1/2 cup butter (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter
1 1/3 cups (9 3/8 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon gel paste red food color or 1/4 cup (2 ounces) liquid red food color
3 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk or low-fat (plain or vanilla) yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour two 8" round cake pans. Or lightly grease the pans, line the bottom with parchment rounds, and lightly grease the parchment, too.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar till smooth, then add the eggs one at a time, again beating till smooth. Stir in the food color, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and vinegar. Gently beat in the flour alternately with the buttermilk or yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour. The point is to keep the mixture smooth, which is more easily accomplished if you add the flour and yogurt in portions. Scoop the stiff batter into the pans; wet your fingers, and spread it to cover the bottom of the pans, smoothing the top a bit in the process.
Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops feel set and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool for 10 minutes before turning them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.
When the cake is cool, slice each layer horizontally, to make a total of four layers. Spread each layer with icing, stacking them as you go. We like to show off the lovely contrasting colors of this cake by frosting only the top, not the sides.
Quick Buttercream Frosting
As much as you may eschew using shortening, it’s critical here, as it prevents the frosting from becoming unpleasantly soft in warm weather.
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) non-trans-fat vegetable shortening
a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons meringue powder (optional, for a smoother icing that holds its shape a bit better)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups (24 ounces) confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons (2 to 3 ounces) milk
Cream together the butter and shortening until fluffy. Beat in the salt, meringue powder, and vanilla. Add the confectioners' or glazing sugar and 4 tablespoons of the milk, and beat well.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Adjust the consistency of the frosting as needed by adding more sugar or milk. If you're not going to use the frosting right away, keep it at room temperature, covered, to prevent it from developing a crust. Yield: 5 cups frosting.
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