It’s a New Year, and a new blog…
I suppose I should make some kind of blog-related New Year’s resolution, but I’m afraid that may jinx the blog to the same fate as all those other resolutions… exercise more, eat less cake (ha! Like that’ll happen). So instead, how about I just make a vague resolution to bake lots and share my recipes, tips and tricks, in a somewhat regular manner?
Now, I’m not one of those people who likes to keep secrets. Well, not when it comes to recipes anyway. One of the things I love most about baking is sharing what I bake with people, and seeing them enjoy it. But there are only so many people I can bake for. So to me, the next best thing is to share the recipes that I love.
I thought I would start off by sharing one of my all-time favourite recipes. See? No secrets here.
This devil’s food cake is quite honestly the best chocolate cake I have ever had. It has a deep dark chocolate flavour, without being too rich. It manages somehow to be both light and fluffy, and incredibly stable. It is just as suited for tiered or carved cakes as it is for splitting and filling with good ol’ whipped cream.
Does it work as cupcakes, I hear you ask? It sure does…
Does it keep well? Yep! As cupcakes it lasts well for several days, and when baked as a cake- split, filled and covered with ganache and then fondant, you can get a good week out of it, following the three-day bake/ganache/fondant timeline, with several days to eat it after the event.
I use this cake as the base for so many different variations. Switch out some of the flour for ground hazelnuts and add a splash of Frangelico with the coffee, ditto for ground almonds and Amaretto. You can leave the coffee out if you’re making it for kiddies (this is my go-to recipe for children’s birthday cakes) and if you prefer a cake with a lighter chocolate taste, use a chocolate that is lower in cocoa solids, or leave out the cocoa powder. You can also switch the vanilla extract for other flavoured extracts or oils.
Told ya it was versatile, didn’t I?
And even better, this recipe is great with or without gluten. It’s one of the free recipes where even I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the gluten-y and gluten-free versions (and I have a ridiculously sensitive palate.)
The original recipe is from Debbie Brown’s Dream Wedding Cakes book. I’ve twiddled with some amounts, switched up the sugars and added some cocoa for extra chocolatey-ness, and in the gluten free version I’ve suggested gluten free flours and added Xanthan gum to improve the structure of the cake.
If the cake/s aren’t going to be eaten the same day, or are being used in a layered, decorated cake, they will benefit from a light brush with simple syrup. Simply heat together 250g sugar with 250ml water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved and leave to cool. Before icing cupcakes or filling a cake, brush on some of the syrup with a pastry brush.
- 225ml boiling water
- 1 ½ teaspoons instant coffee powder (optional)
- 100g dark chocolate (50 – 70% cocoa solids)
- 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 175g caster sugar
- 175g light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 350g plain flour*
- 1 teaspoon Xanthan gum (for gluten free only)
- 1 Tablespoon Dutch cocoa
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 200g sour cream
- Preheat oven to 160°C for cakes, or 180°C for cupcakes.
- Line the base and sides of an 8" round cake tin with baking paper, or line two 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake papers.
- Measure the boiling water in a heatproof bowl or jug and stir in the coffee. Break or chop up the dark chocolate into small pieces and add to the water and coffee, stirring until the chocolate melts. Leave to cool.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, Xanthan gum, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if you are using a hand-held mixer), beat the softened butter, caster sugar, brown sugar and vanilla together on medium speed until very light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs one at a time. The mixture may look a little curdled at this stage. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture alternately, beating briefly between additions to combine. I usually spoon in the flour with one hand while pouring the chocolate mix in with the other, but you can add them alternately if you find that easier.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the sour cream and mix on low speed until just combined. Pour into lined cake tin or cupcake papers.
- Bake for 1 ¼ - 1 ½ hours for an 8” cake, or approximately 18 minutes for cupcakes. The cakes will spring back when touched lightly with a finger, and a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean.
Cupcakes can be removed from the muffin pans straight away, but whole cakes benefit from being left to cool completely in the tin, covered with foil, overnight before turning out.
*Gluten free flours I used: 150g tapioca starch + 140g brown rice flour + 60g potato starch.
The gluten free version of this cake will stand up to some light carving for shaped cakes. I recommend chilling it before carving, and filling and coating in chocolate ganache before fondant for stability.
Note: A couple of awesome readers have successfully made this recipe using yoghurt instead of sour cream. Reader Adrienne tried it with lactose free yoghurt and it also worked well. If you want to try it, just line a sieve with paper towels, place it over a bowl and pile your yoghurt onto the paper towels. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, and some of the excess liquid will drain away, leaving you with super thick yoghurt. Then just use an equal weight of the yoghurt instead of the sour cream.
*Post and recipe updated 27/5/13 to give ingredient amounts for a slightly higher cake.