A Tale of Two Chocolate Cakes

I love cake. No joke. My favorite part of weddings is the cake, and I'm a fierce critic. I know how much wedding cakes cost, so in my mind, it better be perfect. I honestly don't care what you serve me for dinner, or how awesome your DJ was, your wedding cake makes or breaks the whole shabang in my mind. When Jeff and I got married, I took the cake very seriously. I wanted it to look memorable and interesting, but I wanted the taste to be just as memorable and interesting. I'm quite taken by the look of fondant icing (who isn't) but I loathe the taste. When I met our baker, and she said she can make butter cream look like fondant, I fell in love with her. She wasn't lying and managed to make a gorgeous cake inspired by our invitations. I remember very little from my wedding day, it was all a whirlwind, but I can recall the taste of our cake as if I had just had some for lunch. One layer, my choice, was spice cake with an caramel apple filling, and the second layer, Jeff's choice, was dark chocolate with chocolate fudge filling.

If you couldn't guess, Jeff's favorite cake is chocolate cake, and so is his dad's (at least I heard that somewhere, sorry Scott, if I'm mistaken). When we made plans to eat dinner at the in-laws a few weeks ago, I wanted to bring a dessert, and it absolutely had to be a cake. See, I don't get to satisfy my affinity for cake often. I bake a lot, but usually it's things that last longer than a day or two (most cakes croak in 48 hours) or things that are easily shared, i.e. thrown in a plastic bag and sent to work with Jeff. So, I seized this opportunity and looked for a classic chocolate Bundt cake recipe online. I found what I needed from Martha Stewart.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

I found this cake to be quite nice. In the words of Jamie Oliver, "it's not going to change your life" , but I was very satisfied with the results of my effort. The glaze is really the star, so don't skip or skimp on it. I did not add booze to my chocolate glaze, certainly not because I have anything against that - just that I don't really have a whole lot of hard liquor hanging around. Instead I added instant coffee, and I'm glad I did. By all means, go for the Cognac, but I really recommend the coffee. Also, a note, the recipe asks for a 14 cup Bundt cake pan, I don't have one that large and just used my 10 cup Bundt pan and baked it for 55 minutes. It turned out perfect.

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream (4 ounces)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, but I think you should - it made the cake more interesting)

For the glaze:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Cognac or rum (optional)
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 14-cup Bundt pan. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Mix milk and sour cream in a small bowl.

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add flour mixture, alternating with milk mixture, ending with flour. Fold in walnuts, if using. Spoon batter into pan. Bake until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Invert cake. (Cake will keep for up to 1 day.)

Make the glaze: Place chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, if using coffee - mix into the milk now, then pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter and Cognac or rum, if using, and mix until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over cooled cake.


Sounds good, you say? What else you got, you say? How about a chocolate cake that is just like eating a wedge of dark chocolate fudge. This cake isn't for the chocolate faint at heart. You feel just so-so about chocolate? Take a pass on this one. Do you have dreams of bathing in a claw foot tub filled to the brim with ganache (ahem, Borislava)? You might consider making this next cake, like right now.

As mentioned in the last entry, my parents and my sister made their way down to Indiana last weekend. My sister has found herself under a lot of stress lately, so I wanted to have a special dessert for her the night of our big dinner. Endless options? Not really. She follows a gluten-free diet so that creates a few obstacles when baking. Her favorite gluten-free dessert when dining out is a flourless chocolate cake. I thought this would be quite an endeavor to find a recipe for, not to mention actually making it. I was wrong. I found this great recipe on Whole Foods Market's website and this cake seriously takes very little equipment and expertise. The result, however, like bathing in a claw foot tub filled to the brim with ganache. Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray, too, then set the pan aside.

Place two-thirds (8 ounces) of the chocolate and 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stirring often, melt chocolate with butter until completely blended. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. (Alternatively, you may use your microwave to melt the butter with the chocolate, if desired). Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift cocoa into bowl and stir until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake has risen and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate, removing sides of springform pan. Remove and discard parchment paper and set cake aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze. Melt remaining 4 ounces chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.

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