My go-to chocolate cake recipe has always been a bit more than ‘basic’. When I first published it here in this blog way back in 2009, I referred to it as “basic”, but later, when I started baking on a grander scale, I realized that, no, in fact, it has too many separate steps to be called basic. When you can make one-cup microwave chocolate cake to satisfy those driving choco-cravings or something a few steps simpler, this one is not the easiest you can get. But every chocolate-loving friend with whom I have shared this particular cake will tell you that the extra steps are well worth it.
Many years ago when I started making this cake, one friend told me it was the second-best cake of her life (after her wedding cake). Another friend uses this recipe every time she needs a killer cake that will not fail. The other day for a work dinner, I produced this cake, and one of the dinner party guests exclaimed that it was possibly the best cake she has ever eaten. High praise indeed. Similar accolades flow every time.
best chocolate cake ever
The only difference this time between my original recipe and what I did now is that I used two different kinds of frosting. I made a standard buttercream (cocoa, powdered sugar, butter and sprinkle of coffee), which I used as a rather thick crumb coat. On top of this, on each layer, I slathered on generous heaps of chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, which always comes out tasting a bit like chocolate mousse. Again, worth the extra work.
extra step: beat egg whites and fold them into the rest of the cake batter
voilà: uncut cake ready for transport and gobbling up
I don’t have a great relationship with matcha/green tea. In my geekier days attending Japanese-language camp in high school, I volunteered for a week-long culture course in the Japanese tea ceremony. These provided my first tastes of the very bitter and not entirely pleasant (to my inexperienced palate) taste of traditionally prepared matcha. (The tea ceremony itself, like most Japanese rituals, is complex, beautiful and takes basically forever to learn for tea ceremony… practitioners and aficionados.)
I have also chronicled my history with the Green Tea Asshole, an unpleasant man who rears his head in my life once or twice a year demanding “answers” as to what I am doing with my life. He offered me a canister of matcha when he visited me once many years ago – and that went to good use in baking some other matcha concoction.
A lovely Canadian friend sent me a new supply of matcha, with which I have been doing several other matcha-baking experiments.
This time I made green tea cupcakes and filled them with raspberry filling and made some raspberry Swiss meringue buttercream frosting to top them off.
1 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
1 cup butter
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and matcha) together and then add them alternately with the milk. Put into cupcake papers and bake at 160C for 15 to 17 minutes (although in baking these later I went for 170C because I ended up with a gooey mess at 160C), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Green tea cupcakes make a rather dense texture (not dense after the first time I baked them… they came out more like sponge cake, and I don’t know why). Let cool completely and then hollow out the cupcakes (keep the tops). Fill the cupcakes with seedless raspberry jam (next time I make these, I am going to try cherry jam) and replace the tops. Prepare your icing.
Raspberry Swiss meringue buttercream
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
24 tablespoons unsalted butter
raspberry preserves (preferably seedless – enough to suit your taste and maintain the right, spreadable texture)
coconut (you can sprinkle the top of the cupcake with coconut if you like – it’s optional)
Over a double boiler, whisk egg whites and sugar. When sugar is dissolved, transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer – beat with the whip attachment until soft to medium peaks form. Switch to paddle attachment, start beating and adding in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Once you have a frosting-like texture (which can take a long while – the mixture will possibly look curdled, like it cannot possibly come together, at some point, but it will come together – just keep beating), add the vanilla. When nearly ready, add the raspberry preserves and mix until well-combined.
The candy of Ferrero (most recently, the coconutty Raffaello candies) makes me think fondly of one of my best friends back in Iceland, an Italian woman who has routinely brought Ferrero candies into our lives. In my case, being the coffee fiend that I am, she introduced the inimitable Pocket Coffee, which features a chocolate housing for a liquid espresso inside. Brilliant.
While Pocket Coffee is not available here in Sweden, Raffaello is everywhere. Taking inspiration from the blog Bake It in a Cake (check out the new book based on these concepts, Bake it in a Cupcake), I decided to pop some Raffaello candy into a basic vanilla cupcake and then frost with a vanilla bean Swiss buttercream icing topped with coconut.
For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and milk in alternating turns with the mixer on low. Beat mixture just until combined/smooth.
Fill cupcake liners in your cupcake pan with about one heaping tablespoon of batter. Drop an unwrapped Raffaello candy in and gently press it into the batter. Put another heaping tablespoon on top of the candy to cover it. It does not matter if the candy is completely covered because you will be frosting the cupcake.
Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes until the cupcakes have begun to turn a light golden brown and the cupcake top springs back when touched. Let the cupcakes cool (ten minutes) before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (liquid)
Some vanilla bean powder or vanilla beans scraped from one vanilla pod
Mix the egg white and the sugar over a double boiler. The sugar should be completely dissolved when you remove it from heat. Pour the mixture into a large bowl (preferably the mixing bowl of a stand mixer — Swiss meringue is mixing intensive, so a stand mixer works best). Whisk on high speed until stiff but still wet peaks form. Continue to beat for about five or six minutes after these peaks form.
Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the speed to medium low. Add the butter in one or two tablespoons at a time. The mixture might start to look lumpy and curdled. Don’t worry. Keep mixing. When things start to come together, beat in the peppermint extract and keep beating for another two minutes. It might take some time to get to the right texture. You will know when it comes together in a solid, fluffy, frosting-like consistency.
I sprinkled on some coconut on the batch I took to work; I sprinkled on some toasted coconut on the batch I offered my friends for Thanksgiving. They are good on their own or with either type of coconut.