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Author Notes: This cake is so wildly simple to make, with a brief and uncomplicated ingredient list, that it's hard to believe how sophisticated the result is. With a delicate top layer that shatters like a brownie and a moist, chewy interior studded with black walnuts, it's just as good without the frosting or with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. It comes from a vintage cookbook of historical Maryland recipes. —Posie Harwood
Makes one 9" round cake
For the cake
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup chopped black walnuts (or regular walnuts)
For the frosting
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons hot brewed coffee (use hot water or warm milk if you don't want coffee flavor)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9" round cake pan and line it with parchment paper.
- Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until very pale in color and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each to incorporate it fully.
- Add the vanilla and mix well. Fold in the cooled chocolate and mix.
- Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat the batter here. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
- Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is very puffy and a tester inserted into the center only has a few crumbs clinging to it, not wet batter.
- Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen it, then let the cake cool fully before turning it out of the pan and frosting it.
- For the frosting: Beat together the butter and sugar, then add the cocoa and hot coffee and beat until fluffy. PRO TIP: This makes just a very thin layer of frosting, so you can double the amounts of everything if you want a thicker layer.
- Spread the frosting over the cake, slice, and serve.