Saturday, April 21, 2018

S is for Stovetop Chocolate Cake


I saw this Pinterest pin with a recipe from Christopher Kimball's "Milk Street" (truth: I liked him much better on "America's Test Kitchen" and "Cook's Country" than I do on "Milk Street") on Pinterest for stovetop chocolate cake:

Since I had STELLAR results with the Crockpot Black Forest cake I made earlier this month for the challenge, I figured I didn't have much to lose with this.

The recipe makes one 9" layer, which is just a dessert appetizer at our house. It might have been enough for just us two empty nesters, but the Med School student flew back to the nest for the weekend, and we're also spending the weekend with my dad at the lake house, so if this cake is good, it's not going to be enough; if it's bad, well, it's duck food.

The first order of business in the recipe directions was to sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda into a bowl. Homey don't sift, so the dry ingredients got dumped right in the bowl, along with the brown sugar, and I whisked them all together before I finished reading the recipe and finding out the sugar was supposed to have been stirred into the melted butter and eggs in a large bowl. I quit reading at that point and just went ahead and tossed the melted butter, eggs, and sour cream in with the dry ingredients and mixed it with a spatula. I didn't have any vanilla, so I substituted almond extract, and it called for espresso powder, but homey don't do coffee, either, so I omitted that and spooned the batter into the cake pan.

Artsy shot of the dry ingredients that it turned
out weren't supposed to be mixed together....

Looks like chocolate cake batter. Tastes
like chocolate cake batter. 

The Med School student wandered into the kitchen about this time and began licking the bowl. 

"It's missing something," he said thoughtfully. "I think it's ... vanilla. And ... espresso," and he giggled and continued to lick the bowl. Sigh.

The cake pan then went into a dutch oven that had an aluminum foil snake coiled in the bottom and enough water to reach 3/4 of the way up the side of the snake. With the lid on, the heat was turned to high until the water reached a boil, then turned down to low for 23 minutes or until the center of the cake was firm to the touch.

Aluminum foil snake in bottom of dutch oven.

Pan on snake, snake in water.

And now, we wait....

It was not firm to the touch in 23 minutes. 

At 30 minutes, it was firm (and I guess the timing thing has to do with how the water simmers, and "low" on this stove must be lower than the low in the recipe). It should also be noted that it takes a very long time for both the cake pan and the dutch oven to be cool enough that you can reach in the dutch oven and lift the cake pan out. You'll know that it's cool enough because you won't lose any skin when your knuckles bump the inside of the dutch oven. Don't ask me how I know this.

I was pleasantly surprised when I took the lid
off the dutch oven and found...a cake!

The cake is supposed to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before removing it from the pan, but the pin writer obviously did not have their Med School student son breathing down their neck wondering WHEN is this cake going to be ready to eat. 

As an aside, I typed most of this post while I
was waiting for the cake to cook and used
only my right hand to do so....

"Touch the outside of the pan and let me know how it feels," I asked the Med School student, because I didn't want to get up unnecessarily. He came into the room carrying the cake in his bare hands. "Would I be able to carry this if it were still hot?" he asked, so I got up and headed to the kitchen where I found out the edges of the cake were cool, but the bottom of the pan was still quite warm. It should have cooled for another half an hour, but I was tired of my son and my husband asking for updates and I inverted it on plate.

And nothing happened.

I tapped it against the counter. Nothing. Tapped harder. Nothing. Smacked the bottom of it with my hand and rapped it solidly against the counter, and half of it (the outer half, it turns out) came loose, leaving a rather large chunk of the middle still in the pan.

Aww, fuuuuuudge.

Last time I let the Med School student rush
me to take a cake out of the pan.

"I've never seen them do it like that on 'Cake Boss'," the Med School student said.

"I'll show you how they do it on 'Cake Boss'," I said.

"Just scoop it out and put it on top of the cake," he said. "No one will be able to tell when you put frosting on it."

Chocolate cake puzzle.

I informed him there was no frosting; it was to get a light dusting of powdered sugar, and he said, "Yeah, that's going to show, then."

I cut slices for all of us. It wasn't as high and fluffy as the one in the pin, but it was rich and moist and fudgy.

My husband said it was a definite win, but it wasn't very chocolatey (the rest of us disagreed).

My son said, "I have two things to say about it."

"If you mention vanilla, I will stab you with my fork," I replied.

"It's missing espresso powder," and he giggled again.

Need a cake but don't want to turn the oven on in the summer? Here you go! 

Pinterest WIN!

