I would wager that sometime in the near future you might have some friends over for dinner. Or maybe you’ll be invited to a party. As the excellent host that you are you’ll want to make a show-stopper dessert that your guests will love, and as a guest you’ll do as your mother taught you and ask what you can bring. Sure, a bottle of wine is great, flowers are a nice touch, but imagine if you offered to make dessert and showed up with this wicked beauty?
Uh huh. You’d be the hero of that dinner story.
Now before you get all “Aw shucks, I could never do that!” I want to point out a few obvious points:
1.) this cake has 3 simple components – cake, frosting and berries
2.) the berries are ready to go, you don’t even have to do anything to them!
3.) it’s not even fully frosted, so don’t pull the whole “I can’t frost a cake to save my life” bit.
4.) this won’t hurt a bit, I promise.
This cake is so simple to make and it’s that simplicity that makes it beautiful. It doesn’t need to hide behind flawless frosting or a lavish coat of sprinkles. You don’t need an advanced degree in all things pastry. You don’t even need an ounce of precision! You just need a few bowls, some basic ingredients and a couple of hours (some of which is downtime). Even if you don’t have an electric mixer for the frosting, never fear, just roll up your sleeves and get at it – bonus: you can skip the gym if you do it that way!
Do a little mixing here and there, don’t be like me and spill the cocoa – it’s murder to clean up, and then pop this simple, single chocolate cake into the oven. Then use the next 25 minutes to whip up my/soon to be your favourite cream cheese frosting and then let both chill out for awhile. Check your email, water the houseplants, pet the cat, have some tea. Do whatever you need to do so you are in a zen-like state for assembling the cake. Whatever you do, don’t get worked up about splitting it into 2 layers. And if that really is too much too fast, double the recipe and make 2 rounds of chocolate cake. I doubt you’ll get any complaints, and if you do, just eat their piece. That will teach them.
Take a deep breath, spread some frosting in a casual and confident manner. Make it pretty but not overdone – this cake is the girl next door of cakes – beautiful, not a bit pretentious and it will leave you wanting more. Plunk down some raspberries, let their summery redness do all the work, you can’t go wrong. More cake, more clouds of frosting, more jeweled berries. And you’re done. Chill (the cake and you) and then present it. Shoulders back, chin up, don’t drop it, big smile. You did it! Now, dig in!
Chocolate Cake with Raspberries and Brown Sugar Creamcheese Frosting
You’ll need about 2 pounds of fresh raspberries for this cake, which sounds excessive but should cover the surface of both the center and top, making it beautifully bejeweled and amping up its decadence.
For the cake:
Grease and flour a 9″ cake pan. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the following dry ingredients:
1½ C flour
1 C light brown sugar
½ C cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
In a second bowl, mix the following wet ingredients:
1 C cold coffee
½ C vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp vanilla
Dump the dry ingredients onto the wet and combine quickly without over-mixing, I find a rubber spatula works best as it allows you to fold in the dry ingredients without stirring too furiously. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top to level. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is springy to the touch and a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge against the pan, and inverting the cake onto the cooling rack. Allow the cake to fully cool before slicing into two layers with a serrated knife.
When the cooled cake is split, fill it with the Brown Sugar Creamcheese Frosting:
2 C softened cream cheese (2 blocks)
1 C (packed) light brown sugar
½ C vanilla Greek style yogurt
2 Tbsp vanilla
Mix all three ingredients in an electric mixer until fully combined, soft and spreadable. Chill until you are ready to use it.
To assemble the cake, take the top layer of your split cake and place it on your serving plate cut side up.
Dollop on a little less than half of the Brown Sugar Creamcheese Frosting. Stud the whole surface with raspberries. I find that standing them upside down so their wider end is pushed into the creamcheese frosting makes for a stable cake. Press them down firmly without bursting them.
Place the other cake layer cut side down, pressing to connect it with the frosting and fruit. Cover the top of the cake (which should be the original bottom of the cake) with frosting, swirling it decoratively. You could pipe the frosting, but it’s quite soft and looks just as good luxuriously swirled with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
Top with more raspberries. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve with any additional raspberries that you couldn’t fit into or onto the cake.