As I'd mentioned in my last post, I did not want to make this cake. There are so many reasons, but basically this unwillingness to bake boils down to a combination of exhaustion, laziness, and downright super sadness. I know this is supposed to be the blog in which I bake in order to rid myself of the blues, but I was too down to even get my ingredients in order. So what happened, you ask? Nothing really, I guess. Like I've said before though, I feel like things have just stalled a little too much for my liking. I'm not really sure where my skills lie anymore, and after those Samoa bars turned out less than amazing, I started to even wonder whether or not I could successfully make anything. I know that sounds like quite the exaggeration, and I know that there are worse things than realizing you screwed up a Girl Scout cookie recipe, but lots of other things have happened, and lots of other things have not happened (ooo, cryptic), and and and... and I'm just a little down right now. Sigh.
I decided to try and engage in a little bit of online retail therapy to heal myself. Below is a brief timeline detailing how this worked out:
11:00am: What's a shortcake basket? It sure doesn't look like a basket. I guess it could be classified as a dozen little baskets nestled in one big pan. But I still don't get it. I should buy it and find out what it is. Then I can blog about something I made using my shortcake basket. I am going to add this to my cart.
11:05am: I would look so cool in a bomber jacket. I should try to find a bomber jacket.
11:10am: I've got no right to wear a bomber jacket.
11:11am: I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller.
11:30am: What the hell is a shortcake basket and why is it in my checkout cart?! DELETE.
Yeah. So... let's just make a damn cake.
This recipe was taken from an amazing Betty Crocker cookbook that three of my wonderful friends gave me as a birthday present last year. I cannot tell you how much I love this thing.
Chocolate Cake That's Impossible to Screw Up Taste-Wise, But Very Possible To Screw Up Looks-Wise
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups of granulated sugar
2/3 cup of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/4 cups of water
3/4 cup of butter, softened
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Grease either a 9x13" cake pan or two 8" round pans and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
And now, this is kind of why I love this cake: you just throw everything into a bowl and get mixing. Oh, you also put on an apron and/or your least-favorite articles of clothing. Lastly, you hide your very-neat boyfriend/roommate/parents/pet who would tremble at the sight of a chocolate-covered kitchen. Mix in a large bowl on high speed until smooth and creamy, then divide the batter evenly between pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it. Let cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert them onto wire racks to cool completely.
Creamy Vanilla Frosting (makes enough to frost an 8" 2-layer cake or a 9x13" sheet cake)
3 cups of powdered sugar
1/3 cup of softened butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons of milk, plus more milk than that because this recipe is trippin' if it thinks all you need is a couple of tablespoons of milk. Just keep it nearby is what I'm saying.
As you can probably tell, I had some issues with this frosting. I'm sure there were screw-ups on my part, because it didn't come out terribly fluffy. It tasted damn good...but still. Anyway, make sure your butter is REALLY soft. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, combine it with your powdered sugar until fluffy, then add in vanilla and one tablespoon of milk, then slowly add in your other tablespoon of milk if you think the frosting isn't soft enough. I'm pretty sure you're going to need more milk, especially since my frosting started to stick to my cake and YANK CHUNKS OF CAKE OFF. Grrr. Anyway, yeah, be careful.
Want to hear some more lame stuff that happened? Apparently I don't know how to slice a cake horizontally, so mine looked a tiny bit jacked up. But let me tell you what you should do: pick one of your chocolate cakes to use as your bottom layer. To flatten the top of it, carefully and slowly saw through the very top using a serrated knife. Don't just hack at it because you're mad at life. If you're mad at life and end up hacking at it a little bit, use your frosting to cover up your mistakes. Use a rubber spatula and get spreading. Top with the other cake, then spread frosting all over the cake. I can't tell you how to do it so it looks pretty, BECAUSE APPARENTLY I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO IT SO IT LOOKS PRETTY. See below.
Hot mess, wouldn't you say? After frosting this, I had a bit of a meltdown and threatened to throw this cake into the garbage with the fake Samoas I had made, "so that these two failures could make sweet love in trashland." Yes, I was angry. But do you know how angry I was after I cut into this thing and took a bite?
Wait for it...
...I WAS NOT ANGRY AT ALL. I was only grateful that I decided to taste this thing before destroying it. It is, hands down, the best chocolate cake I have ever made. It's soft, crumbly, chocolatey and well worth the effort. This is a go-to, fail-proof chocolate cake. Make this, dear friends. Make this, learn how to decorate it, and make me proud.