Last month it was my birthday, like every year.
This year was different though because I baked my own cake. Is that bad luck or something? Good grief I hope not.
As much baking as I do, and as much as I adore the whole process of it, I've always avoided making a cake on my birthday until this year when my Mom was frankly too lazy to do it (even though she uses the box, Ahem!).
It's OK Ma - I'll overlook it this year since you birthed me and all. Thanks for life.
Since I had full control it was chocolate on chocolate (no surprise) plus sour cream and cream cheese with cherries and sprinkles. It was incredible, it was moist, creamy, chocolatey, simple to make and not from a box! (Ahem).
After frosting and sprinkling my sour cream chocolate cake, and then grating dark chocolate all over it like a pile of snow I set it in the fridge before I went to bed. On that eve of my birthday my mom must have summoned an urge to put her mark on it so as to make it look like I didn't do ALL of the work (guilt, maybe?). What do you know, when I woke up to pull the cake out to the table I saw a mess of PURPLE (my favourite colour) and red hearts spewed all over it. Nice touch.
Mom might need to work on that steady hand.
She thought it would be a grand surprise and I thought "who ruined my cake?".
This is what Moms are for. To make you laugh and feel like a child again.
Except children probably don't drink Rum Anejo...
In case you can't read scribble, it says "Happy Birthday Chia". Chia is my family nickname and I had it way way way before people started eating it.
I know everyone loves that recipe for chocolate cake. You know the one I'm talking about? It is with 1 ¾ cups flour, 2 cups sugar, ¾ cup cocoa, a couple of eggs, vegetable oil and hot water. You know that one? It's very moist but tasteless... I just can't go there.
Although oil does make lovely moist cakes, they are severely lacking in the flavour force and leave me wondering where that ¾ cup of cocoa went.
Cocoa needs butter. Just like chocolate needs vanilla and vanilla needs sugar. Oil lacks body and mouthfeel - it is generally tasteless and prone to rancidity. Butter is rich, full-bodied and elevates the taste of cocoa to deliver a smooth chocolate taste. Don't waste 70g of cocoa on a bland recipe. Instead try this one.
My birthday cake of choice is moist and packed with chocolate flavour from both dark chocolate and cocoa.
Sour cream complements the natural acidity of chocolate and balances the sugar.
There are a few stages to this recipe:
First we make the liquid chocolate concoction by combining chopped dark chocolate, boiling water and sour cream into a smooth pudding-like mixture. Be sure to whisk the chocolate and hot water first until melted and smooth to let the water cool down before stirring in the sour cream otherwise you might get some curdled milk protein. Curdled milk protein is not in this recipe.
Next up, get the dry ingredients together. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and blend well.
Now the all-familiar creaming stage. You might expect me to say cream for 5 minutes until very pale and fluffy, but I won't. There is such a thing as over-creaming. It can actually lead to a dry cake! Adding so much air into the batter might make it fluffy but also dry. Think about crisp sugar cookies - the more you cream the butter and sugar, the crispier the cookie because of all that air that's built in.
For this cake, just cream for 2 minutes or so until the butter and sugar are smooth and lightened by a shade. Beat in vanilla and eggs until evenly combined and the mixture is soft and pillowy. Then begin adding the flour mixture alternately with the liquid chocolate mixture in about 3 stages, mixing on low between additions, until the batter is smooth.
Ready, set, BAKE! This cake will bubble and puff as it bakes and then will shrink slightly on cooling so you should be left with more-or-less even layers.
This will blow your mind - it has NO BUTTER! And it is incredible!
This is a souped up cream cheese frosting, delicately sweetened with a pile of whipped fresh cream folded in. From the fridge this frosting actually feels like ice cream. You are so welcome.
Smiles all around because I'm about to put my face in that cake.
Sour Cream Chocolate Layer Cake
makes one double layer 8-inch round cake
For the cake layers:3 ½ oz (100g) dark chocolate (60% cocoa), coarsely chopped
½ cup (118ml) boiling water⅔ cup (150ml) light sour cream1 ⅔ cups (235g) all-purpose flour3 tablespoon (18g) cocoa powder (I like this one)
1 teaspoon baking soda½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the cherry filling:
1 cup pitted and chopped cherries
1 tablespoon sugar
For frosting:8 oz (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (100g) sifted icing sugar
3 oz (85g) dark chocolate (60% cocoa), coarsely chopped½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups fresh whipped cream (note: that means 3 cups already whipped)
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of two 8-inch round cake pans and dust with cocoa powder. Line the bases with parchment paper.
Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and pour over boiling water. Let stand for a minute and then whisk until smooth. Whisk through sour cream and set aside.
Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to blend.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, sugar and vanilla for 2-3 minutes until smooth, light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts alternating with chocolate/sour cream mixture. Once all ingredients are combined, mix on high speed for 5 seconds to help emulsify the batter.
Divide mixture evenly between prepared pans and smooth it out. Bake for 25-28 minutes until the tops spring back when lightly touched and the cakes begin to come away from the sides of the pans. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before inverting. The cakes are very soft and delicate so don’t turn them out too early.
To make the cherry filling, combine chopped cherries with sugar and let stand while you make the frosting.
To make the frosting, beat soft cream cheese until smooth with an electric hand mixer. Add sifted icing sugar and beat until very glossy, lump-free and a bit fluffy. Add melted, slightly cooled chocolate and vanilla and mix until blended. Add about ½ cup of whipped cream and fold it in quickly until evenly blended to lighten the mixture. Then continue to fold in the remaining whipped cream in two batches until combined. Work quickly because the cold cream can set the chocolate and make the frosting stiff. Spread about one-third of the frosting over one cake layer, scatter the cherries on top and poke them in. Place the second layer on top and cover evenly with remaining frosting. Decorate however you'd like, even if you want to scribble all over it with purple icing.