Chocolate Snack Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Easy chocolate sour cream cake made with sour cream, cocoa powder, and melted chocolate. The perfect balance of decadence and simplicity! Don't forget the chocolate frosting...

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Photography Credit: Sheryl Julian

This isn’t one of those fudgey, intense, death-by-chocolate cakes, but something closer to devil’s food cake in ingredients and character. It’s more cocoa-flavored than chocolate, and more light and airy than dense.

The chocolate frosting, however, is pure decadence. It perfectly balances more refined nature of the cake. Cover the whole pan with a thick layer of this frosting and serve slices right out of the pan.

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I love to make this cake! The main ingredients are unsweetened cocoa powder, bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate, and sour cream. If you have those on hand, you’re good to go. You can bake it at the drop of a hat, though I often measure out the ingredients the night before I bake so that making the cake is even faster work.

The sour cream adds richness and moisture, but the dark brown and granulated sugars offset any sour flavor. This finished cake is chocolate, through and through! In the frosting, powdered sugar and semisweet chocolate do the same thing.

Recipes for sour cream chocolate frosting have been around for ages and there are many slightly different variations. The one I like best, and use here, is basically just melted chocolate, sour cream, and powdered sugar. The quality of your chocolate matters a great deal; use the best-quality chocolate you can find.

This produces such a thick, delicious, spreadable frosting, it almost seems like magic. You’ll have fun making swirls or stripes or whatever whimsical patterns your spoon or spatula leads you to.

Be sure to cool the cake completely before topping with the lustrous frosting. You can store the unfrosted, cake, wrapped in foil and kept in a cool place, for up a day before frosting.

Chocolate Snack Cake with Chocolate Frosting Recipe

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  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: one 9x13 cake (10 to 12 servings)

Be sure to let the cake cool completely before spreading the top with frosting.

I often measure out all the ingredients the night before I bake so that making the cake the next day is fast work.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • Butter (for the cake pan)
  • Flour (for the cake pan)
  • 2 2/3 cups (330 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces (85 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken up
  • 3 tablespoons (20 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup (227 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup (193 g) dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (172 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups (325 g) sour cream

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces (227 g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (225 g) sour cream, left at room temperature for 20 minutes
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) powdered sugar, sifted into a bowl
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

 

Method

MAKE THE CAKE (Makes one 9-by-13-inch rectangle)     

1 Prepare the pan and preheat the oven: Heat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch cake pan, dust the pan with flour, and tap out the excess. (Or line the pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.)

2 Combine the dry ingredients: In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3 Melt the chocolate and cocoa powder: Put the bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and the cocoa in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over top. Let it sit for a minute, then stir. The chocolate might seem to seize at first, but you're adding enough liquid that it should thin out as you stir.

4 Begin making the batter: In a stand mixer a beater attachment or with an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the brown and granulated sugar and beat for 2 minutes more.

Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the yolks and vanilla. Beat only until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. The mixture may look curdled; that’s OK.

5 Finish mixing the batter: With the mixer on low speed, blend in the melted chocolate and cocoa powder. Blend in a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the sour cream. Blend in another third of the flour, followed by the remaining sour cream. Finish with the last third of the flour, blending just until the dry flour is no longer visible. The batter will be fairly thick.

7 Transfer the batter into the pan: Scoop the batter to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the top. Tap it once hard on the counter to settle any air pockets.

8 Bake the cake: Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean clean and the top springs back when pressed with a fingertip.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack for the cake to cool. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. (At this point, the cake can also be covered and stored at room temperature for 24 hours before frosting and serving.)

MAKE THE FROSTING (Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1 Melt the chocolate: Put the 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of hot but not boiling water. The bowl should not touch the water. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Remove the bowl from the water and wipe the bottom dry. Cool, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

2 Add the sour cream gradually, stirring well with the rubber spatula.

3 Add the powdered sugar gradually, then the vanilla and salt. Stir until the mixture is smooth and thickens like frosting.

FINISH THE CAKE

1 Frost the cooled cake: When the cake is completely cool, use an offset icing spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the frosting on the cake, making a swirl or striped pattern, if you like.

To make “stripes” with frosting, as I have done, spread the frosting on the cake and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Wipe off the excess frosting on the spatula. Set the cake so one short side is closest to you. Holding the spatula at a 45-degree angle to the frosting, and working horizontally across the cake, start at the end farthest from you. Move the spatula from left to right across the cake. Immediately move the spatula down half an inch, and sweep it from right to left across the cake. Continue in this way – right to left, left to right, moving down half an inch – until the entire cake looks striped. The long sides will be scalloped with frosting.

To make frosting swirls, spread the frosting on the cake and use the back of a spoon to make slight indentations all over the cake, which will look swirled when you’re done.

2 Let the cake sit for 30 minutes before cutting into squares. 

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Sheryl Julian

Sheryl Julian is an award-winning writer, editor, and food stylist. She is the former food editor of The Boston Globe, co-author of The Way We Cook, and editor of The New Boston Globe Cookbook. Her food sections won Best Newspaper Food Coverage from the Association of Food Journalists in 2015.

More from Sheryl

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Showing 4 of 18 Comments

  • suzy

    Icing turned out great! However, the cake itself was a disappointment, it was very dry and dense. I enjoy many of the recipes from this blog, unfortunately, this was not one of them.

  • Connie K

    Hi your pictures are so nice and steps not too complicating make me want to try it out. I made this last night following exactly except using yogurt instead of sour cream I wanted to complete with frosting this morning but can’t wait to taste it. The color and texture look exactly like your pictures, it is so moist melting inside the mouth and not too sweet and oily. I love it will make again but complete with frosting. Thank you

  • Radha

    Hi, tried this cake today. Didn’t work for me. It was dry and quite light. From the batter I could tell that the cake was probably not going to turn out. The batter was stiff and not very moist (not quite able to pour into pans, had to scoop it) I added a quarter cup of milk hoping that might do the trick. Didn’t wan to stray too much from the recipe. I think 2 and 2/3 cups may be too much flour. Also wondered if 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda may be too much leavenig. I used a square pan, a loaf pan and a mini cupcake pan. My bake time was much less for the mini cupcakes (of course) and under 45 min for the two other pans. I did not use the frosting from this recipe, but it was similar.

    I will not be making this cake again. Maybe I had bad luck, unfortunately a lot of time and ingredients have been wasted as I will not eat this or give it to anyone. I believe this recipe may need to go back to the drawing board.

  • Jan Hester

    Major disappointment and minor embarrassment! I baked this cake to take to the office and ended up throwing most of it away because it was just too dry to eat. It wasn’t overcooked dry, and I pulled it out before the recommended 45 minutes. It was just boring, flavorless dry. The frosting was good, though.

  • Zita

    I think I expected too much seeing how expensive this cake is.. So much chocolate, butter, more than 1/2 kg sour cream.. The cake is just too much and too heavy.. Maybe some jam can help but I will not bake this again unfortunately.

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Chocolate Snack Cake with Chocolate Frosting