Making a cake from scrath requires a little more effort than one from a box. I would guess for most people it is about having the ingredients on hand that is the problem as opposed to the effort. For this recipe, the ingredients that are not common in a lot of kitchens are buttermilk and cake flour, maybe cocoa powder. For this cake I topped it with a simple ganache which is 8 ounces choppped bittersweet chocolate melted in 8 ounces heavy cream. I heat the cream in a liquid measuring cup and add the chopped chocolate to it, then stir it until the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. I then let it sit for a half hour to cool, so when I pour it over the top it is thick enough to laquer the top.
On a side note, ganache is what you use to make truffles. Check out the truffles article under the Chocolate link for more details.
Chocolate Blackout Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
OR 1 cup butter-flavored shortening
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups cake flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat an oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on low cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla and almond. Turn mixer off and scrape the bottom of the bowl, then slowly pour in buttermilk and turn mixer back on until mixture is combined. Turn mixer off and add cake flour, cocoa powder and salt. Turn mixer back on low and run until well combined, scraping bottom of bowl to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.
I prep the pan I am going to use by spraying it with Bak-Klene, here I placed the cake in a 9" round cake pan. Start checking them with a toothpick inserted into the center until it comes out clean after 20 minutes for cupcakes, 35-40 minutes for cakes. The point here is to know how your oven works and adjust that time to accomodate your cake.
When the toothpick comes out clean, remove cake from oven and set on cooling rack for 5 minutes to slighly cool, then remove from pan and allow to come to room temperature on cooling rack. Frost as desired.