CLASSIC CHOCOLATE CAKE
This may make me uncool, but I never liked chocolate cake growing up. I always found it overrated - that was, until I had this cake. Since then, I've made this chocolate cake more times than I can count, and even successfully ~veganized~ it once or twice. It's insanely moist (sorry), perfectly chocolatey, and somehow gets even better the second day. It's also as easy as it gets, which means you'll never need another chocolate cake recipe.
Total time: 4 hours (includes cooling and freezing)
Active time: 60 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Makes 1 2-layer 9-inch
Ingredients for the cake:
2 cups sugar
1+3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (I usually use Hershey's)
1+1/2 tsp baking powder
1+1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, beaten with a fork
1 cup whole milk
1/2 vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Ingredients for the frosting:
3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1 cup cocoa powder
4+1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1+1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.) Preheat a standard oven to 350° F and set a small pot of coffee to brew. Grease two 9-inch round cake tins with non-stick spray and line them with circles of parchment paper slightly smaller than the size of the pan (watch this video to learn how to do this really easily). Grease the tops of the parchment, and flour the pans.
2.) In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk all ingredients together until very well combined (ingredients should be a uniform light brown). Add beaten eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract to the bowl and beat with a hand-mixer on medium for about two minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice, until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add the hot coffee and whisk together until the coffee is evenly incorporated. This won't make the cake taste like coffee. Rather, it will just intensify and deepen the chocolate flavor! The batter will be thin.
3.) Divide the batter between the two pans (it should be slightly more than three cups of batter in each pan). With a rack in the center of the oven, put the pans in, and bake for 30 minutes. At this point, test each pan with a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake. If it comes out with clean or with a few moist crumbs, it's done. If there's raw batter, cook in 5 minute increments until done.
4.) Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10-15 before running a knife around the edge and gently removing them, transferring them to a wire wrack to cool completely. Once cool, the cake can be frosted, or for better results, you can wrap each layer thoroughly in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. Freezing the cake locks in moisture and prevents crumbs from flaking off into the frosting, making the process much easier and smoother. That said, if you aren't worried about aesthetics, you can frost the cake as soon as it's cooled completely.
5.) To make the frosting, beat the butter with a hand mixer in a large bowl on medium for about 30 seconds, until whipped and light. Add the cocoa powder, and beat until the cocoa powder is incorporated into the butter - that is, there shouldn't be much dry powder; rather, the butter should be thick and dark brown. Alternate adding roughly a third of the powdered sugar and the milk, beating on high after each addition until ingredients are well incorporated. The texture should be soft enough to spread easily, but should hold its shape and not be at all runny or wet. If it's a bit thick, feel free to add milk in 1 tbsp increments as needed. Finally, beat in the vanilla.
6.) Frost in whatever way pleases you, as long as there's frosting between the layers, on the top, and on the sides. Personally, I like to use an offset spatula to spread the frosting, and a bench scraper to smooth out the sides. Dot with rainbow sprinkles if you want a festive birthday twist, and enjoy!
adapted from the side of the Hershey's Cocoa tub