Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Apr 6, 2011 12:03 PM

Traditional chocolate layer cake made with butter and chocolate (not cocoa)?

Anybody have a favorite recipe for a cake of this nature? Bonus points for buttermilk or sour cream in the batter. Have developed an aversion to cocoa in baking (any kind, grocery store to Valrhona) and need to make something special for a dear friend's belated birthday celebration this weekend.
Thanks in advance for any help.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have one from an old Bon Appetit that has hazelnuts in it, if you're okay with nuts. It's a chocolate hazelnut souffle cake. It has a hazelnut meringue base, nutella mousse, chocolate ganache frosting but the cake itself is very good, too, and I've used it on its own. I can post any or all of it if you want to go that route.

    7 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Thanks very much, it sounds great (and I'm always OK with nuts) but what I'm looking for this time is a traditional cake-flour based butter layer cake using chocolate, not cocoa.

      1. re: buttertart

        The name is deceiving, I thought. It is a tradiitional cake. I think it is called a souffle cake because you separate the eggs and beat the whites to stiff peak, like a souffle. It's the rest of the cake that's different. Actually, my icon picture is the cake--one I did as a calligraphy project. It's hard to see but the lettering is drawn Roman caps.

        1. re: buttertart

          I never realized how many recipes use cocoa but I flipped through my regular sources, Cake Bible, Heavenly Cakes, Tartine, Dorie Greenspan, etc. and found only one that used real chocolate--from an old Junior League cookbook. It uses butter and unsweetened chocolate. I remember making way back when I was first given the cookbook but haven't made it in a while. It's a sour cream chocolate layer cake. If you're interested, I can post it. I'd like to see if there are many recipes that use chocolate.

          1. re: chowser

            Precisely, that's why I thought this was a good idea for a thread. Cocoa everywhere. I'd love to see the JL recipe - thanks!

            1. re: buttertart

              Hmmm, you've piqued my curiosity with this. I'm going to have to make this cake and my favorite sour cream chocolate cake w/ cocoa and compare. What don't you like about cocoa cakes? Oh, I just noticed it's the same as the one Miri posted below that uses shortening.

              Here's the recipe:
              2 c ap flour
              2 c sugar
              1 c water (I use coffee)
              3/4 c sour cream
              1/4 c butter
              1 14/ tsp baking soda
              1 tsp salt
              1 tsp vanilla
              1/2 tsp baking powder
              2 eggs
              4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted

              Bake in 2 9" or 3 8" prepared pans, 350 for 20-25 mins.

      2. Betty Crocker's Best Baking has 2 of them... very similar recipes.

        Best chocolate Cake

        2 cups all purpose flour
        2 cups sugar
        1/2 cup shortening
        3/4 cup water
        3/4 cup buttermilk
        1 tsp baking soda
        1 tsp salt
        1 tsp vanilla
        1/2 tsp baking powder
        2 eggs
        4 oz melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled

        Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour pan/s. Beat all ingredients together and pour into pans.

        Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

        2 cups all purpose fliur
        2 cups sugar
        1/4 cup shortening
        1 cup water
        3/4 cup sour cream
        1 1/4 tsp baking soda
        1 tsp salt
        1/2 tsp baking powder
        1 tsp vanilla
        2 eggs
        4 oz melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled

        Proceed with recipe as listed above.

        I've made the latter recipe many times. It's very good!

        5 Replies
        1. re: Miri1

          Thanks, Miri1 - only 1/4 c shortening in the sour cream one?

          1. re: buttertart

            I've made this also, wonderful. The sour cream adds fat to the 1/4 c. shortening. I use 1.5 c sugar.

            1. re: magiesmom

              I thought that might be what was intended (re the fat). Thanks.

              1. re: buttertart

                btw, I use butter as the shortening.

            2. re: buttertart

              Yep. It's really good. I used to make it all the time till I decided that chocolate was not my favorite dessert anymore :)

          2. Buttertart;

            You are a better baker than I am but I am not sure why you have an aversion to cocoa in baked goods. As I understand it, cocoa is just chocolate without the sugar and cocoa butter. The sugar can be added and the cocoa butter can be replaced with real butter.

