Choose your own adventure chocolate cake

adventure cake

IT’S CAKE MONTH!

Maybe you had no idea. Or maybe you’ve been waiting for it since I first mentioned it back on the ‘gram in June. Either way, cake month on OLC is here which means it’s nothing but cake for the rest of the month, for no reason other than the fact that cake is delicious. Ok, and maaaybe because I have a laundry list of cake recipes that I’ve been itching to share.

After looking over that laundry list and trying to narrow it down, I realized four of the almost two dozen cakes were pretty similar. I went back and forth, agonizing over which version to share (I was leaning toward the extra chocolatey version except I knew I’d get a bit of hate mail for it because some of you can’t stand my preference for chocolate things) (LOL but also *enter all the loudly crying face emojis*) and then I decided I’d just share all of them. At once. And just like that, the choose your own adventure chocolate cake was born (there will be a vanilla version, too - but not this month). As someone who is obsessed with having options (why else do you think I own the same pair of overalls in SIX DIFFERENT COLORS?), I love the idea of a cake recipe that can take multiple forms depending on what I’m craving, how much time I have, etc.

This cake can be made in a sheet pan and served as is. Crafted Momofuku-style. Baked up in round cake pans and assembled as a three layer 6” cake or two layer 8” cake. Or you can go the cupcake route. You can make a sheet cake and top it with a layer of vanilla frosting and a heavy drizzle of salted caramel. Or you can make a layer cake and smother it in chocolate frosting with sweet almond butter sauce dripping down the sides. My favorite is the version I made as my birthday cake this year - a Momofuku-style chocolate cake with light chocolate frosting and peanut butter hot fudge sauce. The perfect chocolate cake, IMO.

If you scroll down past the photos you’ll see that the choose your own adventure thing is A LOT to unpack (2,078 words to unpack, to be exact). So, for that reason, I’m going to cut this short. Be back soon with a sweet and salty cheesecake thing. Happy choose your own adventure cake making. <3

Pictured: Momofuku-style chocolate cake with light chocolate frosting and peanut butter hot fudge sauce (also made a version with the sweet almond butter sauce) and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and salted caramel. All three versions were delicious.

adventure cake ingredients
chocolate
adventure chocolate cake
choose your own adventure chocolate cake
choose your own adventure chocolate cake-cupcakes
adventure cake
adventure cake-cupcakes
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adventure cake

Notes: If you don't have cake flour, you can make it from scratch (I always do) by replacing two tablespoons of flour with two tablespoons of potato starch for every cup of flour. Just make sure you sift the shit out of it. This is my favorite Dutch processed cocoa powder and is the only one I use. Obligatory “you can probably substitute” soy/oat/etc. milk for the almondmilk, coconut/safflower/etc. oil for the grapeseed oil, yadda yadda yadda. Not sure about alternative flours, though, so you’re on your own there. Sometimes I’ll choose the filling before I even start making the cake (like, days before I start making the cake) so that all I have to do when I get to step three is pull the jar of filling/topping out of the fridge and warm it in a hot water bath. All about doing favors for my future self, ya know?

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE CHOCOLATE CAKE

STEP 1: BAKE THE CAKE

CHOCOLATE CAKE
2 1/4 cups (320g) unbleached cake flour
1 cup (100g) Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking soda
1 teaspoon (3g) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons (8g) fine sea salt

1 1/2 cups (310g) cane sugar
3/4 cup (132g) grapeseed oil

2 teaspoons (8g) pure vanilla extract
1 cup (210g) 
almond buttermilk
1 1/2 cups (320g) unsweetened almondmilk

First things first, you need to decide which style of cake you’re going to make. For a sheet cake or Momofuku-style layer cake, you’ll want to bake the cake in a 9x13” pan. For a traditional layer cake (either naked, semi-naked, or iced all around), you’ll want to use 6” or 8” baking pans (you’ll need three 6” pans or two 8” pans). For cupcakes, use 12 well cupcake pans (you’ll need two of them). The 9x13” cake pan will need to be lined with a sheet of parchment paper (that goes up the sides), the 6-8” cake pans will need to be lined with parchment on the bottoms only and greased well, and the cupcake pans will need to be lined with paper liners.

