Chocolate Loaf Cake

Jordan: Our criteria for picking a cake this week: 1) Includes buttermilk, because I still have a bottle in my fridge.

Kitra: 2) Uses two or fewer eggs, because I haven’t been to the store in over a month and that’s all I have now.

3) Not particularly complicated or dish-heavy, because we’re both lazy.

4) Something in a loaf pan, that seems like I could freeze slices of because I live alone and absolutely cannot eat another entire cake this week.

Enter: Smitten Kitchen’s everyday chocolate cake.

I’ve made this before, but like eight years ago and I couldn’t tell you anything about it except that it’s chocolate and a loaf cake. And both of those sounded like pluses.

I shouldn’t be the one to sell anyone on this, because I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake. But I gave a slice to my partner and his first response was, “This is really moist! And much more chocolatey than I would have expected from something you made.”

And as someone who does like chocolate cake, I’ll tell you that this is a delightful afternoon/anytime cake. If you want chocolate cake, but are tired of washing forks and need something you can just cut a slice of and eat while you go about your day, this is it. It’s perfect for this era of our lives, where the idea of “dessert” no longer exists and all food is just for whenever you want it.

I was going to disagree with Kitra but then I remembered that I ate chips and salsa at 10:15pm last week, so.

I made fresh pasta for lunch yesterday, and dinner was a bowl of frozen broccoli that I ate with my fingers. Time, meals, and utensils are dead to me at this point. Cookie dough is lunch.

Point is: This is a good anytime cake. I had mine with a dollop of creme fraiche, and it would be just as good with greek yogurt for a vaguely kinda healthy breakfast.

Chocolate cake with yogurt on it: The breakfast of influencers and body builders everywhere, probably I guess.

While nothing with a 2:1 flour-to-cocoa ratio will ever be my favorite cake, this is a pretty good one. I will continue to eat it! If for some reason I needed to make a rich chocolate cake in the future, this would be a contender. It also has a nice thin, crispy crust on top, which both of us loved.

In summary: good cake, eat it whenever, eat it with your hands, contemplate whether time matters.

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Our 3rd Birthday Cake

A cake with chocolate frosting with a sparkly sign reading "happy birthday" in cursive, on a blue glass cake stand

Kitra: Happy birthday to us! Not as people, but to the ritual of biweekly cake days.

Jordan: This was definitely not the Cake Day Birthday we had imagined. Last year we made a lovely towering cake together, and our plan was to do something similar this year while continuing our hunt for the perfect fudge frosting.

But, you know, *gestures vaguely* this.

So instead we made two cakes, each in our respective homes, with Google Hangouts going and whatever assortment of candles/sprinkles/etc. we had in our kitchens.

We’ll *probably* stop offering you takes on yellow cake with fudge frosting after this, but we hadn’t yet shared the one I actually make for birthdays (mine, friends, coworkers, everyone gets this cake). It’s SO CUTE. And fast. And looks great in pans that have their own lids for easy transport on the metro. (Remember the METRO? Jeez it’s been a while.)

It’s from the Smitten Kitchen Every Day party cake builder, which is honestly just so great. If you make a lot of cakes for things—which seems weird as I type it, but Kitra is presumably not the only person who has been appointed Designated Cake Baker in their office—then the book is worth it for that alone.

Jordan originally wrote “Designated Cake Baker in their friend group” and let me tell you, the one true dream that I have in this world is for my friends to let me make them cakes for their parties. Casual housewarming cake? I got you. Brunch cake? Yep. Birthday cake? PLEASE GOD ASK ME TO BRING A BIRTHDAY CAKE TO YOU. I’VE BEEN TRAINING MY WHOLE LIFE FOR THIS AND NO ONE HAS EVER ASKED.

As you can see, Kitra has Many Feelings about cake, and this cake in particular. But let’s talk frosting. We’re still on the hunt for the perfect canned-style fudge frosting. No chocolate frosting either of us has made has ever been as good as eating that straight out of the can on graham crackers.

