Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

100th Post: Rich Chocolate Cake

Here it is: my one hundredth post! Hard to believe that I’ve found so many things in my kitchen to blog about over the last year, but I’ve got to say that I don’t know if I would have made it this far if it weren’t for all the positive feedback that I've received. Thank you, readers!

So here we are. One hundred posts. I thought I’d celebrate it with a cake.

Okay, honestly, the cake was really for a coworker’s birthday, but the timing worked out pretty well. Cake it is.


I’ve made this cake twice before. The first time, I was living in my little Pennsylvania apartment. My closest group of friends were the other psych/ animal behavior grad students, and of the 6 of us, 3 had April birthdays. We decided to have one dinner to celebrate. The second was hubby’s birthday, several years later, during our first year of living together.

I’m pretty sure that I had only made two layers both of these times, pouring the batter into two round cake pans, and I can’t quite remember why. This time around, I planned to do three layers, as the recipe calls for. Even better, I found this nonstick cake pan in my cupboards, leftover from the people who own this place and moved out in a hurry, so I could count on at least one layer coming out nicely.


A sure sign that I’ve had this recipe a long time is having actually handwritten the recipe on a piece of paper, even though it is readily available on allrecipes.com. This was before the days of smart phones/ tablet computers! Also apparently before the days when I could afford ink for my printer.


Start off with some flour. Add baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and set it aside.


Here’s where the “rich chocolate” part of the title comes in: a whole cup of unsweetened baking cocoa.


And pour two cups of boiling water into it.


Whisk it until it’s smooth and let it cool completely.


If you’re impatient like me, pull some of those frozen lunch box blocks out of the freezer and use them to speed the process up a little bit.


Hokay, time for the next part. Cream together butter and sugar, as so many other recipes also begin with.


Then beat in four eggs, one at a time, beating after each one.


And mix until well-blended. Add some vanilla.


Then alternate between the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture, adding both in small increments.



Until it looks like this!


Pour it into your three cake pans. I’ve seen people tap the pans on the counter to get the air bubbles out. I don’t know if that’s necessary or not, but I did it.


And then bake at 350 degrees. Piece of cake.


I let them cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes to give them a chance to set.


And then I used a scraper and gravity to turn them all out to finish cooling. Luckily, no major catastrophes. I had greased those pans pretty thoroughly.



After they cooled entirely, I whipped up a tiramisu filling simply because we had marscapone cheese in the fridge and I had no idea what else to do with it. Thanks, google. Used my really ugly yellow bowl because I wasn’t thinking of how ugly it would make the filling look in pictures.


And then I made some regular frosting with confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla, milk, and cocoa powder.


I just let the mixer go on and on and on, since I discovered while making Christmas cookies that a little extra time of whipping frosting makes a big difference.


Okay, time to start assembling.

Step one: slather half of the tiramisu filling all over one of the cakes. The cake had cooled entirely by this point, but it was still soft and crumbly, so this actually took me a really long time. I really wanted to avoid having crumbs in the frosting and filling, so I was trying really hard to be gentle.


Plop on your next layer, then realize that your cakes are uneven. Perhaps from batter shifting as I put them in the oven?


In retrospect, I could have gotten creative with a large serrated knife to even them out, but I didn’t think of that until afterward, so here I am committing to a lopsided cake by putting on the rest of the tiramisu filling.


Put that third layer on and giggled a little bit. I put all three layers on bottom-up, but that didn’t really fix the problem of them rising in the center, did it? Definitely should have used a large knife. Oops.


And then I started in with the frosting. Again, the cake was super delicate so this was a long process. I started with the top layer and worked my way down, filling in cracks between layers as I went.


Not too bad. Right? Don’t laugh at me.


Okay, story time.

That first time I made this cake, I made it the day before our dinner gathering at my apartment. I wanted to cover it, but I wasn’t sure how. I had plastic wrap, but of course I knew that that would be pretty messy when it came time to remove the plastic. Toothpicks would have been a great idea to hold the plastic up off the frosting, but what grad student living on a stipend has toothpicks in her cupboard? Not me. Then a flash of (what seemed at the time to be) brilliance hit: Uncooked spaghetti looks an awful lot like toothpicks. It felt silly to be sticking spaghetti in my cake, but I didn’t have any better ideas. I figured I could just pull the pieces back out when I was ready to serve. I didn’t count on the fact that the moisture of the cake would soften the spaghetti pieces, leading them to break off. I didn’t even realize it until I was actually eating the cake with my friends, when I found a piece of uncooked spaghetti in my piece. I laughed and owned up to it, which turned out to be a good thing, because one friend looked really relieved as he said, “Oh, that explains it. I was afraid to ask.”

This time around, I had purchased a plastic cake platter with a cover, and this was way better.


And then I brought it to work. I was tempted to steal a piece first just so I could get a nice picture of it, but I settled for waiting for my coworker with the birthday to discover the cake whole. I ended up using my phone to take a picture of a slice served on a fancy-dancy paper plate afterward. This is how I roll.


It was pretty yummy, not gonna lie.

Oh goodness, will I have to do this for every coworker’s birthday now?


  1. Chocolate Cakes really excites me and this is one of my favorite of all time. Thanks for sharing this recipe.