Perfect Chocolate Cake with non-Newtonian Frosting

I made this cake for my birthday party a few weeks ago.  It came out a bit funny looking and I’ve been reluctant to blog about it.  In the brigade de cuisine I am more of a pâtissier, a pastry chef, than a boulanger, a baker, and definitely not a décorateur, a maker of show pieces and specialty cakes.

The thing was though, that everybody loved it.  Once they closed their eyes and opened their mouths, they were transported to that place a moist, luscious, not-too-sweet chocolate cake takes you. Anyhow, my lovely friends are the types of people who see beneath the surface.

I think of the chapter from The Little Prince where the fox asks to be tamed and they become friends. In our lives we ‘tame’ many people. And people also ‘tame’ us. . . At the beginning a person is indifferent for us, but when we ‘tame’ someone things completely change. We start thinking on that person, we are expecting their arrival, we remember them when we see something related to them, and so on. It is really great to be ‘tamed’, to have people who really care for us, and people to care about.

But, as the Little Prince had to say goodbye to the fox, we all say goodbye to each other. Our paths don’t walk together any longer, we have to live different lives and our beloved creature is not with us anymore. Only his or her memory lasts, the good times we spent together.

When it came time for the Little Prince and the fox to say ‘Goodbye’ the fox made a present of a secret.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This cake that I made was a recreation of a favourite childhood birthday party cake that came from the local bakery in West Covina, California.  Chocolate sponge, filled with sliced bananas and freshly whipped cream and frosted with chocolate buttercream.  The recipe is from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant

Perfect Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup/140 grams cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 2 cups/500 mls boiling water
  • 2 ¾ cups/385 grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup/225 grams butter
  • 2 ½ cups/350 grams sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.  Butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.  This is where I made my first fatal mistake.  I should have lined them with parchment paper.  So you do this. Line them with parchment paper.

Combine the cocoa with the boiling water, stirring until smooth.  Cool completely.

Sift together the dry ingredients.  In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with the cocoa mixture to the creamed mixture.  Blend just enough to moisten the dry ingredients.

Pour the mixture into the cake pans.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove the cake from the pans to cool completely before frosting.  Parchment paper will make this so much easier and the cake won’t have to be patched back together when it comes out in bits.

Luscious Filling

  • 1 cup/250 mls heavy (double) cream
  • ¼ cup/35 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Whip all of the filling ingredients together until stiff.  Chill.

Non-Newtonian Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

When I was in Digbeth this past weekend, I met Steve Coxon, writer and dabbler in non-Newtonian fluids.  In recent experiments at the Spotted Dog Laboratory*, Steve assisted in the making of a substance that seems to conform to the laws of a solid whilst in a bowl. However when it is lifted from the bowl in either one’s hand or a spoon, the substance becomes semi-liquid!  This explains my butter cream frosting.  What I thought was a mistake is a non-Newtonian frosting.

For a full explanation, including what do do if you fall into a pit of quicksand.

  • 6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate or 7/8 cup/140 grams unsweetened cocoa powder and 6 tablespoons/90 grams of butter
  • 1 cup/225 grams butter
  • ½ cup/125 mls heavy (double) cream
  • 2 ½ cups/350 grams powdered (icing) sugar, sifted

Sift the sugar (along with the cocoa powder if you are substituting for the baking chocolate).

In a medium saucepan, melt the baking chocolate and the butter.  If you don’t have baking chocolate, just melt all of the butter. Stir in the cream until smooth.

Remove the pan from the stove and place it in a large bowl filled with ice.  Using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat in the powdered sugar until the frosting holds a stiff shape.  Chill.

Contruct the cake when all the parts are cool.  Spread the filling between the layers, adding sliced bananas, and the frosting on the top and sides.

At this point I was hoping that my butter cream frosting would save the day and patch everything together, however, its non-Newtonian properties presented some, shall we say, design and aesthetic problems.

Keep the cake cool until it is served.

Pretty good with strawberries and why not some more cream?

* pronounced lə-ˈbär-ə-t(ə-)rē – we are in the UK after all.

2 thoughts on “Perfect Chocolate Cake with non-Newtonian Frosting

  1. Thank you for a great cake recipe!! I made 3/4 of it (3 eggs) and took your advice in using waxed paper in the pans. (which I usually ignore, I’ll have you know – soounds like you usually do too)(And there was enough for about 9 cupcakes, too)
    Then I made cream cheese frosting, which was surprisingly runny – obviously some non-newtonian thing that had to do with powdered/icing sugar. It was a birthday cake for DH, he really liked it.
    So thanks again.

    PS I see you and I cook the same sort of way. You look through lots of different recipes to find the core methods and ingredients, and then let ‘er rip. I get few complaints, anyway

  2. Your cake looks fabulous! In fact, it was fabulous enough to tempt me to try my hand at this recipe. Turned out alright, husband thought it was too chocolatey though. I thought it could have perhaps benefited from a little more sugar. I also may have overcooked it because it was a bit dry. But we enjoyed it. Now the only problem is… it’s way too big for just two people!

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