The frosting I default to is the one we put on our birthday cake last year, and the one I put on mine this year. It’s very easy, and I’ve had half a dozen self-proclaimed frosting haters ask me for the recipe. And since it is a different style from that dense fudgy canned stuff, I don’t find myself comparing them. I’m content.

I wanted something a little different, though, so I tried the one in Dining In, Alison Roman’s first cookbook (and the source of the cake from last year). It’s a bit of a richer chocolate flavor, with some tanginess from the sour cream. If you want a more nuanced frosting, this is a good option. It’s still no canned frosting, but it’s pretty good. It was also very forgiving of my realization that I had no powdered sugar and had to use regular sugar instead.

As we all know, the thing that makes a birthday cake a birthday cake is what goes on the frosting. Silly candles are ideal. Fancy cake toppers are cool. I have been stockpiling all of the above, but really all you need are rainbow sprinkles. Always rainbow sprinkles.

*Ranibow sprimkles.

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Nutella Crepe Cake

A slice of crepe cake filled with Nutella cream on a plate, with the remaining cake in the background

Jordan: This is a tale of two cakes.

Kitra: For the first time in decades, marmalade has wronged someone. And that someone is me.

Our plan here was to offer you two beautiful crepe cake recipes: One Nutella, and one with alternating layers of marmalade and pastry cream. But instead we have a beautiful Nutella crepe cake and… a cautionary tale.

I would like to say, for the record, that my cake was stellar at first. Pastry cream and marmalade taste great together, and it was a tall, ruffled dream. Until I came back after an hour in the fridge and all the marmalade had turned into… water? I still don’t understand what happened.

So as not to scare you off, we’ll start by talking about the good things that are happening here. There’s browned butter. There’s pastry cream. There are 16 or so delicious mini crepes that you can make with any flour you have on hand.

It’s not all wedges of egg, covered in orange water and cream. You, dear reader, will not end up with a pile of wet crepes, where every one of its component parts would be better off in anything else. You will have the cake I could have had if I hadn’t put my trust in marmalade.

Kitra put all of her photos in a folder and titled it “Tall stack egg bois.” Her cake slice fell apart when she tried to eat it, so when she took a bite all I heard her say was “mmm, triangles.” Meanwhile I was over here shaving chocolate and trying not to flaunt my lovely, not-sad cake. You can do this, reader. You can make a crepe cake and not be disappointed.

I may have brought this upon myself by being VERY showy about how perfect and easy my crepes were. Not a single bad crepe, just the 19 most beautiful crepes I’ve ever made.

Don’t say that, Kitra. No one deserves that mess. Not even a crepe show-off.

Y’all, I have this cake on a paper towel in the fridge to soak up all the marmalade runoff. Just make it with Nutella. (I would have been better off with even the vaguely chocolate peanut butter that I got at the store when there were no Nutella-adjacent options.) If you’re like me, and you think flavoring a pastry cream is a waste of mankind’s greatest creation—pastry cream—let me tell you: It is not. But a wet marmalade egg puddle sure is. Add the Nutella.

We’ll also give you some other options too, if Nutella isn’t your thing but pastry cream is.

I’m going to go stick my finger in the jar of leftover pastry cream now.

We just have so many questions about what happened here. Was Kitra’s particular brand of marmalade the problem? Would this have happened with any jam we tried because crepes aren’t really absorbent? Is marmalade just that much thinner than other jams? If you’re a marmalade-ologist, please call us. We need answers.

A crepe cake filled with Nutella cream with one slice missing
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Black Forest Cake

A chocolate cake with black cherry whipped cream, with a slice cut out and sitting on a plate with two forks.

Jordan: Let’s start by talking about what this cake is not. This cake is NOT made of beans.

Kitra: This cake does NOT taste like beans beans and nothing but beans.

Gif of James Corden and Emily Blunt in "Into the Woods" saying "Beans?" and looking concerned

BEANS.

