The chocolate cake was probably the easiest decision I had to make in planning this cake. In fact, it's probably the reason I decided to make my own wedding cake. I knew I wanted chocolate cake as part of the final product, but I knew that if a different recipe was used, I would bite into the cake on my wedding day and think, "Good, but not quite my chocolate cake." I know, I know: I'm super romantic.
For those of you who know me (which is probably everyone reading this right now), you know I am quite possibly the biggest Amy's Bread fan ever. For the few who might not know, and those who didn't click on that link, Amy's Bread is an amazing local bakery in New York City. When I graduated college, my first job was located a block away from their original location in Hell's Kitchen. I can't remember the first time I went there, but I soon found myself a frequent visitor. After making a few friends with friends who happened to work at Amy's, it quickly became what I would call my "happy place." I would go there if I had nothing else to do, always trying a new treat and sitting in their quaint cafe, sipping a coffee and eating a chocolate sourdough twist, or a cinnamon challah knot, or... a black and white cupcake.
That black and white cupcake was a turning point. I had always been someone who loved pie far more than cake. I loved the crispy flakiness of a pie crust, enjoyed the various fillings you could find underneath, and admired the skill it took to make perfectly. But this chocolate cake... it was moist, first of all. And I know a lot of people hate that word, but do me a favor and embrace it right now. Second, it had the deepest, darkest chocolate flavor I had tasted. For all you milk chocolate lovers, this is not for you. But again, embrace it. The cake was bittersweet in a way that played with the tender sponge and perfectly complemented it. That black and white cupcake became my treat -- my birthday cupcake to myself, or a reward after a hard day at work.
I love this recipe because, in all honesty, and I don't say this as a baking enthusiast: it's easy. You really cannot over-mix it, and everything needs to be prepped ahead of time, so the actual combining is simple. First, you get together all five of your bowls, and then you just throw everything together. Just a quick note for you bowl lickers out there like me: the only bowl that tastes good right now is the butter + sugar bowl. The chocolate bowls are misleading, and they're really bitter right now.
There are a couple interesting things happening in this recipe that contribute to its flavor. First, it uses brown sugar instead of regular white granulated sugar. Brown sugar is really just granulated sugar and molasses, so what this does is it gives it a slightly deeper flavor. While granulated sugar makes things sweet, brown sugar makes things sweet and a bit warm. Second, it uses only unsweetened and Dutch-processed chocolates. This keeps the chocolate flavor pronounced and keep the cake squarely in the "bittersweet" bucket, rather than the "cloyingly sweet" bucket. Third, it uses sour cream. For some scientific reason, I hear this makes it moist.
This is where you can dip your finger in and take a lick (not that I did...), and also where you'll notice it's a really, really liquidy batter. But actually, that's pretty common for a good, moist, velvet-esque (chocolate) cake. And, like I said before, it gives you more leeway when it comes to over-mixing. The more liquidy and "looser" of a batter, the less you have to worry about over-mixing. That said, try not to over-mix it.
A word about baking pans: the most common height for cake pans is 2". These ones I used are 3". There are a couple reasons behind this. First, I don't like doing more dishes than I have to, so the fewer cake pans I have to clean, the better. Second, despite sweating bullets out of anxiety while doing it, I feel super legit as a baker slicing a cake in half horizontally to create my layers. And third, I read somewhere that "professional" bakers use these Fat Daddio's 3" pans, and I want to pretend to be professional, so why not?
Amy's Bread's Chocolate Cake
makes 8 2/3 cups
(double the recipe to fill 1 each of 4", 6", and 8" round (3" tall) cake pans, or 10" and 4" round (3" tall" cake pans)
4.8 ounces UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon SOUR CREAM (you can also use plain, full-fat Greek Yogurt)
5 tablespoons DUTCH COCOA
2 1/2 teaspoons BAKING SODA
1 1/2 cups BOILING WATER (you can also substitute some or all of this with coffee for a stronger chocolate flavor, or a mocha flavor)
8 ounces ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon SALT
4 large EGGS
2 1/2 teaspoons VANILLA EXTRACT
3/4 cups BUTTER
1 3/4 cups BROWN SUGAR
1. Prepare pans by buttering, lining in parchment, buttering the parchment, and dusting with either flour or cocoa, preheat oven to 350F
2. Prepare your bowls:
2a. [bowl 1] Melt UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE, let cool
2b. [bowl 2] Combine SOUR CREAM, DUTCH COCOA, and SODA to form a paste, add BOILING WATER and whisk until combined
2c. [bowl 3] Sift FLOUR and SALT together
2d. [bowl 4] Whisk EGGS and VANILLA EXTRACT together
2e. [bowl 5] Cream BUTTER and BROWN SUGAR until light and fluffy
3. Add chocolate (bowl 1) to butter (bowl 5)
4. Add eggs (bowl 4) to butter (bowl 5)
5. Add dry ingredients (bowl 3) to butter (bowl 5) in 4 parts, alternating with liquid (bowl 2), starting and ending with dry
6. Pour the batter into pans and tap on counter to release air bubbles
7. Bake, until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs
8. Let sit cooling in pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then run a knife or flat metal spatula around the edge of the pan, and then flip out onto cooling racks and let cool completely.