June 19, 2013 | By matt | Comments
I am afraid I lost another weekend to recipe obsession. This has been happening a lot lately. I should spend more time outside (assuming the NYC weather cooperates), but there is still so much to bake. And always so little time.
My latest baking preoccupation: one-bowl (hence, lazy) chocolate cake designed for a 9 x 13 baker. The 9 x 13 part was essential (for reasons I can’t quite discuss just yet) and the most difficult part of the recipe to fulfill. While there are many wonderful one-bowl chocolate cake recipes, very few of them work in a 9 x 13 baker. Baking is a science (or so they say) and you cannot simply translate 8 or 9 inch round cake recipes to fit a 9 x 13 pan. Too often, because of the larger surface area, many cake recipes I tested would over bake on the edges and fail to bake in the middle. This caused me to a) curse the 9 x 13 and b) move happy hour up to a completely inappropriate time.
Thankfully cookbook author Lari Robling pulled me out of my morass. Years ago, I purchased Lari’s book Endangered Recipes simply because I loved the photo of the macaroni and cheese on the cover (yes, I have been guilty of judging books by their covers). I am glad I bought this book. Not only is the macaroni and cheese recipe fast and delicious (you forgo the béchamel by substituting evaporated milk…brilliant), but the recipe for Aunt Naomi’s Chocolate Fudge Cake fulfilled my need for a lightening fast/no mess 9 x 13 chocolate cake. This is the kind of cake you make to take to a picnic…the kind of cake you make when you don’t want to ice and layer and carry around traditional 3 layer beauties…the kind of cake you make when it is summer and you are feeling lazy.
A few notes about this cake and the original recipe:
This is a cocoa based chocolate cake, therefore it is not exceedingly rich/decadent. This makes it perfect for summer BBQs and Central Park outings. If you want a richer taste, you might want to add a few ounces of dark chocolate (add in when you add the cocoa powder), though I can’t vouch for the final outcome as I did not test it that way.
The crumb of this cake is bouncy and pleasing. And, yes, it uses instant flour. Instant flour (common brand is Wondra) dissolves easily, but you can substitute regular flour or cake flour in a pinch. Just make sure to sift the regular or cake flour (you don’t need to sift the instant flour) a few times before using AND keep an eye on the flour when added to the hot cocoa mixture. You will probably have to break up chunks with the back of a spoon (against the inside of the pan).
Lastly, Lari’s original recipe calls for a fudge like frosting poured over a warm from the oven cake – very similar to Texas Sheet Cake recipes. True, it is super tasty that way, but I substituted a basic cream cheese frosting because a) I had to dye the frosting orange per a friend’s request and b) the same friend was looking for a vanilla/chocolate contrast. It was just as tasty this way.
Major thanks to Lari. Go buy her book if you don’t already own it – it is a total pleasure to read. And wishing everyone many pleasant picnics in a park this summer.
Aunt Naomi’s Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from Lari Robling’s Endangered Recipes
Chocolate Cake Ingredients:
2 cups instant flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup cold water
4 ounces unsalted butter
⅓ cup canola oil
4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup buttermilk, well-shaken
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Chocolate Cake Directions:
*Okay, not truly one-bowl, but almost*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the instant flour and sugar until combined.
In a medium saucepan, bring water, butter, oil and cocoa powder to a boil. Add flour mixture and whisk gently until blended.
Measure the buttermilk into a glass measuring cup. Add the eggs and use a fork to blend completely. Stir in the vanilla, baking soda and cinnamon. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and whisk again until just blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe adapted from Baked Elements
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
a few drops of natural food gel as needed
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until no lumps remain. Add the sugar, vanilla, salt, and gel and beat until smooth (do not overbeat or frosting might lose structure). Use an offset spatula to slater on the cake.
Cake can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 3 days. Bring back to room temperature before serving.