chocolate cake with light and fluffy raspberry buttercream

I have this ongoing group text message with two of my best friends and whenever my phone 'buzzes' John asks, "The besties?". Yes.

One of them recently got married and moved to Northern California. Another, just had her second baby and moved to Texas. And it's no secret that I too recently went through a big move out of state and had a baby too - practically at the same time. All of us have joked and cried about the huge changes that have come as a result of moving far from home and entering huge milestone life events.

In one of my best friends attempts to embrace her new world and make the most of it, she joined a local women's running club. As soon as she approached the group of highly decked out luxe active wear wearing women she could sense that they were already, not her people. I mean my friend is the type of person that could sit on the bus next to a complete, non-english speaking stranger and they'd be friends and exchange contact info by the end of their journey. She's just that rad.

This running group however, was not. 

Disappointed by the experience, she vented in our group text that these women were so fast, and so into things that she was not into that she had a hard time relating. We both applauded her bravery and said that neither one of us would have joined a running group like that, but yay for trying something new.

Then I chimed in and said, "You know, we should start our own long-distance, nation-wide woman's running club titled, "We run to eat." Because honestly, that's the ONLY reason I've trained for races and diligently ran in the past - I was looking forward to all of those calories I'd get to enjoy later." 

Then we joked about tag lines that would grace our new running club shirts:

I run for cheeseburgers.

I run for ice cream.

I run for cheeseburgers and ice cream.

I dunno guys I'm still seriously thinking about making some t-shirts...

Anyway, this cake. This cake is a celebration cake using all natural cocoa powder (last post we used dutch processed cocoa to make brownies). Are we all learning this cocoa powder stuff together? It's kinda fun right? I mean, I'm having fun, raise you're hand if you aren't having a good time and need a hug and a brownie.

And in case you missed it, I shared a little blurb of "behind the scenes" that went on while I tried to make and shoot this cake on instagram, hashtag that momlifetho

"The truth is I took this exact shot while trying to ignore the loud whines of my 10 month old son who didn't want to sit in his high chair anymore. The truth is I lost it and yelled because I couldn't take his whining for no reason anymore. (Mommy just needs you to sit there for 5 minutes! 5 MINUTES!) The truth is there's smeared fresh raspberries and chocolate covered cocoa nibs currently littering the floor. And my dog ate some cocoa nibs and immediately barfed. The kitchen looks like a hurricane went through it. There's little raspberry covered hand prints that have stained my ratty-I-always-use-this "table cloth". And I fed my child cold turkey and cheese and avocado for dinner so I could get it done. All of this, for the sake of one damn cake." ❤️

Sometimes pictures can look so perfect on social media or in the blogging world, and while I adore the life I am living, I just wanted to keep it real. 

I made this cake for no reason at all other than the fact I was celebrating that I have accomplished some very, very hard things this week. Stories I'll share for another day. Sometimes though, it's worth battling through the resistance to just make a cake and enjoy a slice. I virtually shared some with my best girls too as I do with you now. And until we start that running club and make t-shirts my friends... this will have to do. 

Sending so much love to you. xo


chocolate celebration cake with raspberry buttercream 

adapted from Yossy Arefi and her cookbook Sweeter off the Vine 

I've noticed that I follow, love, drool and fawn over so many fellow bloggers' gorgeous creations but rarely make any of their recipes myself. So, in an attempt to change that, I'm starting to pull recipes from these beautiful bloggers and dive into their goodness whilst continuing to recipe develop my own stuff. Might I add it is SO fun to just make a recipe, tweak it very little and have the results be magic. This was one of those times. This cake is perfectly chocolatey, moist and the raspberry buttercream is really, quite perfect. I'm not a fan of overly sugary frostings, or really frosting in general, but this one, this one had me licking the spatula, don't leave out that pinch of salt.  xo

bakers note: *I think buttercream frosting is best the day it's made, but if you want to make the frosting ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, just whip it in your standing mixer using the paddle attachment until it comes together. It will look like a disaster and clumpy and like it's not working at first, but trust me: the butter just needs to jive and get warm again and then it will all come together. I feel like there's some great life lesson to be learned in this..... just give it time and it will all work out. 

