Everyone loves chocolate. I always seem to be on the hunt for the “best” chocolate cake recipe. Endless trials, to the delight of my family and friends, have led me to what I believe truly is the ultimate chocolate cake recipe. And I want to share it with you.
One of the finest bakers in this country isn’t a celebrity and doesn’t have a show on the Food Network. Her name is Flo Braker and I am lucky to know her. One of the nicest human beings you could possibly meet, Flo is a baking master. When you open any of her cookbooks you enter her classroom. Her recipes may seem intimidating to beginning bakers, but that is because she gives you all the information you need to get the same results she has perfected over the years.
Every time I make one of Flo’s recipes I learn something new; a new technique, a reason why something reacts the way it does, why you need certain ingredients combined in a special way. It is always worth any extra effort or time because the final product is meltingly tender, full of flavor, and by far the best thing you have ever baked!
If you want to be a better baker and do not have Flo’s cookbooks, run to the nearest bookstore or jump online and buy them. Line them up on your bookshelf, work your way through each one, and you too will become an outstanding baker! I have all of her books and I use them often. Take a look and you’ll agree you need these books in your library! Flo is either the author or is featured in the following:
- The Simple Art of Perfect Baking
- Sweet Miniatures: The Art of Making Bite-Size Desserts
- Baking for All Occasions: A Treasury of Recipes for Everyday Celebrations
- The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook: Become a Better Baker with 135 Foolproof Recipes and Tried-And-True Techniques
- Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers
- Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier: At Home with the Women Who Shape the Way We Eat and Drink
- Fine Cooking Cookies: 200 Favorite Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Bars & More
- Food & Wine 2009 Annual Cookbook
When you see a recipe with a lot of steps, your first impulse may be to turn the page to a “simpler” one. The truth is, when a recipe writer has taken the time and effort to write out details directions, it is so that you can get excellent results on a regular basis. Never be afraid of long recipes. Look at them as another way of taking a class or learning new information that will give you lighter cakes, more consistently roasted chicken, or the perfect pie crust.
If you prep all of your ingredients ahead of time (mise en place), you won’t have to stop to reach for ingredients in the middle of mixing the batter. If you forgot to grease the pans and have to do it after you’ve mixed the batter, your cake won’t rise quite as high as it would if you poured it straight into the prepared pans and placed them immediately into the hot oven.
Cake flour is very important in this recipe to give you the tenderness of a professionally baked cake. It is a highly specialized type of wheat flour with much lower protein/gluten content. It is very finely milled and you will notice how delicate it appears compared to the normal all-purpose flour. This milling process gives you a fine grain that readily absorbs fats so they will be evenly distributed throughout the cake.
The recipe calls for sifted cake flour. This means that you sift it twice into a separate bowl and then gently scoop it into a measuring cup before leveling it off with a straight edge. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but it greatly affects the amount of flour and will make a huge difference in the final product.
If you prefer to make this recipe into cupcakes, they travel well and are always a welcome treat, gift, or dessert after a lovely dinner.
If you want to be the hit of the office and the one person everyone asks to bake their birthday cake for them, make this cake just once and share it with them. You will be on everyone’s favorite list. Enjoy your celebrity status!
Happy Chocolate Monday!
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup unsifted cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting (see recipe below)
- Set a rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper. Set aside.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a separate bowl; set aside.
- Place the cocoa in a small bowl. Add the 1/2 cup lukewarm water, whisk to combine and set aside to cool.
- Pour the buttermilk, 1/2 cup water, and the vanilla into a liquid cup measure.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl, and whisk together to combine the yolks and whites.
- Place the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, preferably fitted with a flat beater. Cream the butter on medium speed until the butter is smooth and lighter in color, about 30 to 45 seconds.
- Reduce the speed to low; add the sugars in a steady stream. Then stop the machine and scrape down the sides. The mixture will appear sandy. Increase the speed to medium again, and cream until the mixture is light in color, fluffy in texture, and appears as one mass, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- With the mixer still on medium speed, pour the eggs in very slowly. Continue to cream, scraping the sides of the bowl at least once, until the mixture appears fluffy and velvety.
- Stop the machine and spoon in the cooled cocoa mixture. Turn the mixer back up to medium speed and mix just until incorporated.
- Using a rubber spatula stir in 1/4 of the flour mixture. And then 1/3 of the buttermilk mixture stirring to blend together. Repeat this procedure, alternating dry and liquid. With each addition, scrape the sides of the bowl, and continue mixing until smooth, never adding liquid if any flour is visible.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and spread it level. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the center springs back slightly when touched lightly and the sides contract from the pan.
- Place the cake pans on a rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely before frosting with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting or the frosting of your choice.
- Yield: two 8-inch layers
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp hot tap water
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Chop the chocolate finely and melt over a double boiler, stirring until it is smooth and shiny. Remove from heat.
- Sift the sugar over the chocolate. Add the hot water. Then stir to combine with a rubber spatula. The mixture will thicken to a chocolate paste.
- Add 1 egg and stir to combine before adding the other egg. Stir in the vanilla.
- Place the butter in the bowl of your mixer and beat until smooth. Add about 1/2 of the chocolate mixture to the butter, beating gently until smooth. Add this mixture to the remaining chocolate and stir until smooth with a rubber spatula. Use immediately.
- Yield: Enough to frost two 8-inch cake layers