~David's Devilishly Dark & Dense Devil's Food Cake~
Tell someone to "name a chocolate cake". Nine out of ten times, the answer will be devil's food. This iconic childhood-memory-of-a-cake has a place in the hearts and minds of everyone who loves a forkful of rich and moist chocolate cake. I'll take it one step further: I'm willing to bet that nine out of ten times, if you ask, "what was the first chocolate cake you baked from scratch", the answer will be the same. It was indeed the first chocolate cake I baked from scratch, and, there was a period in time when I had the recipe committed to memory (almost). Here's why:
1 husband + 3 sons = 4 devil's food birthday cakes per year
Without exception, it was the most requested cake in our household and my "go to" recipe when I was asked to bake a cake. Besides birthday celebrations, it got donated to school bake sales and charitable fundraisers, as well as taken to picnics and potlucks. Sometimes I made devil's food layer cake, sometimes I made sheet cake, other times I made cupcakes. Now that I'm a grandmother, GrandMel appropriately renamed her Devilishly Moist Dark Chocolate Devil's Food Cake recipe after our Grandson David, as I bake one every year for his Memorial Day birthday (he's turning eight this year), and a high percentage of all the times we visit him too!
A bit about Devil's Food vs. Chocolate Cake: "Devil's food" is a term than refers generically to any dark, dense baked chocolate item. In the case of devil's food cake, it is said to be the polar opposite of the white, light angel food cake. While devil's food is a chocolate cake, for a chocolate cake to qualify for devil's food status: cocoa powder is used in place of melted unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate, and, hot coffee or hot water is used in place of milk. Devil's food cake also has an extra-bit of baking soda added to it, which raises the ph level, resulting in the signature dark color and moist texture. Devil's food cake is all-too-often confused with red devil cake or red velvet cake, which is made with buttermilk and/or vinegar -- their acids chemically cause a reddening of the cocoa powder. That natural red tinting has also, sadly, resulted in recipes that contain red food coloring for a more pronounced red color.
A bit about Dutch or Dutched cocoa powder: Chocolate is naturally acidic, and so is its by-product: cocoa powder. Typical recipes call for one of two types of cocoa powder: natural or Dutch-process. Dutch-process is natural cocoa powder that has been alkalized to remove its acidity and make it neutral, which darkens its color and give is a smoother, mellower flavor. Natural powders have a pH of 5-6. Dutched have a pH of 7 or 8.
Occasionally you'll come across a recipe that calls for black cocoa powder. This is dutch cocoa powder that contains 0% acidity. It turns baked goods as black as you could hope for -- they use it to make Oreo cookies. Because this cocoa powder contains 0% fat too, it tends to make baked goods dry or crumbly (which is why it's great for cookie baking), so, think carefully before substituting it in place of dutch process cocoa powder.
Cakes made with "dutched" cocoa powder are dark and dense. Cakes made with natural cocoa powder are light and loose-crumbed. The standard rule is: use natural cocoa powder with baking soda and Dutch-process with baking powder, so, always follow the recipe, but know there are exceptions. If you come across one, chances are there is an ingredient on the list that adjusts the pH level and overrides the rule. In the case of today's cake: it's the sour cream.
1 cup boiling water
1 cup + 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder (4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons packed (but not firmly-packed) light brown sugar (10 ounces)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1 cup cake flour (4 ounces)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature (5 ounces)
2 large whole eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (Note: Lindt is my favorite chocolate, but, be sure to use your favorite. Good old-fashioned chocolate morsels work fine too.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Part One: Baking David's Cake
~ Step 1. Use 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to grease and flour two, straight-sided, 8"-round cake pans. Set aside. Position oven rack in center and preheat oven to a moderate 325 degrees.
~ Step 6. Over low speed of mixer process dry mix to "grains of sand". Turn mixer off and add all of the liquid mix. Starting on low speed and working up to high, beat until uniform in color, about 1 minute.
Place on a rack to cool, in the pans, for 30 minutes...
~Step 2. Place the butter in a large bowl, and, over medium speed of mixer, beat about 30 seconds. Add the sour cream and the vanilla extract and beat again, until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners' sugar, in three-four increments, blending well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula often during the process.
~ Step 3. Add the cooled chocolate, and, over low speed of mixer, blend until uniform in color. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until frosting is ultra-creamy and nicely aerated, about 2-2 1/2 minutes.
All we need now are the candles & the kid so we can cut it!
Special Equipment List: 2, straight-sided, 8" round cake pans; whisk; 1-quart measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; kitchen scale (optional); cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; double boiler
Cook's Note: Every cake recipe makes a different amount of batter, and, putting it in the wrong size cake pan can cause a cake wreck. One of the most common questions I get asked (and often) is: "I'm using a recipe that makes a 13" x 9" x 2" rectangular cake -- how many layers will that make and what size pans should I use." My answer is a standard one: "It all depends on how many cups of batter you have." In case you don't have one of these Baking Pan Conversion Charts, it's invaluable -- it eliminates all guesswork. I found this one on the internet (and it's ok for me and anyone else to use it and share it). Just click on it (to enlarge it) then print it out if you would like to add it to your recipe box or file!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)