BEANS.

This is all to say that we started our last Cake Day by trying to make a white bean cake, which we will not link because a) we don’t want you to even think about attempting it, and b) I kind of feel bad for it? Someone loved it! There was at least one enthusiastic comment! It’s not the cake’s fault that we thought it tasted like warm sweet bean dip.

It… kind of is though. It was a pile of beans trying to be something it had no right to be, and I resent it for that.

I think you mean “no right to beans.”

I DO.

Anyway. Once we’d thrown out the bean cake, we felt like we ought to make something of the day (other than 150 groundhogs, which we cannot share here because it is Kitra’s one sacred secret recipe), so we turned to Julia Turshen.

I finally got a copy of Now & Again, and I love it so much. I read every word, cover to cover, and also I want to eat my way through the whole thing. (Not literally though, because paper is probably almost as hard to eat as solidified sweet bean mush.)

This is her take on a black forest cake, which checked a lot of the boxes we were looking for. Relatively simple! Gluten-free! Not too sweet! Kitra refused my modifications that would have made it a one-bowl process, which is probably for the best.

If we failed at two cakes in one day, we’d have to rename this blog “Meh Cake Trash.”

Fortunately, I listened to Kitra and this cake was not! trash!

AND, I had the brilliant idea to flavor the topping when our black cherry juice powder turned out to taste like pretty much nothing. While Jello is terrible in general (Watery! Gross texture! Slimy! Transparent in a way that is TROUBLING for a food! WATERY!), it is great for 2 things. 1.) Stabilizing whipped cream and 2.) Drinking hot like cocoa. Seriously. Try it.

(Let it be known that Kitra’s attitude toward all other forms of Jello is not endorsed by all members of the Yay Cake Day editorial board.)

I have some fancy cherries in my fridge right now, but let’s be honest, Jello is easier to find and it allows this topping to do two things at once. I will accept my Nobel prize now, thank you.

As for the cake itself, it is a very chocolatey chocolate cake. The phrase “not for the faint of heart” is overused in food writing, but seriously, start with a small piece and work your way up.

The whole situation is so cute, also. I love a cake that slouches, and it’s wearing a pink hat! What a good little cake!

This is a lovely cake for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, or to bring to the office for platonic Valentine’s Day, or to make for yourself and eat in small slices while binge-watching something on Netflix this weekend. Or just for a random day when you feel like you could use some cake.

A chocolate cake with black cherry whipped cream, and some cute string lights in the background.
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White Cake with Rich Chocolate Frosting

A  slice of white cake with chocolate frosting in front of the remaining cake

Jordan: This cake is a New Year’s Eve cake, but we hope it will set the stage for 2020. It’s a simple black-and-white cake, which fits perfectly with a great goal for the new year: Do less.

Kitra: For many of us, I think I can safely say that in 2019 we did TOO MUCH. Tried too hard, worked too hard, and didn’t enjoy the small stuff enough. Like a really good frosting and a moist cake. (Or like cancelling plans, which is the true meaning of Christmas.)

This is not to say that doing and caring about things doesn’t matter, but that it’s important to actually consider the things you’re doing and caring about. Some things, for example, that are not worth giving your time and energy:

  • Having your oven clock be correct down to the second
  • What the people who work at Sephora think about you when you’re not wearing makeup
  • The right exact shade of purple you want that thing to be
  • “Detoxing”
  • That pile of unopened mail that you carefully hide whenever someone is coming over
  • Plastic straws, both the use and disuse thereof
  • Wearing 2 different colors of denim
  • Trying to sell the clothes that have been in the “to get rid of” pile for years when you could just donate them
  • If you’re “allowed” to wear hats
  • What your ex’s new girlfriend will think if she sees you across the room at a party
  • Whether that stranger’s dog likes you (maybe, that dog is a dick. It’s rare, but happens.)
  • “Guilty pleasure” music, unless it’s made by actual criminals/terrible people
  • Hanging up that clean laundry tonight, because it’s midnight and you want to sleep
  • How other people organize their books
  • How white your teeth are
  • Whether other people give enough/too much attention, in your view, to sports, celebrities, and/or astrology
  • The heat death of the universe. You’ll be here or you (presumably) won’t. Who cares! Unless you work for NASA, chill out buddy.

