Monday, August 16, 2010

Mom's Chocolate Cake Redux

My mother's favorite cake was chocolate.  And, she would bake it for special occasions in the heart-shaped pans to make sure we knew this cake had a lot of love in it.  I don't know what happened to those pans, but in June, when I was packing up some of Kelly's craft supplies to send to friends, I came across my mother's recipe card.  I don't know how Kelly got it, but I suppose that because it's in my mother's handwriting, she wanted something special from grandmom to cherish.  Also, since I had a bad habit of just sticking loose recipe cards between pages of cookbooks before I discovered sheet protectors and notebooks, she probably thought I wouldn't miss it:)

Even though temperatures were hitting in the 90s, I decided to make Mom's chocolate cake.  However, I made a few changes; first, I baked cupcakes because they take less time to bake than a cake, so the oven isn't on as long and secondly, I decided to add a filling...dulce de leche.  I iced the cupcakes in a chocolate buttercream and sprinkled the tops with "Fleur de Sel," which is a fancy sea salt.  Chocolate, dulce de leche and salt...even Mom would have loved these.

Lastly, you'll notice in the photo a beautiful Hawaiian quilt runner a friend brought back to me a few years ago.  Hawaiian quilting is radially symmetric applique patterns, usually botanical designs in bold colors on a white background.  Remarkably, the designs are made from a single cut on folded fabrics.  I made a Hawaiian quilt a few years ago for Tsukineko inks.  I hand dyed the fabric, using their All-Purpose Inks, and made a four panel quilt, doing the same pattern in four colorways to depict the seasons.  One day, I'd like to do another one...just to keep.

Mom's Chocolate Cake (Cupcakes)

Dulce de Leche
1 can (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk

Use a can opener to remove the lid.  Set up a double boiler with about a 1"-1 1/2" of water in the bottom.  Place the opened can in the top of the double boiler.  Cover and bring the water to boil, then, lower to a simmer.
Cook the sweetened condensed milk, over a low heat simmer, adding water to the bottom to maintain at least an inch, for 90 to 120 minutes, or until the mixture is a light caramel color.  After every 30 minutes, stir the mixture in the can, but wipe the underside of the lid each time so the moisture that collected doesn't drip into the sweetened condensed milk. Cover and continue cooking.
The mixture will thicken and become a caramel color.
Transfer contents to a bowl to cool completely before piping the filling into the cupcakes.

Chocolate Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup  (2 sticks) unsalted butter (my mom used margarine) at room temperature
4 T cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 T vanilla extract

In the bowl of the KitchenAid, using the paddle attachment (or a large bowl and hand mixer), mix together the dry ingredients (the first five).  In a small sauce pan, combine the butter, cocoa and water.  Bring to a boil (watch closely so it doesn't boil over).  Remove from heat and while the mixer is running, pour this mixture over the dry ingredients.  Finally, add the beaten eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mix well to combine.

The batter is thinner than you may be used to.  For this reason, I transferred the batter to a large liquid measure and poured the batter into the cupcake papers.
Bake the cupcakes 15-18 minutes.  This recipe made approximately 22 cupcakes, filling the papers two-thirds to three-quarters full.  If you have any "open" areas in the pan, add about an inch of water; this helps the cupcakes in that pan to bake evenly.
Cool cupcakes completely in the pan.
Prepare the frosting while the cupcakes and Dulce de Leche is cooling.


1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soften to room temperature
5 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup whole milk
1 T vanilla

Fleur de Sel (optional for embellishment)

In the bowl of the KitchenAid, using the whisk attachment, beat butter until smooth.  Add half of the confectioners' sugar and all of the cocoa and beat to combine.  Start out on low speed so you don't have dry ingredients "flying" out of the mixer.  Add half the milk and beat well.  Add the remaining sugar, milk and vanilla and beat until fluffy.  The frosting will change in color to a "lighter" shade of chocolate when it's whipped.

To assemble the cupcakes, use an apple corer to remove some of the center cake.
Put the Dulce de Leche in a piping bag with a #7 or #9 round tip.  Pipe the filling in the hole created by the apple corer.
Place the frosting in a piping bag, using a large star or round tip, swirl the tops with the chocolate buttercream.
Finally, add a few flakes of the Fleur de Sel if desired.  Enjoy!


  1. Hello my dear friend

    I had to just pop in to greet you. Tomorrow I will visit again to read all the posts I have missed. My coastal visit was just what I needed. I have come back to the sings of my favorite Season 'Spring' I am oh so happy~!

    Lots of love to you Susan

  2. a spelling error ~ signs of Spring....I suppose Spring sings too~!

    Love you

  3. Oh, it does loud and clear after winter. One of my favorite quotes is "No Winter Lasts Forever; No Spring Misses Its Turn." I keep that in mind when the days turn cold and all my flowers go to sleep. I love you, dear friend; glad you home, Susan

  4. Dear Susan,
    I must say this with each and every one of your recipes but I do think this is my favorite!!! ok so, I am actually drooling over this one! Oh, my. This looks incredible! The runner is gorgeous, I had wondered if Chuck brought it home it certainly looks Hawaiian. I would *truly* love to see a post with the quilts you have made! I am impressed that you dyed the fabrics too! Is there an end to your creativity and talent? I think not! Love you xoxo : )

  5. Is that you or baby speaking:) xoxo

  6. your Mum had very good taste, those look heaven sent .. I love chocolate too xx

  7. I absolutely did not know you could do that with sweetened condensed milk!!!!

  8. Stick with me Sis, and I'll show you some really neat tricks! xoxo