for the chocolate cake:
2 cups / 400g sugar
1 ¾ cups / 225g all purpose flour (preferably organic, and unbleached)
¾ cup / 75g cocoa powder (I used natural)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup / 240ml buttermilk
½ cup / 120ml sunflower oil
⅓ cup / 75g full-fat plain greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup / 180ml strong hot coffee, but brought to room temperature

for the raspberry buttercream:
8 ounces / 225g fresh raspberries, for the puree
5-6 large egg whites (I used six! see buttercream bakers note below), preferably pasteur raised and organic
1 ¼ cups / 250g sugar or superfine sugar (I used superfine sugar because it dissolves faster than regular sugar, but regular sugar works just fine)
generous pinch of kosher salt
2 cups / 450g unsalted butter, soft but still cool, cut or mushed into small-ish tablespoon sized pieces

to decorate:
8 ounces / 225g fresh raspberries
sprinkling of dark chocolate covered cocoa nibs, optional

to make the cake: 

Preheat your oven to 350°F / 180° C and make sure your middle rack is in position. Butter three 8" cake pans lining the bottoms with parchment paper, so the parchment paper sticks to the pan. Butter the top of the parchment paper too, and dust with either flour or cocoa powder. I used cocoa powder. Don't skip this part! :)

Make your ¾ cup of coffee and let it cool. I just use hot water and add a heaping teaspoon of high quality instant coffee. You can find instant coffee pretty much anywhere, but as of lately, I use a Trader Joe's brand.

In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, stir together all of your dry ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. 

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together all of your wet ingredients: buttermilk, sunflower oil, yogurt or sour cream, eggs, vanilla and coffee. Make sure all of these ingredients are room temperature before combining. (You don't want the hot coffee to scramble your eggs.) 

Slowly pour your liquid mixture into your dry ingredients, keeping the speed on low. Mix for about 30 seconds, then scrape down your bowl once or twice to ensure the bottom is getting mixed in. 

Mix for about 1 minute or a minute and a half or until all the ingredients are mixed and incorporated. Batter will be very thin. 

Evenly distribute your batter among your three greased and prepared tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. The center of the cake should not look wet, and spring back ever so slightly if you press your finger to the top. Remember that the cakes will still cook a tiny bit more when they're pulled out of the oven and left in their tins.

Cool cakes for 15 minutes, then take them out of their cake tins and let them finish cooling on a cooling rack. 


to make the raspberry buttercream: 

bakers note: I know they say baking is an exact science but to me 90% of it is intuitive. Use your gut. The original recipe calls for only 5 egg whites but adding 1 more egg white worked better for me. It's dry here in Utah, and I'm at a high altitude, I'm guessing that had something to do with it. Don't stress too much about it. You want your egg whites + sugar mixture to be a wet and snotty (sorry) consistency. If it seems like it's too thick with sugar (aka not a snot consistency), add more egg white. 

Using either an immersion blender or a potato masher, smash your fresh raspberries and then strain them through a fine mesh sieve to remove all of the seeds. Set this beautiful liquid aside.

Fill a medium sized saucepan with a little bit of water (about 2-3 inches). The saucepan needs to be big enough to place a glass bowl on top, but make sure the bowl does NOT touch the water. 

Put egg whites and sugar in the glass bowl (or other heat proof bowl)  that will fit over your medium sized saucepan. 

Bring the water in the medium sized saucepan to a gentle simmer. Place the glass bowl on top of the saucepan and whisk gently for about 8-10 minutes, or until mixture becomes 160°F / 71°C. You'll know it's ready because the mixture should be too hot to hold your finger in the mixture for a long time, but not too hot to touch. 

Remove egg white mixture from the heat and pour into your electric mixing bowl. Add salt. With the whisk attachment, whisk heated egg whites and sugar until it looks like a stiff cloud or shaving cream. The mixture should cool as it whips, and the outside of the bowl should feel room temperature. This takes about 5-10 minutes. 

Switch to a paddle attachment.

On a medium speed, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, until the butter is fully incorporated, scraping the bowl about halfway. 

Buttercream should be light and fluffy and free of any butter clumps. If you have butter clumps it simply means your butter was a little too cold when you added it into your meringue, give it some times to soften - and then try beating it again. 

Next slowly stream in your raspberry puree. You can beat this in by hand, pouring the puree in little by little or using the electric mixer. Mix until incorporated. tip! You can easily store the frosting in the fridge at this point and then whip it back to room temperature in your electric mixer. See bakers note* at the beginning of the recipe. 

Make sure your cakes have cooled completely before frosting. 

Frost and top cake with fresh raspberries and cocoa nibs or any decoration of your choice. I think the cake keeps pretty well for 3 days in the fridge, but tastes best the day of or the day after it's made. xo


I got my chocolate covered cocoa nibs from: Old Town Spice and Tea Merchants