Choco-nilla Cake

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Choco-nilla Cake

star rating (12) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

Special birthday coming up? (Well, whose birthday ISN’T special?!) For those occasions when you’re trying to please a crowd; or the recipient can’t make up his/her mind which flavor to choose, offer this impressive four-layer, fudge-frosted chocolate and vanilla cake. Our thanks to Karyl Bannister and her Cook & Tell newsletter for the inspiration behind the simple vanilla cake. And, step-by-step photos illustrating how to make this cake are available at Flourish, our King Arthur blog.

Vanilla Cake
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or plain yogurt (full-fat is best)
2 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (8 ½ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Chocolate Cake
1 1/3 cups (9 3/8 ounces) sugar
1 1/3 cups (5 3/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) Instant ClearJel® or cornstarch (1/2 ounce)
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (3 ½ ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water

12 ounces (2 cups) chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
6 ounces cream (light, whipping, or heavy) or milk, or a combination*
flavors of your choice (see filling directions below)

*Hint: Since you need 4 ounces of cream for the icing, and you’ll most likely buy an 8-ounce container, use 4 ounces cream in the filling supplemented with 2 ounces of milk.

8 ounces (1 1/3 cups) chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
4 ounces cream (light, whipping, or heavy)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9" x 2" round cake pans: one for the vanilla cake, one for the chocolate. If desired, line with parchment, and grease the parchment; this will ensure the cakes turn out intact.

1) To make the vanilla cake: Whisk together the yogurt or sour cream, eggs, sugar, salt, baking powder, vegetable oil, and vanilla.

2) Stir in the flour, mixing till smooth.

3) Pour the batter into one of the prepared pans.

4) Bake the cake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the cake is beginning to brown on top. It may crack slightly; that’s OK.

5) Remove the cake from the oven, and after 10 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

6) To make the chocolate cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients.

7) Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until smooth.

8) Gradually add the water, beating until smooth.

9) Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

10) Bake the cake for about 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

11) Remove the cake from the oven, and after 10 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

12) Divide the cooled cakes in half horizontally, to make four round layers. Place one vanilla layer on a serving plate.

13) To make the filling: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, and the chocolate very soft.

14) Stir to melt the chocolate completely, reheating very briefly if necessary. If desired, flavor with 3 tablespoons liqueur (Kahlua, Frangelico, etc.).

15) Spread 1/3 of the filling on the cake, spreading to within about ½" of the edge.

16) Top with a chocolate layer. Spread with 1/3 of the filling.

17) Top with the second vanilla layer. Spread with the remaining filling.

18) Top with the second chocolate layer.

19) Anchor the layers together with cake testers, broom straws, or bamboo skewers, so they remain perfectly centered as the filling cools. It’s best to let the filling set for an hour or so before making the icing and finishing the cake.

20) To make the icing: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, and the chocolate very soft.

21) Stir to melt the chocolate completely, reheating very briefly if necessary.

22) Pour and spread the icing over the top of the cake, letting it drip over the edges and down the sides. Once it’s done dripping, smooth the sides with a spatula.

23) Add sugar decorations while the icing is still warm, if desired.

24) Allow the cake to rest, covered with a cake cover (or a big turned-over bowl) till the chocolate is set; overnight is good, though several hours are sufficient.
Yield: 12 generous servings.


