Perfect Chocolate Cake

Perfect Chocolate Cake
Perfect Chocolate Cake

For cake:
Vegetable shortening, for greasing the pans
Flour, for dusting the pans
1 (18.25-ounce) package devil’s food cake mix with pudding
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For sweetened cream filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar or to taste, sifted after measuring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

For chocolate frosting:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoons
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted after measuring

To prepare cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease three 9-inch round cake pans with shortening; dust with flour. Shake out excess flour. Set the pans aside.

Place cake mix, sour cream, water, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Divide the batter among the prepared pans, smoothing it with a rubber spatula. Bake on the center oven rack (or place two pans on the center rack and the third in the center of the highest rack).

Bake until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 20 to 25 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the layer on the highest oven rack. Let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each layer; invert each onto a rack, then invert again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up.

Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes.

While cakes cool, prepare filling: Chill a large, clean mixing bowl and electric mixer beaters in the freezer for a few minutes while you assemble the ingredients.

Pour cream into the chilled bowl; beat on high speed until it thickens, 1 1/2 minutes. Add sugar and extract. Beat until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. (Filling may be made ahead and refrigerated. )

To assemble, place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter. Spread the top with half of the filling, spreading it within 1/2 inch of the sides. Place another layer, right side up, on top of the first layer; spread with the remaining filling, spreading it within 1/2 inch of the sides. Place the third layer on top; cover the cake lightly with waxed paper. Place it in the refrigerator to chill.

To prepare frosting: Place a large mixing bowl full of ice in the kitchen sink. Place chocolate chips, half-and-half and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring, until the chips and butter melt and the mixture thickens, 5 to 6 minutes. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk the sugar into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Place the saucepan in the bowl of ice, taking care not to let any ice water spill into the saucepan. Beat with an electric mixer set on low speed until frosting thickens and is satiny and fudgelike in appearance, 4 to 5 minutes.

Frost the top and the sides of the cake, using clean, smooth strokes. (The frosting will stiffen as it sets. If it gets too hard to spread, place the saucepan back over low heat and stir until it reaches spreading consistency).

Store this cake in a cake saver or under a glass dome in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Yield: 16 servings.


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