I think it’s safe to say that I spend a fair amount of my free time reading food blogs – I read the blogs of chefs who inspire me with their creativity and innovative recipes, I read the blogs of writers I find truly hilarious, and I read the blogs of photographers whose work I will never come close to replicating.  Everyone has their little niche, their forte, the thing they’re especially good at.  Or, at least, the single thing that makes me immediately click on their site before another.  Because I know that if there’s something not to be missed in a specific food category, it’s up there.

This is how I feel about the Smitten Kitchen’s cake expertise.  Not to say that there are any shortcomings in her gorgeous, well-written site, but the woman baked an entire wedding cake. Bow down to her infinite cake-baking wisdom.  In short, I find her recipes (and not just the cake-related ones) concise, clear, and endlessly delicious, and Mom’s birthday cake was no exception…even though my failure to read resulted in too much batter (your pans are not 9 inches wide, Katie), which resulted in, well, the ugliest cupcakes I’ve ever seen due to, again, my inability to read (Seriously – cakes baked at 300 degrees for an hour are supposed to be flat so that they’re easy to layer; they will not produce gently rounded, perfect cupcakes. EVER. Stop trying.).  Quick! Hide my diploma!

So as not to steal her thunder (Plus, who am I kidding? Like I could ever explain a recipe this well), I’m linking you straight to the source of Mom’s chocolate layer cake with strawberry filling (I couldn’t find raspberries and, I’ll admit, didn’t try that hard because I really like strawberries).  For the frosting, I made a simple, mocha buttercream because on her birthday, Mom demanded buttercream.  And who am I to deny her?

Mocha Buttercream

Makes about 2-2 1/2 cups, or just enough to frost the 4-layer, 8-inch cake I made

3 ounces semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine)

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature

2 tbsp hot brewed coffee

2 tbsp half-and-half

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate with the coffee, vanilla, and half-and-half under chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool.  Beat together sugar and butter until butter is creamy, then add cooled chocolate mixture, beating until there are no longer visible flecks of butter, and the frosting is smooth.