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

buttertart Apr 6, 2011 12:03 PM

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.

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  1. chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 12:13 PM

    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
      buttertart RE: chowser Apr 6, 2011 12:16 PM

      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
        chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 12:26 PM

        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
          chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 12:47 PM

          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
            buttertart RE: chowser Apr 6, 2011 01:17 PM

            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
              chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 03:45 PM

              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.

              1. re: chowser
                chowser RE: chowser Apr 6, 2011 04:29 PM

                I had to do a quick search to see if there are many cakes that do use chocolate AND butter. Quite a few actually, on epicurious. Here you go:








                1. re: chowser
                  buttertart RE: chowser Apr 6, 2011 06:04 PM


      2. m
        Miri1 RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 12:25 PM

        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
          buttertart RE: Miri1 Apr 6, 2011 12:26 PM

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

          1. re: buttertart
            magiesmom RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 01:24 PM

            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
              buttertart RE: magiesmom Apr 6, 2011 01:27 PM

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

              1. re: buttertart
                magiesmom RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 03:10 PM

                btw, I use butter as the shortening.

            2. re: buttertart
              Miri1 RE: buttertart Apr 7, 2011 08:59 PM

              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. Hank Hanover RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 03:37 PM


            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
              Becca Porter RE: Hank Hanover Apr 6, 2011 03:59 PM

              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
                Becca Porter RE: Becca Porter Apr 6, 2011 04:01 PM


                plus, it has sour cream!

                1. re: Becca Porter
                  magiesmom RE: Becca Porter Apr 6, 2011 04:31 PM

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

              2. re: Hank Hanover
                buttertart RE: Hank Hanover Apr 6, 2011 06:05 PM

                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
                  danna RE: Hank Hanover Apr 15, 2011 11:23 AM

                  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 texture...at least when my mom makes it.

                2. m
                  maxie RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2011 04:33 PM

                  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
                    buttertart RE: maxie Apr 6, 2011 06:03 PM

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

                  2. souschef RE: buttertart Apr 7, 2011 08:00 PM

                    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
                      buttertart RE: souschef Apr 8, 2011 06:25 AM

                      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
                        souschef RE: buttertart Apr 8, 2011 09:43 AM

                        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
                          buttertart RE: souschef Apr 8, 2011 09:47 AM

                          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
                            souschef RE: buttertart Apr 8, 2011 11:27 AM

                            I have seen "Sacher" with raspberry too.

                            1. re: souschef
                              buttertart RE: souschef Apr 8, 2011 11:33 AM

                              Sounds good. Rigo Jancsi, hmm...

                              1. re: buttertart
                                souschef RE: buttertart Apr 10, 2011 05:17 AM

                                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
                                  chowser RE: souschef Apr 10, 2011 08:14 AM

                                  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
                                    buttertart RE: chowser Apr 10, 2011 05:01 PM

                                    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
                                      chowser RE: buttertart Apr 11, 2011 03:39 AM

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

                                  2. re: souschef
                                    danna RE: souschef Apr 15, 2011 11:26 AM

                                    sugar affects texture, not just level of sweetness.

                          2. re: buttertart
                            souschef RE: buttertart Jun 23, 2011 06:24 AM

                            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
                              buttertart RE: souschef Jun 23, 2011 06:26 AM

                              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
                            biondanonima RE: souschef Apr 15, 2011 09:25 AM

                            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
                              chowser RE: biondanonima Apr 15, 2011 09:53 AM

                              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
                                biondanonima RE: chowser Apr 15, 2011 10:12 AM

                                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
                                  raygunclan RE: biondanonima Sep 29, 2011 05:23 PM

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

                                2. re: chowser
                                  danna RE: chowser Apr 15, 2011 11:32 AM

                                  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 http://www.marthastewart.com/255173/m... is my favorite choc cake), the epicurious cake is so chocolately, that I forgive it's more chiffon-like texture.

                                  1. re: danna
                                    biondanonima RE: danna Apr 15, 2011 12:05 PM

                                    Found a side-by-side comparison of the two recipes on a blog: http://www.crumblycookie.net/2008/11/...

