Usually, when I think of chocolate cake, I think happy thoughts. If there is frosting on the cake, then I usually think of celebrations. If there are sprinkles, then the happiness and celebration factor is through the roof. But, for the first time in my life last week, I baked a chocolate cake complete with frosting and sprinkles, in the spirit of “Shake it Off” and “Let it Go.” Lately, there are some things that are going on that are just beyond my control and baking this cake was the perfect way to keep my brain from overdrive and endlessly worrying about things that I can’t fix. It also kept my hands busy, which prevents me from shooting off emails or messages that I would probably regret later. I must apologize for the lack of photos from the cake baking process. The lighting was especially abysmal, and it just seemed that every angle was a little bit off. But the process was very calming. This recipe, originally from Smitten Kitchen is easy to follow and there aren’t any fancy steps or ingredients. Perfect for the sort of mindset I was after, if that makes any sense.
By the time I had finished baking the cake, it was already 11:30 pm, and I didn’t have the energy to make the frosting or find the sprinkles. So I just left the cake to cool and went to bed. The next morning, I searched for a buttercream recipe while drinking my coffee. By then, I was in a much better mood and the frosting worked out exactly the way I imagined it would.
Please note that the chocolate buttercream recipe from Smitten Kitchen looks divine. And I would have totally used it, but I discovered that I didn’t have unsweetened chocolate, only cocoa powder. So substitutions had to be made.
I accidentally left the butter out overnight, and it was a fortuitous oversight on my part, because it made creating the buttercream frosting an absolutely serene process. The butter just smoothed right in with the powdered sugar and cocoa, and I was able to make the frosting with just a few twists of my wrist.
Usually, I am too impatient to wait of the cake to cool, and try to frost it warm. Please do not try this. You end up with a hot, hot mess. A delicious mess, but a mess that could have been avoided. This time, the cake had been cooling overnight, and it was at the perfect temperature to be frosted. So, I just layered the frosting on with gusto and swirled with conviction.
I even managed to find the sprinkles. Yes, the same sprinkles that I used for these cupcakes almost a year ago. I wonder if sprinkles have a shelf life? At the rate I’m going, I should be done with this canister in about 5 years or so.
Here is my finished cake! The cake is moist, soft and not too sweet, but with a distinct chocolate flavor. The cake recipe uses more brown sugar than white sugar, and I think that makes a difference in the taste and texture. Also, please note that the original Smitten Kitchen recipe calls for buttermilk, and while I’ve made it on my own in the past this time, for the sake of simplicity, I decided to just substitute unsweetened yogurt. And the frosting? Light as a feather and melt in your mouth.
The original recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. I used a different buttercream frosting recipe that used unsweetened cocoa instead, which I have also included below. .
Yields 1 generously frosted 8×8-inch cake.
Could also yield: 1 generously frosted 8-inch or 9-inch round cake, 12 very generously frosted cupcakes, or it could be doubled and baked in a 9×13-inch pan. Could also be scaled and stacked as a birthday cake.
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (145 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk (see Notes for other options)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
For the cake: Heat oven to 350°F (175°c). Line the bottom of an 8-inch square cake pan with baking paper. In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and mix until combined. Add buttermilk and mix again. The batter may look a bit lumpy. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, powder and salt. Shake over wet ingredients. Stir gently until combined. Pour batter into baking pan and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake 25-35 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and remove from baking pan. Allow cake to fully cool before frosting.
For the frosting:
1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
5 cups powdered sugar
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
Add cocoa to a large bowl. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. Mix after each addition. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
If the frosting appears to be too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears too wet, add more confectioner’s sugar, one tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. (Recipe is from Add a Pinch)