Friday, August 26, 2011

The Sweetness of Chocolate Cake and Friendship

My dear friend, Julie, celebrated her birthday yesterday and I was honored to make a cake for her. Julie has been in my life for many years now. Bob and I met her and her husband, Mitch, when I was pregnant with my older son and soon after we bought houses on the same street. That was 16 years ago and since then we have raised children, taken vacations together, shared holidays and Shabbat dinners and become family. Their children, Sophie and Jake, are close with my children, almost like cousins. In fact, Julie and Sophie (5 months old at the time) were in the delivery room when my younger son, Isaac, was born. Sophie and Isaac like to say they’ve known each other since birth!

A special friend like Julie deserves a decadent cake to celebrate her birthday and it must be chocolate. My go-to chocolate cake for the past 10 years is one from Cook’s Illustrated. You can bake it in a 9x13 inch pan and take it on a picnic, no frosting needed. Or you can use two round cake pans, layer it with a rich filling and slather on frosting for a festive occasion.

Pondering a new cake idea is so much fun! I’ve been dying to try this chocolate bourbon whipped cream and thought it would provide a heavenly cake filling. It did, and I’ll admit to sneaking quite a few spoonfuls while assembling the cake. The icing on the cake was a tangy, rich one of chocolate and sour cream. Yum!

A balmy evening, tiki torches burning, sipping chilled wine, indulging in cake and ice cream and celebrating friendship.... just a few of life’s moments to savor. Cheers to a lovely friend!

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Makes one 9x13 inch cake or two 9 inch round cakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering baking pan(s)
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar (a little less if using semi-sweet chocolate)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of baking pan(s) with butter.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Heat chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring until melted and smooth (or you can use a microwave). Whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl.

Whisk chocolate into egg mixture until combined. Combine buttermilk and baking soda and whisk into chocolate mixture. Then whisk in dry ingredients until batter is smooth and glossy. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake until firm in the center when lightly pressed, about 30 minutes for 9 inch cake pans and 40 minutes for 9x13 inch pan. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour. This cake freezes well, too. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to one month.

If assembling a layered cake, set one cake on a serving plate. Layer with Chocolate Bourbon Whipped Cream, place second cake on top and ice with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting (recipes follow).

Chocolate Bourbon Whipped Cream
Makes about 2 cups

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

Combine cream, cocoa, sugar and bourbon in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour to allow the cocoa to dissolve. Whisk by hand or beat with a hand-mixer until stiff peaks form. Take a taste (or two!). Chill until ready to use.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
From Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups sour cream, room temperature

Melt the chocolate chips over low heat or in a microwave. Let cool to room temperature. It’s very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature or the frosting will be gloppy and grainy (this has happened to me before ... still delicious but not as pretty). Stir the melted chocolate and sour cream together until smooth. Frost away!


  1. Only two ingredients for such a lovely chocolate frosting?! And the bourbon whipped cream filling sounds amazing. Are those hydrangeas on top? They're a beautiful color. What a cake! You have a very lucky friend!

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  3. @Lauren
    Aw, thank you, Lauren! Yes, that is a hydrangea on top. I love hydrangeas, they are such cheerful, sturdy flowers! Our bushes have had beautiful ranges of pink, purple and blue this summer.

  4. Heavenly! Have never come across chocolate bourbon whipped cream before, but I think we mat need to become acquainted :) And that's before I even get on to the frosting! Chocolate heaven indeed.

  5. @Mairi
    I hope you try the chocolate bourbon whipped cream very's quite addictive.


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