I generally prefer to make white cakes over chocolate ones just because there’s so much more creative license I can take with a blank canvas. I can add flavorings, seasonal fruits, and variations to the frosting. But this time, I had to try out this recipe for this old-fashioned chocolate cake. I can’t remember the last time I had a really great piece of homemade chocolate layer cake, and I don’t mean anything that came out of a boxed mix, made at home. It was also the perfect welcome-home-I-missed-you sweet treat for Mr.S, on his return from a business trip to Las Vegas. So why not, I had all the ingredients lying around my kitchen: Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate, farm fresh duck eggs, milk, flour, and butter.
So what makes this cake “old-fashioned”? Well, I imagine it to be similar to what moms in the post-war era whipped up at home for their kids, or similar to one of those huge behemoth layer cakes under its cake dome you see at diners. Imperfect, but perfect all at once. Just a dense delicious cake with billowy gratuitous amounts of rich frosting. With none of the association to descriptors like flourless, ganache, fondant, mousse… Elegantly regal in its own right, a no fuss all American chocolate cake just waiting to be eaten with a tall glass of milk.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from Baking Illustrated
1 1/4 cups unbleached AP flour
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup nonalkalinized cocoa
2 tsp instant espresso or coffee powder
1 cup + 2 Tbsp whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 recipe Dark Chocolate Frosting (below)
1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans and cover bottom with rounds of parchment paper. Grease and flour the paper and sides of pans.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, beating 1 minute after each egg.
3. Combine and whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and espresso powder in a medium bowl. In another bowl, mix together milk and vanilla. With mixer on low, add 1/3 of dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture, then 1/3 of the liquid ingredients. Repeat this process until everything is well combined. Beat for an additional 30 seconds.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans. Bake 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, invert and remove the pans, and finish cooling on racks.
5. Assemble: Once completely cool, frost one layer, then add the second layer of cake. Frost the top and sides. Perfect corners or smooth edges aren’t necessary!
Dark Chocolate Frosting
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
1. For the frosting: In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream, corn syrup and salt to a low boil. Put the chocolate into a large mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and whisk to combine until everything is smooth.
2. With a mixer on medium, add in the sugar and vanilla. Add one piece of butter at a time to the mix, beating after every addition until no more lumps remain. Let cool in the refrigerator for 10-15 min or until the frosting comes to a thick spreadable consistency.