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  • star rating 12/02/2014
  • karen from columbus, ohio
  • star rating 10/27/2014
  • squeeker from KAF Community
  • I made this two days ago for a family birthday, and it was a hit! I too thought the vanilla cake was dense and I would try the recipe again with cake flour to see if I could get a lighter texture. My family does love chocolate so nobody complained about the texture there. But I thought the chocolate cake was super moist and was extremely yummy and of course the ganache was great. There were two family members on a sugar-free diet that saw the sliced cake and used their splurge day on it and both agreed that it was d-lish and they loved the richness of the ganache but that it wasn't super sweet.
  • star rating 10/26/2014
  • Sybil from Bloomington, IN
  • Made this for a birthday. Easy to make, delicious moist cake, easy to work with icing. Made a great impression when the cake was cut and the layers revealed. A hit all around.
  • star rating 04/02/2012
  • Lissa from Sonoma, CA
  • Made this twice in the last few weeks; GREAT, showy, recipe - no drama. I think complaints about the yellow cake being 'flat' are an issue with flour measurement (fluff with a fork before you scoop, people! It's the law of baking!), or with old baking powder. Some pointers I learned: DON'T RUSH to make the up the frosting; make sure cake was assembled with filled layers (and skewers) AT LEAST one hour earlier and the ganache is setup. Frosting makes a prettier pour while it's really warm and it only takes a minute in the microwave. RESIST the urge to wipe the choclate-y drips sideways around the cake. Even though it's making a pool of chocolate at the sides. Either let the drips pool on a really big platter around the cake, or use parchment strips under the cake to catch the overflow. Will look much prettier than smeared sideways (promise). USE MINI CHOCOLATE CHIPS for making filling and frosting. They melt easier and you can press them around the top out edge of the cake for a dressy alternative to sprinkles.
    Thanks for sharing your terrific tips - Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF
  • star rating 04/01/2012
  • from KAF Community
  • This has become our family's favorite birthday cake recipe, and with 8 people in our family, I have made this recipe quite a few times in the past year! We just had this for my son's birthday, and all the party guests ooohed and aaahed when the cake was cut and the four layers were revealed. The only drawback to this cake is that it is so delicious, we don't end up with a lot of leftovers. One change I have made to the recipe is that I cool the filling in the fridge, and then whip it with the mixer until it's light and fluffy. That way the layers don't all want to slide off each other :D This recipe rocks! Thank you, KAF.
  • star rating 02/23/2012
  • Hester from London
  • Five stars for the moist and delicious chocolate layer, five stars for the moreish ganache, five stars for the comprehensive instructions (the long skewers made sure nothing moved while the ganache set) but no stars for the disappointing vanilla layer, which came out tough and almost focaccia-like. I had to jettison it, and make a fresh one to my usual sponge recipe.
  • star rating 12/22/2010
  • BakinMom from KAF Community
  • I'm sure there is a user error issue here, but this cake came out edible, but not pretty. My cakes did not seem to rise. I tried THREE times! I feel as if I was following the recipe correctly. I made sure to fluff up the flour, mix all the dry ingredients seperately, and use the recommended pan sizes, but somehow they still came out flat as could be. Store bought I come :(
    I am sorry to hear of your difficulty. It sounds like your baking powder may be expired. To test it, dab a bit on the tip of your tongue. You should feel a very strong "buzzing" sensation, as it reacts with the saliva in your mouth. Give it a try. If this doesn't explain the failure, please give our bakers a call on the Hotline: 800-827-6836. Frank @ KAF.
  • star rating 04/25/2010
  • Ana from
  • I made this cake yesterday and finished it off today. I made it for a special birthday! :D and it was a hit! We had two cakes, one store bought and the one I made [this one]. People came coming back and asking for seconds of my cake! :D I was so proud and happy! And it looked AMAZING! It tasted great and the texture was soft! To top it off, it looked like a birthday cake! I am very very very happy with the result! I did add and did some changes of my own because of the recipe instructions themselves. The only reason I did not give it a 5 Star was because the first batter I made following the instructions as shown the batter had lots and LOTS of bumps.. it wasn't smooth.. there were flour pockets everywhere! ..I ended up throwing it out.. remember it was for a special birthday! That's why I ended up adding and making some changes of my own. But I did follow the ingredient list :] ..oh! although I did half the recipe :p And I am happy to say, this is a great recipe! by the way.. even though I marked it as a 4 Star.. it is a 4.999- Star :]
    It sounds like your flour may have been well packed in it's container before measurement. Flour lumps can result from lumpy or improperly blended dry ingredients. Blending the dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk in a separate bowl before adding to the wet is essential. Frank @ KAF.
  • star rating 05/30/2009
  • Cheryl from Tinley Park, IL
  • Made this for a special birthday, it was a big hit! I forgot how dense scratch cakes are and the flavor was wonderful. Nest time I will try it with cake flour and see if it makes it less dense. I only had 8" rounds so I used the leftover mix to make a marble cake. It was great even without the frosting. I will definitely make this one again.
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