This is one of my favourite cakes. Ever.
Years ago, when I decided I wanted to learn how to bake, I settled on this chocolate cake recipe to try. I love chocolate and I love cake, and I was never allowed chocolate cake growing up because my mother didn’t like it. (I converted her with this cake, though.) I felt like James Dean when I chose this recipe to make.
Back then, all recipes seemed so daunting! I was supposed to measure things? What happened if I put in too much or too little of something? How was the batter supposed to look? What if I messed it up? How would I know when the cake was finished baking? What the hell was the toothpick test? What is the capital of Nicaragua? (Managua!)
Naturally I messed some things up. For one thing, I scooped the flour instead of stirring it and then spooning it into the measuring cup. And I’m sure I overbeat the hell out of the batter. But the cake turned out well, despite my best efforts to malign its reputation and make it blush! It was moist, and full of chocolate flavour, and utterly addictive. It became my go-to chocolate cake recipe. (It still is, as a matter of fact.) I’ve made this cake easily three dozen times at this point, and I consider it to be a perfect beginner’s cake. It’s easy to make, yet it tastes quite sophisticated and nuanced, and has a fine, moist crumb. I think the Hershey’s Deep Dark Chocolate Cake recipe is seriously underrated.
Here’s where I admit to you that I eventually caught on to the magic that is coffee combined with chocolate, and so I replaced the cup of hot water called for by this recipe with one cup of hot, freshly brewed espresso. The finished cake doesn’t taste like coffee (though it wouldn’t be hard to add a pronounced coffee flavour via the addition of instant espresso powder to the batter), but the chocolate flavour is intensified. Way intensified. This cake is as chocolatey as this one, but with a moist, delicate texture rather than a fudgey one. My second admission is that I never use Hershey’s cocoa powder in this recipe, because (gasp!) I don’t care for the flavour of Hershey’s chocolate. The sole exception is Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate, but I don’t even eat that out of hand; I melt it for ganache.
James Dean would be proud.
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Hershey’s Deep Dark Chocolate Cake
Yield: 1 9″ two-layered cake
For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup very hot espresso OR very hot coffee OR very hot water
For the buttercream:
4 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
4 – 6 cups powdered sugar
1 – 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 – 4 TBS heavy cream or whole milk, as needed to thin icing
8 – 10 oz. chocolate, chopped
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 9″ pans with nonstick cooking spray and line each pan with a parchment paper circle. Spray the circles. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. To this bowl add all wet ingredients* EXCEPT for the coffee and whisk just until thoroughly combined. Gently whisk in hot coffee. Batter will be very thin, almost watery. This is as it should be.
Divide batter evenly between pans and bake 25 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Cool five minutes in pans; transfer cakes to wire racks and allow to cool completely.
For the buttercream:
Beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth. Scrape the bowl and gradually add the powdered sugar, starting on low speed with each addition in order to avoid splashing powdered sugar all over your surroundings. Beat in addition of powdered sugar until smooth and fully incorporated, scraping bowl and beater(s) as needed. Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and beat until blended and smooth. Taste and add more powdered sugar and / or more cocoa powder as needed. When amounts of powdered sugar and cocoa powder are corrected, beat in vanilla. Beat in cream, in increments of 1 TBS, to thin icing to desired consistency. (Note: The more you beat buttercream icing, the smoother it will be.) Cover bowl with a moist cloth and set aside until needed.
Place one of the cake layers onto a serving platter. Spread a generous layer of the chocolate buttercream atop this layer. Evenly sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the icing, reserving some of the chocolate for the outside of the cake, if desired. Top with second cake layer. Ice sides and top of cake with remaining buttercream. Arrange remaining chopped chocolate, if there is any, on outside of cake in a way that pleases you.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.
*There is no need to whisk together the wet ingredients separately. Just add them to the dry ingredients and whisk!