Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the pan with melted butter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray and fit it with parchment paper to extend up both long sides to the top of the pan.
Cream the butter and sugar: Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium-high until light - almost white- in color, 4 to 5 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.
Add the eggs: In the small bowl, stir together the water and espresso powder until smooth. Crack the eggs into the bowl and beat to blend. With the mixer running on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. About halfway through, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then continue adding the eggs. Scrape down the bowl again.
Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately: With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the medium bowl and whisk to blend. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; repeat, then finish with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand if necessary.
Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.
Serves: 6 - 8
Storing: The cake can be made several days ahead and kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap. Or double-wrap it, put in a resealable plastic freezer bag, and freeze for up to 8 weeks.
What the Pros know: The addition of espresso here is not just an enticement for caffeine addicts. Full-bodied, bitter espresso is often paired with dark chocolate because it deepens and enhances the flavor, making it taste even more, well, chocolaty. You won't notice the coffee flavor, but if you leave it out, the cake will have a lighter chocolate profile. If you wish to omit the espresso, try adding 1 teaspoon pure chocolate extract, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.
Reprinted with permission from ©Sur La Table, The Art & Soul of Baking, published by Andrews McMeel click for book review
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