Recipe: Rustic Chocolate Cake

Sometimes, simple goes a long way.

You don't have to complicate your life in all these cooking and baking techniques, trying to tackle complicated and multi-step products (like croquembouches, macarons, a mille-feuille, a sachertorte, or even a l'opera cake) just for it to be pretty and it to be social-media worthy. Come on, now. Learn the basics first and it will open up a whole world of possibilities. 

I was craving for chocolate cake. Devil's food cake to be exact (my mom used to spoil us silly with her decadent cakes and of course, we didn't shy away from them). I just wanted a chocolate cake with white icing. Because it's just me and my husband, making large celebration cakes aren't always ideal. I tend to freeze half of it if I make the whole batch, or I or he will end up bringing some to work to help finish these confections. It's also no fun making half a cake. I was just satisfying a craving after all. So instead of making a full cake, I decided to make a basic chocolate sheet cake. I had all the ingredients in my pantry. I only needed to go get some cream cheese for the icing and some berries to finish it off.

[Side note: I love Nigella Lawson. Every time I want to make something, I turn to her for guidance or I just look at her food photos for inspiration. Even if she keeps using coconut oil on everything, I don't. I just like how her food looks and how she makes them. I also think it's because she speaks about food with such emotion and passion and in such a very chill and satisfying way. And maybe because of her British accent?! I don't know. But seeing her food photos and watching her work wonders makes me want to cook more. She's definitely one of my food gurus... the others are Daniel Boulud and of course, Anthony Bourdain. Anyways, not sure why I needed to mention this. But carry on.]

Unfortunately, I don't have any process photos for this. I think I made this waaaay back in 2017.

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Rustic Chocolate Cake 
You can make 2 servings of 4x8 rectangular cakes. I used an 8x8 inch square pan for this - you can use 2 8-inch loaf pans too. You can definitely make this with a round cake pan or a bigger 9x9 inch square pan.

You'll need the following: a non-stick 8x8-inch square pan (or 2 loaf pans), parchment paper, some mixing bowls, a sifter, hand mixer, spatula, an offset spatula, and a wire rack for cooling. 

Chocolate Cake Ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, large, room temperature
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee or powdered espresso
1/2 cup boiling water

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
1 bar (8 ounces/224g) of cream cheese, softened 
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened 
2 3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

blackberries, raspberries, chocolate chips, or any other topping
powdered sugar for dusting

Procedure (this may just be the easiest cake you'll ever make)
1. Preheat your oven to 350℉. Line your pans with parchment paper (you can butter the sides and bottom so the parchment sticks).
2. Combine all the dry ingredients and sift in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add all the wet ingredients minus the hot water. Use the hand mixer and whisk until incorporated. Pour in the boiling hot water and continue to beat for 2 more minutes. 
3. Transfer the batter to the baking pan (or loaf pans) and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check with a toothpick in the middle-most part of the cake, if it comes out clean, you're good to go. Once done, let this cool for about 20 minutes before taking it out of the pans. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes (so it's easier to slice). Slice first in the middle to make 2 portions of 4x8 cakes then slice horizontally to make thinner layers, about 3-4 layers. Set aside.
4. For the cream cheese frosting, beat all the ingredients until airy, smooth, and creamy. If you want it a bit more solid, add 1/4 cup powdered sugar. If you want it a bit more loose and spreadable, you can add 1 more tbsp of milk. 
5. To assemble, place one layer of cake and using your offset spatula, ice and spread about 2-3 tbsp of the cream cheese frosting in each layer. Continue to do all other layers and also for the top frosting/icing. Top with blackberries (or any topping you want really) and dust with powdered sugar. Doesn't have to be perfect. 
6. TADAH!!! Looks fancy! Enjoy!!!! (.....on your own or if you want to share, fine, share.)
 
 
 
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*If you decide this isn't easy enough and you find yourself buying a ready-made boxed cake mix from the grocery, I won't judge. Seriously. You do what you gotta do. I understand that time is very valuable and you get the help where you can. If it's easier for you that way, go ahead and just assemble and jazz it up to look fancy with fresh berries and a fresh dusting of powdered sugar. Besides, if you decide to gift this in the future, they'll never know!

**You can go ahead and double the recipe to make 2 9-inch round cake pans. You can also use this chocolate cake recipe in a bigger baking sheet, roll it up with the cream cheese frosting, and dress it up for the holidays (like a chocolate log)! Again, once you know how to make the basics, the kitchen opens up to so many possibilities. 

***You can also make a chocolate glaze for icing or drizzling! Other topping ideas include chopped chocolate bits, toffee bits, peanut butter cups, sliced fruit, chopped pistachios, toasted granola, or even serve it plain with a scoop of ice cream. 

****Last idea. If you make both these recipes, you can crumble the chocolate cake, add about 1/4 cup of the cream cheese frosting to the cake crumbles, and form into balls. Then now, you've got cake-pops. Seriously, it's that easy. Stick a.... stick on it and dip them in melted white chocolate for coating and whatever jazzing you wanna do (sprinkles, coconut flakes, chopped nuts, whatever you want!)

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