Amazing Chocolate Cake

It was my daughter’s anniversary today, so I decided to make a yummy dinner for her and her husband (and kids).  For dessert, I decided last night that I’d make a chocolate cake that I’d been eying the recipe for.  It is known as “That Chocolate Cake” and I found it on the Scharffen Berger web site and on Tastespotting. This cake was everything I was looking for, and it was super simple to make.  I believe this recipe is almost exactly the same as the recipe I’ve made for chocolate cupcakes (Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe) except that it calls for no vanilla. I followed it pretty much exactly as it appears on the web site listed above, except that I added vanilla.  The finished product was magnificent.  The cake was really dark, moist, but light at the same time.  The icing was bittersweet and creamy, but I prefer to use my own recipe you will find on this site under “Judy’s Famous Birthday Cake.”

Recipe is adapted from the Scharffen Berger recipe – “That Chocolate Cake.”


for the cake:

  • unsalted butter (for greasing pans)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup SCHARFFEN BERGER Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder (I used this brand of cocoa and after tasting the cake, I’m a huge fan of it! But I also use Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa and it’s great)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I used aluminum free- Rumsford)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup  oil (I used light olive oil or canola)
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used organic)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 This is one recipe, but I prefer the chocolate icing from Judy’s Famous Birthday Cake  for the frosting which can also be found on this site:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I used a heavy 1 1/4 cups since I did not use the 99% unsweetened chocolate the original recipe calls for, but totally unsweetened chocolate)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used organic)
  • 5 ounces  (squares) Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter (I used organic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, but I feel that is too much)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt (the original recipe does not call for salt)

make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom of  a 9 by 13 inch rectangular pan or two 9-inch round cake pans. My cake pans are amazing- they have a bottom that comes off the sides so I never have to worry about getting my layers out of the pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand held mixer or with a whisk, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing on low speed just to combine. Mix in the eggs, oil, and milk and vanilla.

Increase the speed to medium and beat for a minute or two, scraping the bottom a few times. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the boiling water. The batter will be soupy, but if you mix it on low for a minute, it will thicken up a little.

Pour into greased rectangular pan or divide the batter evenly between the 2 round cake pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the cake starts to separate from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 15-30 minutes.  Then you can frost.  If using round pans, then run a knife around the edges of the pans turn the layers out onto the rack and cool completely. I just take the sides off my pans to finish the cooling, because the cake is a little fragile at this point.

 Start making the frosting while cake is baking or at end of baking, because it will require about 15 or 20 min. to firm up enough to use.

see Judy’s famous birthday cake recipe for favorite chocolate frosting.

make the frosting:

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and cream and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes, stirring almost constantly.  Turn flame off and add the chocolate.  When almost completely melted, add the butter and stir until melted. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the vanilla. Immediately place in the fridge to start firming up.  Every 15 min. or so, mix the frosting with a rubber spatula and place back in fridge.


to frost the cake:

Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread the frosting with a palette knife or icing spatula. Spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting over the top of the first layer. Top with the second layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.  Cover with a good quality of plastic wrap that won’t stick to the icing and take any off the cake, and refrigerate cake until you serve it.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing

My grandson Noah’s third birthday was coming up, and my daughter Randi asked me if I wanted to make the cupcakes.  I think she knew what my answer would be.  I just needed to find the perfect recipe.  After reading many blogs about cupcakes, I couldn’t decide between a recipe from the Hershey’s website which Hershey’s calls, “Perfectly Chocolate Cake” and a recipe called “that Chocolate Cake” on the Scharffen Berger web site.  It was then that it dawned on me that they were literally the same, except that on the Hershey’s site, the recipe calls for 2 tsp. of vanilla, and on the Scharffen Berger web site, their recipe calls for no vanilla.  I compromised and settled on using 1 tsp. of vanilla.  I also changed the recipe by using extra large eggs and corn oil rather than canola oil.  No reason- I just grew up in a house where corn oil was used.  I used Hershey’s cocoa as that’s what I’ve got in my pantry-  I have both Hershey’s natural cocoa and Hershey’s special dark cocoa, so I used a combination of both- using a bit more of the natural than the dark.  I was “perfectly” happy with this recipe for the “Perfectly Chocolate Cake.”  This is so easy to make- I think just as easy as a mix- because you are doing it all in one bowl- practically just dumping the ingredients in.  The batter is very thin, so I ladled it into my muffin cups.  The result was very dark chocolate cupcakes, and very light- which was exactly what I was looking or.  My daughter compared the experience of eating these to eating Hostess chocolate cupcakes- only much better!  I used a standard recipe for vanilla icing which I adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.  These cupcakes are amazing!

