I’ve tried to make chocolate cake from scratch only once before. It was a total flop – literally. There was a deep, uncooked valley in the middle of the cake, and the edges were pretty ugly to look at. Pockmarked would be the best way to describe the appearance. I decided that chocolate cake is meant to come out of a box and said “never again!”
That is, until today, when I wanted something chocolately and good, but had almost nothing in the house to work with. No baker’s chocolate, no cake mix, no candy bars, no chocolate chips. I did, however, have baking cocoa, so I dug out my recipe books to see what I could find.
This recipe actually comes off the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box, with one exception: I used buttermilk instead of regular milk. I’d like to tell you it’s because of flavor, or acidity, or some pastry chef kind of reasoning, but the truth is that I had buttermilk and I didn’t have regular milk. I know! What kind of house is this?
Anyway, this cake is pretty easy. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
Preheat your oven to 350°F (about 176°C) and find your favorite baking pan. I used a 13x9x2 because I no longer have two usable round pans (one was commandeered to catch leaks during an ill-fated plumbing project). I also am not terribly fond of making layer cakes. I sprayed my pan with Baker’s Joy, which is much easier than greasing and flouring, but if you are out of Baker’s Joy, then you must grease and flour your pans. I’m sorry.
Get your sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and combine them in a large mixing bowl. I just mixed it up with a spoon until it looked consistent, but if you wanted to sift it together, I’m not going to stop you. I just didn’t feel like being that fussy. I mixed the dry ingredients in the bowl for my stand mixer, because I don’t do hand mixing unless I have no choice.
Once your dry ingredients are blended, add in all the wet ingredients EXCEPT for the boiling water. Mix everything on medium speed for two minutes. Now would be a good time to boil some water, if you haven’t already. You know what would be good for that? An electric kettle. You know what I don’t have? An electric kettle. Someday.
Once the stuff in your mixing bowl is done, turn the speed down to low (or Stir, if your mixer has that setting) and slowly stir in the boiling water. This will make your batter pretty runny, but that’s what is supposed to happen, so have no fear. Keep it mixing until the consistency is. . . consistent. Then pour the batter into your pan(s). Make sure you scrape the bowl to get it all out!
Bake your rounds for 30-35 minutes, or bake a 13x9x2 pan for 40-45 minutes. Use the toothpick test to check for doneness (toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Remove from the oven and cool on racks. If you’re using rounds, cool on the racks for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans to cool completely on the racks. For the one-panners out there, just cool it in the pan on the rack.
Once the cake is completely cool, you can frost it with your favorite frosting. Sure, you COULD go out and buy pre-made frosting, but if you made the cake from scratch you might as well make the frosting from scratch as well, right?
Usually, I frost my cakes with some variation of buttercream, but as I mentioned, I didn’t have any milk. Or confectioner’s sugar, for that matter. That led me BACK to my cookbooks for a frosting recipe that only needed things I had on hand. I found a recipe for Seven-Minute Frosting, which fit the bill. I’d never heard of Seven-Minute Frosting before, and it needed to be cooked, but I figured what the hey. You only live once.
Do you know what Seven-Minute Frosting is? Marshmallow. Why does no one tell me these things? Not that marshmallow is bad, it’s just a little disconcerting to see the ingredients in your mixing bowl turn into a confection that you were not expecting. If I had made a yellow cake, this might have been a disaster, but chocolate and marshmallow? Sign me up.
To make Seven-Minute Frosting (aka marshmallow), you will need:
- 2 egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (or, 2 tsps. light colored corn syrup)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- a hand mixer
- a double-boiler, or a pot and mixing bowl that fit together well enough that the bottom of the bowl will not touch the water in the pot when placed on top.
Start by putting your egg whites, sugar, water, and cream of tartar (or corn syrup) in the mixing bowl (or top of your double-boiler). Mix on high speed with a hand mixer for 30 seconds. Then, place over boiling water (make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water). Cook, beating constantly on high speed, for seven minutes or until stiff peaks form. Remember, stiff peaks wobble but they don’t fall down.
Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat for another 2 or 3 minutes or until it is think enough to spread. You’ll notice the mix getting nice and shiny, almost like satin. That’s when I got suspicious and stuck my finger in for a taste. Marshmallow!
OM NOM NOM