This classic layer cake is rich and chocolatey but not too sweet. It would also taste great with vanilla frosting in place of chocolate.
12 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pans
12 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/4 cups hot water
2-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
1 recipe Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting, or your favorite frosting
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
In a large bowl, whisk the hot water, cocoa, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.
In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until mixture looks smooth, about 7 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and beat again for 30 seconds. Alternate adding the flour mixture in three additions with the cocoa mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Frost with Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting or your favorite frosting.