A great, no-fail chocolate cake recipe is a thing of beauty. And not just because of the moist, springy cake or the depth of chocolate flavor. It’s also knowing that, if need be, you can have a knock out, everyone-asks-you-for-the-recipe cake made and ready in an hour.
But why stop with the cake? Citrus season presents a wonderful excuse to play around with unexpected, complex flavors. This recipe highlights kumquats, a pocket-sized, slightly sour citrus fruit that’s in season during the winter months. The bright, citrusy flavor plays beautifully on the rich cake, and the kumquats themselves lend a playful pop to the cake’s decoration.
When selecting kumquats, look for firm, completely orange fruits — ones with a greenish tinge are unripe. Kumquats store well in the fridge for up to two weeks.
This chocolate cake recipe relies on a good reaction from the leavening agents to rise. Be sure your baking soda and powder are absolutely fresh before starting (click here to find out how you can tell). You’ll also want to be sure your oven is up to 350 degrees, and then resist the temptation to open it during cook time since this can cause the cakes to collapse.
Easy Chocolate Layer Cake with Kumquat Glaze
adapted from Hershey’s Kitchens
Makes: 2 6-inch cake layers; 10 servings
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated or (raw) turbinado sugar
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for cake pans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 2 6-inch cake pans and dust with cocoa powder. For 8 or 9-inch pans, double the recipe.
2. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. With mixer on low, add the egg, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Switch beater speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Finally, stir in the boiling water, carefully mixing just until combined. (Note that the batter will be thin.)
3. Divide batter between the prepared cake pans and slide into the oven. Bake, leaving cakes undisturbed for most of the bake time, for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.
4. Cool cake layers for 10 minutes. Run a straightedge along sides, and flip out onto a wire rack to cool. Cool cake layers completely (at least 2 hours) before frosting.
5. To make glaze, slice and seed the kumquats. Reserve slices from 3 for garnish. Place remaining kumquats in a food processor and pulse until kumquats have been reduced to a thick paste. Combine kumquat paste and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Drizzle in the orange juice a little at a time, until mixture is just thin enough to drizzle off a spoon. Finally, stir in vanilla extract.
6. Set the first layer on a cake plate. Spread top with a generous layer of glaze and then set the second layer on top. Allow cake to set for 5 minutes, then finish the top by spooning on the glaze. Add enough so that it drips down the sides. Garnish with sliced kumquats.