There's nothing on this earth that makes me feel more connected to my Brooklyn Grandma Ruthy than sitting down after a long day with a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake. She didn't really discriminate -- any type was alright with her, from the Entenmanns on sale at Key Foods to the corner deli to the fancy versions my Dad sometimes procured in the city -- the only crucial detail was its presence. You couldn't turn in without a little coffee and cake (ok maybe another game of Gin rummy), it just wouldn't be right.

While testing recipes for my cookbook (which is wrapping up soon dolls, soon! And out next Spring), I got deep into the chocolate cake world. I tried a lot of versions -- some with additional fats like sour cream and buttermilk, some with oil, others with butter. It was a difficult thing to get right actually, this perfect chocolate cake situation. I experimented with a birthday cake I posted on TheKitchn long ago, I explored Los Angeles seeking out the perfect specimen, rich and dark, with a fine crumb yet substantial heft -- I found it at Republique, and I attempted to recreate it many times only ending in lots of dirty dishes and sighs of defeat.

I took a break and came back to an old standard from The NYTimes, it has whiskey, pepper and other complex bursts of flavor, but I used the recipe as a template and this simple, but deeply chocolatey, not-too-sweet & goes-great-with-coffee riff was born. It is something very good, a little silly with sprinkles and a touch of cherry glaze -- Grandma Ruthy may have approved. I certainly do!

a couple of notes:

  • This is the time to break out the good cocoa powder, not the cheap stuff! I love Guittard brand here, it yields such a dark chocolate color and flavor
  • For a light glaze, I like Amarena Cherry syrup, you could use a simple syrup, light caramel sauce or even skip it all together and dust the whole cake with powdered sugar

Easy Blackout Sheet Cake
makes a 9" x 13" cake

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
4 cups strong coffee
2 cups sugar
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
6 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sprinkles, powdered sugar, cherry syrup (optional, for serving)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9 x 13" pan and dust with 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter, cocoa powder, coffee, sugar and brown sugar together until sugars are dissolved. Remove from heat, pour into a large bowl and refrigerate until cool.

Over a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking soda and sea salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together until combined. Whisk the egg mixture into the chilled butter/coffee mixture. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when poked into the center of the cake.

Let cool on a wire rack in the pan for 10 minutes, then gently remove the cake and allow to continue cooling on rack until room temperature. Glaze with cherry syrup and add sprinkles.


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