This is a chocolate-buttermilk layer cake with chocolate pudding frosting and maraschino cherries. More importantly, this is a version of the cake that Nik invented for his birthday when he was five years old. Apparently, tradition calls for it to be made and consumed once a year--no more, no less. Little five year old Nik thought that the most delicious cake combination possible would be chocolate on chocolate with maraschino cherries and so the annual cake has henceforth been composed of these elements. I volunteered to take a crack at it this year--it looked sort of weird, especially as it was studded with those neon red cherries, but you know what? Little Nik was no fool. It tasted like 5 year old heaven.
In a big bowl, combine 2 cups flour with 2 cups sugar. This is no time for hippie sugar. Go ahead and use the white granulated kind. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda and mix the dry ingredients together well. Meanwhile, combine 2 sticks butter (all together now, "2 sticks of butter...2 sticks of butter") with 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Melt these together in a pan over low heat, stirring it well. After these are integrated, add in 1 cup boiling water and bring it all back up to a boil together, then remove from heat. Measure out 1/2 cup buttermilk and mix it with 2 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix the buttermilk/egg business into the chocolate. Add this chocolately mixture to the dry ingredients in your big bowl and stir to combine. Mix the batter until all is well integrated together, then divide evenly between two round layer cake pans. A word about these pans--I buttered and floured the sides and bottom of the pans, then lined them with parchment paper (traced the outline with a pencil then mooshed them in to fit). This made it a lot easier for when it came time to remove the cake from the pans so I highly recommend it as a strategy. Divide the batter among the pans, making sure to smooth the tops. Pop them into a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, you can make some frosting!
In a saucepan mix together 1 cup sugar, 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, a pinch of salt, and 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Whisk in 1 cup boiling water and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Let this simmer (still whisking! don't stop whisking!)for 2 minutes, then beat in 1 tablespoon whiskey or bourbon and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Take it off the heat and transfer into a small metal bowl. Now start beating in 3 tablespoons worth of cut-up pieces of butter with an electric mixer, until the butter is thoroughly incorporated. It will get really thick and shiny. Here's the fun part. Or the complicated part, depending on your definition of fun. Get you a big metal bowl and put a bunch of ice in it. I had half a Kroger ice bag in my freezer so this worked out awesome for me. By the way, when you have big icebergs like this, what else should you do?
1.) Give some to a dog. 2.) Make you a drink. Anyway, set the littler bowl with the chocolate mixture into the ice-filled bowl......and beat it until it is light and holds soft peaks. The ice will do magic.By now 25 minutes may have elapsed and your cake should be done. Hopefully you have a kitchen timer. Haul them out and let cool in the pans on a rack for a good 10 minutes, then loosen the sides with a butter knife. Thanks to your parchment paper, the cakes should flip out easily. Peel off the paper and allow them to cool on the rack for at least another 15-20 minutes. This is the part that I was flying blind on--frosting a cake! There is almost certainly a better way to do this so maybe you should consult an expert of some kind, but I just slapped some frosting on one half, then sandwiched the other half over it. I frosted it all around and decorated with maraschino cherries. By the way, an impromptu consumer ratings test arose from these cherries: I bought some from Kroger on my way home, not remembering that I already had a jar of maraschino cherries from Publix in the fridge. Well, I am here to tell you that the Kroger maraschino cherries pale in comparison to Publix. They are like pathetic, withery little raisins in the company of the mighty Publix collusions of red dye #40 and high fructose corn syrup. Anyway, the cake turned out well, if slightly goofy looking. Happy birthday Nik!