22 January 2011

Very simple, Pantry Chocolate Layer Cake

A tiny (4 in.) owl chocolate birthday cake, iced with strawberry buttercream.

Strawberry buttercream = regular American buttercream flavored with strained strawberry puree 

The wee-est little chocolate cake with the top lopped off.  
Just before torted (i.e. sliced) it into two layers and filled and frosted it with strawberry buttercream. 

    This is my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.  It is a delicious, chocolatey, quick and easy way to get a big (READ: 3 layers!) chocolate cake fix.  I used it to bake 18 standard cupcakes, 48 minis and still had plenty leftover to make a tiny, 4 in. two layer cake.  The flavor is fantastic and rich, yet simple.   This isn't Jaques Torres' chocolate cake.  It's a friendly, happy, kid's-birthday-party kind of a chocolate cake.  I love it.  
(Sidenote: If you use a non-dairy frosting, made with shortening or "buttery spread" (recommended: Earth Balance) instead of butter, this can be a wonderful celebration cake for your vegan friends!)

If you're just starting to bake layer cakes, this is a fantastic "gateway" cake. 
1) The texture is light and spongy but still sturdy enough to be easily torted.  You can stick with three layers but for more of a showstopper effect, each layer can be split very easily into two, for a super tall 6-layer cake. 
2) There is zero creaming involved.  In fact, you don't even really need a mixer.  
3) Even better, you only really NEED to use ONE bowl.  
4) With a full cup of cocoa in the batter, it packs a nice chocolately punch without having to mess with melting chocolate.  
5) You don't have to wait for ingredients to reach room temperature.  Every ingredient in this recipe can come straight out of your pantry.  (sidenote: does the word "pantry" make anyone else giggle?)

   All this cake really needs to make you happy is a couple of bowls, a spoonula, some cake pans, an oven and a delicious buttercream (or perhaps, a ganache?).  It's the perfect cake to make when, like me, you are short on time, counterspace and available hands.  

Easy Chocolate Layer Cake
Makes 3-8in. layers or 36 cupcakes


  • 4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/c cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease 3-8in. round cake pans.  Line the bottoms with greased parchment.  Dust pans and parchment with flour, tapping out excess.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together hot water and cocoa powder.  Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly.  
  4. Whisk in oil and vanilla extract.
  5. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add sugar and whisk together.
  6. Mix wet ingredients into dry, stirring until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Divide evenly between 3 prepared cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 min or until tops spring back when pressed lightly and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Do not overbake. 
  8. Immediately run a knife around the edges of each pan and let cool in pans for 15 min.  Remove from pans and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 
  9. When completely cooled, ice with your favorite buttercream. 

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