Monday, August 9, 2010

Black Magic Chocolate Cake

I know this blog is called Buffalo Baked, but I have to contribute something which was, alas, not concocted in the big blue house.

Earlier this week, I traveled home to the backwoods of Pennsylvania to savor some good old fashioned Pennsylvania fun; the local county fair. Every year for the past three years, I have entered the fair's Hershey Chocolate Cake contest. The rules are simple; bake a cake which uses at least 1/4 cup of Hershey's cocoa in the cake (same for frosting if it is chocolate). It can be any kind of cake and any kind of frosting. I've received honorable mentions before and last year got 3rd place, but am always bested by one M. McKinley. This year, determined to outdo Ms. McKinley, I baked a Black Magic Chocolate cake with Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate frosting, complete with chocolate frosting roses. Read/see on for my baking adventures!

Music: Whatever was on Black Cab Sessions (really good set by Death Cab for Cutie and The National)

Company: My mom's cat Sputnik was quite curious as to my activities, but more interested in the goings on of the various chickens outside and abandoned me after I wouldn't let him lick the bowl (I had dibs).

While most of the time when I bake I use the recipe mainly as a guideline and improvise my way through it, I thought it best, on this occasion, to adhere to the directions as strictly as possible.

I started out baking the cake by heating my oven to 350 degrees F. Next, I mixed two cups of white sugar, 1 3/4 cups of cake flour (all-purpose would have worked, but cake flour comes pre-sifted and can result in a lighter cake), 3/4 cup Hershey's special dark cocoa, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. Most recipes recommend stirring ingredients with a wooden spoon, but I rarely use one, favoring instead an old wire whisk purchased from an Amish variety store. It's much sturdier than ones you can get in stores these days and functions as an in-bowl sifter. The resulting mixture had the consistency of very fine silt.

Next, I added two eggs, 1 cup of strong coffee (I brewed a cup then ran it through the filter again to make it stronger), 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 cup of sour milk (to sour milk, put 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a measuring cup and add enough milk to equal 1 cup). At this juncture, I was supposed to beat for two minutes with an electric hand-mixer, but my dear sister took my mixer with her to school so I was forced to whip the batter with a fork for a few minutes instead. Still, the desired result occurred and the batter, while thin, was light and full of bubbles. I poured the batter into two, 9-inch round, greased and floured baking tins and put them in the oven for exactly 35 minutes, at which point I took them out and allowed them to cool in the pans.

After they had cooled, I found the cakes had risen far above the rim of the pan. Since any attempt to stack them one on top of the other would have resulted in the top cake splitting, I took a bread knife and carefully sawed off the excess cake from each one so they were perfectly flat and uniform. I could then remove the cakes from the pan and let cool completely upside-down on wire racks. However, this measure resulted in a lot of excess crumbs on top of the cake, which I eliminated with gentle dabs with a damp paper towel.

Next, I made the frosting by melting 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, adding 1/3 cup of Hershey's cocoa and beating until smooth. Then, I alternately added 3 cups of confectioners sugar with 1/3 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Getting the consistency right was difficult and I made adjustments to both sugar and milk until the frosting was about right. Since it needs to be whipped with a beater and I didn't have one, I used an egg beater with moderate success and a sore arm.

To assemble, I spread chocolate frosting over the top of one cake to a depth of about 1/3-1/2 inch. Then, I flipped the other cake on top and proceeded to spread frosting on the top and sides of both. With very fine and delicate cakes like these, it's very hard to spread thick frosting without getting crumbs everywhere. My trick is, I get a cup of boiling water and periodically, dip my frosting knife in it, so it heats up pretty hot. This melts the frosting just enough to make it easier to spread and so it doesn't stick to the wrong places on the cake.
Frosted in the middle. The very rough nature of the surface of the cake indicates lots of bubbles and a light texture.

Once fully coated in frosting, I took mini chocolate chips (Hershey's, of course) and pressed them to the sides of the cake. Then, I put the cake in the refrigerator for a while so the chips would harden into the frosting.

The next morning, I whipped up a quick extra batch of frosting and made some chocolate roses to go on top of the cake for decorations. Each rose was centered around a Hershey Kiss center!

A rose in progress! Usually I use a flower nail to form it on, but didn't have one, so I used a meat thermometer covered in tin foil!

Completed cake!

I found out this afternoon that I placed 3rd with my cake again. M. McKinley beat me again! However, she did NOT place first, as she has every other year I have competed so I feel pretty ok. The cake sold at auction for $25, the proceeds of which went to the Clinton County Fair fund.

From the scraps of cake I got to sample while baking it, this is really a killer one. The coffee flavor isn't really discernible, but more enhances the dark chocolate-ness of the cake. I really want to try making cupcakes with this recipe and maybe using a white frosting instead of a chocolate one. Oooo, it would be really good with cherries too!


  1. um who do we know who has a birthday coming up, and can we have a party, and can we eat this?

  2. Wow, who does have a birthday coming up? Who? It's really too bad that we don't know anyone turning 20 in approximately 17 days...