Naturally, I have about 500 chocolate cake recipes to work with. It's become nearly un-American to publish a cookbook and not include some form of chocolate cake in it somewhere. Having them doesn't necessarily mean anything though. There is such a thing as too many options. And, honestly, I bake based on what I have laying around and what gives the best product for the least amount of mental stress, not based on the pictures of what some celebrity chef supposedly makes.
The biggest trouble with making cakes from scratch is that there is an expectation that they are always going to be lighter and prettier than a box mix and that's just not always the case. Some recipes were developed before certain technology-like a solid Kitchen Aid mixer. Some recipes were published before pioneers like Julia Child came along and demanded that recipes be tested before publication. Yes, you read that right--many books published before 1960 are full of heresay recipes that were never tested by the publisher or even the author....see, you weren't crazy.
Regardless, all scratch cakes are not created equal. And the one I'm about to give you is the best chocolate cake recipe for a basic layer cake that I've come across so far (and that is really saying something). Moist, fine-crumb, tender and un-fussy to make.
So here is what you need and what you need to do....
Preheat the oven to 350 and spray 3- 9 inch cake rounds (or, if you are like me and like to cut your own layers, 1 9x4 inch round cake pan (like a Wilton professional pan). When I'm baking a cake in a single layer like this, I also like to line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment to ensure it doesn't stick. Now, I'd also like to add that if you like to butter and flour your cake pans (and that's cool) consider using cocoa powder instead of regular flour for the dusting. It's a detail thing.
You will need 3 bowl.
In the first bowl combine--
2 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of cocoa powder and whisk together to eliminate lumps. Set the bowl aside.
In the second bowl, blend together your dry ingredients:
2 3/4 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
In the 3rd bowl, your mixing bowl, cream together
1 cup of butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
When this light and well-blended add
4 eggs, one at a time to allow them to fully incorporate and
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Now, scrape down the bowl with a spatula to get all the butter that may have stuck to the bottom of the bowl before adding half of the dry ingredients. Don't try to blend it all in totally, just get it somewhat absorbed before adding the rest of the dry.
Now, remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the bowl again to make sure the top and the bottom are well-blended before you add in the water/cocoa blend, that should have cooled off some by now. It's better to do this with your spatula than with the mixer so you don't splash it everywhere. You should end up with a smooth, runny batter that has no lumps.
Pour and equal amount into each pan or-if you are making cupcakes-ladle into cupcake papers. Depending on what shape you choose, bake until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and pulls away slightly from the edges of the pan. Don't overbake-what does that look like? The top begins to crack wide open and the sides of the cake pull from the sides of the pan dramatically. You'll also see a distinct burnt edge around the top.
Remove from the oven to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely.
Now, I'll tell you that I like this with a basic chocolate butter cream, the recipe for which I'll give you in the next post if you want it--it's surprisingly easy considering that it's a Martha Stewart recipe (yeah, I know-nothing that woman does is easy, right?). The original recipe for this cake shows the cake filled with a vanilla butter cream and iced with a chocolate one--which is pretty for presentation when you cut it. You could also try filling the cake with a fruit filling and icing it with the buttercream of your choice. This cake is pretty tender though so you probably are not going to want to use a ganache or heavy fudge frosting, which could cause it to tear apart.
|you don't need 3 pounds of butter to|
bake from scratch....but you might need
this much for the buttercream
This cake, believe it or not, took a week for us to eat. We must have been busy or something-I don't know. What I do know is that I kept it in a simple cake keeper and the cake stayed moist the entire time. The first piece and the last one were equally moist and tasty.