Thursday, August 6, 2009

CHOCOLATE CAKE! with Cocoa Frosting, the old-fashioned way

Chocolate cake gets attention. Whether you’re in a restaurant and the server saunters by with the layered confection for another table, or you’re in a check-out line at the grocery store and an in-your-face magazine features a chocolate cake on the cover (the same cover that says you can lose 25 lbs. in three weeks by walking), you notice. You might think, “I could go for a slice of that right now!” Chocolate and cake are a marriage made in heaven. Many of us have happy memories of family celebrations where some form of this popular dessert was the star. As a cake baker, I’ve made many, many chocolate cakes: frosted with vanilla buttercream, or filled with ice cream and frozen, or portioned in little paper cups, even stacked in tiers for a wedding cake. The recipe that follows is adapted (notice how many bloggers “adapt” recipes) from Bon Apétit, but don’t fret; this one’s easy, almost as easy as a cake mix, but sooooo much better! It uses AP flour and is mixed up in a flash. It’s a moist, dense, old-fashioned cake, with, surprisingly, no eggs. Reviewers of this recipe note that this is their go-to chocolate cake, and they make it over and over again. One note: line your pans with wax or parchment paper. It just takes a second and eliminates any chance of the cake sticking. I never bake a cake without lining the pan. It’s like cake insurance. Try this recipe and let me know how you like it!

For Cake:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
1 cup cold coffee (can be made with instant)
¼ cup canola oil
¾ cup buttermilk (substitute: ¾ cup milk soured with 1 tbsp. vinegar – let stand for a minute)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Frosting:

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
8 tablespoons (about) whole milk
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa


Preheat oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 ½ inch-high sides. Cut two circles of parchment or wax paper to line the cake pans (just a bit smaller than the pans). Line the pans with paper and spray the paper lightly with cooking spray.
Sift first five ingredients into a medium bowl.
Mix water, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla in large bowl, then whisk in dry ingredients.
Divide batter among pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Cut around pans to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out; cool completely, for at least a few hours but I recommend overnight.


Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups sugar. Beat in 6 tablespoons milk and vanilla. Add cocoa and remaining 2 cups sugar; beat until blended, thinning with more milk if necessary.

Before frosting, level cake layers if necessary by shaving off any "dome" with a sharp knife. Place 1 cake layer on platter, top side up. Place a few strips of wax paper just underneath the perimeter of the cake to keep frosting from getting on the platter. Spread 2/3 – 1 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, top side up. Spread frosting over sides and top of cake. Remove wax paper strips.

Recipe adapted from which credits Bon Apétit and Sweet Dreams Bakery in Memphis, Tenn.

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