My blog turned one whole year old at the beginning of March! Can you believe it?
I’m going to cut to the chase.
Remember this movie?
Remember this boy?
Remember this cake?
We are going to make that cake. It’s a little smaller but, like, not that much smaller.
Chocolate Cake and Hot Cocoa Icing (“Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake”)
Adapted from What Megan’s Making
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup Dark Cocoa Powder (important!)
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup strong black coffee, can be warm but not hot
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
- Special equipment: Two 8 inch cake pans.
Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or one 8-inch layer cake. If you want extra icing for decorating the cake, I would double the recipe.
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to taste)
- 2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted (I use more like just shy of 2 cups)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ~3 tbs heavy cream, divided (1 tbs and then 2 tbs)
- ~2 tbs powdered hot chocolate mix (any mix will do!)
- Special equipment: electric mixer, piping bag (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 2 x 9″ cake pans with shortening/butter and flour or parchment paper. Mix the dry ingredients into the bowl of electric mixer. In a smaller bowl, mix all the wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients over dry.
- With paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer). The batter will be liquidy. Pour into prepared pans and/or lined cupcake tins. If baking cupcakes: I find that pouring in just shy of ¼ cup into the cups results in a cupcake that’s exactly as tall as the liner, if that’s your goal.
- If baking a cake: bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans in the oven. Bake 15 minutes longer or until a toothpick comes out clean – approximately 35 minutes total.
- If baking cupcakes: bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pans in the oven. Bake 7.5 minutes more or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean (this is exactly half the baking time as the cake, by the way).
- Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
- For the icing, cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt (to avoid lumps of cocoa, I sift it beforehand). The mixture will be very thick. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar, mixing for about 1 minute. Mix vanilla and 1 tbs of the cream, and add it to the bowl. Beat on low until incorporated.
- While mixing, add in approximately 2 more tablespoons of cream and the hot cocoa mix. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. If still a bit dry or stiff, add more cream. Beat until smooth.
- Once smooth, taste the icing. It will be very sweet, but the salt should add a bit of tang. If you can’t taste the salt, add a bit more until the flavor balances nicely.
There’s a little overlap between the cake and icing ingredients so I’ll touch on them separately. What’s really important in the cake recipe is that you have dark cocoa. This is the only source of chocolate in the cake, so if you want it to be good, you want dark cocoa. If you don’t want it to be good, what the fuck are you doing this for? You can get Hershey’s Special Dark at the grogery store next to the regular cocoa. I know “grogery” is a typo, but I like it, so I’m keeping it. Grogery.
A nice, dark cup of coffee is also important. I just steep mine extra long in a french press, but whatever regular coffee makers produce is probably fine. Lastly, buttermilk: you can go out and buy this at the store, but as I’ve noted before, you never use it all and it’s annoying, so you can actually make it at home with milk and white vinegar, as I explain in this post about dinner rolls.
The icing is a fairly straightforward buttercream in that it contains butter, cream, confectioners sugar, and vanilla (not pictured here, whooooops). What makes it special is using both cocoa (dark again) and hot chocolate mix, as well as salt (also not pictured here, whoooops! I get excited about cake). The salt is really important, I’ll touch on that later.
Baking cakes is easier than a lot of people think – you just need to prep a couple things first.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Always preheat first thing.
- Take out the butter, eggs, and buttermilk so they can begin to warm up. If you want to speed things along, nuke the buttermilk for ~10 second increments until it’s no longer cold, and stick the WHOLE, UNCRACKED eggs in a cup of hot water and they’ll heat up fast. If you get the butter out now, it should be soft by the time you need it.
- For this recipe, you need coffee, so go ahead and make it.
- Line the cake pans with parchment paper (NOT WAX PAPER, THAT WILL MELT):
Place the pans face up on the paper, and then trace around them with a marker.
Cut them out just inside the marker circle so they will fit nicely in the pan. Doesn’t have to be perfect.
Take the liners back out once you know they fit, and put a dab of butter or shortening on a paper town, and run it around the walls of both pans (the paper will cover the bottom, but not the sides).
Dump a little flour in the pan…
…and roll it around so it sticks to the greased walls of the pan. To get rid of excess flour, turn the pan upside down over the sink or trash can, and tap it like it’s an adorable little drum.
Stick the liner back in, and repeat the process with the other pan. Now you’re good to go!
