Although it's meant to be a traditional three-layer cake, I've rarely made it that way. It's been Po, a number one, a clown, an elephant, a gingerbread man, humpty dumpty, a Barbie, a fairy toadstool, a carousel, a castle, a dinosaur, a butterfly, a guitar, an apron, Blue from Blue's Clues, Dora and even Barney (to name just a few)!
This recipe was published in Fine Cooking magazine in February/March 1998 and my copy is well-stained and loved.
Recipe for Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from finecooking.com
10½ ounces (3 cups) sifted cake flour
1½ teaspoons soda
½ teaspoons salt (leave out if using salted butter)
1 cup boiling water
2½ ounces (¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsifted unsweetened natural (non-alkalized) cocoa
¾ cup cold water
½ cup cold plain yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla
6 ounces (12 tablespoons or ¾ cup) unsalted butter at room temp.
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°F. Take out butter and eggs to get to room temperature. Start boiling 1 cup water. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line the bottom of three 9-inch cake pans with parchment and lightly grease the sides.
Sift the flour, soda, and salt three times. (Although I don't always bother sifting, I did this last time I made it, and the cake seemed slightly lighter.)
In a mixing bowl, pour the boiling water over the cocoa and stir to blend. Refrigerate to cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally to speed cooling. Stir in the cold water, yogurt, and vanilla. If necessary, refrigerate again to cool to room temperature before continuing. (You don't want to melt the butter or curdle the eggs when you add this chocolate mixture later.)
Beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light in colour and texture (about 5-6 minutes). Whisk the eggs briefly and pour them slowly into the butter mixture. Mix for 2-3 minutes.
Spoon 1/3 of the flour mixture into the bowl. Beat on low speed until incorporated. Pour in half the cocoa mixture. Beat on low speed until blended. Spoon 1/3 of the flour in. Add remaining cocoa mixture. Add last of flour and beat. Divide among the cake pans.
Bake. Rotate the pans halfway through, until the cake just begins to shrink from the sides and a toothpick comes out clean (30-35 minutes). Cool on rack for 5 minutes. Invert. Peel off parchment. Cool completely.
Recipe for Mocha Milk Chocolate Frosting
24 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
4½ teaspoons instant espresso/coffee powder [optional]
scant ⅛ teaspoons salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1½ teaspoons vanilla
Bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate mixture. Put the chocolate, butter, optionally the espresso powder, and salt into a large bowl. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate until the mixture is cold and feels quite firm when you touch it, at least 2 hours. Beat the frosting.
"This is the best chocolate cake ever…and I don't usually like chocolate cake." — Jaime (8 years old, a friend of my daughter's)
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