Easiest Chocolate Birthday Cake from Bon Appetit

This Easiest Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe from Bon Appetit initially caught my eye because of the word easy in the title, the promise that this chocolate cake recipe would be a cinch to make. To me, easy means dumping the wet ingredients in one bowl, the dry ingredients in another, combining the two, and then throwing into the oven. But it wasn’t quite that easy. In fact, there were quite a lot of steps involved in what was supposed to be a simple recipe. I had to carefully melt a lot of chocolate, I had to take care to warm but not boil milk, I had to refrigerate some ganache for 25 minutes…not that these are necessarily hard things to do, but it requires some time and patience that you wouldn’t guess from the somewhat misleading title. BUT I do have to admit that this was a damn good chocolate cake. Out of all the cakes I’ve made recently, this probably tasted the most professional. It’s rich and dense (you’ll need to drink a lot of milk with your slice), and the tangy chocolate ganache frosting is so delicious. Easiest is a misnomer, despite all the declarations of simplicity in the recipe on the Bon Appetit website, but best chocolate cake wouldn’t be too far off.

Easiest Chocolate Birthday Cake from Bon Appetit
3/4 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 3/4 teaspoon vanilla, divided
4 ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate bars (do not exceed 64% cacao)
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Step 1: Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 325 degrees. Grease bottoms and sides of a 9″ round cake pan with vegetable oil (I used canola). Line bottom of the pan with parchment paper or aluminum.

Step 2: Whisk all purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl. Sift cocoa powder (I put the cocoa powder through a fine mesh strainer) into a bowl, then whisk to combine.

Step 3: Whisk the eggs, vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl until well combined. Mix egg mixture into dry ingredients until fully incorporated.

Step 4: Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Make sure it just comes to a simmer, not a boil. Whisk the warmed milk into the batter until just incorporated.

Step 5: Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Step 6: Bake cake, turning cake pan halfway through, until a toothpick or fork inserted into the cake comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan.

Step 7: Time to make the frosting! Combine the chocolate chips (or coarsely chopped chocolate bars, I used the Madagascar single origin bar from LA Burdick, which turned out really well) and the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 10-second increments until melted. Chill ganache until cool to the touch.

Step 8: Using a stand mixer with the whip attachment, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, 3/4 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt on medium-high speed. Add in the cooled chocolate ganache on medium speed for about a minute.

Step 9: Invert cooled cake onto a plate.

Step 10: Top cake with frosting!