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My Favourite Chocolate Cake


I just think it’s so quaint when someone refers to that cake that they always had at family gatherings. The “it” cake of the family, if you will. Growing up, my birthday cakes have been interesting and wildly different every year depending on geographical location and later on, the temperamental weather in May in BC. Suffice it to say, my family doesn’t have a go-to cake for functions, despite the fact that my mom is a pastry chef. (She only became an official pastry chef in the last 8 or 9 years, to be fair.)

A few years ago when Private Practice first came on and I discovered that there was a doctor show I could watch without feeling nauseous, I checked out the website on ABC. I was delighted to find chocolate cake recipes posted on there, as a tie-in to one of the episodes. There were three recipes, and one immediately caught my eye – “Holy Mother of Chocolate Cake”. I don’t remember anything about the other two recipes, but I’m so glad this was the one I hastily wrote down on a piece of paper before I went grocery shopping for ingredients. It has now become the “it” cake in the family, as most of my family fondly refer back to the last time we had it whenever we talk about cakes. Naturally, with Alex’s birthday just around the corner, this was the cake he asked for.

The cake is very moist and rich, but is not dense at all. Inside the punch of flavour, there is a lightness to it that makes it easy to devour a giant piece before you realize what just happened. Because of the moisture and the richness, it’s not a cake meant for typical butter-and-icing-sugar icing, either. Nor did it work out well with meringue buttercreams. There are a few ways to dress it up or down, but my favourite way remains the orange whipped cream that I concocted serendipitously the first time I made the cake.


Holy Mother of Chocolate Cake

  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate – I used Lindt 70% cacao
  • 12 oz. / 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 22 oz. / 650g sugar
  • 13 oz. / 370g all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz. / 170g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. / 10g baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. / 2g baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp. / 6g salt
  • 150g / 3 large eggs – mine came to 170g when I measured, so I actually scooped out 20g before I added the other liquids. The extra 20g wouldn’t have made a huge difference, except you’d probably get a slightly denser and heavier cake (not necessarily a bag thing)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease and flour two 9″ or 10″ cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. Break up the chocolate into small pieces, then mix with the hot coffee. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. With the paddle attachment on an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, beating until well combined and smooth.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in parts, beating to combine with each addition. Don’t over mix once it’s all integrated.
  6. Pour batter into the pans and bake on middle rack for about an hour. When it is done, your kitchen will smell really, really, really chocolate-y. (As in, this should be the new thing to pop into ovens when you have an Open House.)
  7. Remove pans and let cool in pans until the pans are no longer warm to the touch. Cool completely on a cooling rack before handling, or else it likes to fall apart.


Orange Whipped Cream Icing: whip a 500mL carton of whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Stir in the zest of an orange and 2 crushed up Crunchie chocolate bars (the honeycomb gives it a light toffee flavour and sweetness. So if you don’t have access to Crunchie, find some honeycomb to mash up!). Cover and chill in fridge until ready to use. I recommend allowing the topping to sit for at least 24 hours before consuming, either as part of the cake or prior to icing, so the flavour can develop.

Orange Chocolate Topping: in a food processor, chop up 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with 1 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 tsp. orange zest.

To finish the cake for a family gathering, I usually ice it with the orange whipped cream and leave it at that. The cake really shines on its own that not much else is needed. The sprinkled topping, though, works great if you want to give it a bit more oomph and also a bit more crunch when you eat it. It’s just that I hate cleaning additional appliances so I avoid this step when I know I can get away with it.

The orange whipped icing also isn’t the prettiest to look at. So for Alex’s cake that he took to the office, I covered it up with a new invention of mine – chocolate orange ganache. YUM!

Chocolate Orange Ganache – in a small heavy-bottomed pot, warm up just over 1/2 cup of cream, and the zest of an orange, on low heat. When the cream is warm and slightly bubbling around the edges, strain the liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of the orange zest (you don’t have to, but I prefer my ganache to be smooth, so I did this). Immediately pour the cream over 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, stir until everything is melted. When the mixture is about room temperature, pour over the cake (it would be helpful to put the cake in the freezer when you start this process – it helps the ganache set quickly). Smooth out with a large spatula and voila! When the ganache is set and just before serving, sprinkle the orange topping on top.


{ 3 comments… add one }
  • The Anthology Wednesday 28 April 2010, 19:47

    Ooooooooooh boy. The only problem with that cake? I’d eat the whole thing in one sitting.


    • mango Tuesday 4 May 2010, 17:39

      If only cake were proper meal replacement options…

  • Spends 2 Much Friday 21 May 2010, 23:26

    I do trust your taste in all matters, so I may give this a whirl sometime. In high school I was known for this chocolate cake called Morgan’s Magnificent Obsession. I haven’t made it in years- Had cinnamon and buttermilk and so very much butter…

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