Chocolate Cake

1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting

1 ½ teaspoons salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking soda

¾ cup vegetable oil

1 ½ cups buttermilk

3 cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter paper. Dust the pans with cocoa; tap out extra.

Sift cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar into bowl. Beat in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and hot water one at a time, using a mixer set at low. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Pour batter into pans. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean; rotate the pans halfway through and remove cakes from the oven.

Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks, 20 minutes, before inverting to remove. Discard paper. Cool completely on racks, top side up. Cut off top of one layer.

With a butter knife, frost top of trimmed layer.

Place the other layer on top. Frost top and sides of cake.

Try These Variations — They’re a Piece of Cake
Tiny and Tasty: Cupcakes are great for parties at school — they require no cutting, and liners come in all different sizes and designs. After you make the chocolate-cake batter, fill each liner so it’s three-quarters full. Our recipe will yield about 30 standard-size cupcakes; bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes (25 to 35 minutes for mini sizes). Once cool, cover them with your favorite frosting.

Try These Variations—They’re a Piece of Cake
Bars with Crunch: Instead of using frosting, sprinkle topping over chocolate squares. Pour cake batter into a 9-by-13-inch prepared baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Mix 1 cup each flaked sweetened coconut, walnuts, and semisweet chocolate chips; stir in 1 tablespoon melted butter. Remove cake from oven; sprinkle mix on top. Loosely cover with foil; continue baking, about 45 minutes.

Cook’s Notes
Tools and materials: two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, parchment paper, flour sifter, electric mixer and bowl, rubber spatula, long serrated knife.

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