 Ingredients:

2 cups sugar1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa (I used a mixture of natural and dark)1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 eggs (I used extra large) 

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used corn oil)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe called for 2)

1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 12 muffin pans with muffin cups.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl of standing mixer.   Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans (I used a ladle, but I think next time, I will pour the batter into a large bowl I have which has a spout, so that I can just pour the batter right into the muffin cups.Bake 22-25 min. or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with vanilla frosting (which will  follow shortly).   Vanilla Frosting:1 stick butter, softened4 cups confectioners sugar1/4 cup regular milk 1 teaspoon pure vanillapinch of salt if using unsalted butterDirections:  Put softened butter in mixer.  Mix with paddle.  Add 10x sugar, and mix, add milk, vanilla, and salt, and mix till smooth.  This makes enough for 24 cupcakes.

Easiest, Rich, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes With Vanilla Frosting

This Recipe Uses A Mix, But No One Will Ever Know! 

These cupcakes taste 100% homemade even though you are using a mix.  I made these cupcakes to bring to a barbecue when my daughter Randi first became engaged.  She and her friends loved these.  I make them now mostly for me because I love chocolate, and I really need to eat something chocolate at night while I’m watching TV with my son Danny.  When I make these cupcakes, I freeze them individually in some plastic wrap, and then put them in ziploc freezer bags.  (I deliver a bag of them to Randi, and then we get to keep the rest.)  Then, I can just take out one to eat at night, and I know that at least the portion isn’t huge.  If I just made this as a sheet cake and left it out on the counter, we would probably finish it in one day.

for the cupcakes:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola, corn, or light olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 12 cup muffin pans with paper or foil liners.  In large bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, blend cake mix, cocoa, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla on low speed for a minute just to blend.  Scrape down sides of bowl, increase speed to medium and beat 2-3 more minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Spoon large spoonfuls into muffin cups.  The batter should come up about 2/3 of the height of the muffin cup.  

Bake in the center of the oven about 18 to 20 minutes until the tops of the cupcakes look dry and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on wire racks.

for the frosting:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter or Fleischmann’s margarine, at room temperature
  • 1 box (1 pound) confectioners sugar, sifted to remove any lumps
  • 6 tablespoons of whole milk (may use half and half or light cream)
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt (only necessary if you are using unsalted butter or margarine)

Put room temperature butter in the large bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  Cream for 1 minute.  Pour in sugar, salt, milk, vanilla.  Mix on low speed just to blend.  Then mix on medium speed until frosting becomes creamy and smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes immediately.   

I recommend keeping the leftover cupcakes covered individually with plastic wrap in the refrigerator or freezer .  When you want to eat one, just take one out and let it come to room temperature before you eat it.

Note:  You may bake this in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan to make a sheet cake.  Grease the sides and bottom well with butter or margarine.  Bake cake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on wire rack.  When cake is cool, make vanilla frosting and spread it on cake with a rubber spatula, a knife or an offset spatula.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Keep the leftover cake covered in the refrigerator.

My Mother’s And My Outstanding Strawberry Shortcake

Of all the cakes I have ever eaten or baked in my life, this strawberry shortcake is the best! This recipe of my mother’s is indescribably delicious. It was a family tradition for my mother to bake this strawberry shortcake every year for our annual Father’s Day barbecue. Everyone waited for my mother to bring this masterpiece of a cake to the table. When I got married, I started to bake this cake. At my beautiful daughter Randi’s first birthday party, I actually baked three of these cakes because we had quite a crowd of people. Anyway, this cake is so beautiful and so delicious that it could win any first place prize at a country fair. The layers are light and airy and so delicious. The filling, which is just whipped cream and sugar with some fresh strawberries and crushed pineapple is dreamy. This strawberry shortcake takes some time, but if you go step by step, you will succeed at creating a dazzling dessert that people will applaud you for.

for the cake:

  • 1 cup cake flour (sift first, then measure)
  • 6 extra large eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (1/2 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

for the filling and the frosting:

  • 1 1/2 pints heavy or whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 quarts strawberries
  • 1 16 oz. can of crushed pineapple in its natural juice , drained very well

to make the cake: (You can make the layers in advance and freeze them!)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. I use 2 round 9 inch baking pans with removable bottoms. If you don’t have that type of pan, then place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of your 8 or 9 inch round pans. Do not grease the pans!