And, for our purposes here: Making every cake a beautiful three-tier masterpiece.

If you put enough candles in it, or sprinkles on it, any cake can look astonishingly festive. In 2020, just throw some sprinkles on a sheet cake and call it a day. (Or don’t throw them, because I constantly remind Jordan that they don’t magically stick 90% of the time. But use them.)

(Sprinkles are just edible confetti, throw them if you want to throw them. But be aware they do bounce off of cake sides, just FYI.)

If you’re looking for a cake to sprinkle, this is a good one!

IT’S SO FLUFFY.

This is truly an answer to the boxed white cakes of everyone’s childhoods.

It’s like the crappy sheet cake you get at a second-grader’s birthday party, but delicious. I don’t think I realized that white cake could taste this good.

We were both pretty surprised. It looks amazing, tastes amazing, and cuts BEAUTIFULLY. You know how sometimes it’s just hard to get perfect slices? Not here, Buster.

We used Black Onyx cocoa powder, which makes the frosting taste like an Oreo and makes it extra-dark. Even with regular cocoa, however, it will still be deliciously chocolatey and not too overwhelmingly sweet.

This cake is simple, but it looks so regal. It’s black-tie ready. So white and fluffy! So black and fluffy! It’s the feather boa of cakes, but awesome and not constantly flying into your mouth when you aren’t prepared! Only when you are prepared. Because you’re eating.

Basically, it’s a cake that will make people happy without you having to slave away in the kitchen. Which is exactly the kind of cake 2020 needs.

A cake with chocolate frosting, large white sprinkles, and many glittery star-shaped candles
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Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

Maple buttermilk pie, pumpkin chocolate cheesecake, and spiced pear pie

Jordan: Pie Month is technically over, but with Thanksgiving so late in November, we didn’t have a chance to share our holiday desserts with you, and it seems a shame to hold onto these for a full year.

Kitra: Plus, it’s always pie month in our hearts.

And cheesecake is a perfect transition recipe, since no one really knows how to classify it.

I’ve been making pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars for yearsssssss.

Way way back in the day, Kitra used to get daily Better Homes & Gardens emails to our shared email account, and this came from that phase.

See also that blueberry charmer from a while back.

There were also what must have been monthly batches of lemon rosemary cupcakes… but the pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars were the highlight.

And it seemed like there was real potential to make them flashier. They’ve already got three layers, but in a bar it’s kind of hard to tell. So why not magnify the whole thing!

Besides, cheesecake bars—while convenient—don’t have that show-stopping Thanksgiving dessert vibe that a full-sized cheesecake does.

Plus, we wanted to keep our forks working their full-tine jobs. (This joke killed me, and Jordan hates it. You decide.)

We also made two other pies for Thanksgiving. (Yes, we only had six people and two of them were children, this is a perfectly acceptable pie-to-person ratio.)

We hit the three categories of Thanksgiving pie: Orange, fruit, wildcard (Nut? Custard? Jello? Whoppers?)

Nothing but a pie tin full of Whoppers. Just like grandma used to make!

That was an autocorrect that we ran with. Anyway.

Our fruit pie was a pear version of Molly Yeh’s hawaij apple pie, which I liked but Kitra found too imperfect to share on the blog. (Though let’s all appreciate the beautiful pie crust braids she did on the top of that one.)

I’d recommend the pie we made last year if you’re looking for a spiced pear pie.

The other pie was a maple buttermilk custard pie from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook. It reminded me of the period where I ate maple-yogurt overnight oats for breakfast every day, in the best possible way. Mapley and tangy and very simple to put together.

