The Taming of the Fondant While Channeling The Little Engine That Could; Also My Favorite Chocolate Cake.

Whew! What a mouthful of a title, eh? Why use four words when you can use seventeen? That’s what I always say! Grab a mug of chai because this might be a long one…but getting there is half the fun!

I’ve been wanting to feature my favorite chocolate cake recipe for months, but I saved the it to share on the heels of our June/July family birthday season–months that I’ve affectionately coined All Cake All the Time: Summer Edition.

Not to be confused with All Cake All the Time: Fall Edition, in which we celebrate three more family birthdays with cake-centric feasting. It was last fall when I originally wanted to post this recipe. Son #3 requested “that World Famous chocolate cake that you always make” for his birthday. How could I possibly deny a request like that? I couldn’t.

If I am only half as cool as my 6 year old thinks I am, then I’m doing just fine.

Rainbow Doodle Cake by

Since my third born’s personality is larger-than-life and colorful, I instantly glammed on to Sweetapolita’s Rainbow Doodle Cake when I saw it via Pinterest. I’d never worked with fondant before, but I figured How Hard Could it Be?

That cavalier attitude has been the source of both triumphs and tribulations in my kitchen. Sometimes I just need to channel the Little Engine That Could, “I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!”

Naturally, all of the store-bought fondants are processed in facilities with peanuts/tree nuts so I had to make it myself. Besides, that stuff in a tub tastes like sugared crap cardboard. Blech! My own personal Cake Guru Megan was kind enough to talk me onto the ledge and give it a shot. She even drew up a diagram showing me how to wrap the cake. Reason #105 why I lurve that girl.

To call my first foray into fondant abysmal would be kind. My trial run was an utter disaster. For some reason I got it into my head that I should not use marshmallows in the base, and opted for a corn syrup based recipe. You know, because the instant I decided to make fondant I became an expert. In my mind.

The resulting fondant was wet, weepy, and cracked when I looked at it. I did my best to hold the ripped & craggy fondant together with duct tape & bubble gum more fondant in the shape of stars. As if…

Son #3 was very excited to write on his birthday cake, but quickly lost interest with the uncooperative fondant.

Word to the Wise: edible markers do not write well on wet surfaces.The cake was not cute. Clearly, fondant hated me–I swore to never work with it again. #DecoratingFAIL

But…this little sweetie changed my mind. He decided a week before his birthday that he needed a Thomas the Tank Engine Cake, and told everyone within earshot about it. I had zero time to source edible cake images nor where there any Thomas cake toppers to be found within a 30 mile radius. Naturally. But the Baby was so sweet and insistent on his vision–how could I deny that face? Thomas the Tank Engine Cake

Again, Megan saved the day because she once posted a fab Thomas cake that she made for her nephew. After much Twitter consulting and her blessing, I set out to recreate Megan’s cake. Armed with a fantastically easy fondant recipe, I mustered the courage to try again. And by mustering courage, I mean I ate unhealthy quantities of chocolate and prayed a lot during the process.

I must say that the new fondant recipe made all the difference in the world–and it was good. I think it’s safe to say that fondant hates me a little less.

No matter how my attempts to adorn the outside turn out, My Favorite Chocolate Cake tastes like a winner every time. It’s rich, decidedly chocolatey flavor pairs perfectly with it’s deliciously moist texture. You cannot fail.

All that stands between you and the perfect chocolate cake is: all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, instant espresso, milk, vanilla extract, eggs, canola oil, and a little hot water.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

This cake is essentially a “dump cake” because most of the ingredients are dumped in the bowl at the same time, before any mixing takes place. So go ahead and dump the flour and sugar into a large bowl.

Then dump in the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon. Just a touch will rock your chocolate-loving world.

Dump the unsweetened cocoa powder on the mix, and whisk to combine.

Once the dry ingredients are combined, pour in the milk…

and then the canola oil.

Crack in the eggs and add the vanilla.

Beat it all together with a hand mixer. (Just Beat It…woo!)

Boil a little water, and stir in the instant espresso until dissolved. It took me forever-and-a-day to find instant espresso here Up North. If you have trouble finding it in your local coffee aisle, then instant coffee granules work well, too. (Brewed coffee is a little too harsh.) The espresso flavor really brings out the richness and adds depth to the chocolate flavor of the cake, so don’t skip it!

Pour the espresso mixture into the batter, and mix to combine–the batter will be on the thinner side. Set the batter aside while preparing the pans.

What I am about to show you is my mom’s Super-Secret Foolproof Method for preparing chocolate cake pans, so let’s just keep this between us Friends, okay?

Grab two 8-inch cake pans. Slip a sandwich bag over your hand and scoop a little shortening onto your fingertips. Generously smear the shortening around the interior of the pan to coat. Repeat with the other pan.

Dump a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder into the shortening-smeared pans.

Give the pan a good shimmy-shake to coat the shortening with a thin layer of cocoa, being sure to tap out the excess. I like to do this over the other pan to catch the cocoa that will invariably tumble out of the pan as I attempt to coat it.