Note: I started writing this post while I was waiting for the cake to cook, and as I was reading the recipe again - and please note that this is NOT directly from Milk Street but was "adapted" by the pinner into a blog post - the written step where the wet ingredients were stirred together included water as an ingredient. Whaaaa? It was nowhere in the ingredient list. I checked the original recipe from Milk Street, and sure enough, there was supposed to be half a cup of water in the batter; the pinner omitted it from the ingredient list in her "adapation," and I didn't see it in the directions because I started throwing everything in when I added the sugar at the wrong time. Truth be told, however, it didn't need it, and next time I make it, I probably won't add it then, either, and THAT time, it would be on purpose!


  1. I agree with Med School Student: any decent chocolate cake should include espresso!
    Otherwise it looks mighty yummy!

    Happy Weekend!

    1. It really was delicious! Tasted even better the next day after it had cooled (I made it pretty late last night). Husband even agreed it had better chocolate flavor the next day. But still no espresso powder, not ever :)

  2. I for one am not big on the coffee in the chocolate cake thing. I have made steamed cakes before for Christmas they tend to be lighter kind of fruity things . Or almonds based and they're really delicious and moist. And I also agree with you that I like him much better on America's Test kitchen's. And I like the magazine that goes with America's Test kitchen much better than the milk Street magazine. Not that anyone cares about my opinion but that's what it is. Zoe

    1. I care about your opinion. Especially when it coincides with mine! :)
      I would eat a big ol' piece of that chocolate cake RIGHT NOW if I hadn't already eaten it all already (with the help of the Med School student, who did his share).

  3. I don't know how much espresso powder was suggested for but recipes will often call for minimal amounts, not to add a coffee flavor but to punch up the chocolate flavor. I thought this was hokum until I tried it myself and it's twue, it's twue!
    Not twue enough to warrant buying some just for your chocolate cakes but if anyone drinks coffee and leaves a splosh or two in the pot, you might make a coffee ice cube out of it and save for such cooking emergencies...

    1. Any espresso powder would be too much, because I abhor coffee in any way, shape, or form. And my whiny ass husband admitted the cake tasted fine the next day after it was completely cool.

  4. This is actually pretty clever, as one who too often heats up the oven... and the whole house, for baked treats like cake or brownies in the middle of summer. I don't do coffee either, and I don't care for the taste... except in tiramisu, but I am thinking your cake tasted fine without it, no matter what the med student had to say. Kids, they just can't resist the opportunity to mess with us! :-)) I didn't consider how hard it would be to remove said cake from dutch oven while it was still hot. However I do know a trick for getting the cake to not stick in pan... easiest way is to line any pan you are using to bake in with non-stick aluminum foil. I love the stuff, use it all the time now. Nothing sticks to it, and no mess to clean up. Cake, fudge or brownies can be lifted right out of the pan. Great for casseroles with no clean up too. And yes, I know there will be someone telling me that I am poisoning myself using it in this manner. It's a risk I'm willing to live with, I've survived much greater! :-) I am happy that your cake turned out great, the missing water ingredient thing still puzzles me. I would think it would either be too runny or too dry with/without it.

    1. I learned to line a cake pan with a plain ol' paper towel when I took a cake decorating class (lay the pan on the paper towel, trace around it with a pen, cut it out and put it in). When you turn the cake out, it peels right off and you don't have a skin on the cake bottom (which just became the cake top) for decorating. I've never tried the non-stick aluminum foil trick, but I might have to! And yes, life is too short to worry about aluminum leaching out or whatever, I just want my DAMN CAKE TO COME OUT OF THE PAN! The missing water is a bit of a mystery. It was only half a cup. The batter was a little thick, more like a brownie batter than a cake batter, but the end result was delicious and the texture was fine. Maybe I'll try it next time, just to compare.

  5. It looks yummy to me. I've never heard of making a cake on the stove top like that. It's an interesting approach. Weekends In Maine

    1. I live in an old house, so it's not well insulated. And my kitchen stove is gas and the oven vents heat right out into the kitchen, so baking in the summer can be miserable (I got the bright idea of making a whole Thanksgiving dinner for 4th of July last year, because what's more patriotic than turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes, and it was about 90 degrees in the kitchen with the central air and extra fans going). Stovetop cake is a good thing for that. I suppose baking a cake in the crock pot COULD be, just not the recipe I used!

  6. OMG! Dessert appetizer?!! Lol!! I feel your pain! This sounds like the perfect onboard recipe for the boat! With or without the espresso powder!

  7. Well I started to ask what the advantage might be of cooking on TOP of the stove when a stove has an oven, but I see the summer heat thing. I guess I never think about those things. If I gotta cook, I gotta cook no matter what the temperature outside is.