I am sharing a secret with you, a little trick I have up my sleeve. I love entertaining that appears simple yet complex. Your guests know it’s a little extra special and they can’t recreate the moment, so it’s best to live in it. In the kitchen, I keep my culinary rolodex. Simple recipes, I make over and over again. Sometimes I just have to glance at the ingredients I know these recipes so well.
I have been making this chocolate cake recipe since college. You don’t even need a mixer, and as long as you keep good quality cocoa in the house, you should have all the ingredients since they are basic staples. This has the basics of: flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, eggs, milk, oil, vanilla and boiling water. Yes, boiling water is what makes this taste SO good.
When you buy cocoa there are a few varieties on the market. Dutch processed (right) and regular (left). I’ve made this cake with both, and it tastes perfectly fine, but I love the dutch processed cocoa. The difference between the two version is the dutch cocoa has been processed to neutralize the acidity. The color is darker and the flavor more subtle.
My favorite way to serve this cake is simply, no icing and dusted with a little powdered sugar. This recipe makes two 8″ cakes. Don’t forget to butter and flour your pans, so the cake releases easily.
If I have an event to attend, I will make these mini cupcakes. If you don’t have a few mini cupcake pans, invest in these pans! They are often used and well loved in my kitchen. Cupcakes are also easy to decorate and they look fancy when you’re done. I use a cream cheese frosting that is not too sweet, and a big tip on my piping bag. You can make the cupcakes and icing the night before and refrigerate the icing. It doesn’t take long to decorate these and dust them right before I leave the the event.
Now it’s time to get fancy. If I’m hosting a small dinner party, I love these little cakes. They are personal and seem fancy. Bake your cake in a 9″ x 12″ sheet pan that is buttered and floured. Using a 2″ biscuit cutter cut out the little cakes, stack and icing with butter cream. Serve on a small plate. One nice trick is tinting the icing for different holidays.
Two 8″ cakes: Pour batter into two prepared (buttered and floured) 8″ cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
Mini Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes. Makes approximately 48 mini cupcakes.
Mini Stacked Cakes: Prepare a 9 x 13 pan and pour in about 3/4 of the batter. The remaining batter can be discarded, or prepared in a smaller pan. You want your cakes to be about 1″ high. I had to experiment a few times before I found the right pan and batter ratio. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes.
All times are using a convection oven and might have to be adjusted for your oven.