Cocoa-coated pans will help keep the cake from sticking while adding a little extra oomph to the cake.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes just comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cakes rest for 10 minutes in their pans before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, frost with the only frosting you’ll ever need before serving up big, fat slices. Then do a little happy dance to celebrate. It is chocolate cake, after all!


My Favorite Chocolate Cake

Gently adapted from Hershey’s Positively Perfect Chocolate Cake

Makes two 8-inch round cakes, one 13 x 9 x x2, or 24 cupcakes

1 ¾ C. all-purpose flour

¾ C. Hershey’s cocoa powder (+ additional for dusting cake pans)

2 C. granulated sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 C. milk

½ C. canola oil

3 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1C. boiling water

1 Tbs. instant espresso (can substitute instant coffee granules)

1 recipe for your favorite frosting (3 cups for a layer cake or cupcakes, 2 cups for a 13 x 9 x 2)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, then dust well with cocoa powder. (I end up using about ¼ C. of cocoa total to dust both pans.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to the well in the dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed with an electric mixer until well incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix the batter for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir the instant espresso into the boiling water until dissolved. Pour the mixture into the cake batter, and mix until just incorporated.  Batter will be very thin.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.  (A 13 x 9 x 2 inch cake should bake about 35-40 minutes, cupcakes should bake about 16-18 minutes.)
  7. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.
  8. Frost as desired.  Cake is best served at room temperature.

To frost a layer cake: place a dab of frosting in the middle of a cake plate. Place one layer of cake on the center of the cake plate. Frost the top of the layer with about ½ inch of frosting. Place the second layer on top of the frosted first layer. Frost the top of the second layer with about ½ inch of frosting. Use the remaining frosting to frost the sides of the cake.

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  1. says

    Whoo, baby! You had me at chocolate, and again at espresso powder. Seriously – if you need something you can’t find on the 45th, let me know. My local superstore HEB has just about everything. I’m happy to send supplies for The Team. Any time.

    I’m so impressed that you tackled fondant after a fail. I love your tenacity. I probably would have taken a bottle of tequila into a dark closet and cried until the bottle was empty (or I had to go potty). I’ve never attempted fondant. It scares me. Plus, I’ve never tried a fondant that didn’t taste like you so eloquently described above. That said, I’d trust you & Megan with my life, so if I do decide to smother something in fondant, you can be sure I’ll take her advice and yours.

    Your boys are lucky to have a creative baking sucker of a mom. They’re also lucky you’re powerless to resist their cake requests and puppy dog eyes. I’m guessing there were hugs involved, too. Dang! No one can resist hugs. :)

    • says

      Well I will certainly keep that offer in mind! Y’all have *everything* in Texas. Your tequila comment cracked me up because that first try with fondant was enough to drive me to drink. Now that I’ve found a foolproof recipe, I may just get my hands sticky more often. My boys and all of our party guests *loved* the fondant. I was so shocked because I’ve never seen anyone eat more than a taste of fondant before, but the marshmallow based recipe was quite tasty. Peel-your-tooth-enamel-off-sweet, but still tasty. As an added bonus, all of the neighborhood kids had a blast playing with the leftover fondant like Play-Doh. Megan is a great source of encouragement for scary-cake-things. You should give fondant a shot sometime. Just be sure that TCP is around to knead in the coloring–that’s an upper body workout like no other! Lily & Jonah would have a ball helping you decorate. I

      And you are so right about me & my boys’ cake requests. All they have to do is bat their long eyelashes, say please, and give me a big ol’ hug and my resistance crumbles. I can’t believe the things that they’ve suckered me into attempting to carve out of cake. 😉

  2. Susie says

    Im so glad I stumbled on your site. First, amazing buttercream now cake and fondant!! Are you reading my mind?! Ive just bought a wilton pan that makes a heart inside the cake when assembled. Im not a large cake-maker cupcakes are my thing but this is a good excuse to give it a try! Im sorry if Im misreading (it is early here in the UK) but I couldnt see how much oil was needed, also can I use corn oil? Oh, and the cake. looked. AMAZING!!

    • says

      Oh! My apologies, Susie. I missed the oil when I typed up the recipe, which I have updated in the recipe, to read 1/2 cup. I think corn oil would be just fine in this cake, provided it is very light in taste. The Wilton pan sounds like fun. Thanks for the kind words–I can honestly say that playing with fondant this time around was far less frustrating. :)

  3. thegrommom says

    Oh you blow me away!! Great job, mom! Any fellow four-boy momma has all the excuses in the world to NOT get over-the-top creative on things like this, but NO! You go for it anyways! I love that about you!!
    aloha, and pass on some (belated) bday hugs too!

  4. Carol DUBAL says

    I never bake from scratch but am going to try your chocolate cake & white chocolate frosting for a friends 50th birthday party. I am going to do cupcakes. Should I powder each holder?

    • says

      Hooray! I’m so honored that you chose my recipes, Carol. For cupcakes, you may grease & flour each muffin cup, or you can just line them with cupcake papers. I use this recipe for cupcakes all of the time. The cake batter is quite thin, so be careful not to fill the cups more than 2/3 of the way full or the batter will overflow as it bakes. Have fun!


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