and then directly in the center – there should be the same firmness in all places. Set the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Then turn out onto the racks, bottoms up and with the parchment still attached; the parchment will help keep the cakes moist as well as assist in their handling later. Let them cool completely.
  7. Ahead-of-Time Note:  When cool, gently and carefully return the cakes to their pans, slip them into individual plastic bags, and either refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or freeze for several weeks.
  8. Slicing One Cake into Two Layers:  With the parchment still in place on top of the cake, and holding your fingers flat under it for support, carefully turn the cake upside down on your counter; the parchment, now on the bottom, will help the cake rotate easily as it is being sliced horizontally. Position the serrated knife along the side of the cake, midway down from the top, and with smooth, horizontal strokes (not sawing back and forth) make a cut about 1 inch deep in that side of the cake, drawing the knife out away from the cake at the end of your stroke. Rotate the cake without lifting it, and continue making cuts all around the circumference. Then slice through the two layers using a smooth back and forth motion.
  9. Assembling the Cake:  Carefully life off the top layer of the cake and turn it upside down on your cake stand or platter. Scoop 1/4 of the chocolate fudge frosting into the center and smooth it out evenly to the edges with your spatula. Turn the second layer of the cake upside down over the frosting, and very carefully remove the paper backing. Spread on a second coating of frosting. Slice the second cake and mount both layers on the first cake with frosting in between the second and third layers.
  10. Scoop up the remaining frosting and spread it over the top, pushing and sweeping it to the edges, letting the excess fall down the sides. Wipe the spatula along the side of the frosting bowl as necessary to collect the excess. Finally, wash the spatula in hot water and run it over and around the frosting to restore its gloss. Clean frosting smudges from the stand or platter with damp paper towels and let the cake sit for 10 minutes, allowing the frosting to set before serving.
  11. Ahead-of-Time Note:  Cover with a cake dome or large upside-down bowl, and refrigerate. The cake will keep moist and fine for several days. Bring to cool room temperature before serving.

Watch Jim make this cake with Julia Child on PBS's In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs.


Copyright © 2014 by Jim Dodge. All rights reserved under International Copyright.