So it doesn't look like much. Who cares? How many times have I had a pretty little bit of pastry or cake and it tastes, well, bad? This is not gorgeous, no, but it will make your tastebuds sing.
So what did I do differently?
- The fat. Butter, my friend. Butter.
- The cocoa powder. My go-to cocoa powder is the Dutch-process cocoa powder from Penzey's, but I haven't had the occasion to stop in the store or place a mail order recently, so this time I used Hershey's Special Dark. But here's the thing—I haven't liked the results of the Penzey's cocoa powder much. Hershey's Special Dark is a blend of Dutch-process and natural cocoa powders, and maybe therein lies the difference, as different types of cocoa have different levels of alkalinity. Whatever happened this time around, the chocolate flavor was richer than other attempts at the recipe.
- The flour. Because I'm a sucker for a low price-per-unit, I've been baking with Ultragrain flour from my beloved Costco. I've had pretty good results with it. The texture of the finished products can be crumbly, as with whole wheat, while at the same time becoming tough easily. It's a tricky flour to use, but it worked with this recipe.
- The sugar. Due to an unfortunate run-in with red wine vinegar, my white sugar met an untimely demise, so I used brown sugar.
- The icing. Since it's not likely that I have unsweetened chocolate and cream lying around my house, I threw some things together and ended up with the icing I wanted all along. It's pretty much a whipped ganache, but it is made of much less fancy ingredients than you'd expect.
Some might say I've created a whole new recipe. I say it's just an improvement.
Beatrice's devil's food cake, improved
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
3 heaping T. cocoa
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking powder
2 T. baking soda
3 c. flour
1 c. boiling water
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. half and half
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 T. butter
1/4 t. vanilla
- Using a stand mixer, cream the brown sugar and butter. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add salt, milk, cocoa, vanilla, baking powder, and baking soda and mix to combine.
- Mix in the flour at a low speed, one cup at a time.
- Gradually mix in the boiling water. Mix until smooth.
- Pour into a prepared 9x13 pan (greased/floured or sprayed with nonstick spray). Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the icing. In a saucepan on medium heat, combine the chocolate chips, half and half, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, and boil for four minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla. In a stand mixer with a wire whip attachment, whip the icing until it is cool and begins to become fluffy and lighter in color. This should take at least 15 minutes.
- Cool and spread icing on the top.