Friday, February 11, 2011

Mocha Chocolate Cake

Today, dear readers, you will receive two very valuable recipes. I use these recipes at least twice a week at the restaurant, so pay attention please, and you will produce some pretty amazing cakes in the future.

I've found that some of my favorite chocolate cake recipes in look, texture, ease and flavor have been cakes made without butter. (Shocking, I know.) Extra points if the cake includes sour cream. One fave is the chocolate layers from the Triple Fudge Cake from Sky High, and then there's the sour cream chocolate cake from Sky High. (I highly recommend both of these.)

However, more often than not, I turn to Martha's One Bowl Chocolate cake. (Absolutely. Fool. Proof. The other day, I accidentally left out 1/4 of the flour- it still tasted great.)

I usually pair this type of ultra moist, dense cake with peanut butter, caramel or mocha frosting, but it its the last of these we are here to talk about today.

Friends, do I have your attention here? This is important. This will be one of the most important frosting recipes you will ever make. It's incredibly light and creamy, and not too sugar or buttery.

Let me explain this way: you know the kids who lick the frosting off the top of their cupcake? Maybe you were/are that kid. Well, those kids always disgusted me. There's nothing I hate more than an imbalanced cake/frosting ratio- too much frosting and it's not worth eating. If ever I go to Gigi's cupcakes, I have to knock off half the frosting before I begin. Have I made my point? Not yet, because here it is- if that sugary buttery nasty frosting was replaced with this frosting, the one I'm about to tell you about, then I would be the first person to be holding a bald cupcake- licked clean.

It's that good. Really the only "white-type" frosting you'll need, because you can flavor it with pretty much anything- vanilla, mocha, mint, lemon, almond, jam, coconut, whatever. I think that, with a very few exceptions, you need a good chocolate frosting recipe (maybe two), a cream cheese frosting recipe, and this frosting recipe. Then you're set for life.

Okay, enough talk, here are the recipes:

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I love the Hershey's dark chocolate cocoa)
3 cups AP flour
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or pour 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar in the bottom of your measuring cup, fill up to the 1 1/2 cup line with milk, stir and let sit for 5 minutes- voila! buttermilk!)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups warm water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 8 or 9-in round cake pans with cooking spray and line with parchment rounds.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, powder and soda. Stir to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. You can make this recipe with your mixer or with plain ol' elbow grease.

Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla and eggs until there are no lumps and the batter is the consistency of brownie batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Next stir in the oil and finally, the water. Stir, mix, whatever, scraping occasionally, until smooth. It will be thinner than most cake batters, but fear not- it bakes up wonderfully.

Divide the batter evenly between your three pans, and bake until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. For 9-in pans this will take from 25-35 minutes, 8-in will take a little longer. Let the cakes cool for 20 minutes before removing them from the pans to cool completely on racks. Confession: sometimes I let my cakes cool completely in the pans. I do what I want, pow.

Time for that frosting. It's rather unconventional in its method, which for me makes it that much better. It's like a secret formula- like alchemy. I found the original here, on Tasty Kitchen. Here's my version, which is just doubling the original and adding expresso.

2 cups milk
10 tablespoons flour
2 cups sugar (granulated- NOT powdered)
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Approx 6-9 tablespoons espresso, to taste. You could use instant espresso, or very, very strong coffee, too. It can be lukewarm, but not hot.

Pour the milk in a small or medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, one tablespoon at a time, trying to avoid clumps. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. It will be quite pasty, thicker than cake batter. (Don't take it off the heat before its ready- of the mixture is too thin the frosting will FAIL.) Remove from the heat and let cool, stirring occasionally.

flour/milk paste/gravy

While the paste is cooling, put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (you can also use a hand held mixer but it will take longer.) WHISK that butter and sugar like CRAZY. On medium-low speed. WHISK LIKE MEDIUM CRAZY! This will take at least 5 minutes- you want the butter and sugar to be super fluffy, one entity, not grainy.

whoa, crazy

When the paste is completely cool and the butter is creamy, slowly add the paste into the butter with the mixer running. Now, mix like crazy again until the frosting is crazy fluffy, like whipped cream. It should be smooth and luxurious, with no hint of wanting to separate.

Once frosting nirvana is achieved, add the vanilla and taste it. Taste the possibilities. Now, add the espresso, a little at a time, until the taste you want is achieved. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides occasionally.

When the cake layers are completely cool, join the cake with the frosting in wedded bliss and enjoy. If you make this divine frosting, please let me know how it turned out for you in the comments.

Do you have any secret, colossally awesome cake or frosting recipes I should know about?


  1. I will have to pass on Gram's 7 minute frosting. When we made sugar cookies (back when I was in college) she made this frosting, it rocked. I have never been able to make it as well as she did...

  2. Your cake looks so gorgeous I would have thought it had been made by a pastry chef. This really looks like an excellent chocolate dessert. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog called "Sweets for a Saturday" and I'd like to invite you to stop by this weekend and link your fantastic cake up.

  3. Wow, this looks great and I will try the frosting on your recommendation:@)

  4. Have to try this one, it looks so full of chocolate. What a pretty cake.

  5. Oh my! I was just thinking of chocolate (it being V-day and all!) and this looks DELICIOUS!!

  6. I've tried this frosting before and it didn't work for me at all :(
    But your cake looks amazing!!! great job!

  7. I am making this cake tomorrow....annnnd CANNNOT wait to make it and eat it! Thanks for posting such amazing recipes:) love and miss ya girl!

  8. tia- what happened with your frosting that it didn't work? One time I made it and it separated a bit, but it was because my flour/milk paste wasn't quite cool when i added it, and then I tried to add too much liquid for flavoring. So make sure everything's really whipped well and the correct temp and try again!

    ruth- hooray! let me know how it turns out for you!

  9. wow...this looks great...I must try it