I recently decided to start trying my hand at cake making and decorating. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cupcake and cookie making/decorating, but each kind of baked goody presents a unique challenge. For me, it’s the variation that keeps it interesting! So don’t worry, I’ll get back to cupcakes and cookies, and I’ll throw in some fun and easy recipes in the not-too-distant future, but today I want to talk about cake making and decorating. Now, I’d like to preface this by saying I am, by no means, a cake expert. AT ALL. Like, not even in the slightest. But I think the very fact that I’m not an expert will help me explain to any other beginners out there how to make and assemble the perfect cake. So, let’s start with a perfectly chocolately cake recipe! Part 1: cake making. Stay tuned for Part 2: cake assembly!
The Perfect Chocolate Cake
Makes two 8″ cakes (about 1 1/2″-2″ high)
What you’ll need:
2 sticks (227 grams) butter
2 bars (200 grams) dark chocolate
1 cup milk (preferably whole milk, if you have it)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
In order to assemble and decorate the perfect cake, you need a good foundation. As in you need a good cake. The above recipe is my absolute-favorite-ultra-top-secret (ok, maybe not top secret, but I don’t share it with just anyone… So shhhhh) chocolate cake recipe. It makes an awesome and super moist cake to decorate. To make this cake, you’ll want to melt your butter in a microwave safe bowl. Add your milk and continue heating until the mixture is hot (don’t worry if the milk and butter separate so long as they’re hot). Once you have a hot mixture, break up your dark chocolate and stir it in with a rubber spatula. Keep stirring until the chocolate is completely melted, reheating it in 10 second increments if it starts to get cool.
Whisk in your baking cocoa, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract until completely combined. One at a time, start adding and whisking in your eggs. Be prepared to give you stirring arm a mini-workout on this step; Geez those eggs thicken the batter! Once your eggs are all stirred in, add your baking soda, baking powder, and, one cup at a time, your all purpose flour. Be prepared for some even thicker batter! “Oh, you think my stirring arm is looking rather muscular these days? Why thank you for noticing.”
Pour half of your batter into an 8″ cake pan. I recommend lining just the bottom with parchment paper for ease in removing it later. You can line all the way up the sides like I did in the picture above, but your won’t have clean edges like the first picture, where I had lined only the bottom of the pan (thanks to ButterYum for the suggestion). Bake your at 350* Fahrenheit (175* Celsius) for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. If your cake has puffed up and is no longer flat after baking, don’t worry! You can flatten out that top by pressing down on it with a damp paper towel (preferably several layers thick so as not to burn your hands on lava-hot cake. Wait, did someone say lava cake?!).
Go ahead and let your cakes cool down a bit before wrapping them up, but I recommend wrapping them while they’re still slightly warm. This will help them retain some of their moisture. Usually, when I’m making cakes to decorate, I like to make my cakes at least several days in advance. I then set my (double) wrapped cakes in the refrigerator so they’re nice and firm by the time I want to work with them (you can also freeze them if you’re making them more than a few days in advance). And don’t worry, since you wrapped them while they were still warm, they’re not going to dry out. So yes, I’m saying you can make your cakes in advance AND they’ll still be moist like they were baked a few hours ago. Awesome? I know!
Stay tuned for Part 2: The Assembly! Happy baking!
Recipe adapted from Cake. Paper. Party.