Forget perfection. We want cake.

Old-fashioned Milk Chocolate Layer Cake liberally and imperfectly frosted 
with rich-yet-mellow Chocolate Buttercream.

This cake, in all its humble glory, is my gift to someone I love on his birthday. 
This cake is not about being a show-stopper.
This cake looks — and more importantly, tastes — like a cake. It does not look like a truck. Or a plane. Or a skyscraper. Or a stadium.
And therefore, this cake is not filled with or supported by non-cake-like elements popular on cake-decorating TV programs: PVC pipe, wooden dowels, rice-krispie-treat mounds and edible clay worked into any number of shapes in the sweaty palms of the competitors.
No, this cake is honest-to-goodness cake — made with butter, sugar, milk, chocolate, eggs and flour. And more chocolate. And more butter. Its layers are slightly uneven and the frost job is generous and imperfect.
In other words, this is how cake should be. In my book, anyway.
Milk Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
for the cake:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons water
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs, separated
1 cup whole milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

cocoa powder for dusting pans

for the buttercream:
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted (I used a combination of bittersweet and semisweet.)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks butter, softened)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
splash of vanilla
3-5 tablespoons whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease two 8-inch layer cake pans; dust pans with cocoa powder. Set pans aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Set aside.

Combine 3 tablespoons water with unsweetened chocolate and microwave until melted. Be careful not to burn. (I microwave for about 15 seconds a clip and give chocolate a good stir every time I check the bowl.) Once melted, set chocolate aside.

Cream butter and granulated sugar in bowl of stand mixer for 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat 4 egg WHITES in separate bowl until fluffy white clouds. Set whites aside.

Add vanilla and 4 egg yolks to bowl with butter/sugar, mixing to combine. Stir in melted chocolate.

Add flour mixture to the party alternately with milk, mixing to combine.

Fold beaten egg whites into batter until thoroughly combined.

Pour batter into prepared layer cake pans and bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. Cakes are done when sides pull away from edge of pans and cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean after inserted into center of cake.

Place cakes (still in their pans) on wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Then invert cakes onto rack and let cool completely before frosting.

For the Chocolate Buttercream:
Beat softened butter with confectioners’ sugar for at least 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl every so often.

Add vanilla, melted chocolate and milk (a tablespoon or two at a time — honestly, I didn’t measure) and continue beating (like you mean it) — and continuously scraping down sides of bowl to catch any globular goodness — until you have a fluffy, spreadable, super-delicious buttercream.

Frosting the layers:
Lay 4 strips of parchment paper or aluminum foil on cake plate, where the edges of the first cake layer will rest. (You will remove these strips post-frosting.)

Place one cake layer atop strips.

Dollop a modest scoop of buttercream onto the layer, frosting in broad strokes to seal up any wayward crumb-age, then dollop a a generous scoop and liberally frost layer.

Place second cake layer atop first. Frost the top generously before frosting the sides of the cake. Don’t be stingy. Use all the buttercream to adorn the cake, swirling in carefree strokes as you go. (Again, this cake is not about perfection. The layers are not perfectly even, and the frosting shouldn’t be, either.)

Remove the strips of parchment.

Gobble up a slice of moist perfection with a tall, icy glass of milk.

Happy Snow Day To Me

Triple Chocolate Babycake studded with bittersweet chunks

Today is a day for celebration. I did my taxes (before April 14 for the first time ever in my life). I shoveled (a lot). I was able to start the car (eventually). And while I’ve been trying to lay off chocolate in anticipation of the dark things I intend to bake for Valentine’s Day, I decided there was no harm in enjoying a few Triple Chocolate Babycakes on a blustery day of such fine accomplishment.
These cakes are small and unadorned for a reason: they are meltingly rich and a few bites will do you (not that I am anyone to judge responsible chocolate intake), and frosting would be unwelcome overkill. 
I enjoyed mine with an icy cold glass of milk, shared a few, and froze the rest.
The moist and gooey insides

Triple Chocolate Babycakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used 3/4 of a Ghirardelli 70% cacao bittersweet baking bar)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (chips work fine, too, of course)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), coarsely chopped (chips, again, are fine)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter, use a 1/2 teaspoon salt)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Line or grease muffin tins (I used 2 standard tins — one 12-cup and one 6-cup — but filled only 16 cups).
Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together. Set aside.
Melt unsweetened chocolate and 1/2 cup of the semisweet chunks in microwave or double boiler. Set aside to cool slightly.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
Add melted chocolate to butter/sugar/egg mixture, mixing well.
Add flour mixture and milk to batter, alternating in a few batches. 
Fold in the bittersweet chunks and remaining semisweet chunks.
Fill prepared muffins cups about 3/4 of the way.
Bake in preheated oven for 24-26 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. (You can test for doneness with a cake tester / toothpick, but try to avoid any molten chunks that might throw you off. Good luck. … Really, though, the cakes will set up nicely and lose that wet look when fully cooked. Also, it’s a good rule of thumb to check them when you smell them.) 
Cool in pans about 15 minutes before releasing to wire racks to continue cooling.
Serve warm or cooled, as is or with a scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream.
(Recipe makes 14-16 Triple Chocolate Babycakes, depending on the size of the tins. Babycakes freeze well.)