My family and I recently celebrated my younger sister’s birthday. For her birthday cake, I turned to a classic recipe for devil’s food cake. I topped it off with a rich chocolate cream frosting. My sister has a picky palate and she’s been pretty vocal about her thoughts on my tendency to sneak veggies into desserts. So in her honour I opted to bake her a simple cake with an intense chocolate flavour. It has a velvety texture and the sour cream deepens the flavours. I didn’t have enough frosting left over to pipe rosettes, so I neatly smoothed the frosting over the cake to give it a simple yet elegant look. As you’ve noticed, I didn’t get a chance to take some photographs of the cake before she blew out the candles, but I think it’s a good sign that after a celebratory meal everyone still managed to polish off their slice!
Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Yields 12 portions
1 1/2 ounces cocoa powder
7 1/2 ounces al-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 1/2 ounces light brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (35%)
16 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 350F.
2) Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust with cocoa powder.
3) Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
4) Stir the boiling water, chopped chocolate, instant espresso powder, and cocoa powder together in a bowl until smooth. Set aside.
5) Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
6) Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
7) Add the sour cream and vanilla, beating until combined.
8) Reduce the speed and slowly add the flour mixture in three additions. Alternate with the chocolate mixture in two additions. Do not overbeat.
9) Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Gently tap the pans on the counter to release the air bubbles. Bake the cake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with a few crumbs.
10) Set the cake pans on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
11) Flip the cakes out of the pans and let cool completely.
1) Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
2) Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
3) Pour the cream over the chocolate.
4) Add the corn syrup and let sit for 5 minutes with a cover on.
5) Gently whisk the frosting until smooth.
6) Stir in the vanilla.
7) Refrigerate the frosting for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Stir the frosting every 15 minutes as it sets.
1) Line the edges of a cake stand with 4 strips of parchment paper. This helps keep the platter clean as you frost the cake.
2) Place one layer of the cake on the cake stand. Use an offset spatula to spread some frosting on top, right up to the edge. Repeat with the other layers.
3) Once all the layers have been stacked, frost the side of the cake.
4) Delicately remove the parchment paper strips.
5) Store the cake in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.
If you are baking this cake in advance, wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and foil once they have completely cooled. You can freeze the cakes for up to 1 month. Thaw the cakes before unwrapping them.