Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cupcake Contest

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.

I admit that the title for this post might be a little misleading. It might lend a person to believe that there was some sort of third party involved in the blog today--some cupcake hopefuls competing for cupcake glory. This is not so. I prefer to keep the glory for myself, you see. And therefore no one else was invited. Although I assure you that over the years of my marriage, many have been "invited" to win me over with their chocolate cake recipes. And few have conquered. I have tried dozens and dozens of chocolate cake recipes. And dozens. And maybe some more dozens too. And then about 2 years ago, I discovered this chocolate cake--the Best Ever Chocolate Cake. And, finally, after all those years of searching, there was love. And then last year, I made this lovely cake. It was more than lovely. It was sin. At least as we know it in this family. But for some odd reason I never thought to try the chocolate cake separate from its peanut buttery frosting and chocolate ganache. Until my sister-in-law, who knows chocolate very well, said she prefers the chocolate sour cream cake involved to my Best Ever.

Sunday I experimented with a different cupcake recipe altogether. They were beautiful and perfectly domed, but in taste they were not even in any kind of competition with my favorite chocolate cakes. And then something tripped and I just had to know: which of the two cakes I love was the best chocolate cake; which was the only, the true, the excalibur of chocolate cake.

Are you dying to know? Are you on the edge of your seats? Is your life as you know it hanging in the balance as you wait in eager anticipation?

Oh dear. Because, you see, I couldn't quite pick an absolute number one favorite. In the past when I've made multiple chocolate cakes in a marriage long effort to determine the best, there's always been a clear winner. But now, now I feel terribly conflicted: King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot?

They were both really really good.  My Best Ever Chocolate Cake was chocolate-y-er (what, that doesn't look like a word to you?)--and that was using a seriously sub-par chocolate (Aldi chocolate chips) for part of it when it explicitly called for a high quality chocolate (I usually use Ghiradelli, which isn't the highest quality, but is good enough). And yet, the Chocolate Sour Cream Cake had a better texture. It was also really beautiful in color--the perfect color for a Devil's Food Cake. They both had an awesome mouthfeel and crumb.

(You can see that the Best Ever is darker, while the Chocolate Sour Cream is redder.)

My advice, make the one you have the stuff for (no sour cream? problem solved; no decent quality chocolate? problem solved). But what if you have ingredients for both. This, my friend, is one of those soul-searching issues you will have to confront on your own. And I wish you luck on your quest.

If I had teenagers to consume these things at lightning speed, I'd do another round where I subbed out half the oil for sour cream in my Best Ever Chocolate Cake. But as it is, a person can (and should) only consume so many chocolate cakes before her birthday is even upon her, lest the fun of eating really good chocolate cake wear off a bit prematurely. As it is, I'm already toying with the further infidelity of eating a lemon cake on my birthday. Is some sort of confession necessary for that?

Below I'll copy recipes for both, though I have to admit that the Chocolate Sour Cream Cake hasn't been altered at all by me. I found it first on and she got it from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes.  But I wanted you to see it without the peanut butter frosting and chocolate gananche. Because if you see that, you might just have to make it this moment. And if you do that, you will probably blow your diet for, like, the rest of your life. And I can't be held responsible for that.

Best Ever Chocolate Cake
also adapted from

3 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate (about 1/2 C)--I use Ghiradelli
1 1/2 very hot water
3 C sugar
2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 C vegetable oil
1 1/2 C buttermilk (or use a scan 1 1/2 C milk mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar)
3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300. Grease and line bottoms of three 9-inch cake pans. Grease the wax paper lining also.

Chop chocolate (or save yourself some time and use chocolate chips) and put it with the hot water. Let it stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.

In large blowl, sift fugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, beat eggs until thickened very slightly and lemon colored (3-5 minutes). Gradually beat in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined well.

Divide batter evenly into cake pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.

Allow to cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out on racks to cool completely.

Frost with your favorite frosting. We favor the chocolate one you'll find here.

Note: Just want two 9-inch layers. Smittenkitchen gives an adaptation here, but don't cook it as long as she guesstimates. You must only do 35-40 minutes or it will be burned and dry and not the best ever.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
from smittenkitchen and Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (I just used regular, not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (smittenkitchen note: These cakes are very, very soft. She (Deb) found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)


  1. Yum. And are you like me, thinking chocolate cake is better aged a day or two? :)

  2. As far as not having teenagers to consume cake at lightening speed, may i just offer the fact that i have a 6-7 teens any given weekday morning. (And a teacher to boot) If you are ever so inclined to test your theories. And Im from the Bill Cosby scool of parenting that chocolate cake is indeed, good for breakfast. (Awesome blog too!) Seriously, im kidding about the cake... mostly. ;)

  3. Betsy--I'm totally with you. GOOD chocolate cake is definitely better aged a day or two.
    Leian--I'll keep you in mind next time I have a surplus. Kip might kill me though for giving perfectly good chocolate cake away:).



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