1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 to 4 tbsp red food coloring
Position oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and dust with flour. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat together the shortening and sugar until fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the creamed mixture, beating well after each egg. Beat in the vanilla.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, vinegar, and food coloring. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture until all ingredients are just incorporated and the batter is smooth. Do not over mix. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for about 35 minutes until the cake just begins to pull away from the sides of the pans and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans and remove the cakes from pans by inverting them onto the racks. Turn right side up and let cool thoroughly.
The cakes can be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to two days or frozen for up to two months. If frozen, thaw at room temperature before proceeding to frosting.
3 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, combine the flour, salt, and a few tablespoons of the milk; stir until smooth. Set the saucepan over low heat and stir in the remaining milk. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of gravy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla for a minute or so until smooth. Scrape the cooled flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat on high speed for about three minutes, until the frosting is the consistency of whipped cream. (Frosting can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days; let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes to reach a spreadable consistency.) Frost sides and top of cake.
Store cake, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to 24 hours. May be stored in freezer, well wrapped, for about a month. Thaw before serving.