                            2. buttertart RE: buttertart Apr 10, 2011 05:14 PM

                              The decision? I wanted a round birthday-type layer cake so I made the Maida Heatter New Orleans chocolate cake from "MH's Book of Chocolate Desserts, having been reminded of MH here, thanks. Interesting recipe, it uses melted butter (I browned it first) and you put baking soda in the sour cream which puffs up most appealingly from it.
                              Wanted a good frosting for it without confectioner's sugar (don't like the cornstarch taste) so made one of the fillings/icings from the same book which was unusual too - you put 1 1/4 c sugar in 1 c heavy cream in a 3 qt heavy saucepan, bring it to a boil and simmer it for 6 minutes exactly (her words), take it from the heat and melt 5 oz chocolate in it, then add 8 oz softened butter and a tsp of vanilla. I also added a shake of salt. You cool the pan in ice water (my cold water was really cold and we don't have an icemaker, so I did this in cold water, changing it twice) until the mixture is cool and starting to thicken, then you stir it (I put ice in the water for this) until it's really thick, then you beat it with a wooden spoon or spatula until it's of spreading consistency (she says like a heavy mayonnaise). makes enough to fill and frost 2 fairly deep 9" layers, not gobs abd gobs of icing, just the right amount. Quite delicious, nice shaggy cake, moist, icing tasted great too.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: buttertart
                                AGM_Cape_Cod RE: buttertart Apr 15, 2011 10:36 AM

                                I was going to suggest this cake. We call it a county fair type cake. Very easy to make- I mix in a bowl with a spatula. Great recipe for cupcakes too.

                              2. souschef RE: buttertart Jun 19, 2011 07:39 AM

                                Buttertart, I'm surprised that I didn't think of this before, but if you want a layer cake why not make two of Alice Medrich's Queen of Sheba cake from "Cocolat" and slap them together with some ganache.

                                Yes, I know, late post, but it allows me to pose a question: I have made the cake more than a dozen times (really love it), and every time part of cake gets pulled away from the side of the pan, towards the bottom, so decorating it is a bit of a challenge, to cover up the caved-in side. The cave-in is only for about 1/8 of the circumference, but is a pain. Do you have the same problem?

                                Also, as AM states, the cake rises then collapses like a soufflé, and she tells you to just push the top down, invert the cake, and glaze it. If I did that it would be a holy mess, so I have to level It by slicing off the top before inverting it. Do you have the same problem?

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: souschef
                                  buttertart RE: souschef Jun 20, 2011 06:38 AM

                                  I've made that cake a bazillion times (the low-fat one in Bittersweet is very good too, especially with some sour cherries stirred in).
                                  I find it too rich for use as a layer cake - and leave it as it lies without frosting, smushing, or cutting. The lopsidedness is sort of cute and rustic.
                                  The one I wanted when this was posted was a traditional, shaggy-crumbed, baking powder risen oldfashioned North American style cake.

                                  1. re: buttertart
                                    souschef RE: buttertart Jun 20, 2011 08:04 AM

                                    You should try the recommended glaze. It's really good. I like AM's decoration too. I have some sour cherries in my fridge, so I should try your variation.

                                    1. re: souschef
                                      buttertart RE: souschef Jun 20, 2011 08:21 AM

                                      I will next occasion.

                                      1. re: buttertart
                                        souschef RE: buttertart Jun 20, 2011 09:41 AM

                                        Here's what one of the many I made looked like.

                                        1. re: souschef
                                          buttertart RE: souschef Jun 20, 2011 09:52 AM

                                          Un vraiment tres beau gateau, mon ami.

                                          1. re: buttertart
                                            souschef RE: buttertart Jun 20, 2011 11:41 AM

                                            Merci, Madame La Doyenne !

                                            1. re: souschef
                                              buttertart RE: souschef Jun 20, 2011 11:44 AM

                                              I am but a humble servant of the baking gods.

                                              By the way, HBO here is showing that "Kings of Pastry" documentary tomorrow night - meilleur oeuvriers de France competition. Looking forward to seeing it (even though the pastries we had from a MOF's shop in Paris were not as exciting as I would have hoped).

                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                souschef RE: buttertart Jun 20, 2011 12:13 PM

                                                Thanks, I'll look for it.

                                                Along the same lines, the chocolates I bought from Bernachon were not as good as those I got from a small, not quite as fancy shop I got just down the road from them.

                                                1. re: souschef
                                                  buttertart RE: souschef Jun 20, 2011 12:18 PM

                                                  Hmm. I've had that happen in Antwerp but the ones we got at Bernachon were sublime.

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