            Cocoa is real chocolate and, in fact, without the cocoa butter has a more intense chocolate taste.

            I would think the dry nature of cocoa would make it far easier to incorporate into cakes.

            Is there something about a cake made with real chocolate to make it better than one made with cocoa? As you know, I am just starting out with baking so you would know more than me about it.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Hank Hanover

              Hank, I was thinking the same thing. I have always read just that. I certainly wouldn't ever think of cocoa as inferior if done right.

              CI's incredible chocolate bundt cake has cocoa and chocolate, I believe. A lot of people I know bake it as a layer cake. I'd go that route, Buttertart.

                1. re: Becca Porter

                  I prefer cocoa cakes, but that isn't what the op asked for.

              1. re: Hank Hanover

                Re cocoa: I find it has an off taste in comparison with chocolate, rather dusty and flat (toward the alkaline side). Hoping to avoid that.

                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  I'm a big cocoa fan as well. Alton Brown's Good Eats had a segment that I watched recently where he talked about how pale the chocolate flavor is in cakes made w/ bar choc vs. cocoa powder.

                  But, you know....everybody is different. The OP could look for a chocolate pound cake recipe. Also, i really like the cake made from the recipe on the box of German Chocolate. I velvet-y least when my mom makes it.

                2. There is a good one in The Olives Dessert Table, old-fashioned sour cream chocolate cake. I can't find a link to the recipe. It was allegedly based on a Maida Heatter recipe. for 2 9" layers, it includes:

                  7 oz bittersweet chocolate
                  6 oz butter
                  3/4 c. sour cream
                  1 1/2 t baking soda
                  2 1/2 c. sugar
                  1T vanilla
                  1/2 t salt
                  3 large eggs
                  3 c. ap flour
                  1 1/2 c. hot coffee

                  The chocolate and butter are melted, left to slightly cool, while the baking powder is mixed into the sour cream. The sugar, vanilla and salt are mixed into the chocolate mixture, the eggs beaten in one at a time, followed by the sour cream mixture. You then alternate additions of flour and coffee. Bake at 350 until it passes the clean toothpick test, about 25 min.

                  It works well as both a a standard layer cake or as a component in a more complex dessert. I have baked in mini cupcakes, full size cupcakes, rounds, sheets, and they all come out moist and delicious.

                  It is a worthwhile book if you spot it during a used book hunt.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: maxie

                    That is a very nice recipe, it figures it's from a Maida Heatter one - the goddess Maida.

                  2. I have an aversion to cocoa in cakes as well. I find that cocoa cakes turn out dry and heavy, even the ones from RLB in her recipes from Bernachon. The only time a cocoa cake was acceptable was one I made from The Cake Bible that had you mixing the cocoa with water. Any cocoa cake that has you sifting cocoa and flour together I avoid by a mile.

                    I made the cake that's on the cover of RLB's Heavenly Cakes, and hated it, even though everyone else enjoyed it; it uses cocoa.

                    Buttertart, when I make madeleines I melt chocolate with the butter and incorporate that into the batter. You may want to try the same technique with a layer cake. Hey, how about RLB's wonderful Golden Grand Marnier cake, but up the chocolate and glaze it with chocolate. Not a chocolate layer cake, but I think it would be great.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: souschef

                      Thank you souschef, but this is for a Chocolate Person, the give me full-bore chocolate or give me nothing kind.
                      The cakes in which the cocoa is bloomed in liquid are somewhat better - the chocolate Valentine heart in RLB's H.C. is very good, but that may be a function of its being bathed in a thin ganache glaze.
                      Have a family recipe for a cake made with bloomed cocoa that has a nostalgic appeal once in a long time.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        Buttertart, I can think of nothing more full-bore chocolate than the chocolate fig cake. BTW last weekend I got some gianduja from Montreal that is made with Felchlin dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, and it tastes wonderful. I'm looking forward to using it for the fig cake - maybe at Easter.

                        One of these days I should make one I have been thinking about for a while - Rigo Jancsi. Perhaps that would be the ticket ? You could also make a Sacher - chocolate and raspberries go so well together.

