Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

My husband is not a big cake fan, and when he does eat cake, he prefers white. But I made this the other night, and one of the two rounds I made were gone in ten minutes, I kid you not. And this time, it wasn't just my gluttony to blame! This recipe came from our dad, who got it from a culinary class he took a few years back, and I have never tried one that's quite as good. It isn't even that complicated!

Most chocolate cake is so rich it leaves you chugging a full gallon of milk with each bite, it seems, but not so much with this recipe. Like the title says, it's almost bittersweet, which makes it stand apart from any other cake.

I hope you have a scale. There's no getting around it with this recipe...you need one.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

9 oz All Purpose flour
3 oz cocoa powder
14 oz granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 oz vegetable oil
8 oz buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
6 oz hot coffee

I'll write amounts into the instructions so that you don't have to keep scrolling up...that drives me nuts when I'm trying to follow a recipe on a blog.

Sift dry ingredients (9oz flour, 3 oz cocoa powder, 14 oz sugar, 2 tsp soda, 1/2 tsp salt) into mixer bowl. Mix for about thirty seconds on a low speed until they are well combined. I learned today that the sifting is very much a good idea. I'm all for cutting corners on occasion, but if your cocoa powder is lumpy like mine from sitting in the cupboard for so long, do yourself a favor and sift. Get the chunks out to make sure your batter will be silky smooth.

This is the cocoa powder that I used, and I bought it because of Dad's recommendation. Something about the combination of natural and Dutched cocoa really works for this cake (but I don't think it'll ruin your cake if you don't feel like making a special trip to the store for it). Almost every grocery store I've been to has it.

Whisk together all liquid ingredients except coffee (5 oz vegetable oil, 8 oz buttermilk, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 eggs). Blend well.

I realized as I was getting ready to pour everything together that I used up all my buttermilk making a batch of muffins, but I remembered (thank goodness) a little trick for replacing buttermilk when you're baking. It works in most recipes, but I'd be careful using the substitution if buttermilk happens to be one of the main ingredients. Common sense and all that.

Anyway, to make "buttermilk", simply pour a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into the measuring cup and fill it the rest of the way with milk! Stir to incorporate well, and let it sit for about five minutes to let all of the magic happen, then add it to your recipe like the real thing! I've done that twice now with this recipe, and I can't tell the difference

Add about three quarters of the wet mixture to the dry, and mix just to incorporate. Scrape the bowl really well, then add the remaining. That's a big thing with this cake. Don't be a sissy scraper! Get everything from the bottom of the bowl every time you add something in. Otherwise, half of your batter will be too thin and half will be gloppy when you go to pour it into your pan(s). Most batters are like that to some extent, but this one is an exceptional pain in the tush in that regard.

After the rest is incorporated.

3/4 Buttermilk mixture added.

 Finally, add the coffee (6 oz) to the batter. Pour it in slowly while the mixer runs on the lowest setting, and stop about halfway through to scrape the bowl. The batter will be very runny, so don't get too worried.

It should run off the spatula in a pretty thin stream when it's finished. Note the little lumps on the spatula? I shoulda sifted the cocoa powder...

This is a very moist cake, so extra precautions are needed to make sure it doesn't fall apart when you take it out of the pan. Start by spraying your pan(s) with a good non-stick spray, or grease them with butter. Make sure to get the sides really well! I discovered recently that Pam makes a spray specifically for baking, instead of just general cooking, and it works incredibly well.

Then trace the bottom of the pan onto a sheet of parchment paper and cut it out. Lay it along the bottom of your pan. If you feel like it, go ahead and cut out strips to line the sides, but I haven't had much of an issue with that, because you can cut along the sides with a knife.

Once you're done with that, pour your batter into your pan(s), making sure to divide equally if you're using more than one pan. This recipe makes exactly three pounds of batter, so weighing out one and a half pounds into each pan works perfectly. I used ten inch pans, so they came out considerably thinner than they would in, say, eight inch rounds. They baked in 25 minutes, but thicker will need upwards of 30, with the oven set to 350.

Voila! It doesn't seem to matter if you take them out of the pan before or after they've cooled. I've done it both ways, and because of the parchment paper, it slips out of the pan easily both ways.

Frost with your favorite frosting, dish up, and serve to the people you like best! 


  1. What kind of frosting did you use on this one?

    1. The Italian buttercream that was in the same cookbook. Thought about doing a post on it, but it's SO complicated...this is the only time I've made it right lol. Btw, if ever you make it, it's just as good with half the butter.

  2. Oh man, that looks good! But since I have no scale, no buttermilk, no Dutched cocoa, and no appetite for white flour, I guess I'll just go have some broccoli instead. :-D

  3. Dear Kara, This cake looks so moist and delicious. There is nothing better than a slice of chocolate cake. Thank you for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday. Blessings, Catherine

  4. G'day Kara! Love your step by step photo! YUM!
    View as party of this week's Foodie Friends Friends St Patrick's Day GREEN Recipes Party!
    Cheers! Joanne

  5. This looks so yummy! I love the dark chocolate color and the pure white frosting! Mmmm

  6. Oh yummo! We use the exact same cocoa powder and we make hot cocoa for breakfast nearly every morning! It's our staple. We don't find this in every store where we live... :( But when we go to that store that carries it we literally buy the whole shelf. Lol! You're right, the quality of the cocoa powder counts a lot, and it's important that is natural too.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. My sister loves to bake (http://jessicathebaker.wordpress.com/), I'll send her this link!

  7. Kara, this looks amazing. I love to bake with buttermilk. I love anything dark chocolate, and bittersweet is the best. :) Your tutorial is great, and the pictures are very helpful. Thank you so much for sharing this at Treasure Box Tuesday!