Plain Chocolate Cake

Will travel for cake.

I met up with Diana for a shoot in south Florida this winter and the trip coincided with her nephew Teddy’s birthday. Even though he’s surrounded by more evolved culinary options, he’s still a big supporter of the basics. When I said I’d bake him a birthday cake and presented all the options, he went with a “plain” chocolate cake. So here we are.

This cake is pretty basic for something that will be refrigerated, using oil instead of creaming butter and sugar and the frosting is almost shockingly light. Don’t skip the sour cream in either recipe — it will keep your cake moist and your frosting at the perfect consistency even right out of the fridge. Want to simplify? Keep this cake super low-brow but equally brilliant — frost with cool whip and serve with fresh strawberries.

We can’t be the only ones that crave birthday cake on a regular basis. Sometimes you want a slice of cake CUT into a perfect triangle that you can enjoy with a glass of milk. And sometimes you want a second piece of that cake. I’m not talking about a cute cupcake or a perfect mini anything (although, I have zero problems devouring mini icebox cake from Magnolia Bakery). This cake is a crave-worthy cake, best eaten cold and chased with a glass of milk. It doesn’t even have to be someone’s birthday.

Plain Chocolate Cake
Serves 12
  1. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
  4. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. ¼ cup sour cream
  10. 1 cup milk, preferably whole
  11. 1 cup espresso or strong coffee, cooled
  12. 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  13. butter, for greasing pan
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Generously butter 2, 8-inch, cake pans. Dust with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, tapping out any excess.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. The granulated sugar will help break up any cocoa powder clumps without sifting.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, sour cream, milk, espresso and vanilla extract.
  5. Fold mixture together and spread evenly in two 8-inch pans.
  6. Bake on middle rack, turning halfway through baking, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans.
  1. Dusting cake with cocoa powder instead of flour ensures that the outside of the cake is dark, not beige, from baked flour. You can also do half cocoa power, half flour for dusting.
  2. Frost cake with chocolate frosting and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight before eating. It will be worth it!
Lucky Banks Eats
Chocolate Frosting
  1. 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  2. 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  3. 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  4. ½ cup sour cream
  5. 1 ⅓ cup powdered sugar
  6. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  1. In a small saucepan, heat cream until just boiling. Pour cream over bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Allow cream and chocolate to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Stir gently to combine chocolate with cream until it is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk chocolate mixture on high speed for 2 minutes. Add vanilla bean paste and sour cream. Continue to whisk until the mixture is completely cooled and begins to gain volume. Adjust speed to low and slowly add powdered sugar until all sugar is incorporated. Whisk again at high speed and begin to add butter a tablespoon at a time until it is fully incorporated.
Lucky Banks Eats

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