I made this cake for a self-proclaimed cake hater. But, first let me explain what this cake is supposed to look like. If you grew up in Canada in the late 80s, you’ll remember McCain’s Deep ‘n Delicious chocolate cake. It’s not particularly deep or delicious, but as a chocolate cake deprived little kid, DND (as the cake shall now be known) was the best thing I ever tasted. It’s a basic chocolate cake, in a tinfoil tray, covered with star shaped piped chocolate frosting. The cake was (and still can be) found in the frozen section, you know, where they keep the Sara Lee Pound Cakes and such.
DND tastes like childhood. It brings me back in a intense way to a time when my biggest worry was if my mom would let me have a second slice of cake or not. I have to admit, that I still eat DND today, in a completely non-ironic sort of way. I love that shit! In fact, I have half of one in my freezer right now. It’s the perfect indulgent I-don’t-have-to-do-anything-cake cake. It’s a I-want-chocolate-cake cake. And that’s why, when I wanted to bake a homemade version for a birthday cake, I turned to the master of homemade cakes, Deb, of Smitten Kitchen.
The power of DND is real my friends. It convinced my non-cake loving friend that he is, indeed, a lover of cake. It all happened, as many stories in my life do, on a pizza night. Mike and I were over at his place for pizza and I, of course, wanted cake but didn’t want to bake one so we trekked over to the grocery store to buy a tray of DND. I had one lone slice, since no one else would deign to try it. I left the rest in the freezer and promptly forgot about it until the next pizza night when I wanted another slice. To my surprise the cake was nowhere to be found…Apparently my friend finished off the entire thing as dinner one day.
He was a bit sheepish about it, but I know the power of DND. So, it was a no brainer that his birthday cake would be DND inspired. This cake came together like a dream. I didn’t even sift the cocoa power – I just ran a fork through it. If you’re a stickler for following instructions, go ahead and sift. The crumb is moist and deeply chocolatey and the frosting is delightfully fudgy. I had the leftovers for breakfast the next day and I was not at all mad about it.
Classic Chocolate Birthday Cake Recipe via Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 4×4 inch cake*
prep time: 30 minutes
bake time: 25-35 minutes
total time: 2 hours, including cooling and frosting
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 large egg (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 large egg yolk (1/2 tablespoon)
- 6 tablespoons buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/2 tablespoon milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 4 inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on the sides.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Cream with the brown and white sugar. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, mixing well. Add the buttermilk and mix. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift the dry mixture over the wet ingredients and fold until just combined, being sure to scrape down the sides. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
For the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then add the powdered sugar. Add the chocolate, salt, milk, and vanilla and beat until smooth and fluffy. Ice using an offset spatula for swirls or use a star tip and piping bag to pipe on stars. Top with a dinosaur a la my favorite cake maker, My Name is Yeh.
Note: to measure out the eggs, break into a small bowl, whisk well and measure out.
For the original recipe measurements, which makes an 8×8 inch cake, check out Deb’s recipe.