I used to work in a restaurant that sold Maida Heatter’s Sour Cream Chocolate Cake, always sitting on the bar so that everyone could see it. It was the most popular dessert and I liked it too. Years later I created my own version of it–made in a food processor–using less sugar and far less effort. The batter takes 10 minutes to put together, the cake takes 20 minutes to bake (while you clean the kitchen and make the frosting) and the whole thing is ready in an hour. If you know anyone who uses cake mixes, please give them this recipe. I can’t guarantee results if the ingredients are not weighed, though, so maybe also give them a scale.
Better Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
All ingredients should be room temperature.
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter (6 ounces)
¾ cup sugar (5 ounces, 140 grams) (I whir Turbinado in a blender until it’s finely ground and sometimes use that for extra flavor.)
2 large eggs
¾ cup sour cream (5 ounces)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour (5.3 ounces, 150 grams) Bleached flour makes an even more tender cake.
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (1.5 ounce) (You can use all natural, half natural and half alkaline-treated if you like, or all alkaline-treated (“Dutched”).
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
roasted cocoa nibs, optional, 2 Tbs., for sprinkling on unbaked cake
Cream butter and sugar in food processor (or mixer) until fluffy, about a minute. Add eggs, then sour cream and vanilla, process briefly after each addition until smooth, scraping the sides often. Then add dry ingredients which have been sifted or whisked together, and process again for 30 seconds. Spoon into two greased and floured (I use Baker’s Joy) 8” pans and level the batter. Bake for about 17-20 minutes at 350 degrees or until tester comes out clean and cake just begins to shrink from the pan. (In my convection oven, the cakes are done at 17 minutes.) Let cool for a few minutes, then turn out on racks.
Sprinkle on cocoa nibs (1 Tbs. per layer) before baking or frost with sour cream ganache (or both): Whisk 9 ounces of room temperature sour cream together with 9 ounces of melted chocolate (any kind; I use 72%; fewer cocoa solids create a softer frosting and sweeter taste.) If you use 72% and want the frosting sweeter, you can add a bit of stevia. To melt chopped chocolate in microwave, use high power for one minute, then stir and heat again at 15 second intervals until stirring melts all of the chocolate. Flavor with a few teaspoons of brandy or liqueur if you like. Or fill the cake with apricot or raspberry or blackcurrant jam, then frost.
Cake tastes best room temperature but keeps best in the refrigerator. It tastes especially delicious with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Makes twelve 3” cupcakes. Fill paper liner between 2/3 and ¾. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Gluten-free variation with chestnut flour:
Whir all dry ingredients except sugar and nibs in blender with 1/4 tsp xanthan gum as a first step, then dump into a bowl and follow recipe as written. Reduce sugar to 3.5 ounces to compensate for the sweetness of the chestnut flour.