I’m a novelist who has discovered a side to me that I almost forgot. I love to bake. I don’t do it often because baking sweets with just Dale and me here means either some is wasted, we eat too much of it, or usually both! I baked this cake for Dale’s birthday when we had guests over, and then again a week or so later at “half recipe” just because he liked it so much. I’ve never had a man rave so much over a cake I baked in my life! It’s a great incentive to do more *laugh* It’s the best chocolate cake he’s ever had, and that I’ve ever baked: it always turns out delicious–dark, almost black, cake. The frosting for his birthday was a lighter sweeter chocolate, while the second time I added more cocoa and less sugar making it more a “dark bitter chocolate” icing. While he prefers the sweeter, I do the darker more “bitter.”
I mostly follow the recipe on the Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa box, but I do add just a couple of things to make it my own. The icing I guess at–while baking is a science where I must be exact, I can play around with the icing without a recipe. Both recipes are below. Enjoy!
Hershey’s “Especially Dark” Chocolate Cake
Gather all your ingredients together before you begin–the last thing you want is suddenly to realize you are out of an ingredient. As well, some bakers say to take out your eggs so they aren’t “chilled” (but especially do take out the butter/cream cheese for your icing so it can soften while you prepare the cake). Also, the recipe calls for 1 cup of boiling water to be added at the end, so just be prepared to have that going at some point in the recipe–I always read my recipe through before I begin.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease/flour two 9-inch round pans: a Tip for chocolate cakes–I use a little cocoa mixed into my flour so my dark chocolate cake doesn’t have that white flour look to it when I take it from the pans.
Ingredients for the cake:
2 cups sugar (I used ‘raw’ sugar instead of ‘white’ sugar to give it a more “caramel” taste but white sugar is fine)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (for a ‘gluten-free’ cake I made separate for my brother in a ramekin, I used coconut flour but you have to bake it a bit longer and add more liquid-experimenting still on this)
3/4 cups Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa (if you don’t like it so dark, use the regular cocoa -just make sure it’s the UNSWEETENED kind- I’ve done it with regular cocoa and special dark, both with great results)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk (I used Lactose Free milk and it did just as well as “regular” milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of vanilla–I added a little more than this, and I used what Ina Garten calls “good vanilla,” for which you can see it in the photos above: Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla.
I add 1-2 teaspoons of espresso powder–the coffee flavor adds a richness to the chocolate.
Also, I added unsweetened cocoa nibs (I used Viva Labs organic cocoa nibs–Viva Labs makes some really good products!) just to add a little extra something (Dale likes these nibs a lot in the cake).
1 cup of boiling water
(You’ve preheated oven to 350; you’ve greased/floured pans). In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the dry mixture the wet ingredients: eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla–not boiling water yet–beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. To this mixture, stir in the boiling water–be careful! Don’t set your mixer on high and splash hot cake mix on yourself! After adding the boiling water and mixing that, the cake batter will be thin: it is supposed to be thin so don’t let this concern you. However, if you are baking a “gluten free” cake, the batter will be thicker and you may have to add some extra oil or milk or both.
Pour batter into your prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes until wooden pick in center of cake comes out *mostly* clean (you want a little cake to come away on the wooden pick-if it’s completely dry, your cake may be overcooked). NOTE! I checked my cake after 25 minutes and it was DONE! Maybe it is the altitude; maybe it was the weather; maybe it is my oven–but I suggest checking your cake after 20-25 minutes, just in case.
Cool at least 10 minutes before you remove from pans. Make sure the cake is completely cooled before you frost it.
As for the icing: I make up my recipe as I go along. I’ve made it dark and bitter, and sweeter and lighter. Cream cheese (as I did recently) or regular butter cream. Chocolate or vanilla or otherwise. I’ve whipped it light and fluffy, and also had it thicker and “stiffer.” Just play with the frosting ingredients and consistency to your taste.
Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
Room temperature softened unsalted butter (I had salted so I just used it)- at least one stick
Room temperature softened cream cheese – at least 1 8oz package
(I used a whole lot more for Dale’s birthday cake, since he wanted “a lot of frosting”)
Whip or beat (according to how you want your frosting to be: fluffy or stiffer) those two ingredients together — Sometimes I use equal butter and cream cheese, and others I play with the amounts, or use only butter.
Add in powdered sugar, a little milk (sometimes I add no milk-just experiment), cocoa, vanilla: add these ingredients a bit at a time until you have the consistency and chocolatey taste you want.
When the cake is completely cooled, frost away! One tip is to add parchment or waxed paper to the outsides of your cake plate, then put the cooled cake on top of that to frost–when you are done frosting, pull out the paper and your cake plate is clean! (There are a lot of frosting tips out there, like if crumbs mixing in the frosting bothers you, do some googling!)
Have fun and happy baking!