The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe
I've found my new favorite chocolate cake. So favorite, in fact, that I don't have to do any more recipe testing or comparison. This one takes the cake...and yes, I actually just said that.
It's adapted from Sweetapolita's 6 Layer Rich Malted-Chocolate Toasted Marshmallow Cake, which in it's entirety, is easily one of the best cakes I've ever made (you should make it!). But in searching for the chocolate cake to trump them all, I compared it with recipes from Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Gourmet (via Epicurious).
Something you should know before you make this, is that my IDEAL chocolate cake is:
-Just the right amount of dense
-Intensely moist and fudgy
-Super chocolatey and dark
-Sturdy enough to layer/hold lots of frosting, delicate enough to fall apart once you start eating it
In describing to a friend recently why I would use a certain flavor in a frosting for a cake rather than a topping for a brownie, I mentioned that ideally with cakes and cupcakes the experience you have is the frosting and the cake joining together in your mouth to create one melded flavor and combined texture. Sure, you can tell the components distinctly from one another, but it feels significantly different to me than when you're eating a brownie or a cookie with a topping. If the vehicle is too firm or too dense then the topping/frosting won't combine with it, and they'll be somewhat separate experiences.
This is what defines the perfect cake for me. Intense flavor, with the perfect texture to combine instantly in your mouth with the chosen frosting.
This is that cake.
CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYERS
MAKES one 9” 3-layer cake
3oz semisweet chocolate
1.5 cups strong, hot coffee
2.5 cups + 1 tablespoon AP flour (330g)
3 cups sugar (600g)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon cocoa (135g)
1 tablespoon baking soda
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cups vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but it boosts chocolate flavor!)
3 9" round cake pans
cake goop & silicone brush
measuring cups/mixing bowls
stand mixer with beater attachment
Preheat your oven to 350° F. If you want to be a good baker, make SURE you have a thermometer INSIDE your oven. Do not trust your oven settings. Things will never come out how you want them to if you don't know the exact temperature with which you're working.
Prepare three 9" round cake pans*: Use your cake goop with a little bit of cocoa; or grease them fully with butter or shortening, line the bottoms with parchment rounds, grease the paper, and then throw some cocoa in - tap it around to cover the bottom and sides - and tap the excess into the next pan and repeat. Add more if needed.)
Add 3oz semisweet chocolate to 360ml** strong, hot coffee (1.5c***) and let sit for 1 minute. Then whisk to combine. (If you're using bar chocolate rather than callets, break it up into app. 1"x1" pieces before adding it to the coffee).
Sift into bowl of stand mixer: -330g all-purpose Flour (2.5c + 1Tb) -600g white sugar (3c) -135g dark cocoa (1c +1Tb) -1TB baking soda -1.5tsp baking powder -1.5tsp salt
In a measuring cup, whisk together: -360ml buttermilk (1.5c), room temperature**** -180ml vegetable oil (.75c) -3 eggs -1TB vanilla extract -1/2tsp almond extract
Add coffee/chocolate mixture to your buttermilk/eggs mixture. Whisk to combine.
With mixer running on low, slowly pour in your liquid mix into your dry ingredients. Let mix for 1 minute on medium speed (essentially as fast as possible without major splatter), stop to scrape the sides and bottom, and mix for 1 more minute. The batter will be very thin - don't worry!
Distribute evenly between your three cake pans. You can do this by eyeing it, or you can be anal like me and put each pan on the scale and gradually fill/switch pans to try to get them measured out almost exactly even.
Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate pans in oven. Start checking after another 10 minutes. You want a top that springs back when you touch it gently, and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center to come out clean (or almost clean is okay - a few crumbs sticking are fine, liquid batter is not). If at 25 min (total) they're not done, that's fine! Keep checking in 2 minute increments, or if at your first check they were CLEARLY far from being done, give it another 4 and then start checking more frequently.
Let your cakes cool in the pans on cooling racks for at least 30 minutes. This is important as they'll naturally contract a bit and easily pull away from the sides. Also, they'll firm up so they won't fall apart. This is a pretty delicate and soft cake, so if you're going to frost it somewhat soon you should absolutely let them cool completely before attempting. This is the kind of cake that is probably easier to frost when the layers are slightly chilled in the fridge, or half defrosted from the freezer.
So...I think that's it for this one. Go forth and bake cake!
*The original recipe calls for three 8" round pans because it makes thicker layers which you then split into six layers. I, however, didn't want an epically tall cake this time around, and wanted a larger/shorter one that I could cut easily into more slices. The thicker your layers the more baking time they'll need, fyi.
**Similar to having an oven thermometer, if you want to bake really well, you must own a kitchen scale. Mine, I think, was about $25 from BB&B, and works perfectly well. Weighing your ingredients allows a much higher level of precision, which can make or break some baked goods. It also means you don't have to use 8,000 measuring cups!
***c = cup. Tb = tablespoon. Tsp = teaspoon.
****many recipes will call for room temperature ingredients. sometimes this is not super important, such as here with milk and eggs. other times, such as with butter when you're creaming it with sugar, it's extraordinarily important.