When you were little, did you ever beg your mom for a Ding Dong, Little Debbie, or Ho-Ho? Those wrapped packages with little chocolate cakes stuffed with sweet white filling in the center? They were conveniently right at eye level and within easy reach of every kid who came in the store. Oh how I begged.
Occasionally she would say yes and I would be in heaven. I would inhale it and then all that was left was the plastic wrapper. I always wanted more, and wound up a little let down when it was all gone. A momentary bliss that never lasted long enough.
But now I can have all I want. That’s right folks, I’ve put together a couple of my favorite recipes and made a Ding Dong in a larger cake size with plenty for second helpings.
This is a rich chocolate layer cake with what I think is the best filling, pure vanilla whipped buttercream studded with vanilla seeds from the vanilla paste I use. Only this one is a little different. You start by making a slurry of milk and flour (use gluten-free blend if needed), cook it until thickened, and then let it cool. When whipped with softened butter, you get all the flavor with a much lighter texture, some might even say heavenly. This is an old trick that I learned from my grandma. You may hear it referred to as ermine icing, butter roux icing, or boiled milk icing. I call mine a frosting because it is being beaten into butter making it fluffy, but because it is cooked and starts out thin, technically some prefer to call it an icing.
The cake is an all-purpose chocolate cake that bakes up equally as well in a 9×13-inch pan as it does in two round pans. This makes it perfect to take to pot luck suppers, church gatherings, and progressive dinners. This is one of the moistest, tenderest cakes I’ve ever made and it is just as delicious using gluten-free flours as it is with regular all-purpose flour.
If you are new to making layer cakes, the biggest trick to making them work is to be sure that the cake layers are completely cooled before trying to assemble the cake. If you are impatient, you will wind up with melted frosting that squishes out the second you touch it and cake layers that slide off. It isn’t a pretty sight – take your time and you’ll be much happier with the results.
And another trick that professional bakers use is to bake the layers in advance, let them cool and assemble the cake. Instead of frosting it right away, they spread a very thin layer of the frosting over the entire cake, sealing in the crumbs so the frosting will go on perfectly smooth. This is called a crumb coat and works like a charm.
You can use this as a birthday cake and people would be delighted to blow out candles if they knew it meant they would get a slice of this cake! So the next time you are throwing a party or having guests over for dinner, you can make this cake and give them a bite of their childhood memories!
Enjoy and Happy Chocolate Monday!
Use a gluten-free flour blend that contains xanthan gum for the best texture. I use this homemade blend and keep it handy for all my baking. You can also use a packaged blend such as those from King Arthur Flour, Pamela’s, or Bob’s Red Mill (be sure to use the new 1-to-1 Baking Flour).
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 2-1/2 cups [300g] gluten-free flour blend with xanthan gum* plus 1/2 cup [56g] ground almond meal)
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup organic olive or vegetable oil (neutral flavor)
- 1 large egg, optional but recommended for gluten-free version
- 2 tbsp vinegar (white or apple cider)
- 2-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups water
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk, or as needed
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9-inch) round cake pans and dust with cocoa powder.
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a measuring cup combine the oil, egg (if using), vinegar, vanilla and water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Divide equally between the two prepared pans.
- Bake in hot oven for about 25 minutes, spinning the pans halfway through the baking time, or until fine crumbs cling to a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake layers.
- Cool in pans for 10 to 15 minutes, remove from the pans and place upright on wire cooling racks and cool completely.
- The cake layers can be baked a day or two in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated. If you are using gluten-free flours, cakes are usually better a day or two after baking.
- Make the Filling: Whisk together flour and milk in a small saucepan making sure there are no lumps. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Pour into the bowl of your standing mixer and let cool completely, stirring occasionally.
- Once the flour/milk mixture has cooled, add the butter, vanilla and sugar to the bowl. Beat with mixer on high for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Set aside.
- Make the Frosting: Beat the butter and cocoa powder together. Alternate the milk and powdered sugar until your desired consistency is reached. Stir in vanilla. Beat on high until light and fluffy. Refrigerate if needed to firm up the frosting slightly (especially if it is a hot summer day).
- Assemble the Cake: For a two-layer cake, leave the cake layers whole as they are. If you want a four-layer cake, split each cake layer in half horizontally with a serrated knife.
- Place the bottom layer topside down on serving plate. If making a 2-layer cake, top the cake layer with all of the filling, spreading it to the edges and place the second layer on top, rounded side up. Press down gently, helping to spread the filling all the way to the edge. If you are making a 4-layer cake, use 1/3 of the filling between each layer.
- Cover the entire cake with a very thin coating of the frosting and place it in the refrigerator to firm up. This crumb coat holds any loose crumbs and will help you get a perfectly frosted cake every time!** After cooling for 20 minutes, remove the cake from the refrigerator and finish frosting. Slice and serve.
- Yield: 1 (9-inch) layer cake; about 8 servings
- * If your gluten-free flour blend does not include xanthan gum, add 1/4 tsp to the dry ingredients before mixing.
- ** The cake can be made up to the point where you put on the crumb coat up to a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
Create a New Tradition Today!
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