i wasn’t sure i was going to be able to pull it off, but with a little help we did it: my husband and his twin sister celebrated their 27th birthday today and of course i named myself head cake maker. he flipped through the galleries online at cakecentral.com and chose THE HARDEST CAKE EVER. kinda.
i found the most amazing dark chocolate cake recipe on the internet and chocoholic’s cake consisted of two layers torted (would have been four full layers, but i destroyed one. perhaps on purpose, perhaps not. i’ll never tell. ::shifty eyes::), dark chocolate buttercream filling (another Cakecentral recipe) and chocolate buttercream iced, with fondant leaf cut-outs. My husband did the piping on top (the whorls and swirls of a cut tree stump), he also made the “split” in the stump. To achieve the knots on the sides, i unfroze some previously baked chocolate cupcakes, and my brother did some creative carving. we placed those in different areas against the cake and i iced over them. they looked really natural – i was very impressed. to make “bark,” i ran a fork lightly through the icing.
Laci’s (my sister in law) cake was standard vanilla cake 2 layers torted, apricot buttercream filling, vanilla buttercream icing, fondant flowers (the aforementioned duff roses and a few plain cut outs). my piping and detailing leaves a lot to be desired, yet, but this was a lot of fun to make.
A lot of work, but a very fun day doing this, overall. people don’t have enough birthdays in this family, i rarely get to make cakes like this so when their birthday rolls around, i get giddy … anyway, on to the chocolate cake:
2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup hot water (or hot coffee)
Heat the oven to 350. Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans however you grease cake pans. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl (or in your handy dandy stand mixer. I used Tallulah Grape, my purple KitchenAid). Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (or until you can lightly press your finger on the top of the cake and it springs back at you). Cool in its pan for at least 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool completely before icing. This was the most delightful, moist, delicious scratch cake I have ever made. Seriously. If you really love chocolate cake, this is a great recipe.
Instead of making plain white frosting and tinting it, I attempted a chocolate buttercream. It came out very well as far as covering the cake, however, when you try to pipe, it’s a little too thick for that unless you thin it out with corn syrup, or something. And i really didn’t want to mess with it after Erik said he liked it as it was (he said it tasted like a brownie).
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter (softened) — I used a full cup of shortening, instead of the 1/2 and 1/2
7 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I melted up some Vermont Lake Champlain dark chocolate bars – the Tanzanian 85% cacao bars – DELIGHTFUL. But regular unsweetened bars will do).
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar (now when I make icing, I just add cups at a time and taste as I mix. For this, I think I used about 3 cups of powdered sugar and was plenty. But we don’t like heavily sweet icing).
5 tablespoons of milk (I just eyeballed cream into it instead of milk, and mixed until I had the consistency I wanted).
Melt the chocolate. Let it cool. Cream the shortening (and butter if you’re using it). Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla. Add the sugar one cup at a time, beating well on medium. Icing does appear very dry but add your liquids and keep a wet cloth on it until you’re ready to use it. The recipe suggested adding 3-4 tablespoons of corn syrup to thin the icing, but like I said, we didn’t want to do that. If you’re looking for a thick, creamy, chocolatey buttercream, this works perfectly. But do thin it considerably if you’re trying to pipe with it.
the birthday kids, Laci and my hubs, Erik.