chocolate cake with almond buttercream

For the cake:

4 cups flour

4 cups sugar

1 tbsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups butter

1 1/2 cups cocoa powder

1 tsp. almond extract

4 eggs

1 1/3 cups sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 300° F.

2. Melt butter in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer along with cocoa powder, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

4. Cream together eggs and sour cream until fully blended, then stir into dry ingredient mixture. When fully incorporated, add butter and cocoa powder. Mix well.

5. Pour mixture into two greased circular cake pans. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

For the frosting:

1 cup softened butter

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tbsp. almond extract

4 cups powdered sugar

3 tbsp. milk

1. Cream together butter, cocoa powder, and almond extract in an electric mixer.

2. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating at medium speed. Before and after adding each cup, thoroughly scrape sides of the bowl. Add milk and continue to mix until light and fluffy.

When cakes have finished baking, let cool completely. Transfer to a sheet of wax or parchment paper, or place on top of a circular piece of cardboard for easier handling. With a long serrated knife, remove any roundness from the top of each cake. If desired, trim away 1/2 an inch of the circular edge of each cake. Chill for 10 minutes, then apply a thin layer of frosting to trap crumbs and prep surface for icing.

Starting at the center and working towards sides, top one of the cakes with icing. Chill again as needed to firm up the cake if icing does not go on smoothly. Place second cake on top and align the edges. Smooth frosting over the seam and along the edge of the cake, turning the wax paper or cardboard circle as you go. Chill another 5 to 10 minutes.

To decorate, melt 1 cup chocolate chips, stirring constantly on low heat. Spoon into a Ziploc bag. (These tend to burst along seams if chocolate becomes too hot, so make sure to keep the heat low.) Make a tiny snip at one corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate onto the top of the cake. Finish by sprinkling about 1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds on top.