Boy-o's actual birthday is today, but the party was Saturday, and of course, we had leftover cake yesterday, and tomorrow we're celebrating at school. Saturday to Tuesday's not a bad run for a little guy.
I made mini chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and dino sprinkles for the big day tomorrow. He loves dinos and frequently pretends to be one. Or a lion. Or a pirate. They all roar in approximately the same manner: deliciously cute and not terribly fierce.
This is my mom's standard chocolate cake and chocolate fudge frosting recipe. I hope she won't be upset if I post it here and give up the big family secret. We've long considered it our family recipe, but a few months ago, Mom discovered it was (coincidentally) identical to the recipe on the back of the cake flour box. I know everyone says his or her mom's chocolate cake is the best (read: my husband), but my mom's really is. So without further ado...
The Best Chocolate Cake
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups (15.75 ounces) brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water
Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt chocolate (I do it in the microwave) and set aside to cool. Line two 9" round baking pans (or a 9x13" pan) with parchment.* Sift together cake flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Beat butter until soft. Add brown sugar and eggs and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down sides occasionally, about five minutes. Beat in cool chocolate and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients, alternately with sour cream, until batter is smooth. Stir in boiling water; the batter will be thin! (I usually continue using my mixer at this point, and I almost always get sloshed with chocolaty water.)
Pour batter into pans. Bake for about 35 minutes. Cool cakes for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Cool completely, then frost.
*Obviously, you can also use this for cupcakes or mini-cupcakes. I got about 35 mini cupcakes and 5 mini-cakes (about the size of a jumbo cupcake?) from one batch of batter. Mini cupcakes bake for about 15 minutes; probably more like 18 for large cupcakes, but just test them. They should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger.
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
4 cups (16 ounces) powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
I'm sure other frostings use this method, but I've actually never seen it. Still, I have distinct memories of it from growing up, when we often beat it by hand. I prefer a hand mixer. It's not worth it to use your stand mixer since you'll have to switch to the hand mixer midway.
Melt butter and chocolate. (Again, the microwave is fine; just do it in 30-45-second bursts.) Using the hand mixer and a bowl with high-ish sides, beat together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, and then add the chocolate mixture and beat until well incorporated. Set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice water (more ice than water, or it will slosh all over!) and beat until the frosting thickens, lightens in color, and is spreadable. If it gets too thick, just thin it with a little milk; conversely, if it gets too thin or warm, cool it down again over the ice water. It's light in color, but much richer in taste than most cocoa-based chocolate frostings. I think that's why I'm spoiled!
Frost the cakes and decorate as desired. This makes enough to frost and fill the 9" two-layer cake, but if I'm going to pipe decorations, I like to make 1 1/2 recipes of frosting. When I was a kid, our standard way to decorate was to use the back of a spoon to make little waves and dips on the top of the cake. I still think that looks so pretty. My mom also makes a circle or star pattern on the top with a half-dozen or so pecan halves.