Separate the eggs. Set aside. Sift and measure the cake flour. Put it into a mixing bowl with the salt and baking powder, which you mix with a fork or whisk just to evenly distribute the baking powder and salt.

Beat egg yolks in large bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high until they have thickened are are pale yellow-about 5 minutes. Add the cold water and vanilla; beat again until thick -about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar; beat again for another minute. Add the flour mixture on very low speed just until mixed in. Set aside.

In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on highest speed just until they form soft peaks. Then add the other 1/2 cup suar and mix 30 seconds more until they just start to form stiff peaks. Gently, fold the meringue (the beaten egg whites with sugar) gently into the flour and egg yolk batter with a rubber spatula until you can’t see the whites anymore. Be patient while you do this; it takes about 5 minutes. Pour the batter into the two ungreased pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes in the center of the oven until cake springs back when you touch it, the cake has started to separate from the sides, and it is slightly browned on top.

Cool cakes on wire racks. When cool, take cakes out of pans by running a knife around the edges of each pan. If you are using pans with removable sides, then remove the sides and run a sharp non-serrated knife under the cake to separate it from the pan.

Let cool completely. Then slice each layer in half horizontally using a good serrated knife so that you have four layers. You may either wrap the layers well and freeze them to use in the future, or you can just wrap them well, and refrigerate them until you are ready to assemble the cake.

to assemble the cake:

Drain the pineapple very well by putting it in a sieve, and pressing the juice out of it with a spoon. Set drained pineapple aside. Then wash the strawberries. Place them on paper towels to let them dry. Cut the green tops off them. Reserve enough of the prettiest berries to place whole on top of the cake (about 1/2 quart or 1 pint). Then slice the remaining strawberries and set aside in a bowl. Place the whisk attachment or your beaters in the freezer along with the bowl you will be whipping the cream in and the spatula you will be using. Let those stay in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Put the cream in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Then take everything out of the freezer. Pour the cream into the bowl. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the sugar in with the cream. Put the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on the highest setting, and beat. After about 45 seconds, pour the remaining sugar in. Continue beating until the cream is whipped. It should not be liquidy or loose at all at this point.

Place one cake layer on a pedestal serving dish that is large enough to hold it. Spread some whipped cream on the layer, about 1/4 inch high. Then sprinkle about 1/3 of the sliced strawberries on the layer. Place the second layer on top of the fruit. Spread more whipped cream on the second layer. Evenly distribute all the crushed pineapple and some of the sliced strawberries on top of the whipped cream. Place the third layer on top of the fruit. Spread whipped cream on top of the cake. Evenly distribute the remaining sliced strawberries over the whipped cream. Place the final (fourth) layer on top of the fruit. Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and on the sides of the cake. Then place the whole strawberries all over the top of the cake. The pointy side of the berries should be on top. Refrigerate until you serve the cake.

Note #1: If you find you don’t have enough whipped cream to frost the sides of the cake, leave the sides alone, and the cake will look beautiful that way as well.

Note #2: If you are baking the layers and freezing them to use at a later time, wrap them separately first in a good layer of plastic wrap, and then place each layer in a good ziploc plastic bag.

Judy’s Famous Birthday Cake – My Family’s All Time Favorite Cake!

 Bake this incredible white cake with rich chocolate frosting for any special occasion! 

I have three children. Randi is my oldest; she’s 25 years old. Next is Danny- he’s 22. And last but definitely not least is Benji- he’s 18. When my children were little, I started the tradition of cooking a special birthday dinner for them, which of course had to include a birthday cake. I adapted this recipe from a recipe of my mother’s (Nana to my kids).   I have so many wonderful memories of all these birthday dinners that all ended with this amazing cake. The combination of the fluffy, buttery cake with the incomparable dark, glossy, chocolaty icing is so good, you will not be able to stop eating it! I know one thing for sure. To this day when I bake this cake, even though my kids are pretty much grown, they still fight over who’s going to get to lick the spatula or the bowl when I make the icing! I promise you – if you make this cake once for your family, you will want to start your own family tradition of making this cake for your children’s birthdays!

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