Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Cake + Decorating Tutorial

So, I have a fantastic friend named Susan. Susan lives in Boston and whenever we find ourselves in the same city, we base our entire agenda around visiting as many bakeries and chocolate shops as possible. We, along with another friend, once did a side-by-side formal tasting of cupcakes for six different Chicago bakeries.

Let me back up-- this goes all the way back to college. Somewhere in the early 2000's, Susan and I met on a summer program that was hosted on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, where there was no chocolate. It was like a bad social experiment that ended in one of the program staff stealing us chocolate chips from the kitchen pantry to quiet our withdrawal. Bonding over stolen baking morsels has led to the years of bakery/chocolate themed touristing noted above, as well as the idea that we should someday open a bookstore/cafe/bakery called "The Cookie Bard," where all the treats are ironically named for a writer or literary character. So, like, the menu would have things like Nick Caraway twists; Miss Maudie's Lane Cake; The Curtis Brothers' Special would be chocolate cake and scrambled eggs; The Hemingway will appear on our coffee menu, but is nothing but a solitary mug of cheap gin; etc. You get the idea. {...........and you think it's AWESOME, right??}

All this back-story is leading to this-- Susan's birthday cake. Even though Boston is about 1000 miles outside my delivery range and she would never get to eat it, Susan an I thought it would be fun for me to design a cake for this occasion. Clearly, this cake needed to be covered in chocolate. Like, it needed to be a chocolate fortress, with a WALL of chocolate keeping the chocolate from leaking out. The best part? This decor looks cool and it's super fast and easy.

As you will notice, I have far fewer step-by-step pictures in this post than normal. This is because I do not have air conditioning and it was REALLY hot the day I baked this. Well, I have a window unit, for which I am eternally grateful and still pledge a kidney or lobe of my liver or whatever to my friends who gave it to me when I found myself in a new city, sweating though my clothes, miserably moping through a heatwave. But, once you turn on my oven, the little-window-unit-that-could just can't. I might be announcing a summer baking hiatus. Like, to bake this cake, I stripped down to my underpants. Not joking. Not ashamed. If there is a prize for baking in your underpants, I win. And I mean that both ways-- for baking whist in my underpants, and for metaphorically baking in my underpants. Unless your metaphor is naughty, then this just got awkward. (Don't act like that is absurd-- it was HOT. And the only difference between underpants baking and normal baking is that you end up oxicleaning cocoa power out of your bra instead of your t-shirt because no one short of a kitchen-fairy-godmother can use a mixer without foofing cocoa powder ALL. OVER. Yes, foof is a word. Because I say so.) So, anyway, this whole paragraph of nonsense is to apologize for the lack of step-by-step photos during baking because I was too hot to stand around and shoot pictures.


Sweat aside, I made Susan a birthday cake. I used my mom's chocolate cake recipe, my favorite chocolate butter cream, and an obscene amount of Hershey's chocolate to create the Susan cake.

Note: I don't usually site products by name brand, I just find that, when using a lot of chocolate in a lot of forms on one dessert, it's best to stick with one kind so that the flavor matches. You can use any kind of chocolate that works for you; this is just what worked for me! I was not compensated by Hershey in any way for this post.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
The Cake....
Chocolate Celebration Cake (Yield 2, 9" layers or 24 standard cupcakes)

2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1 cup water
1 cup sour milk*
*Sour milk can be made by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice per cup of milk. Stir well and allow to sit for a few minutes before adding to the batter.

Step #1 - Preheat oven to 350* F.

Step #2 - Cream together the eggs, shortening sugar and vanilla.

Step #3 - In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder. 

Step #4 - Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, alternating additions with the milk and water until all are fully incorporated. The batter will be a little soupy.

Step #5 - Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350* F. Layers are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

The Icing...
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa powder

8 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Mix all ingredients together with a mixer until you reach the desired consistency.
Use less/more sugar to achieve the thickness you are looking for. You want the icing relatively thick for this so that it doesn't droop or leak out in between the chocolate bars.


Hershey Bars (Aprox. 12 bars for a 9 inch cake that is 4-5 inches tall)
Hershey Drops (1 bag)

Step #1 - Trim layers so they are flat and then stack the layers, applying a liberal layer of butter cream between them. Always put a glob of icing on the plate/cake board before putting down your fist layer. This will keep it from sliding.

Step #2 - Apply a thick layer of icing to the entire cake. You are going to put chocolate around the sides, so they don't need to look pretty. Make sure the top looks smooth and nice.

Step #3 - Slice Hershey bars in half with a knife and place them around the edge of the cake, smooth side out. Use a knife rather than breaking them; they don't usually break evenly.

Step #4 - Using a large icing tip, place one large blob of icing in front of each chocolate panel and one in the center. I used an Ateco 867 tip, but any large tip will work. The most common large tip I see in stores is the Wilton 1M, which will do just fine.

Step #5- Place a row of 'blobs' around the bottom of the cake along the edge of the chocolate 'wall.'

Step #6 - Place Hersey drops around the cake as desired and you are done!

Though the birthday girl was not able to have a slice, I was able to employ a harsh critic to gave a passing review.


  1. Thank you, Julie!!!!!!!! I LOVE it!!

    Cookie Bard will happen.

  2. I'm not sure what looks more delicious... that cake or Nate's cheeks.


    Delicious cake and awesome decoration
    I love it!

  4. I love that story! And that you wrapped it with hershey bars. I think you and I would get along just fine, that's for sure. :)

  5. Now that is an awesome chocolate cake...I love the chocolate bars on the sides!!!

  6. Julie,
    Love the story! This cake is divine! Cute little taste tester too :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by Creative Thursday last week. I couldn’t do these parties without you. Can’t wait to see what you link up this week. Have a great week.

  7. Ah I love that you used that big blocks of chocolate bars on the side. I'll definitely can't wait to try that one out.