Chocolate Celebration Cake

Team, I’ve been holding out on you. Though FoodHappy’s been kicking around the interwebs for nearly two years now, I’ve yet to share with you my go-to recipe for chocolate cake and an amazing(ly easy) three-ingredient frosting. (The horror, the horror!) Let me explain. 


The recipe is the brainchild of the brilliant bakeress, Ina Garten, from whom I learned many of my tricks while spending my youth glued to the FoodNetwork. Having discovered it years ago, I’ve made the recipe a conservative two dozen times. Whether as a cake or cupcakes, both of which it does equally well, it’s infallibly moist, chocolatey and quick to disappear. Relying only on pantry staples like cocoa, vegetable oil and coffee and able to be made without a mixer (though you can use one if you so please), it’s the kind of thing you can throw together the day you need it. Which is precisely why I’ve never managed to share it with you.


See, to me the cake is the sort of nostalgia-inducing, lick-your-fingers kind of thing that must be saved for special occasions. To make it without an express celebratory cause would water down the specialness that I’ve inadvertently attached to it over the years. And so, though I’ve turned to it many times since FoodHappy came to be—to celebrate birthdays, going-aways, and professional successes—it’s always been on a weeknight, when the light is waning and blogging is out. 

france_two2.jpgThis weekend, however, the baking and blogging stars aligned and the cause for cake fell on a Saturday. A wonderful friend of mine is heading off with her lovely fiancé to France, where they’ll spend the next four years together laughing through a new language, mastering the art of driving standard and taking in everything the country sends their way (fingers crossed for plenty of good cheese!). A reason to celebrate if ever there was one! And so I joined them on Saturday, cupcakes in tow, as their family and friends gathered round a cozy fire and tables full of treats to send them off.


To Catherine and Bennett, may the good times and pastry be abundant! And to the rest of us, who will be living in envy of your endless supply of pain au chocolat, happy baking! 

Chocolate Celebration Cake (or Cupcakes!)
Adapted from Ina Garten
Makes 1 double-layer 8-inch cake or 24 cupcakes 

Note: I’ve written the recipe to include instructions on how to make both cake and cupcakes. Keep scrolling, and you’ll also find a recipe for the chocolate ganache I choose when topping off cupcakes. When making a cake, I tend to go for this simple chocolate buttercream, and ice the cake using the same technique outlined in this old post

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cups cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
 2 large eggs, preferably organic, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot, fresh coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. For cupcakes: grease or line two standard, 12-place, muffin tins. For a cake: grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and grease and flour the parchment.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flower, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until evenly combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla until evenly combined.

Step_1.jpg3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix with a wooden spoon until nearly combined. While stirring the batter, carefully pour in hot coffee. Continue stirring until coffee is evenly incorporated into the batter.

Step_2.jpg4. Divide batter evenly between muffin tins or cake pans, whichever you’re using. For cupcakes: bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out moist but clean. For a cake: bake for 35-40 minutes, using the same toothpick test for doneness. Let cupcakes/cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning out onto the rack and letting cool complete before icing (continue on for a tasty and simple ganache recipe!). 


Easy Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from
Makes ~1 cup (enough for 24 cupcakes — double the recipe if you’re using it for cake)

4 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 3 oz of semisweet and 1 oz of unsweetened with success)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 

Using a serrated knife, chop chocolate into small pieces and pop in a bowl. In a heavy-bottomed pan set over medium heat, heat cream just until it comes to a boil. Pour cream over chocolate, let sit for a minute, then whisk until super-smooth. Let cool for a few minutes before spreading over cupcakes.* 

ganache.jpg*If you prefer a frosting to a thick glaze, allow the ganache to cool completely, then whip with a beater until fluffy. Extras can be stored in a container in the freezer for a good long while, and brought back to glazey consistency in a bowl set over simmering water, with a good amount of attention and whisking!

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