I love snack cakes. They’re fast, easy, and hardly ever require frosting. And since the whole point of a snack cake is that it can be eaten with your hands, you don’t even need to dirty any plates or utensils–just serve it to your friends on a napkin and dig in.
This cake, from Fine Cooking magazine, is particularly good. It’s very chocolatey and unbelievably moist, and most people will have all of the ingredients on hand to make it whenever the whim strikes. It’s always frustrating to be craving a certain something, only to realize that, in order to make it, you need buttermilk or sour cream or some other such ingredient that you may not have in your fridge all the time. With this cake, you can go from desire to dessert in about an hour’s time. Yum.
This is such an easy recipe that I don’t really have a lot of advice. Even though I have a Kitchenaide, I make this cake by hand, as the recipe suggests. The butter takes a few minutes to cream this way, but I find the process rather satisfying. Plus, I like that the recipe offers guidelines on technique for preparing the batter with or without a mixer. When I was first living on my own, I had a really crappy hand mixer, and most of my friends didn’t even have that; so I like that this recipe requires nothing more equipment-wise than an old-fashioned spoon and mixing bowl.
A few words about measurements: my mom asked me if I thought it was “weird” that the ingredients include “1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup cocoa powder.” I know it looks strange as printed, but as you’ll see, the measurements are given in weight first (most professional bakers measure by weight, not by cups), so I think the 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup most closely approximates the seven ounces the recipe’s author, Nicole Rees, is going for. Also, I don’t put the full 1-2/3 cup sugar in; I use about 1-1/3 cup sugar because I prefer more of a rich chocolate flavor and I find that too much sugar dilutes chocolate flavor in a lot of recipes. My mom does the same, and I noticed some of the other recipe reviewers said they also cut back on the sugar in this recipe.
One last thing: I would not skip the step of lining the pan with waxed paper/parchment. This cake is so moist that the waxed paper/parchment keeps it from falling apart or sticking to the bottom when it comes time to invert the cake from the pan. The first time I made this I didn’t have any waxed paper or parchment, so I used aluminum foil and left it long, so that I could grasp the sides of the foil and lift the cake out. It worked fine, but the waxed paper is definitely easier; with that, you can just invert the cake and peel off the paper–quick and easy.
I’ve had several people ask me for the recipe for this cake. I made it the other day when my friend Jackie came over. She took some home to her boyfriend and then later told me she regretted not having more of it before she gave what was left to him. I’d say that speaks to the heavenliness that is a slice of this cake. Make and enjoy!
Coffee Cocoa Snack Cake
Serves sixteen.Yields one 9-inch-square cake.
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. table salt
7-1/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
2-1/2 oz. (1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups good-quality brewed coffee, cooled to warm
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9-inch-square baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a square of parchment, butter the parchment, and then flour the bottom and sides of the pan. Tap out any excess flour.
If mixing by hand, put the softened butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Using a wooden spoon, cream them until smooth, about 1 minute. Switch to a whisk and blend in the eggs one at a time. Stir for another 30 seconds, until the batter is smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve. (If using a stand mixer, put the butter and sugar in the bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing just until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Then switch to a whisk and blend in the rest of the ingredients by hand.) Mix in the vanilla and salt. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder directly onto the batter. Pour in the coffee. Gently whisk the ingredients until the mixture is smooth and mostly free of lumps.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it, 40 to 43 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edges of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack, and remove the pan. Invert again onto another rack and let cool right side up until just warm.
The cake can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to five days.