It was delightful, but we just made my ideal custard pie so anything else was going to be a bit of a letdown. Also, I just have something against sour cream.

Still, if you have the cookbook (or want to try any of the versions floating around other blogs), it’s worth making.

If you’re looking for a dessert that pulls out all the stops for your holiday tables though, look no further than the cheesecake.

Slice of pumpkin chocolate cheesecake
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Gluten-Free Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Cake

A chocolate layer cake with ice cream and raspberries between the two layers

Kitra: Sometimes, most of the time, it’s really unbearably hot in DC. And nothing is okay unless it’s made of ice cream.

Jordan: However, I didn’t grow up eating (so-called) ice cream cakes. You know, the kind that are just layers of ice cream and some crumbly bits and sub-standard frosting on top. I don’t know that I’d ever had one of those before a few years ago. If so, I’ve completely erased it from my memory.

I recall a period where we had a lot of Dairy Queen ice cream cakes in the freezer, but it seems like that may have been after Jordan went to college.

I don’t believe in cakeless ice cream cake. Kitra, meanwhile, just googled pictures of DQ cakes and whispered “Yeah, these guys” to herself. But because this is a cake blog and not an “ice cream shaped like cake” blog, we went with something that involved actual cake.

And since our dad was in town, we made it gluten-free. Which, may I add, is one of the true gifts of ice cream. The cake part is harder, but not that hard.

If you do gluten-free baking with any regularity, we highly recommend the America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook, which we purchased a while after our dad was diagnosed with celiac.

That cookbook was a lifesaver. WAFFLES THAT TASTE LIKE REGULAR WAFFLES Y’ALL. It had been a long time since we had eaten regular tasting desserts. And their cakes are so genuinely good that I made them regularly for events in high school.

A lot of the time we prefer gluten-free foods that taste like an improvement on their regular counterparts—we both own a copy of Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours for this reason. However, if you want a gluten-free chocolate cake that tastes exactly like a regular chocolate cake, ATK is where it’s at. That’s what we did here.

Also, if you’re making an ice cream cake, you should use ice cream that you actually like. We used Tillamook, since they recently started distributing in DC and as an Oregonian I feel it is my responsibility to single-handedly uphold that market.

We’ve included directions here that will make your life easier, but I want to emphasize this up front: do not let this cake break you. It will be fine. I promise.

And whatever you do, don’t think “eh, this will be fine without a mold.” Put the ice cream in the damn pan and save yourself.

(Kitra might have had to leave the room for a bit while we were assembling.)

(It was so horrifying. Be better than us.)

I feel like we’ve done a terrible job of selling this so far, but it really is a delicious cake.

It’s also ice cream cake. It sells itself.

Go, make ice cream cake and make the best of the last terrible bit of summer.

Chocolate ganache sliding over the edges of an ice cream cake
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Our 2nd Birthday Cake

Three-layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and a candle

Jordan: About two years ago, we decided that we had more cake recipes bookmarked than we had occasions to make cake, and thus, Cake Day was born.

Kitra: I will always remember what weekend our cake… anniversary(?) falls on because it was the same day that Falsettos opened on Broadway in 1992. That’s in my calendar as a recurring event.

(Kitra is a nerd.) Cake Day shares a birthday weekend with several awesome things, including Kitra’s local bookstore, where she picked up a copy of Alison Roman’s Dining In this weekend. It’s full of great dinner ideas and brilliant cooking tips, but it also includes a recipe for the fluffiest yellow cake ever.

It’s tall and beautiful just like a birthday cake should be. Also, I would like everyone here to try and explain to relative strangers that you’re buying a birthday candle for a cake about cake. (Thanks to my other favorite local store for never being put off by sentences like that when I come in to buy a “2” candle, or walk in with nothing but a melon and a dog in hand.)

