In real life, I have not been a particular fan of chocolate cake. Typical chocolate cake is usually too dry or too sweet for me, and given a choice, I almost always prefer a yellow cake or carrot cake. Then I found this recipe. It's original name was "Million Dollar Chocolate Cake" and I discovered it years ago on a cooking blog that has long since disappeared into the aether. This is hands down the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten. The recipe is a bit involved, but take my word, it is worth it.
For the cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups white (caster) sugar
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup shortening
- 2 cups hot coffee
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (approximately), sifted
- 1/4 - 1/3 cups milk
- 8 oz good quality dark chocolate (60% cacao or higher)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Oven, mixing bowls, measuring cups, etc
- 2 9-inch round cake tins (springform works)
- Electric mixer
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa, and salt. If you don't have a sifter (as I don't) you can instead use a fine-mesh sieve. Sifting is important, especially for the baking soda and cocoa powder, because these items tend to clump and there is nothing worse than biting into a big clump of baking soda. Yuck.
In a large bowl, pour the hot coffee over the shortening and whisk together. The coffee will melt the shortening, which is what you want. It might take a bit of whisking, so be patient, and eventually it should look like this:
The coffee is a key ingredient in this recipe. It doesn't have to be good coffee (goodness knows my homemade coffee isn't), and I can assure you that you won't taste it in the final product. Coffee and chocolate are one of nature's inspired flavor combinations, and in this recipe the coffee will bring out the richness of the chocolate. You can use this same technique to doctor boxed chocolate cake mix: just substitute coffee wherever the recipe calls for water.
Once the shortening is completely whisked into the coffee, you can begin to add the dry ingredients to the coffee mixture a little at a time, whisking as you go. You can use an electric mixer if you want, but at this point it's really not necessary. Once all the dry ingredients are incorporated, the mixture should still be quite wet. Add the eggs and vanilla to the batter, and whisk until well-incorporated. Try and get the batter as smooth as you can, but there will still be a few little lumps here and there.
Once you're satisfied, pour the batter (in as equal parts as you can) into the two round cake tins. Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Once the cakes are out of the oven, let them cool completely and then put them in the refrigerator.
Now you have two layers for the cake. Pick which one you want to be on the bottom, and use a long, serrated knife (I use my bread knife) to level off the top of it. Slather the filling on top of the bottom layer, then gently place the other layer over it. If the top of your bottom layer collapsed a bit in the center (this still happens to me occasionally), just fill in the depression with extra filling. If anyone complains that there's too much frosting, just make a mental note never to let them have any of your delicious homemade cake again. My cakes came out well this time, so I just let the filling ooze out over the bottom because I like that.
Ideally, this cake should turn out fudgy, rich, and deeply chocolatey. I've found that it's an enormous crowd-pleaser, and despite its somewhat involved prep, it's utterly worth it for a special occasion, or just whenever you want a really, really good chocolate cake. Enjoy!