2. Make the cake
This is actually very, very easy.
Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. No need to actually sift anything – it all comes together quite easily. If using a mixer, be careful: if you go too fast, the cocoa will go EVERYWHERE, including into your soul.
Then, mix all the wet ingredients. It will look sort of like snot, don’t fret. Make sure that the buttermilk and eggs aren’t super cold, and that the coffee isn’t super hot. Everything should be sort of room temp-ish, as I mentioned above.
Pour the wet over the dry, and mix on low until incorporated-ish (you’re trying to bind the dry ingredients to the wet ones so they don’t puff everywhere) and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until fully mixed, about a minute. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.
When you’re done it will look like sweet chocolate magma. The batter will be fairly liquidy.
Divide between the two pans equally, and slap them in the oven. I’ll warn you, this recipe maxes out my pan space – if there was any more batter, they would overflow while baking. If you’re afraid of this, simply don’t fill them quite as full, or put a baking sheet on the rack below them in the oven – just not directly below them on the same rack, because this will make the bottoms cook slower.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350F, rotate the bans, and bake another 15 – stick a toothpick or knife in the center, and it should come out clean. Take them out and let them cool away from the oven.
Once they’ve cooled enough to touch the pans, run a knife around the edge, and upend the pans – the cakes should fall right out onto whatever surface you choose – counter, cooling rack, cutting board, plate, etc.
Once truly and fully cooled, peel off the parchment paper – if you do this when the cakes are still hot, they may rip. I have a portable cake plate that I use, so I put the first cake directly on there to prep for the icing. You can pick whichever type of display platform that suits you. NOW YOU ARE READY FOR THE BIG LEAGUES.
3. Make the icing.
This cake is good, but the icing is bonkers. I doubled my recipe so I could ice and decorate the cake, so keep that in mind with my photos – the recipe itself is for half the amount shown. First, add the completely soft butter to a large bowl and sift the cocoa overtop. Ideally this is another bowl that you can use an electric mixer in. You sift the cocoa this time to avoid lumps in your icing that would not be an issue in your cake batter.
Cream that shit. As soon as the cocoa and butter are mixed enough that the cocoa isn’t dusty, jack up the speed until fully mixed. It will be thick and super duper dark. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula.
Sift the powdered sugar in another bowl.
Mix 1 tbs cream and 1 tsp vanilla.
Add all the powdered sugar to the cocoa/butter mix and slowwwwwwly mix. It will be crazy dry. CRAZY. DRY. Slowly drizzle in the vanilla/cream mix. Keep that mixer on. Mix mix mix.
The icing will be much lighter in color and texture now, but still very thick. Hello icing, my old friend. Scrape the bowl down with the spatula again, we’re not quite done.
Add in the hot cocoa mix, and turn the mixer on low again. As it incorporates, and slowly add in the remaining 2 tbs cream. JACK UP THE MIXER TO LUDICROUS SPEED.
Stop the spaceship and/or mixer. The mix should be much lighter now: my spatula acts as a time machine to show the various shades of chocolate we’ve gone through:
The consistency should be thick but spreadable – you want the icing to stick to the cake, but also to be soft enough to decorate with. If it’s too concrete-like, drizzle in a bit more cream and keep beating until you reach a good middle point.
Taste the icing. It will be really sweet, but there should also be a tang from the salt. Can you taste it? If not, add salt a pinch at a time until it has a nice balance between sweet and tangy. I always add more than the 1/2 tsp suggested.
Holy fuck that shit reminds me of rudder of the Titanic. Except that it’s made of chocolate. And the Titanic doesn’t excite me sexually.
If you add more salt, mix until everything is allll fluffy and nice.
4. Cake decorating tools
I’m going to show you how to ice and decorate it in a semi-acceptable fashion. Here are the tools I use for this job (you can pick up all of this and more at Michael’s) :
1. Icing spatula. It’s small and flat and makes nice sharp, flat edges. Great for icing. You don’t need this – knives work too, but the finished product might not be as clean-looking.
2. Beneath the spatula, there’s a piping bag – stick the icing in there, and you can squeeze it out in pretty patterns. That’s specifically for decorating rather than just icing the cake.
3. Icing tips – these go at the small end of the piping bag. There are lots of sizes for these, I have two different ones, and additional shapes not shown here. They all change the pattern coming out of the piping bag, and all sizes and shapes have different coordinating numbers. I don’t know or care much about the numbers, but you can find out more about them here. I’ll be using the large tip second from the top right – the one with small toothed edges. Why? Dunno. Just cause.
