For months now, my brother has not-so-subtlely been suggesting that I make a chocolate cake. According to him, this blog is lacking two important things: bacon and chocolate cake.
Then (on Instagram), I asked if there were any November recipe requests, and a chocolate layer cake was mentioned. Clearly the world was telling me something important: Bake the cake.
So finally, much to my family’s delight, the chocolate cake is here!
I have two recipes for you today. The first is for one chocolate cake; the second is for creating a magical layer cake.
Oh, and did I mention that this cake – frosting and all – is 100% butter-free. That’s right, zero butter, zero margarine and zero coconut oil (my wallet doesn’t stretch that far)!
Any guesses for what I used to replace the butter? Here’s a hint: these two ingredients are very, very popular this time of year.
My buttery butter substitutes: Pumpkin and sweet potato!
From the beginning I knew that this cake needed pumpkin, because pumpkin puree makes amazing brownies and is just wonderful. Then I saw this recipe for a chocolate frosting which used sweet potato (as well as quite a few other ingredients which I changed/omitted). The second I saw that, I was all: Hot diggity damn, I’ve found my butter substitute!
In case you were wondering: No, the cake and the frosting do not taste like pumpkin and sweet potato! Promise.
The way I see it, if you’re going to make something as special as a chocolate cake, it’s worth putting in some extra effort and using the best ingredients. That’s why I’m going to highly recommend that you use fresh pumpkin puree and fresh sweet potato puree. Save the canned stuff for something else (muffins, anyone?). Cake deserves the best.
Making fresh pumpkin/sweet potato puree isn’t hard – the oven does most of the work. All you need to do is put everything in the oven (about 350-375°F, or 180-190°C), cover the vegetables with aluminium foil, and wait. I’ll often chop my pumpkins into smaller pieces and peel the sweet potatoes so they cook faster. But you don’t have to.
Once the vegetables are cooked, remove the peels/skins and puree away!
There are only a few things to remember when making fresh pumpkin/ sweet potato purees:
- Don’t under-bake the vegetables. If in doubt, bake for longer
- Cover the vegetables in aluminium foil to prevent burning
- Please bother to puree the cooked vegetables. Mashing is fine for making oatmeal, smoothies, granola or even ice cream – but not for cakes
- If your sweet potatoes end up with a crispy coating (which peeled sweet potatoes are particularly prone to do), remove them before pureeing
- This may be obvious, but please make sure the vegetable peels/skins are completely removed
- I recommend making the pumpkin/sweet potato purees the day before making the cake. Simply because the sweet potato puree needs to be chilled before making the frosting. Also, if your pumpkins/sweet potatoes are whole or in large chunks, they may take over an hour to cook.
As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, I’ll often make a giant batch of fresh pumpkin puree at a time. It’s just so useful and delicious!
Yeah, expect a lot of pumpkin recipes in the next few weeks.
Ok, now we’ve got the purees out the way, let’s move on to the exciting part – the cake!
The chocolate cake recipe is for one 8-inch chocolate cake. If you’re making the layer cake, you will need two of them.
So, why did I make the basic chocolate cake recipe yield only one cake? Sometimes the situation calls for a nice piece of warm chocolate cake, adorned only with a scoop of ice cream. No frosting, no layering.
Just as importantly, I don’t have two identically-sized cake pans.
However, if you’re fan of frosting (who isn’t?) or a fancier cake is in order, then please join me as we make the layer cake!
First of all, make sure you’ve made two of the chocolate cakes. Let them cool completely.
Once the cakes have cooled, we can begin making the frosting. The frosting beings by melting some chocolate chips and maple syrup. The chocolate chips add stability – and, of course, deliciousness – to the frosting. I always melt chocolate in the microwave, because it’s just easier that way.
Once the chocolate is melted, stir it it into the chilled sweet potato puree.
Then use electric beaters and beat until smooth.
Next, add the cocoa powder.
Using the electric beaters again, beat until smooth. To prevent cocoa powder flying all over your kitchen, use a spoon to stir it in a little first. Then use the electrical equipment to finish the job.
