Chocolate snack cake

Sometimes, all you need is chocolate.  At least, all you want is chocolate!  Once again, it's time to celebrate chocolate - one of my greatest loves - in this month of February and ahead of Valentine's day in a few days.  
So for no more necessary reason beyond my love of chocolate and for making, eating, and sharing chocolate cake, I'd like to present this simple chocolate snack cake that's good for any occasion or for just any ordinary day.
I have certainly baked many a chocolate cake and generally enjoy them all.  For an excuse to keep making chocolate cake throughout the year(s), I'm always happy to try a new twist.  In this case, I was captivated (and immediately motivated) by Now, Forager's chocolate sprinkle snack cake; her photographer is stunning and one look at her gorgeous cake had me itching to make one of my own!  It's simple, classic and just a happy cake to bake - and eat - any time of year. 
This cake is familiar in its lineup of ingredients - cocoa powder and coffee for chocolate flavor, sour cream and oil for moisture.  An interesting note on the frosting - this dark chocolate frosting has a relatively small amount of powdered sugar in it relative to most buttercream frosting recipes.  I actually worried it might be a bit too little but it works, which opened my eyes to new possibilities.  The smaller amount of powdered sugar makes for a creamier, silkier frosting where you can really taste the chocolate.  That is definitely a good thing. 
Sprinkles are optional, or maybe not.  I know that colorful sprinkles always makes me smile - the hard part is deciding which sprinkles to use!  My family and I are also partial to chocolate sprinkles on our chocolate cake.  But whether you like it plain or bespeckled with sprinkle confetti, you won't regret this chocolate interlude!


Another note on the frosting, the original recipe's intention is to pile a lot of the soft, creamy frosting on top of this single-layer cake in big swoops.  As amazing as that is, I practiced some restraint and took a more practical approach, with half the frosting.  I can assure you that it's plenty.
But if, however, you choose to go for it and make more frosting, I'm sure you'll find a way to mound a little extra onto this cake and save some leftover for other treats.  Come to think of it, it would be a good excuse to make more treats!
Happy Valentine's Day, 2020!  Here's to love, happiness, and lots of chocolate!!

Recipe:

Chocolate Snack Cake
Adapted from Now, Forager

- For one single-layer 8" square cake - 

For cake:
5 oz. (142g) all-purpose flour
7 oz. (199g) sugar
1 1/2 oz (42g) Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz. (113g) sour cream
2 oz (57g) canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz. (113g) freshly brewed hot espresso or strong coffee (I used coffee)

For dark chocolate frosting:
4 oz. (114g) high-quality dark chocolate, 60-70% cacao, chopped
1/2 oz. (14g) Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz. (28ml) boiling water
4 oz. (114g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 oz. (28g) powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of fine sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: sprinkles for decorating

Make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides (for easy removal later). 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, oil, egg, and vanilla extract.  

Using the paddle attachment, on low speed, add the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until just combined.  Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  On low speed, gradually add the hot coffee or espresso, and mix until incorporated.  Give the batter a stir with the rubber spatula, then transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with very little crumbs.  Remove pan from the oven, set on a wire rack and let cool for 15-20 minutes.  Using the parchment overhang, lift the cake out of the pan and set onto the rack to let cool to room temperature. 

Make frosting: Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set on top of a pan of just simmering water (or use the microwave, melting the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until just melted).  Set aside until cool to the touch.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder with the boiling water until smooth.  Set aside to cool. 

Place butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until butter is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add powdered sugar and salt.  Mix on low until combined, then raise speed to medium-high and mix until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.  Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, as needed.

On low speed, add melted chocolate and mix until combined.  Scrape down the bowl, add the cocoa mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.  The frosting should be soft (if you prefer a firmer frosting, set it in the refrigerator to firm up, checking on it often and giving it a stir until it reaches your desired texture).

Frost and finish cake:  Place dollops of the frosting on top of the cake.  Using an offset spatula, lightly spread the frosting around the cake, making swoops on the surface as you go.  If desired, finish the cake by topping it with sprinkles of your choice.  



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