5. Crumb coat the cake
When you ice a cake, you want it to be smooth and pretty. To do this, you need to lock down any loose crumbs in a layer of icing – called the “crumb coat”. This is a thin, fairly ugly and rough layer of icing over the whole cake. You will also add the filling at this stage – in this case, just a fat load of the icing we made.
First, use a spoon or spatula to scoop a fist-sized lump of icing onto the cake. Because the crumbs will get in the icing you spread, you don’t want to use your spreading tool to scoop icing from the bowl – think of it as contaminating the nice, smooth icing with crumbs. So grab one chunk, and spread it out.
Spread it smoothly over the top of the cake. When it’s a nice amount, about 3/4 to 1 cm deep, add the next cake layer. Doesn’t really matter which way the layers face, but my cake pans are slightly tapered so I usually put the first layer on the plate upside down, and the second right side up so that the divot is in the middle. Did you know “divot” is spelled with an O? What the fuck.
At this point, make sure you get down at the cake level and make sure the second layer is centered over the first – turn the cake all the way around (or go around it) to get at it from all angles – sometimes it looks centered from one way, but not another. Add another dollop of icing, but instead of focusing the layer on the top, spread it around the sides first – either push it across the top with the spatula, or grab a hunk with the spatula and smack it straight on the side.
Fill in the gap around the edges where the two laters meet each other, and go all the way down to where the cake meets the plate. Dollop more icing on top as you need it, and keep spreading, keeping the layer as thin as possible. Once you’ve covered the sides, do the same to the top if there are any remaining gaps.
You probably can’t tell from this picture, but this layer of icing is exceedingly thin – if I sliced you off some of this cake, you would probably be like “Why are you doing this to me?” That’s ok – you want it to be thin because you need it to harden in the fridge. So, put that baby in the fridge!
Leave it in the fridge for about 20 minutes. You’ll know it’s good to go when the icing no longer immediately sticks to your finger when you touch it – it will have hardened enough to secure the crumbs.
6. Finish icing the cake
Now, repeat the whole process by adding another layer of icing on top of the one you’ve applied. You’ll notice this round is much smoother than the first – no crumbs! Make sure there’s a nice thick later all over the damn place.
Since my cake pans are slightly tapered inward (as I mentioned above), at this point I use extra icing to sort of fill in the shape of my cake to make it seem more cylindrical than it actually is. PARLOR TRICKS.
Make sure to leave enough extra for decorating, if you’re planning on doing it! I usually want about enough left over to fill the piping bag a single time. If you’d rather just slather all the icing in a single layer, no one is stopping you.
Looking at the before and after of this cake is giving me some kind of god complex.
7. Decorate the cake (optional)
Fill up the piping bag if you have one. Stick the tip down to the bottom – if it doesn’t stick out all the way (like mine, pictured), don’t worry – when you push the icing out, it will force the tip into place. Once the tip is in (lol just the tip tho guyz), fold the edges of the large end of the cone down about halfway – this way, you can load the icing into the smaller part of the bag, and it won’t get everywhere. Once about 1/2 full, roll the end closed so it looks like a big carrot.
Disclaimer: I’m an impatient decorator. At this point, I just want to eat the thing. The main thing I dislike about not decorating a cake I made is the weird gap at the bottom of the cake, between it and the plate. Perhaps a master could get in there, but I’m not skilled enough to make it look nice. Instead, I just pipe little blorps all around the edge. Yah, blorps. If you are unsure enough of your icing skills to make blorps, grab another piece of parchment paper and practice on there – when you’re done, just scrape it off and put it back in the piping bag or on the cake.
At this point, icing the cake can be basically whatever you want, so follow your dreams. I did the top edge next because thats what cakes at the grocery store have.
Still had icing left so, idk, arbitrary third ring of blorps plus random center-blorps of varying sizes.
Actually was pretty pleased with how this came out, so the cake and I had a birthday photo shoot. Alone. In my apartment.
Happy birthday to you, little blog! What a fun and time-consuming experiment you are. To many more!
YOU WILL NOT LEAVE THIS PLATFORM UNTIL YOU HAVE CONSUMED THE ENTIRE CONFECTION.
Check you all on the flippy-flops.