Funnily enough, we didn’t really have this kind of birthday cake growing up. (I was always a cheesecake fan, at least after the “cakes shaped like princess castles or dinosaurs” phase. I contained multitudes as a child). But there’s something undeniably birthday-y about good yellow cake, chocolate frosting, and sprinkles.

Mine often had the misfortune of being Halloween-themed, so I too lacked the classic birthday cake experience. In fact, for the past 6 years I haven’t had cake at all. But yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles is still what I bring to any and all birthday celebrations that I’m allowed to bring cake to.

Last year we tried out the recipe from Stella Parks’s cookbook, Bravetart, and it was… fine? But it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. (The cookbook is great though, don’t get us wrong.) This one hit the spot.

I’m pretty loyal to the Smitten Kitchen cake and frosting, but I think that the size and scale of this cake work better with a fluffy beautiful cake like this. (If you want a sheet cake though, you know where to look.) We kept the frosting though, because it is just so damn easy and smooth.

That said, if you happen to have a recipe for a fudgy frosting that tastes just like the amazing canned stuff you buy at the grocery store, send it our way. There’s always next year.

Three-layer cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and a lit candle

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Chocolate Babka Swirl Coffee Cake

babka-cake.jpg

Jordan: This is a coffee cake, which means you can eat it for breakfast. It also uses a pound of butter, so you probably shouldn’t, but that’s not going to stop us.

Kitra: I eat ice cream for breakfast about 40% of the time, so this seems perfectly reasonable.

That’s sad and we’re not going to comment on it.

I mean, that percentage is lower in the winter. I eat a lot of Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast instead.

So if you’re looking for a cake that is better for you than Kitra’s usual breakfast fare but still feels like a comforting plate of carbs and chocolate, you’ve come to the right place!

If there’s one thing we know, it’s how to provide you with healthy breakfast options.

This is supposed to be a coffee cake (that’s cake to have with coffee, not cake made with coffee) mashed up with a loaf of chocolate babka. Call it babka-inspired: It has chocolate filling and swirly layers, but no one is going to mistake it for the real thing.

And that’s fine, because it’s “breakfast” and mostly chocolate. This cake is moist and pretty, so what’s not to love.

We both brought leftovers to work (it’s a LOT of cake) and both sets of coworkers demolished it, which is the sign of a successful cake in our book.

So have your cake and eat it (for breakfast) too.

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Classic Cake Day: Red Velvet Ghost Cake

ghost-cake.jpg

[Classic Cake Day revisits some of our favorite cakes from the first year or so, before the blog. We made this cake in October 2017.]

Jordan: Last year’s Halloween cake was probably going to be a cake covered entirely in candy eyes, like a sprinkle cake (but eyes).

Kitra: Which we should still do.

Agreed. But it was worth postponing because: ghost pretzels. Ghost. Pretzels. They look like the poor unfortunate souls from The Little Mermaid! You can’t not love them.

We had way too much fun making ghosts. Also just saying the word “ghosts”.

Imagine Kitra saying “ghosts” with a Minnesotan accent over and over and you’ll get the idea.

Ghoosts.

Rather than just covering any old cake in ghosts, we went for the most disturbingly blood-like of cakes: red velvet.

I’ve used Alton Brown’s recipe before, and it’s lovely. Except where it looks like the inside of our meat suits.

That was gross. I’m sorry. This cake is delicious, but be warned that between the cake, cream cheese frosting, and a solid coating of yogurt-covered pretzels, it’s VERY sweet.

And also your fingers will be a weird color for days unless you’re very careful.

Recommended order of operations for this:

  1. Make the cakes so that they can cool
  2. Make frosting
  3. Make a million tiny ghosts
  4. Start thinking of puns that combine both ghosts and cake
  5. Assemble the cake
  6. Make a really bad video
  7. Profit???

I was really insistent about the video. I also love it. In fact, I showed it to someone this month for no particular reason other than I feel it is a work of ART.

In summary, we’re not really inventing the wheel here on red velvet cake, but we are making it a lot spookier.

ghost-pretzel Read More