After that, we sift in the confectioner’s sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar). I always add it ¼ cup at a time and then mix it in with the electric beaters. If you add the sugar all in at once, there’s a high risk of a sugar snowstorm occurring in your kitchen.
Once the sugar has been beaten in, and the frosting is looking smooth, it’s ready to use!
Next is the best part. Ok, the second-best part – everyone knows that eating the cake (or even just the cake batter and frosting) is the best part.
Still, I find assembling the cake very enjoyable indeed!
If your cakes have ‘domes’, slice the top of the cakes so they are reasonably flat (this is particularly important for the bottom cake).
Side note: If the two cakes pictured below look oddly different to you, it’s because one of them was an earlier version of the final recipe.
Find a place to assemble the cakes on. Oh, and choose wisely: Once the layer cake is assembled, it’s very difficult to move.
Spread about one-third of the frosting onto one of the cakes (the cake that will be on the bottom). There’s no need to spread frosting on the sides, we’ll cover them later.
Next, grab the un-frosted cake, and place it on top of the bottom cake (carefully, of course!)
After that, spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the layer cake.
Finally, decorate the cake! I went with sprinkles, shredded coconut and chocolate chips. However – as anyone who’s ever watched a cake show on the food channel knows – the possibilities are endless!
And that, my friends, is the chocolate layer cake. Wow, this post was a lot longer than I thought it would be!
By the way, I realize chocolate cake isn’t exactly a ‘breakfast food’. But you know, it’s chocolate cake.
Question of the Day
How do you take your cake? Unadorned (perhaps with ice cream), or with as much frosting as possible? Or with a magical possibility I haven’t thought of?
- 1 cup (130g) all purpose flour
- ½ cup (40g) cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon (10g) cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup (100g) brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup (125g) pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120mL) buttermilk
- ¼ cup (60mL) room-temperature coffee
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a round 8-inch cake pan with cooking oil spray.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt, and stir to combine.
- In another large bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the brown sugar, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, canola oil and vanilla extract. Add the buttermilk and coffee, and whisk until well combined.
- Pour the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) into the wet ingredients (the buttermilk mixture). Mix until just combined.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the top is dry and a skewer comes out clean (or with a few dry crumbs). Cool in the tin for 5 - 10 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack.
- Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
Eggs: For best results, use room temperature eggs.
Pumpkin puree: Ideally, use fresh pumpkin puree. You can make fresh pumpkin puree by roasting some baked pumpkin. I have only tested this recipe with fresh pumpkin puree.
Flour: If preferred, use white spelt flour instead of all purpose flour.
Buttermilk: If you don't have any buttermilk, whisk together ½ cup of milk with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Let the milk sit for at least 5 minutes, and then use it in place of the buttermilk.
- 2 x Chocolate Cake (Butter-Free), cooled completely
For the Chocolate Frosting:
- ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 cup (275g) sweet potato puree, chilled
- ⅓ cup (30g) cocoa powder
- ¾ cup confectioners' sugar* (90g), divided
- Make the Chocolate Frosting: Combine the chocolate chips and maple syrup in a bowl or dish, and melt in the microwave. This is easiest if you microwave it in short bursts (30 - 50 seconds at a time) on a low wattage. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine the sweet potato puree and melted chocolate. Use electric beaters to beat until combined. Add the cocoa powder, and beat until smooth.
- Sift in ¼ cup of the confectioner’s sugar, and beat until smooth. Sift in another ¼ of confectioner’s sugar, beat, and then sift in the final ¼ cup of confectioner’s sugar.
- Beat the mixture for a few minutes, or until smooth and fluffy.
- Assemble the cake: If the cakes have ‘domes’, slice the top of the cakes so they are reasonably flat (this is particularly important for the bottom cake).
- Spread approximately one-third of the Chocolate Frosting over the top of one of the cakes (this will be the bottom cake). Top with the other cake.
- Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the layered cake. Decorate as desired (with sprinkles, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, etc.) and enjoy!
Frosting recipe heavily adapted from Recipe 4 Living
The frosting does not taste like sweet potato! Also, fresh sweet potato puree is best.