Ultimate Chocolate Cake

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Chocolate cake. It’s one of those things that everyone has a favourite recipe of, often having passed within families for generations. Some like a pound-cake type denseness while others prefer airy chiffons. Many times it’s because people’s tastes are guided by their childhood smells and the memories those evoke. So if your grandmother baked your birthday cake every year, you’ll likely prefer very homey cake and frosting recipes.

I grew up on bakery bought baked items in India. There wasn’t much hominess about those but that’s what my preference is. I like lighter, fluffier bakes that don’t have an overpowering eggy smell or a closed structure. My go to chocolate cake recipe is great for this, but I’ve tweaked that recipe a bit more to come up with this.

If you’re like me, or really just like a cake-y cake that is moist without being dense, give this recipe a try. It’s a keeper I’ve arrived at after much experimentation, and I LOVE it. This recipe makes a tall-ish 8″ cake or two average 6″ ones.

You’ll need:

1c AP flour
1/3c cocoa powder
1/2tsp baking soda
1/8tsp baking powder
120g salted butter, softened
2/3c demarara sugar
1tsp vanilla essence or 2 drops vanilla bean paste
1 med egg + 1 med egg white
1/4c + 2tbsp milk

  • Sift the first 4 ingredients together and set aside. Grease 2 6″ pans and also set aside.
  • Cream softened butter for a minute then add sugar and cream until the mixture is light in colour and doubled in volume.
  • Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.
  • Add flour mix and milk alternating with each other. Beat only until combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared tins and bake at 160C for about 17-20 mins.

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I frosted this cake with a cookie dough frosting by Amanda of Iambaker, with a few modifications (halving her recipe and reducing sugar), but I have to say I’m not a fan of raw flour in my icing. But then, I’m not a fan of cookie dough either. But the texture and consistency of this icing is quite on point (soft but pipes very well) and would be great for a cookie-dough lover like my son.

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Vanilla Rainbow Cupcakes

I’ve found a cracking basic white cake recipe. That in itself may not seem like much. But what if I told you that this cake can be adapted to make everything from a dense poundcake-like cake to a light and airy strawberry almost-chiffon?

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It really can. This is my holy grail. I’m proud of this recipe from beyond of beyond. Give it a try. It’s not too sweet if you’re covering with American buttercream but can easily accommodate more sugar if you like comatose sweetness in your desserts. After all, who eats cake every day? Indulge yourself.

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Makes 12 large cupcakes or 1 8″ round cake

1+1/3c AP flour
1/2tsp baking soda
1/8tsp baking powder
1/2+1/4c milk
120g salted butter
1tsp vanilla
2/3c granulated sugar (can substitute 1/3c each of white and demerara or any granulated cane sugar)
2 eggs

Method:

  • Sift flour, baking soda and powder together and set aside.
  • Cream cool room temp butter alone for about 2 mins until it lightens in colour and doubles in volume.
  • Add sugar then beat until fluffy, 2-3 mins.
  • Add room-temp eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. (Batter may look curdled but that’s ok… dry additions will take care of it.)
  • Add flour mixture alternating with milk and vanilla ending with flour.
  • Divide batter into however many colours you want the cupcakes to be. Drop each batter by the spoonful into your prepared cupcake pan.
  • Swirl lightly with knife for a marbled effect. (Swirling should be minimal or you’ll end up with brown. I didn’t swirl mine at all to get distinct colour layers.)
  • Bake at 140F for about 30 mins.

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Chocolate Florentines

Inspired by Louise Johncox’s The Baker’s Daughter: Timeless Recipes from Four Generations of Bakers, Florentines are basically tart-cookie concoction that is held together by a sugar syrup and combines the mouthfeel of a cookie with the filling-feel of a tart. Like a rustic oatmeal raisin, only tastier.

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These small bites go perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee, especially if you like your beverage unsweetened. I’ve eliminated the sugar (almost) and the heavy cream in lieu of condensed milk. This gave the Florentines a pleasing sweetness and the heft it needed to hold together chunky ingredients like slivered almonds and pitted dates.

Baking time is minimal and the process is perfect for beginners or for those last, rushed days before Christmas when home-baked gift recipes abound that take a whole day to make when no one has the time for it.

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You’ll need: For 9 small florentines

25g butter
20g icing sugar
15g AP flour
3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
5-6 pitted dates
60g slivered almonds
1 tsp orange zest
50g dark chocolate

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Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180C or 325F.
  • Melt butter and sugar in a saucepan on low flame until the sugar dissolves. Stir in flour and condensed milk. Mix until the mixture looks well combined and slightly thick (think shampoo consistency).
  • Take off from flame and stir in almonds, dates and orange zest.
  • Line a muffin tin with parchment rounds. (This cutting of tiny parchment circles is the most time consuming part of this recipe, but don’t skip it! The ease of releasing the warm florentines later will make it worth the effort.)
  • Scoop the batter into the muffin tin and press securely into the base.
  • Bake 5-6 minutes until golden brown on top.
  • Let cool on the counter a few minutes, then run a knife around the edges to release while sugar is still warm.
  • Cool a bit more then turn out into a wire rack.
  • Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler, then dip each florentine’s bottom into warm chocolate to cover. Let cool completely before drizzling a zigzag of melted chocolate right side up.