                        1. re: souschef

                          That Rigo Jancsi has been on my radar for ages too, maybe you're right.
                          the choc fig cake is heavenly but we just finished it a week or so ago.
                          Sacher...apricot, no?

                          1. re: buttertart

                            I have seen "Sacher" with raspberry too.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                Buttertart, the Rigo Jancsi recipe I have uses chocolate and butter for the cake; no sign of cocoa anywhere.

                                One strange thing about the recipe is that it calls for 6oz of bittersweet chocolate and 1/2 oz of unsweetened chocolate. I wonder why. Why not just use bittersweet chocolate and cut down on the sugar?

                                Another strange thing (keeping in mind that this is a recipe from 1986, before the concern about raw eggs) is that to make ganache you pulse chocolate with two egg yolks in a food processor, then add boiling cream. I wonder if the cream cooks the eggs sufficiently.

                                1. re: souschef

                                  How is ganache made w/ egg yolks? I'll bet it would add a nice richness to it.

                                  I'd be surprised if the cream would make the egg yolks "safe" but it's not that different from the various meringues where you pour heated simple syrup over the eggs/whites/yolks. IIRC, you need to heat it to 140 for a few minutes (3-5 maybe?).

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I've done an egg yolk enriched ganache and it's lovely and silky. I'd just buy the freshest eggs possible and get the cream as hot as possible.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      I'll have to try this--thanks. I'll bet it makes a wonderful frosting, too.

                                  2. re: souschef

                                    sugar affects texture, not just level of sweetness.

                          2. re: buttertart

                            Buttertart, late response, but I was just looking at the picture of the Valentine cake on the back cover of the book, and the inside looks dry. Perhaps the ganache saves it, as you imply ?

                            1. re: souschef

                              It isn't at all, even without the ganache. It's plush and velvety. The one exception to the no cocoa please rule (but make it with the best, of course - I used Valrhona). Utterly divine. I love that high-ratio reverse creaming texture.

                          3. re: souschef

                            Speaking of cakes that call for the cocoa powder to be bloomed, has anyone made the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake from Cook's Illustrated (2006)? It actually uses chocolate and cocoa, and calls for both to be cooked together with water to form a "pudding." It looks interesting - I'm sort of debating between it and the Hershey's Black Magic Cake (I don't mind cocoa powder cakes but I do prefer those that use at least some actual chocolate as well).

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              I've done it but it was a long time ago. I don't remember much about it, except I've never made it again so it probably wasn't worth the time. If you want to do the Hershey black magic cake but want the combination of cocoa and chocolate, try epicurious's double layer cake. It's basically the same recipe, w/ additional chocolate melted into the coffee (but 1 1/2 times the recipe).


                              1. re: chowser

                                Thanks chowser - I looked at that one too. It looks great, but I would definitely need to cut the recipe by a third or we'll be eating chocolate cake for 3 weeks (not that that would be a bad thing!). I suppose I could just add a couple of squares of chocolate to the Hershey's recipe, too.

                                BTW, the main difference between the hershey's cake and the CI recipe is the amount of eggs (4 eggs and 2 yolks in CI as opposed to just two eggs in the Hershey's), butter instead of oil, and much less cocoa powder and liquid, in addition to the mixing method (they bring the eggs and sugar to the ribbon stage in the CI recipe). I imagine the extra eggs create a springier structure and probably a less fudgy texture than the Hershey's cake has. I love CI, but the lack of reviews on their website really frustrates me - I find reviews on Epicurious et al so helpful when trying to determine what a finished product might be like.

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  @biondanonima that is exactly why i came to chowhound... for reviews on this specific ci cake! :) funny!

                                2. re: chowser

                                  I had forgotten that there were both bar choc and cocoa in that cake. It is very, very good and will please most cake lovers.

                                  Although I prefer a cake made w/ butter (and thus is my favorite choc cake), the epicurious cake is so chocolately, that I forgive it's more chiffon-like texture.

                                  1. re: danna

                                    Found a side-by-side comparison of the two recipes on a blog: