Kitra: This week I wanted a cake-y cake. Something fluffy, that I could top with frosting, and feel like I was having a tiny celebration (instead of isolating at home and refinishing my dresser for the… 3rd? 4th? time).
Jordan: Meanwhile—though Kitra is the one waiting out a COVID exposure period—I’ve spent the day at home with maybe a cold, maybe allergies, or maybe just general exhaustion. Whatever it is, I’m in the type of mood where a tiny celebration just sounds like a tiny chore. I wanted a cake that I didn’t even have to turn out of the pan.
Chocolate cake is usually good for any occasion, so seemed like a solid route to go here.
We made the chocolate cake from Odette Williams’s Simple Cakes, but honestly, this post is more of a set of suggestions than anything. You can use this chocolate cake or another one. Sunday Chocolate Cake is a mood, not a recipe.
For me, I needed something adorable to look at while my bedroom is covered in wood dust, and wanted to use a bunch of freeze-dried strawberries. So, 6-inch 2-layer cake with strawberry buttercream and—importantly—sprinkles.
My cake has some added cinnamon and chili—when I’m sick, I want everything to be a little bit spicy—and an icing based on the one we use for Texas chocolate sheet cake, but more chocolatey and less sweet.
I don’t know that this cake is going to be one I come back to, though it’s perfectly lovely. It’s just so moist that it transforms from fluffy into something… bouncy?
Bouncy is definitely the right word. It’s a flexible recipe, though. I realized that I had no milk, so reached for coconut milk… only to find I had no coconut milk either. Or cream. Or emergency shelf-stable almond milk. So mine was made with water and nonfat milk powder and gluten-free flour and you know what? It came out perfectly fine.
And I used buttermilk because that is never the wrong answer when you actually have it in the house.
So know that if you just need a Sunday Chocolate Cake and your pantry is a little bare, you can probably make it work as long as you have flour and cocoa.
As an added bonus, making a half batch of batter (we both did) means that things bake and cool faster so we went from 0 to cake in about 90 minutes.
Take the below offering and do what you will with it. Just remember: Sunday Chocolate Cake is but a state of mind.
Sunday Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Simple Cake
Also from this book: Buttermilk Honey Cake and Orange Olive Oil Cake
Some pan options for this cake: Two 6-inch rounds (Kitra’s route), an 8- or 9-inch square, an 8- or 9-inch round (Jordan’s route, though technically it was a pie plate). Because of this, we have a wide range of baking times below.
The recipe here is the basic one, but feel free to add spices/flavorings, swap the milk for something else, or otherwise adapt. It’s a flexible one.
- 1 cup minus a tablespoon (112g) flour
- ¼ cup (23g) cocoa powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (150g) sugar
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup boiling water
Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease a pan (see note) and line the bottom with parchment paper if you plan on turning it out.
In a medium-large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (If your cocoa is not lumpy and/or you like to live on the edge, you can just whisk it together instead of sifting.) Add the sugar and whisk to combine.
In smaller bowl or a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add in the boiling water and whisk until combined. It’s a very thin batter; don’t worry about it.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center no longer comes out with liquid. It may still have some sticky cake on it, which is fine. The top will also spring back gently when you touch it.
Cool the cake for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack, and cool fully if you plan on frosting it.
From Kitra: This is just enough for a tiny 2 layer cake. I wanted something a little weird and artificial tasting, so went with a classic Wilton style buttercream, but if you want something that better showcases the fruit, we definitely have glazes or whipped creams for you! Bear in mind it will taste more like fruit as it sits and hydrates.
- ¼ cup (½ stick, 50g) softened butter
- ¼ cup (50g) shortening
- 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar
- ¼ cup finely crushed freeze-dried strawberries
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
In a mixer, whisk the butter and shortening until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and berries, beat to combine, and beat in the milk until very fluffy.
From Jordan: This is honestly a pretty perfect icing. Something about a cooked frosting just tastes better; I’m sure a food scientist has explained this somewhere, but you’ll just have to take my word for it here. I used water—having no liquid dairy in my home, as noted above—but milk would probably make it a bit richer. A bit of espresso powder heightens the flavor of anything chocolate without making it taste like coffee, but it’s not necessary.
If you assemble and eat this while the cake is still warm, you’ll get a beautiful fudgy/gooey texture; you can also cool the cake fully first for slightly more distinct cake and icing layers.
- ¼ cup (½ stick, 50g) butter
- 3 tablespoons water or milk (see note)
- 3 tablespoons (15g) cocoa powder
- Pinch of espresso powder (optional)
- 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, water/milk, cocoa, and espresso powder. Bring to a boil over medium heat and whisk together. Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth and pour over cake immediately. Allow to cool fully or eat it warm and slightly soft.