Maybe it’s because Lent is around the corner, and the very thought of fasting makes one, well, VERY HUNGRY.
Maybe it’s because out of all of the incredibly good birthday cakes we’ve eaten during our winter birthday cake season over here, we missed a chocolate cake. Maybe it’s because I am, in a word, crazed.
Who gets the most beautiful cake among beautiful birthday cakes, and still thinks about the next cake? I was gifted this
for my birthday couple of weeks ago by my smart, adorable sisters-in-law. Spectacular, no? A dream of a cake in vanilla and berry, and it was even iced in my signature birthday cake color. As Peg would say, it made my head pop off! I practically had to hide this birthday cake from Dan so there would be a piece left for moi (when I ran out the door to get ice cream for the cake, he reminded me to get his favorite, vanilla. He considers everyone else’s birthday very much his own).
Despite (or more likely, because of) eating hordes of that gloria in excelsis of a cake, I’m still thinking about cake. Something is wrong with me.
Scrounging amid the remains of the Valentine chocolates (did you think I’d save them for company the way Aunt Hilda did, or dole them out one at a time?), I’m thinking: chocolate cake.
Eating my own decadent s’mores brownies last week, I’m still thinking: chocolate cake. My nephew was too, because he declared a cake version of those brownies would be his birthday cake in April (we plan ahead around here).
Sometimes I think I love white so much just so I can see the rich contrast of chocolate against it.
It may seem like a leap, but the finest golden cake I’ve ever made or eaten called for yogurt. Not sour cream that I subbed with yogurt (which I often do in recipes, to great outcomes), but straight up, a trusty Joy of Cooking cake recipe calling for yogurt.
I figured it ought to work in a chocolate cake just as well, but chocolate yogurt cakes are, it turns out, not as obvious. The first batches I auditioned were totally lackluster, and not just because I’d built this chocolate cake thing up in my mind so big. Steven pulled apart one cupcake and perfunctorily called it “lame.”
But then I recalled the chocolate cake I read about a few weeks back on a flight. Thank God for the Go-Go in flight wifi, which was not functional that day and which in turn forced my hand and head to my reading. Between Provence, 1970 (such a good book!) and Cook’s Illustrated March-April issue, my head was happily dreaming in the clouds in more than one way that day.
Winner simple chocolate cake—made extra-moist with our laban, and no big mixer equipment needed here, so we can swiftly satisfy even the most persistent chocolate craving.
- For the cake:
- 1 ½ cups (10 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cups (6 ¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½teaspoon baking soda
- ½teaspoon salt
- ½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
- ½ cup whole milk
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- ¾ cup (2 ¼ ounces) cocoa powder
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the buttercream:
- ½ cup salted butter, softened
- ⅔ cup cocoa powder
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 to 6 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt or milk, room temperature
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with 18 paper cups.
- In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the yogurt and milk. In small saucepan, combine the yogurt mixture with the chocolate and cocoa. Cook over medium heat, whisking until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Whisk oil, eggs, and vanilla into chocolate mixture (mixture may initially look curdled) until smooth and homogeneous. Add this to the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.
- Pour the batter into the lined tins to about ¾ full per cupcake. Bake until the center of the cupcakes springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes before frosting.
- For the buttercream, work the butter and cocoa together using the back of a large metal spoon until completely combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, alternating with the yogurt or milk a tablespoon at a time to moisten. Add the vanilla and stir until smooth.
- Generously frost the cupcakes using a small offset spatula or the back of a small spoon.