Sunday, December 4, 2011

The World's Easiest {And Best} Chocolate Cake

 My oldest son turns 7 this week and we had his birthday party on Saturday.  Just like every other mama out there, I can remember his birth like it was yesterday and wonder at how 7 years has passed so quickly.  He was such a wonderful baby, quiet and thoughtful, quick to smile, and the world's best sleeper.  My mother took one look at him and pronounced him an "old soul".  He was one of those babies that makes you wonder why all those other mothers are stressed out and exhausted (don't feel too jealous, our younger son is more than a handful).  I was definitely lucky.  And I still consider myself lucky as we celebrate another year gone by.  My sweet little one has grown into a kind, intelligent, thoughtful, mature and all-around-wonderful young man.  I am so thankful that he came to join our family 7 short years ago.

The cupcakes that I made for my son's party are an old family recipe.  My grandparents used to have a small Italian bakery and one of their specialties was a frozen chocolate mousse cake.  I can remember slabs of frozen chocolate cake in my grandmother's freezer that would find their way onto the dessert table at all sorts of family gatherings.  I looooved that cake.  It was super moist and had the best chocolate flavor.  So when I started baking, it was one of the first recipes I asked for from my grandmother.  It wasn't until recently that I found out that the recipe I had been using for years and thought was my grandmother's was actually my Mom's!  Sorry Mom!  But regardless of the source, I still use it, love it, and even carry on the tradition of having some stashed away in my freezer for a rainy day (or any day I just want a piece of chocolate cake).

The World's Easiest {And Best} Chocolate Cake

Seriously, this really is an easy cake.  You can't screw it up.  And it's extremely versatile as well.  It works equally well for cupcakes or layered cakes.  Try it as a cake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache poured over it or with a light chocolate mouse or caramel frosting in between 2 layers.  I made a quick cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes I served at the birthday party and they complemented the cake perfectly.  Or keep the cake plain and put a scoop of your favorite ice cream over top.  Can you tell that the possibilities are endless?

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes, 2 8-inch round cakes or 1 10-inch square cake

1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
1/2 cup light flavored oil such as canola or vegetable
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup boiling water

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add the milk, oil, vanilla and eggs and stir to combine.  Carefully pour in the hot water and just as carefully stir it into the batter.  That's it!  See, I told you it was easy!

If you are going to make cupcakes, line the cups of two standard cupcake/muffin trays with liners and fill each liner to about 3/4 full.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  If you bake both trays at once, it's a good idea to rotate your pans top to bottom and back to front halfway through for even baking.  Once the cupcakes are baked, let them cool on a baking rack in the pan for a few minutes and then remove them to cool on the rack completely.  The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container for a few days if necessary or individually wrapped and frozen for several months. 

To make a cake, butter or spray your cake pan with non-stick spray, then cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan and lay it in.  Butter or spray the top of the parchment and then you can either coat the inside of the pan with flour or, as I like to do so that I avoid the edges of the cake looking gray from the flour, coat the pan with a dusting of cocoa.  Pour the cake batter into the pan to fill it about 3/4 of the way.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  The cake will have puffed in the center and feel firm to the touch (be gentle).  A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.

Cool the cake completely on a baking rack before removing it from the pan.  To remove from the pan, run a butter knife or thin offset spatula around the edge of the pan.  Place a plate over the cake and, one hand firmly on the bottom of the cake pan and the other firmly on the bottom of the plate, flip the pan over so that the cake rests on the plate.  Peel off the parchment paper and the cake it ready to use.  Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap if you don't intend to use it right away.  Like the cupcakes, you can wrap and freeze the cake for several months if you wish.

Happy Birthday Pumpkin!!!!

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