WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS RECIPE if you are on a diet. There is a possibility you could gain three pounds just by reading this Web page.
I make no apologies for this attempt to create a delicious chocolate cake in a cast iron pan. I'm proud of this recipe, which I've found to be very reliable and easy to make. It gives you a dark chocolate cake that is certain to be remembered when you serve it to friends, family, and guests. It's designed especially to work in a thick and heavy bundt cake pan, especially one made from cast iron. Here, we use a method of pre-heating the metal pan, to ensure the cake is thoroughly cooked and releases from the pan without sticking. Pre-heating the pan won't work with a thin bundt pan, especially one with a so-called "non-stick" coating. The cake recipe will work in a non-stick pan, but you'll need to grease and flour the pan in advance, as with any other cake recipe.
About the cake topping: I've worked for a long time to improve my cake frosting and ganache skills. It's not as easy as it looks in some videos. Feel free to modify this recipe as needed, to produce the results that suit you best.
Pans needed: 2 9-inch cake pans, 2 10-inch cast iron skillets, or 1 large heavy bundt cake pan (especially a cast iron bundt pan). 1 large bowl for mixing the ingredients. (This is all done in one large bowl!) One small bowl for cracking open the eggs – this is so you can remove any accidental pieces of egg shell before they get into the batter.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup warm to hot water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Coat or spray a 12-inch cast iron skillet or dutch oven with margarine, shortening or vegetable oil. Be sure to liberally grease the bottom rim of the cooking surface, all the way around the inside of the pan – this is where cakes tend to stick. After this, add about 3 tablespoons of flour, and shake it all around the pan to coat the surface as best as you can. (You can also use cocoa powder to keep the brown chocolatey color on the surface of the cake.)
Add flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Use a whisk to mix them together. This is an important step, because whisking them will incorporate air into the batter. This will help the cake to rise.
Crack eggs into a small bowl. (This way you can remove any accidental pieces of egg shell before adding the eggs to the batter.) Add eggs to the bowl of mixed dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer set on lowest setting (because there's a lot of dust from the flour and cocoa), mix in the eggs. As you are mixing, add the buttermilk and water. This will make the batter liquid enough to turn the mixer up to medium. Add oil and vanilla. Turn the mixer up to high and mix for about 2 minutes.
Transfer batter to prepared cast iron pan; smooth top. Bake at 350° Fahrenheit until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes, and flip the cake out of the pan while the pan is still hot. Be careful not to burn yourself when flipping the pan!
- When Alton Brown made his apple bundt cake, he used his trusty probe thermometer and declared the cake was done when it measured 205 degrees. He writes, "The cake is done when it pulls away from the sides of the pan, springs back when pressed and the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees F."
Baking with a cast iron or heavy metal cake pan
A thin cake pan, such as light aluminum or non-stick, needs to be greased and floured to prevent the cake from sticking. However, if you are fortunate enough to own a cast iron or thick, heavy cast aluminum cake pan, do not grease and flour the pan. Yes, that's correct: do not grease the pan! Instead, place the dry cake pan into the oven. Preheat oven (and the pan) to 425° Fahrenheit. That may seem like a high temperature for a cake, but this is correct and intentional.
As the oven is heating, prepare your ingredients, mixing them in order so the wet ingredients are added to the dry ingredients. Mix together into a batter.
When the oven temperature reaches 425 degrees, carefully remove the cake pan from the oven. Do not turn down the oven temperature or turn the oven off. Add 2 tablespoons of Crisco or shortening, and brush the inside of the pan so the entire baking surface is covered. When finished coating the pan, add the extra hot oil to the cake batter, and stir it all together. Pour the batter into the hot cake pan.
Place the pan into the oven, and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 350° Fahrenheit. This will let the temperature decrease as the cake bakes. Bake for 50 minutes.
Let a young child lick the spoon and the bowl. This is important.
After baking, let the pan cool on the stovetop or a trivet for twenty minutes. The cake will continue baking as it rests in the hot iron pan, which is why the twenty minute rest period is necessary. After twenty minutes, the heavy iron cake pan will still be very warm or hot. This is the time to remove the cake! Use heavy gloves to avoid burning yourself on the iron pan. Use a thin blade or knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan (including the inside, in the center). Flip the cake onto a platter and remove the cake pan.
- An aluminum bundt pan releases its heat faster than an iron pan. An aluminum bundt pan can be flipped and removed after twelve minutes.
YouTube videos showing this method of using a cast iron bundt pan:
Option: Devil's Food Cake
- 1 cup boiling hot coffee (black)
- The deep, rich chocolate flavor of devil's food cake is a true delicacy. The chocolate is so dark, in fact, that it's necessary to serve a sweetener with the cake. Frosting or a scoop of ice cream with devil's food cake is a must! The secret ingredient in devil's food cake is very simple: instead of adding boiling water to your batter mix, prepare 1 cup of boiling hot coffee, and pour that into the batter instead. The coffee augments the dark chocolate flavor; it does not make your cake taste like coffee.
Option: Red Wine Cake
- Folks love the subtle, darkly sweet aftertaste of a red wine cake. To prepare this cake, do not use buttermilk in the batter. Instead, add 1 and 1/4 cup of red wine. You can do the same thing with beer or ale: add ten ounces of beer instead of buttermilk, and the result is a beer cake or Guinness stout cake.
