Saturday, December 3, 2016

What’s the BEST Chocolate Cake Recipe?

There are so many decisions to make about chocolate cake: 

* Sheet cake vs. layer cake
* Chocolate icing vs. buttercream
* Type of chocolate used—Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate vs. chocolate chips vs. eating chocolate vs. unsweetened cocoa
* Flourless vs. flour
* Brown sugar vs. white sugar
* Milk vs. buttermilk vs. water
* How many people will the cake serve (or how big a pig are you?)

One decision we never make in my house is packaged mix vs. made from scratch.  The last time I used a packaged mix was in my Girl Scout days, which was some time ago.  The chocolate tasted fake.  In fact, that disappointment motivated me to learn how to bake.

Since then I’ve mastered a dozen different chocolate cakes.  The easiest was a fudge-type single layer cake that was so rich that it didn’t need a proper icing.  A smattering of powdered sugar on top was enough.

When I was working on my all-chocolate dessert cookbook, I solicited recipes from all my friends and their friends.  That’s how I discovered my favorite chocolate cake recipe—Devil’s Food Cake.  It’s made with cocoa. 
Devil’s Food Cake – serves 12 (adapted from Chocolate on the Brain
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature, + more for greasing
1 1/3 cups boiling water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups Chocolate Icing   
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
To make it easier to remove the cake from two 8- or 9-inch cake pans, cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom of each pan.  Place the papers into the pans and wipe them with a bit of butter.  Set aside. 
In a bowl, stir together the boiling water and cocoa and set aside to cool.  The boiling water brings out the cocoa’s flavor. 
Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on low speed until well blended.  Add half the cocoa mixture and beat until blended. 
Add the flour, baking soda and salt and beat on low speed just until blended.  Add the remaining cocoa mixture and beat again until blended.  Do not beat the batter too much or the cake will be tough. 
Pour the batter evenly into the pans and shake them from side to side several times so the batter spreads to the sides.  Bake on the middle rack, at least 2 inches apart if possible, for 30-35 minutes (for 8-inch pans) or 25-30 minutes (for 9-inch pans), or until the cakes pull away from the sides of the pans and a cake tester or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes.  At this point you can cover and refrigerate overnight, if need be. 
Loosen the cakes by sliding a knife around the edges of each pan.  Place a plate or cooling rack over the top of each cake layer.  Carefully turn over the plates/racks and cake pans together so the cakes slip out.  If the pans are still hot, use potholders.  If the cakes stick, hit the bottom of the pan with the flat of your hand.  
Let the cakes cool to room temperature upside down.  Remove the wax paper from the bottom of each cake. 
To ice the cake, put one layer, bottom side up, on a large plate or tray and spread some icing over the top with a knife.  (Check this Mom Cooking Tip to make clean-up easier.) 
At this point don’t ice the sides.  Carefully place the second layer, bottom side down, on top of the first layer.  Spread some icing over the top layer, making sure not to press so hard that cake crumbs are dislodged into the icing.  Then ice the sides.  Spread any leftover icing on top of the cake. 
Serve cold or at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container or wrapped in foil or plastic wrap.


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