I did a few rounds of testing before deciding that I wanted to take an old Post recipe by cookbook author Marcy Goldman in a new direction. His recipe was a riff on the famous Pillsbury Bake-Off Tunnel of Fudge Cake, and I got some ideas on how to use the frame to create my own ideal cake. Here’s what really makes my version click.
– Hollandaise Cocoa Powder – a whole cup – provides rich, robust cocoa flavor. Blooming it in hot water with espresso powder amps up the chocolate even more. Do not swap natural cocoa powder, which is more acidic, as the ingredients in this recipe (dairy, yeast, etc.) have been set up to work with Dutch. My absolute favorite is Double Dutch Dark Cocoa from King Arthur Baking. I also tested with Droste, an excellent brand more widely available in grocery stores and online.
– A mixture of butter and oil gives the cake the ideal texture between a pound cake and a layer cake – not as dense or dry as the former or as open and moist as the latter. Instead, you get a fairly tight crumb that’s still very tender.
— Reducing the white sugar really lets the flavor of the chocolate shine through. I rely more on brown sugar (dark or light, it doesn’t matter) which adds to that chewy texture I was looking for.
– Many similar cakes use a ganache icing made with heavy cream and chopped chocolate. None of these were in my cake, so I set out to create one using ingredients already in the recipe. My solution is basically a reverse-engineered ganache made with butter, milk, and cocoa powder. The only additional ingredient is honey, which I suspect can be found in most bakers’ pantries. Honey is great for making icing smooth, shiny, and deliciously chewy without risking becoming brittle as it hardens. Heck, if the frosting is the only thing you’re taking away from this recipe to use on other desserts, I wouldn’t be mad. It is so good. I use vanilla extract to flavor it, but you can customize it with other extracts (orange, almond, mint) or liqueurs (amaretto, Kahlua, Frangelico).
– The Bundt pan adds an instant twist, but if you don’t have one, the recipe turns into bread beautifully. And if you’re vegan, you won’t be disappointed with the dairy-free and egg-free version of this cake, which is arguably even moister and more tender than the original. See the variations at the bottom of this article.
Storage: Baked and frosted cake can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 4 days. Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
- 1 cup (95 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) boiling water
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) whole or low-fat milk
- 2 1/2 cups (310 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 cup (220 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) neutral oil, such as canola
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick / 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened but cool to the touch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons of Dutch cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- Pinch of fine salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons whole or low fat milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the cake: Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a large Bundt pan (10 to 15 cup/2.3 to 3.5 liters) with cooking spray or grease with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Pay particular attention to the center tube, where sticking is particularly likely.
In a medium bowl or 4-cup (1 liter) glass measuring cup, whisk together cocoa and espresso powders until combined. Pour in the boiling water, whisking again until well combined. The mixture will thicken and become glossy, almost like pudding. Let cool slightly, then whisk in milk until incorporated.
In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a large bowl and a hand mixer, beat the brown and granulated sugars, oil and butter on medium speed until light in color, creamy and frothy, about 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl and attachment as needed. Still over medium heat, stir in the vanilla extract, then the eggs, one at a time, waiting for the first to be incorporated before adding the second. Scrape the bowl again. On low speed, gradually add half of the cocoa powder mixture. The dough may seem separated or curdled, but don’t worry. Once the liquid is well mixed, stop the mixer, add half of the flour mixture and mix again on low heat until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Repeat with the rest of the cocoa mixture, then the rest of the flour mixture.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again. Return the mixer to medium heat and beat for about 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and make a final scraping and mixing with a flexible spatula to make sure there are no dry pockets or slicks of unincorporated butter on the sides or bottom of the bowl. The finished batter will be thick and glossy, almost like pudding or soft mousse.
Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Gently tap the pan several times on the counter to pop any air pockets in the batter. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester (or wooden skewer) inserted in the center comes out clean. When lightly pressed down with your finger, the cake should spring back a bit, but it may still be very soft. Its good; it will firm up as it cools.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a small flexible spatula or blunt knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, then invert it onto the rack. Let the cake cool completely.
Prepare the optional glaze: In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the cocoa powder, honey and salt. No need to stir, as it will come together smoothly once you add the remaining ingredients.
In a 2-cup (480 milliliter) glass measuring cup, combine butter and milk. Microwave on HIGH until butter is melted, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Milk can foam, so watch it, turn the microwave off and stir as needed. Pour the butter mixture into the cocoa powder mixture and whisk until shiny, smooth and well combined. Whisk in the vanilla. It is possible that after whipping, the frosting will cool and thicken enough that it is not pourable. If so, simply microwave it back on HIGH for 10-20 seconds, or until shiny and thin enough to drizzle over the cake. You can heat it more or less depending on how much you want it to drip onto the cake – hotter and it will go all the way, a little cooler and it will go slower and less far.
Pour the frosting over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. If desired, use a spoon or offset spatula to push more up and down. Let the frosting set about 30 minutes before cutting and serving, or storing.
VARIANTS: This recipe can also be made in the form of sandwich bread. For two loaves, use the ingredient amounts as listed, but you can also cut them in half to make one loaf. We preferred the height of an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan, but a 9 x 5 inch pan will also work. Grease the loaf pan(s) with a thin layer of oil, then line with a piece of parchment paper cut to form a sling along the long sides of the pan. Proceed with the recipe as directed (if you are making two loaves, each pan will need about 720 grams of dough), baking for about 50 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan using parchment paper sling. Glaze, if desired, as above.
To make this vegan, substitute the non-dairy milk and vegan butter (swaps one for one) in the cake and frosting. Leave the eggs aside and beat 1 1/2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into the cake batter with the vanilla. For the glaze, agave syrup can be used instead of honey.
Per serving, based on 16, with frosting and using low fat milk
Calories: 304; Total fat: 16 g; Saturated fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 43mg; Sodium: 185mg; Carbohydrates: 40g; Dietary fibre: 3g; Sugar: 20g; Protein: 5g
This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
From Voraciously editor Becky Krystal, inspired by a 1997 Post recipe by cookbook author Marcy Goldman.