Option: Fudge Cake
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- Or, substitute 2 cups dark brown sugar for the regular sugar plus molasses
- 1 cup sour cream, or plain or Greek yogurt
- or 1 cup ricotta cheese
- For sheer decadence, few dishes can equal the richness of a chocolate fudge cake. As with the red wine cake above, with this modification do not use buttermilk. Instead, add 2 tablespoons of molasses and 1 cup of plain yogurt. (You won't believe how rich and delicious this is when you use ricotta cheese!) This gives a very thick cake batter, with the consistency of chocolate pudding. The end result is a very thick, heavy, and moist fudge cake. NOTE: This cake only has to be baked for 50 minutes, not a whole hour. This makes the cake even more moist and gives it more of a fudge consistency.
Option: Red Velvet Cake
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (white vinegar or balsamic vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons red food coloring
- Red velvet cake is not simply "chocolate cake with food coloring." It has a little extra sharpness that comes from the buttermilk and vinegar. Red food coloring is added to give it a distinctive look.
Here are some basic recipes for cake toppings:
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Bring butter, milk and sugar to a boil, add chocolate chips and vanilla. Beat until cool. Will frost a 9 x 13 cake.
- As opposed to chocolate frosting, this one is meant to be simply drizzled onto the surface of your cake, where it will harden into a chocolate shell. (It also works on doughnuts, brownies, muffins, etc.)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or crumbled chocolate pieces
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 1/2 cups powdered confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Over low-to-medium heat, thoroughly melt butter. Add chocolate pieces and stir more until completely melted. Add sugar. Stir gently and continuously until melted and smooth. Add milk, a little at a time, until you get the consistency you want. The glaze should be thin (and thick) enough that it drips from the sloon or whisk in long, thin ribbons. Remove from heat. Drizzle the glaze over your cake before it hardens!
- 1/4 cup Hershey's chocolate syrup
- 1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder
- 2 heaping teaspoons powdered confectioner's sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Mix together syrup, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. Stir briskly, and it will congeal into a frosting. (You could frost a cake with this, without adding the cream!) Add cream slowly, about a tablespoon at a time, until it has a thick, soft. Microwave the mixture on high for 30 seconds to melt it. This will soften it enough to drizzle over the cake in a ganache. It will then solidify and form a wonderful glaze.
White Vanilla Glaze
- 2 tablespoons butter (or shortening for a more "white" color)
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Melt butter or shortening, and combine all the ingredients together. Mix until smooth, and drizzle over the cake.
- This recipe adds creamy filling to the inside of your cake, or between layers.
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups confectioner's sugar
- (For chocolate cream filling, add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. While the mix is still being beaten, begin adding sugar, a little at a time. Beat well. Additional flavoring if any (such as cocoa powder) and vanilla can be added when the frosting is creamy and firm. Mix until everything is well incorporated.
- If you're using this recipe as a cake batter, here's a basic recipe for vanilla frosting:
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar (one 1-pound box)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- In your mixer, add together the shortening and butter, and beat until fluffy. Add all other ingredients: confectioner's sugar, salt, vanilla, and cream. Use a spatula or hand mixer to stir it all together; this will reduce the amount of sugar that smokes out of the bowl as you blend it. After blended, use the mixer on low speed until moistened. Add additional cream if necessary (up to 2 ounces). Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- (If you want a chocolate buttercream, add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.)
- Using a mixer, cream together sugar and butter. Add vanilla and cream, and beat until it reaches the desired consistency.
Cobblers are well-known among the outdoor camping community, because they're easy to make: throw your fruit, sugar, and other ingredients together in the dutch oven, bake at 350 degrees, and you have a delicious dessert. Fruit cobblers are very popular for the reason, though there's also a recipe for "cherry chocolate cobbler" that's made the rounds. This recipe is really nothing more than using boxed cake mix, canned cherry pie filling, and Sprite:
- 6 quart, 12-inch wide, flat topped, cast iron Dutch oven
- 2 30-ounce cans cherry pie filling
- 2 boxes chocolate cake mix
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) butter
- 12 ounces Sprite or 7-Up
- 4 ounces Hershey’s chocolate syrup, divided
- 3/4 to 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat Dutch oven in hot coals. Slice one stick butter into oven bottom; add cherries. Rinse cans with Sprite and pour into pan. Sprinkle cake mixes over cherries. Drizzle two ounces chocolate syrup over all. Do not stir. Slice remaining stick of butter on top and cover. Set Dutch oven on 9 hot charcoal briquettes. Place 16 hot briquettes directly on oven cover. Bake for about 35 minutes. Rotate oven three times about 1/4 turn as it cake cooks. Uncover, drizzle with remaining two ounces of syrup and sprinkle with nuts. Cook 5-10 minutes more until done. Cherries will rise through cake.
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 and 2/3 cups white sugar
- 1 and 1/4 cups water or 2/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(For variable amounts: use a ratio of 2.5:1 of sugar to cocoa, or sugar at 2 1/2 times the amount of cocoa; the amount of milk equals the amount of cocoa.)
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cocoa, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and let boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Serve cobbler directly from the pan into a bowl, with a ladle or scoop. A scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the cobbler will really take this dish out of this world…and the chocolate sauce will make this a truly memorable and decadent dessert.