Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

My best cookbook find so far from the Toronto library is Amy Pennington’s Urban Pantry, which includes this recipe for Chocolate Buttermilk Cake.  It’s full of recipes that take advantage of the awkward staples that tend to sit idle in my pantry (barley, what am I to do with you?), and it caters to my reluctance to hit up the grocery store on busy or blustery days.  Plus, it’s tempted me to try classics that I’ve skipped up until now, like chocolate cake.

I’ve never felt compelled to bake a chocolate cake.  Except for the occasional encounter with the flourless variety (my secret love), I find them anticlimactic and uninteresting.  It probably helps that the few cakes I’ve tried to ice end up mangy instead of sleek.  As it goes.  But this cake: no regrets.  I’ll make it again, for myself & for company.  It doesn’t need icing.  It’s moist without being greasy.  It’s sweet enough for dessert but light enough to temp the I-don’t do-dessert crowd.  I ate it for breakfast.  Like I said, no regrets.

A note on ingredients: The recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour, but I used regular cake/pastry flour and no harm done.  Usually I see buttermilk and I sub in plain yogurt, but since I’d already decided to buy leeks this week (I can count on one hand the number of times I have bought leeks), I figured I’d go big and get the buttermilk, too.  The purchase makes sense if you have a lineup of buttermilk-based things that you want to make between now and the time that the buttermilk expires; otherwise, you can run with yogurt, or with regular milk – just add 1 tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk and letting it sit for a few minutes before incorporating into your recipe.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

from Urban Pantry


1 1/2 cups pastry flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla (or 1/2 tsp cognac & 1/2 tsp vanilla)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Icing sugar or cocoa powder for dusting (optional)


1.  In a small bowl, combine flour with cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, & salt.  Set aside.

2.  In a second small bowl, combine buttermilk with vanilla (and cognac, if using).  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter & sugar until light & fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Mixing after each addition, add: egg #1; egg #2; half of the dry ingredients; all of the buttermilk mixture; & the remaining dry ingredients.  Pour completed batter into a buttered cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

4.  Cool on a baking rack, and dust with icing sugar or cocoa powder if desired.

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