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Chocolate cake

For C2’s wedding I did lots and lots of research on making big cakes. I found this recipe buried inside Smitten Kitchen. The whole thread there (especially the many, many comments) taught me a lot about baking big cakes. C2’s wedding cake was part this cake and part champagne cake.

If you’re going to make a big-deal cake for a lot of people, I suggest a lot of practice. This cake is very moist, yet sturdy enough to hold up when big layers are stacked on top of each other.

To make a big cake takes more than multiplying recipes and bigger pans. You have to worry about structural integrity, keeping it moist, baking evenly, and lots of other concerns. YouTube is a good place to get making, assembly, and construction techniques.

This is a big recipe: it makes 3 – 8″ round layers or 2 – 10″ round layers. To convert to other pan sizes, look here.

Go to the recipe.

Combine all the dry ingredients.

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Mix for a few seconds to combine.

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Add butter and buttermilk.

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Mix on low speed until the batter doesn’t fly all over the kitchen

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Blend on higher speed for about 2–3 minutes, scraping bowl several times.

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In another bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, and coffee together.

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Add the liquid to the batter in 3 steps.

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Beat just until blended and scrape bowl well after each addition.

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Cut parchment paper to cover bottom of pans.

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Grease and flour the pans (Baker’s Joy makes this much easier). Put parchment paper in bottom of pans, grease and flour (or spray Baker’s Joy) the parchment paper.

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Divide the batter among the prepared pans.

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Bake at 350° until toothpick in center comes out clean. Let cakes sit for about 5 minutes.

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Turn cakes out of pans onto wire racks to cool. Remove parchment paper after the cakes cool, if it didn’t come off in the pan.

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Frost the cake as desired. This is one way to go:

Frost the bottom layer with peanut butter buttercream.

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Place next layer on top.

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Finish frosting with buttercream frosting. To smooth the frosting (no photo for that), let the cake sit for about 20–30 minutes to harden off a bit. Then take a piece of plain paper, lay it over the frosting, and run your hand quickly over the paper lightly. The heat from your hand will smooth the frosting and remove small imperfections.

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Here’s a drizzle of dark chocolate. Place some chocolate in a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Very low power for a short amount of time; you don’t want to cook the chocolate. Then drizzle it over the cake however you like.

This cake is sitting on a cardboard cake circle on a lazy susan that we’ve had forever, which I use to frost cakes. I hold an angled spatula against the cake while turning the lazy susan. To lift the cake off the turntable to a serving plate, I use a cake lifter to not lift so much as gently slide the finished cake onto the plate.

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I forgot to take pretty pictures of cake slices, so here’s the aftermath of this particular party:

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Chocolate Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Chocolate cake that is deep, rich, and moist. Also quite sturdy, so holds up well in multiple layers.
  • 3 cups cake flour (don't use regular flour)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey's: not dutch processed)
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cubes butter cut into about 4 chunks each, room temperature (12 oz.)
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups brewed coffee (coffee makes it richer and deeper, but you can use just water or any combination of water and Amaretto, Kahlua, or other liqueur. I don't like the taste of coffee, so I use very weak coffee just to give it a little depth.)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. In the mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. Mix for a few seconds to combine the dry ingredients.
  3. To the mixing bowl, add the butter and buttermilk. Blend on low speed until moistened and so the batter doesn't fly all over the kitchen. Scrape bowl.
  4. Then blend on higher speed and beat until fluffy, 2–3 minutes, scraping bowl several times.
  5. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, and coffee together.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the batter in 3 steps. Beat just until blended and scrape the bowl after each addition.

  1. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans.
  2. Butter and flour (or use cocoa powder instead of flour) the pans (or use Baker's Joy).
  3. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and butter or spray the paper. The parchment paper is extra insurance that the cake will come out neat and clean, without chunks of cake stuck to the bottom of the pan. Worth it.

  1. Divide the batter among the prepared pans.
  2. Bake at 350 for 38–60 minutes (very much depends on the pan sizes), or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, depending on your oven and pan size.
  3. After removing from oven, let cakes sit in pans for about five minutes.
  4. Turn baked cakes onto a wire rack.
  5. When layers are cool, remove parchment paper (if it didn't come off when removing from pan).
It's easier to frost cake when it's frozen, and if you're making a big special-occasion cake, you'll likely have to freeze the layers as you bake them because it will take you several days. If you wrap the unfrosted layers well in several layers of plastic wrap, place them inside a zip-lock bag, and freeze, the cake will still taste great.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi, Thank you for publishing this recipe. I am making my sister’s wedding cake and this is just what I was looking for. Coincidentally, my sister also asked for pink champagne as one of her layers. I was wondering if you had the recipe for the champagne cake you made. I am having trouble finding a recipe for a larger, more study cake.

    Many thanks for your time!



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