Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Everyday Chocolate Cake

I approach this entry with the assumption that you follow Smitten Kitchen and want to make most of what Deb makes. Or if you don't want to make what Deb makes, you want to take photographs like she does. Or if you don't want to... Oh heck, I'm exhausted and my point is, I recently made Deb's Everyday Chocolate Cake. Twice, actually: once for dinner guests on Friday, and again to photograph on Sunday. (I'm stealing -- from where, I can't recall -- a phrase which explains this predicament perfectly: our mouths were quicker than my camera.)

I was keen to make this cake because I suspected it would be similar to the chocolate pound cake I've wanted to recreate from my days working at Cocolat. The recipe doesn't appear in any of Alice Medrich's cookbooks, but I somehow knew Deb's cake would be close.

Deb adapted her recipe from At Home With Magnolia and streamlined it into a one-bowl endeavor. I of course tweaked Deb's adaptation to be more in line with my baking methodology and because the addition of buttermilk to the butter-sugar-egg mixture causes it to curdle and separate. (This is not a fatal flaw, as the batter comes back together upon the addition of the dry ingredients, but wonky batter distresses me.) I also added one teaspoon dark rum and two teaspoons instant espresso powder to enhance and deepen the chocolate flavor.

I suspect my changes make my recipe more like the Magnolia original, which I've purposefully avoided looking up until after I post this. (I do what I can to keep myself entertained.) My recipe isn't exactly Deb's (it might be Magnolia's?) and my photos are a far cry from hers, but at the end of the day, this is a divine and easy cake that closely resembles my beloved Cocolat pound cake. But don't take my word for it. Go make your own.

And please don't hate on the bamboo backdrop in my unedited photos.

Everyday Chocolate Cake
Makes one loaf

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature*
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon dark rum (recommended: Myers's)
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder (recommended: Valrhona)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk,** at room temperature*

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and lightly coat a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars and salt, scraping down the sides and bottom as needed. Stop the mixer and add the egg, vanilla, rum and espresso powder. Beat until thoroughly combined.

3. In a medium bowl, sift (yes, I usually whisk but you need to sift this mixture to remove any cocoa lumps) together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.

4. With mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture followed by half the buttermilk, repeating with the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk.

5. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan (the batter will be thick) and bake on middle oven rack for 60 to 70 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out almost, but not bone, dry.

I should note that Deb reports testing and tweaking her recipe to combat the loaf rising and then sinking in the middle; mine sunk as well, even with my increased leavenings. No biggie. The cake was still delicious and pretty.

*If you want to make this cake at time when you haven't left a stick of butter, an egg and a cup of buttermilk on your counter for an hour or two, it's easy to get these ingredients to room temperature in a flash.
-- Butter: melt two scant tablespoons butter and add to the rest of the stick (sliced into tablespoon measurements) in the bowl of your electric mixer. Cream until uniformly softened and fluffy.
-- Egg: immerse in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.
-- Buttermilk: microwave on high for 10 to 15 seconds. Stir before using.

**If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by stirring 1 teaspoon white vinegar, lemon juice OR cream of tartar into 1 cup warmed lowfat or whole (not nonfat) milk. Let sit until curdled, about 10 minutes.


  1. again, looks amazing. To make gluten gluten free I think I'd use almond meal or coconut flour. Would that work?? Or do you think it would be too dry?

  2. Lindsay, I've been pondering gluten-free substitutions and although I haven't yet worked with coconut flour (I just bought my first bag of it, woot!), I think you're on the right track with gluten-free flours that have high moisture contents.

    However this cake requires a very fine crumb, so as much as I hate on bean flours, I'm thinking a combination of garbanzo flour (sans fava, blech), rice flour, and starches might be the trick. Or Pamela's Baking & Pancake mix?

    I'm very curious to find out how your experimentation goes, and will be doing some as well.

  3. that cake looks awesome. I like smitten kitchen a lot but sometimes the recipes are too hard.