Chocolate Fantasy Fundraiser Tea: Devil's Food Cake

Did you know that American and Dutch-process cocoa are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably? American cocoa still contains its natural acidity and Dutch-process cocoa has been treated with an alkali to remove its acid. The alkalizing process turns the cocoa darker but gives it a milder flavor. Equally important, since the amount of baking soda in a recipe depends on the level of acidity, switching from one type of cocoa to another can upset the chemical balance.

Unfortunately, not all cocoa manufacturers clearly indicate whether their product is alkalized. Assume that American brands are not alkalized and that European brands are treated with alkali unless the labels say otherwise. So, in this recipe, you’ll be safe using Hershey’s Cocoa Powder.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup unsweetened, nonalkalized American-style cocoa powder
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup boiling water
1 1/3 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups butter, softened
2 2/3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate Fudge Frosting, recipe below

Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Insert rounds of parchment paper into the bottoms of three 9-inch round pans. Generously grease and flour the pans. Melt the chocolate over low heat or in the microwave.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cocoa powder and baking soda until well blended. Pour the boiling water over the mixture, stirring well; it will foam up. Let cool to warm. Sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of baking parchment or wax paper.

In a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter for 1 ½ minutes. Add the sugar and beat for about 1 ½ minutes longer until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time just until blended. Add the cocoa mixture and continue beating until the mixture is free of lumps. The mixture may look slightly curdled. Stir the chocolate; it should be warm and fluid. Beat the chocolate into the batter until smoothly incorporated. With the mixer on low, beat in half the dry ingredients, then the sour cream and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute. Beat or stir in the remaining dry ingredients just until smoothly incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the pans. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean but still moist and the layers are just beginning to draw away from the pan sides. Transfer the pans to wire racks. Let cool completely.

Carefully run a knife around the pan sides and rap them on the counter to loosen. Invert the layers onto racks. Ice using Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into chunks
1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract combined with 1 ½ tablespoons water
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
11 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened and cut into chunks
2-2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1-2 teaspoons water if needed

In a heavy saucepan, bring the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup just to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Wash any sugar from the pan sides using a pastry brush dipped in warm water. Also wash any sugar from the stirring spoon. Boil briskly, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla mixture and the chocolates until they completely melt.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. With mixer on low speed, beat in the cream cheese a few chunks at a time. Continue beating until well blended. Beat in 2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Raise the speed to medium-low and beat until the mixture is completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes; it should be cool to the touch. If the frosting seems too thin to spread, beat in up to ½ cup more confectioners’ sugar. Let stand to firm up, 5 to 10 minutes. If the frosting is very stiff, add a teaspoon or two of water to thin it.