Makes one 9-inch 3-layer cake
½ cup butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons to prepare pans
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, divided
1½ cups sugar
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2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2½ cups flour, sifted
1 cup whole buttermilk
1 tablespoon vinegar
Ermine icing (see recipe below), or other fluffy white icing
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by buttering lightly and sprinkling with 1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder, tapping pans to coat and discarding extra cocoa.
2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, make a paste of the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa and the food coloring. Blend into butter mixture.
4. Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in two batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.
5. Divide batter among three pans and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack completely. (Can also be made in two cake pans.)
6. To assemble, remove one cake from its pan and peel away parchment. Place flat side down on a serving platter. Drop about 1 cup of icing onto cake and, using a flat spatula, spread evenly over top. Remove the second cake from its pan and remove parchment. Place flat side down on top of first layer. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake.
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1. Over medium heat, whisk flour and milk in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer, stirring frequently until it becomes very thick and almost puddinglike.
2. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl to allow it to cool completely. Put plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming.
3. Use a mixer to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, about five minutes. With the mixer on medium, add the cooled flour mixture a little bit at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy and resembles whipped cream.
— Adapted by The New York Times from the original Adams Extract Company recipe