A Baking Miniseries, Day Five: Essential Chocolate Cake
Some cake recipes are like Cher going to the Oscars: over. the. top. If you want to make me a chocolate covered peanut butter cookie dough cake with salted caramel filling and icing made of edible diamonds, by all means do.
But if I'm going to bake something myself, I want it to be like any dude at the Oscars (except Johnny Depp and his scarves): simple and classic.
Let's look at another one just to make sure we get the point.
Here are my favorite recipes for chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream (used in combination with other favorite recipes) that are essential in my kitchen. And by essential, I mean I don't make other versions. If I want chocolate cake, this is the one I make. If I want chocolate buttercream, this is the one I make. They're perfect, and I know I love them. Why waste time?
Essential Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3⁄4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp espresso powder
- 1 cup buttermilk (I like whole milk just shy of a cup and then topped off with vinegar.)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 eggs plus one egg yolk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
Just wait for how easy these are.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare your cake pans or cupcake tins by making sure your cake doesn't stick, i.e. butter and flour cake pans and cover with parchment paper or buttering and/or lining cupcake tins.
- Place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder in a mixing bowl, and combine with a paddle attachment.
- Add the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until combined and smooth.
- Slowly add the boiling water on low so it doesn't splash on you. Once it's combined, turn the speed to high and beat for one minute.
- Pour the batter into pans and bake. Cakes and cupcakes are done when the tops are firm, the cake has pulled away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or covered with moist crumbs. I like layer cakes with lots of layers, so I divide the batter into three round cake pans, but you can use two pans for thicker cakes. Three pans will take about 28 minutes; two will take closer to 35. This recipe makes about two dozen cupcakes, and those are done in 15-18 minutes depending on how full you fill the tin.
- Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
Great with chocolate buttercream, vanilla buttercream, cream cheese frosting, strawberry buttercream, a quick powdered sugar glaze... really anything which is what makes it essential.
Essential Chocolate Buttercream
Adapted from the always awesome and stupid cool Joy the Baker
- 3 sticks softened unsalted butter
- 1 cup cocoa powder (sift it after you measure)
- 1 tbsp Ovaltine powder
- 1/2 tsp espresso powder
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- generous pinch of salt
- 5 cups powdered sugar (sift it after you measure)
- Cream butter and cocoa powder on medium-high until smooth and slightly whipped, about 1 minute. It's thick, y'all, so scrape down the sides of the bowl FOR SURE.
- While the butter mixes, pour the milk into a liquid measuring cup and whisk in the Ovaltine, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Add half the powdered sugar to the butter. Mix to combine on low.
- With the mixer still on low, slowly stream in the milk mixture.
- Add remaining powdered sugar on low until combined, and then crank up the speed to high and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Taste it to make sure it knocks you down with its deliciousness. If you're still standing, it needs more salt.
This is enough buttercream for one layer cake and almost two dozen cupcakes. I've never been sad to have extra frosting around, so I'll often make extra just to "be safe." Buttercream will keep for a week in the refrigerator, but don't use cold frosting on a cake. Total room temperature is the only way.
Great with chocolate cake, vanilla cake, pumpkin cake, peanut butter cake, and even between two cookies.
P.S. No one would hate it if you covered your chocolate cake with actual chocolate. Press chocolate chips or chunks against the side, sprinkle chocolate curls on top, place Reese's cups around the edge of a layer cake or in the center of a cupcake... there can never be enough chocolate.
Previous posts in the baking miniseries: