A number of years ago, living alone in a small apartment in windy, beautiful Seltjarnarnes (Iceland), I found the perfect chocolate cake recipe. I have used it ever since for cakes and cupcakes, and it has never disappointed. The cake remains dark, rich, and moist… no other recipe I have tried managed to achieve and maintain these effects.
I have almost always used coffee in place of the water in the first step and usually replace the milk with coffee in the frosting step. It makes the cake richer, more complex, without diminishing the chocolate effect. My friends in Iceland remain hopelessly in love with this cake and my colleagues in Norway will eventually be.
So far in Norway I have only made this recipe as cupcakes (since they are easier to transport and serve), but for the first time I have been experimenting with frosting. I decided to make a cookies-and-cream variant — you basically make the same frosting recipe minus the cocoa (beat the powdered sugar, butter and a bit of milk until you achieve the consistency you want… add a small amount of vanilla, to taste, and set frosting aside. Put about 8-10 Oreo cookies (chocolate sandwich cookies) into a plastic bag and crush them. Once crushed, mix them into the frosting and frost the cupcakes as desired. You can also take a few of the Oreos and cut them in half to garnish the cupcakes with half a cookie on top. The frosting is by no means 'pretty' but I am assured it is quite tasty.
Preheat oven to 300F (about 150C).
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ cup boiling water (or freshly brewed coffee or espresso, hot)
1 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cup sifted cake flour
½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
6 Tablespoons softened butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Tiny amount of milk or coffee to achieve spreadable, desired consistency
Grease and flour two nine-inch or three eight-inch round cake pans.
In a small bowl mix cocoa and boiling water (or coffee) to make a chocolate paste. In another small bowl, mix sour cream and baking soda together to dissolve soda. Mix the cocoa mixture and sour cream mixture together after the cocoa mixture has cooled.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Alternately add the sifted flour and the sour cream-cocoa liquid to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat until fluffy. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the three egg whites until stiff. Fold the beaten egg whites and vanilla into the chocolate cake mix. Divide mixture between (among) the pans. Bake in preheated oven for approx. 50 minutes, checking on the cake every now and then. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool in pans for about ten minutes, remove from pans and let cool on baking racks. Once cool, frost as normal and layer.
To make frosting, beat the butter and powdered sugar together, then beat in the cocoa. To achieve desired consistency, add a slight amount of liquid as needed. Add milk for a creamier, milk chocolate frosting. Add coffee for a darker, slightly mocha-flavored frosting.
For cupcakes, line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and divide the cake batter among the cups. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (check with a toothpick at 12 or 15 minutes to be sure; 20 minutes could be too long.)