Let’s make the cake. Preheat oven to 350˚F. If you haven’t done so already, prepare the pan(s) then set them aside. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; whisk to combine then set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and almondmilk. Alternate mixing in the buttermilk and flour mixture; starting with the flour and ending with the buttermilk. Whisk just until everything is evenly combined and very few clumps remain. Do not over mix. Proceed depending on the cake pan(s) you’re using.

FOR A 9X13” CAKE PAN: Pour batter into a pan lined with parchment paper and tap on the counter to remove any trapped air bubbles. Bake at 350˚F for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
FOR 6-8” ROUND CAKE PANS: Make sure the bottoms of the cake pans are lined with parchment paper and that the sides of the pans are greased well. Divide batter between three 6” cake pans or two 8” cake pans and tap on the counter to remove any trapped air bubbles. Bake at 350˚F for 32-36 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
FOR CUPCAKES: Make sure your cupcake pans are lined with 18 paper liners. Place 1/4 heaping cup of batter into each of the 18 liners then pour a small amount of water into the six empty wells. Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


STEP 2: CHOOSE A FROSTING

So the cake is cooling and now you’ve got to choose a frosting. I’m partial to the light chocolate frosting because it has such a soft, lovely chocolate flavor with a hint of maple but YOU DO YOU! You really can’t go wrong. Both frostings are *delicious*.

LIGHT CHOCOLATE FROSTING
1 cup (195g) non-hydrogenated shortening
2-3 tablespoons (28-42g) unsweetened almondmilk
1 teaspoon (6g) pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon (1g) maple flavor
, optional
2 1/4 cups (280g) powdered cane sugar
2 tablespoons (10g) cacao powder

Add the shortening to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and cream for 30-45 seconds. Add the almondmilk, vanilla extract, and maple extract (if using); mix until combined then scrape down the sides and mix again. Add the powdered sugar then sift in the cacao powder; mix until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. If you'd prefer a lighter frosting, you can beat in additional almondmilk, one teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved.

Yield: ~2 cups of frosting

- OR -

VANILLA FROSTING
1 cup (195g) non-hydrogenated shortening
2-3 tablespoons (28-42g) unsweetened almondmilk
1 teaspoon (6g) pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon (1g) pure almond extract

2 1/4 cups (280g) powdered cane sugar

Add the shortening to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and cream for 30-45 seconds. Add the almondmilk, vanilla extract, and almond extract; mix until combined then scrape down the sides and mix again. Add the powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. If you'd prefer a lighter frosting, you can beat in additional almondmilk, one teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved.

Yield: ~2 cups of frosting

If making a 6-8” round cake that’s getting frosted all around, you’ll want to double the frosting recipe.


STEP 3: CHOOSE A FILLING/TOPPING

I’m almost always going to choose the most chocolatey version of this cake (chocolate on chocolate on chocolate forever) but all three filling/topping options are solid. I tend to think the caramel is paired best with the cupcake version, but that’s mostly because of the consistency of the caramel (not a huge fan of caramel-filled cake) (but I love me a good caramel drip on top of a cupcake). Just like the frosting options, you really can’t go wrong.

PEANUT BUTTER HOT FUDGE SAUCE
1 bar (90g) good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons (32g) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons (36g) brown rice syrup
1/2 cup (110g) unsweetened almondmilk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler set over medium heat. When the chocolate is melted, stir in the peanut butter and mix until combined. Mix in the brown rice syrup and almondmilk, and mix just until combined (abstain from stirring too vigorously or else you'll work too much air into the sauce). Remove from heat then finish with salt; stir to combine. Transfer sauce to a small glass jar and refrigerate until you’re ready to put it to good use. Will keep for up to one month. Once refrigerated, the sauce will solidify. To return it to a pourable consistency, place the jar in a hot water bath for 15-20 minutes.

