I’ve been giving a lot of thought to cake lately, as I’ve been working on—and editing—an article all about birthday cakes for work (tough job, I know). For me, chocolate cake is one of the more tricky ones to nail properly. Let me clarify: chocolate layer cake. Classic chocolate layer cake. The other kinds, like flourless chocolate cake or molten lava cake, are generally more foolproof. (Throw enough chocolate in anything and it’ll taste pretty excellent.)
Chocolate cakes that are supposed to have fudgy, dense textures are rather forgiving for a baker. If you underbake them a bit, they’ll be extra squidgy and people will probably cheer when you hand them a slice. The more decadent the cake, the more the chocolate can hide a multitude of sins.
But chocolate layer cake? That’s different. The crumb is so hard to get just right. I’ve found so many recipes end up yielding a cake that’s far too soft and moist with a mild, unassuming hint of chocolate flavor. I want a cake that’s closer in texture to a classic yellow birthday cake: firm and close-crumbed and delicate but not too airy.
This one comes the closest to the cake I’m searching for. I love it a lot, but I don’t think my tweaking and testing is finished. (Oh, you think that sounds like an excuse to eat a lot more chocolate cake in the near future? Well, you would not be wrong.)
Now, a word about frosting. You can frost this cake with whatever you like. But if you’ve never made (or—GOD FORBID—eaten) seven minute frosting, then just stop everything immediately and go do it. It’s meringue-like and sweet and swirls under your spatula in dreamy, billowy piles. I secretly love it even more the next day when it gets a slight sugary crust on the edges.
Chocolate Cake with Seven Minute Frosting
For the cake
For the cake
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water
For the frosting
4 egg whites
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour three 6” cake pans or two 8-inch round pans.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add in the boiling water and mix to incorporate.
Pour the batter (it will be very thin -- don't panic!) into the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (start checking after 30). The cake is ready when it starts to pull away from the edges and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning the cakes out onto a rack to cool.
For the frosting: Combine all the ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Beat with an electric mixer set at low speed for 30 seconds, then set the pan over rapidly boiling water.
Using a handheld mixer, beat the frosting for exactly 7 minutes.
Remove the frosting from the heat, and beat for 1 minute more. If the frosting is too liquid-y and doesn't hold a soft-to-stiff peak, let it cool at room temperature for 10 minutes (or in the fridge for a few minutes), and then beat it on high speed for a few minutes until the texture is thick enough.
Frost the layers, sides, and top of the cake liberally!