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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. This started as a simple recipe for chocolate cobbler, or dump cake; but over the past decade, it grew into a full fledged cake recipe. 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.
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!
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.
YouTube videos showing this method of using a cast iron bundt pan:
Option: Devil's Food Cake
Option: Red Wine Cake or Beer Cake
Option: Fudge Cake
Option: Red Velvet Cake
Here are some basic recipes for cake toppings:
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:
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.
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.
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