Everyone has a go to recipe. It’s the one you’ve made so frequently that you’ve nearly memorized it. It’s the one you carry with pride into a party and it’s the one you submit to the church cookbook at the end of the year.
A word on this. Who are the people that are still submitting recipes for gelatinous salads? Are we still eating these things? Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the 1950’s. Unless you’re pouring up that jello mold because you have plans to recreate that scene from “The Office” where Jim puts Dwight’s stapler in a bundt pan of Jell-O then please, let me urge you to reconsider. Maybe it’s my years of working at hospitals or the emotional scarring I’ve endured from having a husband who would rather eat a pudding pack than have a slice of homemade cake, but let the record show that if you bring me Jell-o, or any other food that wiggles in such taunting audacity, we are no longer friends.
I have very few recipes that I’ve created all on my own that I think are really solid, but many to boast of that other creative minds have come up with. One is for chocolate cake. When I first learned about how cool food blogs were, I was testing recipes for my wedding cake. I came across Rosie Alyea’s blog Sweetapolita and fell in major like with her chocolate cake recipe. I have yet to find another one, or even a modification of this one, that tastes better than it currently stands: dark, rich, and incredible fluffy. It’s the recipe I use for everything from wedding cakes to everyday trifles. And because every recipe deserves a fair trial, I have made a pros and cons list:
- It’s a one bowl recipe
- It uses oil instead of butter, so no waiting for butter to soften
- It uses dark cocoa powder so no need to chop up bars of chocolate
- Is easily adaptable to make more or fewer layers
- Stays fresh for days after baking
- Freezes well when wrapped in Saran Wrap and foil
- You will love this cake and subsequently try to eat it all before you’ve even frosted it. Then, when you show up with a tiny one layer cake instead of the 3 layer cake you promised, your friends will ridicule/judge you on account of you eating all of some poor kid’s birthday cake. As a result, you won’t be invited to birthday outings with your friends any longer and everyone will hate you. So basically, if you want to be invited to parties and not be shunned by everyone you’ve ever known, don’t bake this cake. You’ve been warned.
This is pretty much all you need to know about this recipe, however, I wanted to share some more tips on cake baking. I haven’t been baking long, but as a self-taught, amateur baker, I know that freebie tips on cake baking are worth their weight in gold. So here’s what I’ve got:
- Use room temperature ingredients. The ingredients in most cake recipes will emulsify together better when not at extreme temperatures. So what do you do when you forget to set your ingredients out in advance? Set your eggs in a cup of warm water to quickly bring to room temperature and feel free to nuke milk in the microwave at a low temperature in 10 second intervals till it’s no longer ice cold. As for the butter: consider slicing it into tablespoon pads and resting at room temperature while you set out the rest of your ingredients, or, nuke in the microwave for 8 seconds per side of butter.
- Use parchment paper. Yes, it can be a pain to cut out rounds of parchment, but I use it every time. Why? Because the only thing more annoying that cutting out parchment rounds is baking a beautiful cake only to have chunks of it remain stuck to the innards of your pan. If you’re feeling really aggressive, you can purchase pre-cut rounds of parchment online and they make life so much easier. Just do it.
- Do not overmix. If you read a recipe that says “mix just until combined”, do just that. Overmixing your batter will cause your cake to be chewy and dense… not usually what we’re going for.
- Make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. If you open your cabinet and the baking soda says it expired in 2009, throw it out. I’m talking to you, Mom.
- If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, don’t fret! I sometimes will use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for every scant cup of milk when I need a quick substitute for real buttermilk. Works like a charm.
- Don’t overbake! Toothpicks cost like, $1 at the store. And I’m pretty sure you can steal them from hostess stands at most chain restaurants. So keep some on hand and when the cake looks just barely firm in the middle and is no longer jiggling in the pan, test it. Moist crumbs should come out. If it’s not done, set the timer for one minute and try again. And in the midst of all that checking, try not to open and close the oven too much. You’ll end up with a cake crater big enough to put your face in. On second thought, this isn’t such a terrible outcome so do whatever you want. No judgement here.
- Allow to cool a bit in the pan before flipping out on to a cooling rack.
For more on chocolate cakes, check out my Instagram here — typically chocolate cake overload. I’ll be sharing some decorating how-to’s in the near future so stay tuned!
- 2-1/4 cups (270 gm) all-purpose flour
- 2-1/4 cups (450 gm) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (60 gm) dark cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2-1/4 teaspoons corn starch
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 eggs (180 gm), room temperature
- 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
- 3/4 cups (180 mL) black coffee, hot
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 (8") round cake pans with baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment rounds.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined. In a separate bowl, loosely combine all of the wet ingredients and these to the bowl of the dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed for just shy of 2 minutes, scraping the bowl (and bottom of bowl!) twice throughout.
- Pour equal amounts of batter in to all 3 pans. Carefully place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is just barely set and toothpick comes out of cake almost clean. Allow to cool in the pans and on a cooling rack for 20 minutes and then remove from pans to continue the cooling process. Cake will stay fresh for several days if covered, or, for one month if wrapped well in saran wrap and frozen in freezer.