Friday, December 13, 2013

The Best Chocolate Cake

I baked this cake this year and last year for my grandmothers birthday (which was actually a long time ago. Obviously it has taken me months to write about it) The first time I made it, it was for the group that goes to her house on Sunday. I can usually only go over the summer, so I use the family as an excuse to test out new recipes. She loved it so much, she requested I make another one for her birthday dinner that she has with her 6 sons a few days later. I made it again this year because, instead of a private dinner, she had a bowling party for everyone in the family, including the grandkids. I also made a batch of red velvet cupcakes to make sure we had enough for everyone. These two were easy to bake together because they both require buttermilk, which is great because who ever actually uses all of their buttermilk…

This cake is probably one of my favorite things that I have made. It's that good. It really is fool proof. For this cake I doubled the recipe and cut off the tops so it was tall and smooth. I probably ended up cutting off too much, so I had a mountain of cake tops left over. I saved those and made cake pops with the leftover pudding/cream cheese mixture instead of icing and they were delicious. If I was just making cake pops, I think the pudding-y filling would be a really nice, lighter change to the typical regular cream cheese or store bought icing many recipes call for. 

See how the side is not perfectly smooth? Make sure that the walls of your cake pans stick straight up. I leaded my lesson and will never use cake pans with even the slightest slant in them ever again...

The Cake 
For the cake, I use the famous Hershey's chocolate cake recipe. It's incredible and I will never use another one. There is no point. I've come across it on countless different blogs and they all say this is the one. It's incredible moist, light and tender. Everything a chocolate cake should be. Not to mention its super easy too.

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

1 cup black strong coffee (I don’t drink coffee so I get mine from a coffee shop, usually the bar at whole foods)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients.
Some recipes say to sift the dry ingredients, others say don't. I've done both and I don't really have a preference. I think I usually do just because, but it works either way. 

2. In a separate bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients together.

3. This can actually be done by hand or with a mixer, pour the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just incorporated. And that's it…

4. Pour into two 9-inch cake pans and bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes. I've also done them as cupcakes and they were amazing as well. I honestly can't remember how long I baked them for. Maybe 20 minutes? I'll have to do it again and get a more exact time…

The Filling
1 package of room temperature cream cheese
1 package of vanilla pudding, prepared to the directions (aka with milk)
1 cup heavy whipping cream 
1 cup confectioners sugar 

  1. First mix the heavy whipping cream on high until stiff peaks form. Set aside
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the prepared pudding and room temperature cream cheese.
  3. Add the confectioners sugar to the cream cheese and pudding mixture.
  4. Fold in scoops of the whipped cream until desired consistency is reached.
  5. Refrigerate for about an hour before using. 

I actually don't really use a recipe for ganache. I just use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream and heat it over a double boiler. Then I take all of the chocolate I have and mix it in once the milk is hot. I've used chips, bakers chocolate and chocolate disks - sometimes all together. Most recipes say 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate to 1 cup of heavy cream, but it's not imperative that you have a perfect ratio, in my opinion. You can also boil the cream regularly without a double boiler and then pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Either way works in my opinion. So many times I've done it out of order and it always comes out great every time. I've even melted the chocolate first and then added the cream, which isn't a great way of doing it because it potentially not come out as smooth but sometimes I get side tracked in the kitchen and my instinct is to put chocolate over the double boiler and not the cream. As long as it doesn't burn (either the chocolate or the cream) it's probably going to work. I've also used sour cream when I didn't have heavy and it worked just as well. (In that case though, melt the chocolate first) 

***NOTE - made sure your cake pans are straight up on the sides. I used the pans at my dads house and they angle out of the sides. SO. ANNOYING. These sorts of pants shouldn't exist. This is why the sides of my cake aren't totally smooth. I could have carved it to be flush but I didn't want to risk really messing it up, and I thought I could put enough ganache so that it wouldn't be noticeable but it was regardless. 

uhhh THE BEST PART am I right?
I think the cake was a little too cold, but it allowed me to get a really thick layer of ganache, so no complaints!

Look how smooth that sucker is.

See how it is kind of rough on the side? After a certain point you have to stop fooling with it, otherwise the ganache sets and you lose that nice shine 
yeah that's right....

Happy (belated) Birthday, Mimi!