If I had to pick just one chocolate cake from my entire repertoire of cakes to eat and serve this would be the one. While my American Mud Cake is rich and decadent and amazingly delicious, this Quintessential Chocolate Cake is so versatile and all-encompassing that you could serve it to anyone for any occasion. Need a great chocolate cake for your nephew’s birthday? This is it. Need a refined cake for your cousin’s wedding? This is the one too. This cake is rich and moist and fudgy but also light and delicate. It seems contradictory but try it and you will see what I mean. The beauty of this cake is its fine texture and moist, tender crumb paired with full chocolate flavor. Here are some of the features of this recipe that make it a standout:
- Butter- This cake uses solid butter as the primary fat. This not only adds great flavor but also enables the incorporation of small air pockets that yield a fine, light, delicate texture.
- Sour Cream- The sour cream in this cake provides fat for amazing moistness but also acidity for tenderness.
- Chocolate and Cocoa- Using two types of chocolate gives the cake deep flavor and great texture at the same time.
- Baking Soda- While baking soda is often the primary leavening agent in chocolate cakes it is often added in too great a volume. There is a very delicate balance between keeping the cake light and not wiping out the chocolate flavor. One teaspoon neutralized the structure weakening acidity in the chocolate, sour cream and espresso yet still let the chocolate flavor shine through.
- All-purpose flour- Since this cake contains cocoa powder, that acts like a starch, the addition of all-purpose flour adds structure and texture balance to this tender cake.
For this cake I used Callebaut cocoa powder but any high quality cocoa powder that retains some of the cocoa butter fat will work well. The darker the cocoa the darker in color the cake will be and the deeper the flavor. This would also be wonderful with Cacao Barry Extra Brute, my favorite deep dark cocoa. I iced this cake with a very light and fluffy chocolate buttercream that is not excessively sweet and balances out the cake’s fudgy richness. Nevertheless, serve small slices of this cake. It packs a wallop of rich delicious intensity! This just may become your go-to chocolate cake too. Bake one up and let me know what you think! Happy baking!
- 4 ounces (114 grams) unsweetened chocolate (or as dark as is available) broken or coarsely chopped
- 4 ounces (120 milliliters) hot espresso or boiling water- ½ cup
- 1 ½ ounce (45 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder- ½ cup (I used Callebaut)
- 8 ounces (227 grams) all-purpose/plain flour 1 ½ cups
- 1 teaspoon (5milliliters) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (3 milliliters) salt
- 8 ounces (228 grams) unsalted butter, softened- 1 cup
- 14 ounces (396 grams) granulated sugar- 2 cups
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ½ tablespoon (25 milliliters) vanilla extract
- 8 ½ ounces (240 grams) sour cream- 1 cup
- 16 ounces (455 grams) unsalted butter softened- 2 cups
- 1 ounces (30 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder- 1/3 cup
- 4 ounces (120 milliliters) heavy whipping cream- ½ cup
- 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) espresso paste or 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) water
- 11 ounces (310 grams) powdered/confectioner’s sugar- 2 ¾ cups
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
- In a medium bowl combine chocolate and espresso and carefully whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. If necessary microwave for 30 seconds to get the chocolate to melt. Set aside to cool to room temperature
- Whisk together the cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a mixer bowl beat the butter and sugar for 2 minutes on medium-high power until light and fluffy; add the eggs one at a time with the mixer on medium until they are incorporated. Stir in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed add the cooled chocolate-espresso mixture and stir to combine. Sprinkle half of the dry ingredients followed by half the sour cream and repeat so that all the dry ingredients and sour cream is added. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and then beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute until smooth and light.
- Spread into cake pans and bake for 28-32 minutes until it tests clean with a toothpick. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes and then turn out to a cooling rack to cool completely or wrap in plastic wrap until needed. Each layer should be about 1 ¼ inches tall. Top and fill with Whipped Chocolate Frosting or your choice of buttercream. Enjoy!
- Beat the butter on high speed for 3 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the cocoa and beat one minute until well incorporated and smooth.
- Gradually add the whipping cream with the mixer on low speed. Add the espresso paste, vanilla and salt and mix to combine. Add the powdered sugar one third at a time. When all of the powdered sugar is added increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and smooth, about 1 minute. Use immediately or store for up to a week in the refrigerator. Rebeat the frosting before using.