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How to Bake a Great Chocolate Layer Cake

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Fudgey Chocolate Layer Cake. Soon you will need one for someone’s birthday. Or for a potluck party. Or maybe just because. I got the recipe for mine from a friend of a friend. What really makes it work though is

a few little tips and tricks.


Make it by hand, gently. Overworking cake batter is the main reason why so many cakes are rubbery and heavy. Don’t let the butter get too soft. If it gets too soft and shiny, refrigerate it until it is pliable but not greasy.


When the cakes are still in the pans and warm, not cooled completely nor piping hot, wrap them completely in plastic wrap to let them steam. You can also do this by placing a pot lid on top and wrapping the cake pan in a towel if you’d rather not use plastic. When the cakes are cool, unwrap and frost them.

Here’s my favorite recipe:

Fudgey Chocolate Layer Cake

For the cake:
1 stick sweet unsalted butter, softened, not greasy
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (or alternatively 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate and if using unsweetened chocolate, add 1/4 cup more brown sugar to butter)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup boiling water.

For the frosting
24 ounces (or two 12-ounce bags) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line them with parchment paper and brush paper with butter again. Flour the pans and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
3. Add vanilla and then melted chocolate to the batter. Mix gently until combined.
4. Add baking soda and salt to flour and whisk together. Alternate dry ingredients with sour cream, beginning and ending with dries (adding 1/3 dries, then 1/2 sour cream, then 1/3 dries, then the rest of the sour cream, then the last third of the dries.) Combine gently until batter is smooth and all ingredients are incorporated. Lastly, add the boiling water slowly, 1/4 cup at a time, and mix gently between additions until it is all incorporated.
5. Divide batter between pans. Place pans on a sheetpan and place the sheetpan holding the pans on a rack positioned in the center of the oven. Bake for about 25 - 35 minutes, checking the layers half way through the baking time for doneness. When a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out almost clean, they are done. Do not over-bake. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes or so until the pans are not burning hot anymore but still warm and wrap the pans in plastic wrap, or cover them each with a pot lid and wrap them in towels until they cool completely.
6. Make the frosting: Place the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. Scald the cream, then add it to the chips. Whisk gently to combine, then beat to incorporate a little air and make a spreadable frosting. Place one cake layer on a serving platter and frost it. Place the second layer on top. Frost the outside and top of cake. Serve immediately. If you have leftover cake, refrigerate it or freeze it and always let it sit out at room temperature to soften it before serving.

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Who doesn’t love a good chocolate cake? Just give me a glass of milk to go with it. Thanks for the tip on covering the cake completely. Never knew that, but it makes sense. You and I have the same chicken wire basket.

    – ciaochowlinda (March 02 2010 at 9:35)

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