Saturday, June 22, 2013

delicious desserts: busy day chocolate cake with strawberries and cream

I have to admit something. This is the first time ever that I've made a busy day chocolate cake. In fact, it wasn't until I began Pinteresting (it's a verb now...just go with it) my little heart out that I first even heard of busy day chocolate cake when I stumbled upon this adaptation of the Martha Stewart recipe. Let me take a moment here to go off on a little tangent. I love Pinterest. I love the inspirational spark of motivation Pinterest can light. But man, all I ever want to do is bake deliciously terrible-for-your-jeans desserts. Sigh. But anyway, I had a good reason this time, because it was Ashley's birthday!

To make this cake into a real birthday treat, I decided to double the fun and make a two layer cake. I'm usually pretty terrible at two layer cakes. Why? Because I'm too impatient. Sigh again. No matter how long I wait to add frosting and stack the top layer of cake upon the bottom, it never seems like it was enough time. The frosting gets soft from the heat of the cakes and just melts away. It's really quite a tragedy. So this time I smartened up and made this a two-day process. Night 1: bake the cakes. They can cool overnight and into the next day. Night 2: zip home from work, whip up the frosting, slice up the strawberries and assemble the layers. The finished masterpiece: a two layer chocolate cake with cream cheese/Cool Whip frosting and fresh strawberries.

This cake is super simple to make, so here's how you do it:

what you need (makes 1 cake):

1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 cup cold water

what you do:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and coarse salt.
2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredient mixture. Add the vegetable oil, vanilla, vinegar and water.
3. Stir together until all ingredients are well mixed and there are not any lumps in the batter (the consistency is much like brownie mix).
4. Pour into a round cake pan (mine is non-stick so I did not grease it) and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Poke the center of the cake with a toothpick to be sure it's baked all the way through.
5. Remove cake from the oven and cool it in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, tip the pan upside down on a serving dish to gently remove the cake. Frost when completely cooled.

Apparently the idea of the "busy day cake" is that you can mix all of the ingredients right in the cake pan. I tried it, and then I poured the dry ingredient mixture into a large mixing bowl which I used to continue adding and mixing the ingredients. There was no was I was going to mix all of the ingredients in my cake pan without half of the batter ending up on the counter. On the plus side: since this recipe doesn't include eggs, if you use a mixing bowl, you get to lick it clean. Kidding, kidding (yeah...not kidding at all).

This frosting is also a quick and delicious option:

what you need:
8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
16 oz container of Cool Whip (let thaw slightly)
1/2 cup (or less) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

what you do:
1. Combine all 4 ingredients and whip together with an electric mixer until you have a fluffy frosting.
2. Apply to cooled cake or cupcakes (you can use this frosting in a pastry bag or frost your baked treats with a knife).

To make the completed double-decker cake, I made two separate recipes of the cake batter instead of doubling the recipe. Made one, poured it in the cake pan, then made the second and poured it in another cake pan (and then "cleaned" the bowl). The day after baking the cakes, I turned one cake upside down onto a serving dish. I applied a layer of room temperature frosting (easier to work with), spread it over the cake with the back of a large spoon, and on top of it, a layer of strawberry slices. Next I added the second cake, upside down, on top of the strawberries (enough frosting squeezes through between the strawberry slices to keep the cakes together), another layer of frosting, and a final layer of strawberry slices. I decided a little design of the "edge" pieces of strawberries was prettier than completely covering the top of the cake with slices. The sides of the cake are not frosted, but you could frost them if you choose.

The cake was so good - the cream cheese, the chocolate, the strawberries - perhaps one of the best birthday cakes yet!

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