Yield: ~1 cup

- OR -

SALTED CARAMEL
1 (14 oz) can full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup (70g) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Shake up the can of coconut milk then pour it into a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil then whisk in the sugar. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush the sides of the pan to ensure it’s free from sugar crystals; if any crystals make it into the final product they will cause the caramel to develop a gritty consistency (gritty = bad). Cook for 15 minutes then whisk vigorously and cook 5-10 minutes more. Once the caramel finishes cooking, off the heat, add the salt, and give the it one last good stir. Pour it into a glass jar and let cool (undisturbed) to room temperature. Once cool, cover with a lid and chill in the refrigerator. Will keep for up to two weeks. Once refrigerated, the caramel will solidify. To return it to a pourable consistency, place the jar in a hot water bath for 15-20 minutes.

Yield: ~1/2 cup

- OR -

SWEET ALMOND BUTTER SAUCE
2 tablespoons (22g) refined coconut oil
3/4 cup (192g) creamy almond butter
1/4 cup (74g) brown rice syrup
Pinch of fine sea salt

Melt the coconut oil in a double boiler set over medium heat. When the oil is melted, stir in the almond butter followed by the brown rice syrup and stir until evenly combined. Remove from heat then finish with salt; stir to combine. Transfer sauce to a small glass jar and refrigerate until you’re ready to put it to good use. Will keep for up to one month. Once refrigerated, the sauce will solidify. To return it to a pourable consistency, place the jar in a hot water bath for 15-20 minutes.

Yield: ~1 cup

Other delicious fillings: Raspberry filling (jam works, too!), mocha ganache, and chocolate-coffee sauce.


STEP 4: ASSEMBLY TIME

Now that you’ve got everything you need, it’s time to build the cake. Sheet cakes and cupcakes are easypeasy, but layer cakes can be a little more, uhh, challenging. It’s why I pretty much exclusively make Momofuku-style layer cakes now because they’re not even remotely challenging. They just require some bits and bobs you may not have on hand. Anyway, if you need clarity on how to assemble these cakes, follow the links I’ve provided - visuals help so much.

FOR A SHEET CAKE: Simply spread the frosting over the top of the cake then drizzle with desired topping. Finish with chopped chocolate, sea salt flakes, etc.
FOR A MOMOFUKU-STYLE LAYER CAKE (PICTURED): You’ll need a 6” cake ring (3” tall is best but mine is 2”), a 6” cake board, and a 4” tall clear cake collar. You’re going to start by cutting the 9x13” sheet cake with the cake ring; cut two full circles and two half circles (like so). Wash and dry the cake ring. Place the cake board on a flat surface lined with parchment paper, top with cake ring, then line with the cake collar (it will overlap; cut excess, leaving only a 2” overlap). Place the two half circles of cake at the bottom of the ring, pushing them to the sides. Fill the open space between them with cake scraps; press the cake firmly to pack. Top with 1/3 of the frosting and drizzle with 1/3 of the filling. Add second cake layer; again, press the cake firmly to pack. Top with 1/3 of the frosting and drizzle with 1/3 of the filling. Add third cake layer; press the cake firmly to pack. If you did everything properly, the top of the cake should be just below the top of the cake collar. Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer frosting over the top of the cake until it’s even with the top of the cake collar. Freeze cake for 3-5 hours (if you end up using a fruit-based filling, you’ll need to freeze it for upwards of 8 hours) then remove the cake ring and cake collar. To remove the ring, simply place the cake on top of a 3” tall glass and press down firmly to dislodge cake ring) (you can try removing it over the top but I can almost never get this to work given how much I pack the cake). Use remaining frosting and filling to decorate the top of the cake or pair it with the leftover cake scraps. Still need help? Here’s a visual.
FOR A 6-8” ROUND CAKE: To assemble the layer cake, level the layers then place one layer on a cake stand/plate/etc. and smear with (or pipe on) a generous portion of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers and frosting. Using an offset spatula, smooth the frosting around the cake (if your cake has crumbs, a crumb coat may be necessary before you add a thicker layer of frosting). Using an icing bottle, drizzle the topping down the sides of the cake then spread the remaining over the top (an offset spatula is useful here, too). Still need help? Here’s a visual.
FOR CUPCAKES (ALSO PICTURED): Frost with piping bag + tip (I used an Ateco #828 tip) or keep it casual and use a butter knife. Drizzle topping then finish with chopped chocolate, sea salt flakes, etc.


adventure cake chaos