A classic combination of chocolate cake with a fluffy and light whipped cream–style frosting. This recipe makes an ideal naked cake, where frosting is only in the center and on top, with exposed sides—or just thinly covering the cake all over, so that the layers are visible and show through. This is a great make-ahead cake, because the whipped cream frosting is a version of my cheater’s whipped cream—the cream cheese stabilizes the mixture, making it thicker and also allowing it to retain its texture and volume. Made in advance, some of the moisture from the frosting soaks into the cake layers, making them fudgier in a really delicious and nostalgic, icebox cake sort of way. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
- Prep time 40 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Makes 1 (9-inch) cake
1 1/4 cups
(107 grams) cocoa powder
(228 grams) boiling water
(226 grams) sour cream
(595 grams) all-purpose flour
fine sea salt
(226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups
(545 grams) granulated sugar
large (284 grams) eggs
(56 grams) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
VANILLA BEAN FROSTING
(226 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped (can sub 1 tablespoon vanilla extract instead)
(56 grams) powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups
(353 grams) heavy cream
Sprinkles or candy, for finishing (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, line the base with parchment, and spray the parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and boiling water until well combined. Whisk in the sour cream. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Add half of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate fully, and scrape the bowl well. Add half of the cocoa mixture and mix to combine, then scrape the bowl well. Repeat to add all of the flour and cocoa mixture.
- Add the melted chocolate and mix to fully combine. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and spread into an even layer. Transfer to the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.
- Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese, vanilla bean seeds, and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the cream in a slow, steady stream and whip until the mixture is thick, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Assemble the cake: Use a serrated knife to remove the domed top of the cakes. Place one layer on a cake turntable, platter, or cake stand. Scoop a few heaping spoonfuls of frosting onto the cake layer, and spread into an even layer. Place the second cake layer on top.
- Apply a thin all over “crumb coat” of the frosting, and chill the cake for 10 to 15 minutes. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting. Alternatively, the frosting can be divided between the center and top only for thicker layers and for a naked cake look. The cake can be served immediately. Or, if desired, refrigerate for 1 hour (and up to 24 hours) before serving, for fudgier cake layers. Just before serving, decorate with sprinkles or candy, if using.