I’m having a hard time with the days of the week, apparently. I wrote this post with every intention of having it on the interwebs in order to celebrate my weekly “variety flour Thursday” adventure. Then life happened, and I had to push it back to Friday (today). And now I’m just catching on to the fact that this is a “Sunday night” cake. All this Thursday/Friday hullabaloo is dedicated to a treat, developed originally by Edna Lewis to be a simple cake to make but decadent enough to ring in a new week.

This post is a long time coming. Exhibit A) Colleen’s first attempt at making the cake, straight from Edna Lewis’s recipe. Not the finest example of my baking skills or ability to follow directions. Nowhere in the recipe does it say that using a bundt pan is preferable to a standard square or circle pan. I had a child-like whim that made me crave cake in the shape of a bundt, and look where it got me.

The cake itself was a little chewy and I couldn’t get the frosting right. I despaired a little and put the project on hold. Then, like always, the boys at Baked had a little something to lift my spirits. A recipe for Sunday Night Cake! Sunday Night with (gasp) a chocolate pudding frosting!? My faith in the world, or at least in my ability to bake a cake, was restored and I sallied forth to make another Sunday Night Cake.

This cake suffered multiple (cake tester) stab wounds, but powered through. Good work, cake.

Victory is mine! The cake was wonderful – I loved the way the sour cream gave it density but was balanced by the light crumb of cake flour. Due to my oven having a mind of its own, however, it took an extra ten minutes to bake and, when I finally pulled it out of the oven out of fear, was still a wee bit under baked. Under baked is better than burned, I guess? And the chocolate frosting? Forget about it. I was elbows deep in it from the moment it came together. I might just make the frosting on it’s own and pour it into ramekins and call it a chocolate pudding-mousse hybrid pot-de-FANTASTIC. Or something eloquent like that.

Sunday Night Cake

(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations)

Yields one 9 inch square or round cake

 

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cup cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut in ½ inch pieces

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a 9 inch round or square cake pan by lining pan with parchment, then buttering the sides and bottom of parchment thoroughly.

2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer if using, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4. Add eggs to butter mixture one at a time, beating until just incorporated between each addition. Once all eggs are added, scrape down sides of bowl and beat for a few more seconds.

5. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with two parts of the sour cream. Scrape down bowl after all ingredients are added and beat for a few more seconds (to make sure all ingredients are incorporated evenly).

6. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake cake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for at least 20 minutes before loosening the sides of the cake and removing it to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Chocolate Frosting (for Sunday Night Cake)

(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations)

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably dark – Valrhona)

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarsely*

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into ½ inch pieces

1 cup boiling water

 

*I did not have any unsweetened chocolate on hand (I know, blasphemy!), so I used a 72% dark chocolate and I feel like the frosting was still delicious.

 

Method:

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa powder. Stir in chopped chocolate.

2. Pour boiling water over chocolate mixture and wait 30 seconds, then whisk until mixture is combined and chocolate is melted.

3. Turn heat to medium-high and whisk continuously for 5 minutes, or until mixture begins to thicken. Once mixture begins to thicken, it will come together quickly.

4. Remove saucepan from heat and pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high, with a paddle attachment, until mixture is room temperature.

4. Add butter and mix for 2 to 3 minutes, until frosting is light and pudding-like. (If you prefer a fluffier frosting, mix for a few minutes longer, 5-6 minutes in total.)

To assemble cake: Once cake is cooled completely, frost top of cake and let frosting drip a little down the sides. Refrigerate frosted cake for 5 minutes to set frosting. Serve immediately.

Store cake, tightly covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

I scrutinized the picture accompanying this recipe for a long time, adorable, brown-topped little cakes studded with chocolate chips. No frosting, no frills. Are they cupcakes, really? I mean, does a cake in a cupcake paper need frosting in order to become a cupcake? When you do some research, most people do draw a frosting line between cupcakes and muffins, but I for some reason I can’t rest with that. There has to be more to being a cupcake than a frosted top! Right? I began to question everything I knew about cupcakes, starting with giving this recipe a try.

So I went about chopping and mixing and baking and eating. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the end result. Although I did enjoy the chocolate chips throughout the cake (more cupcakes should have chocolate chips, I daresay), the cakes themselves were dry and, well, I kind of missed the frosting. Perhaps if these were introduced to me as a muffin I would have thought differently, expecting a drier, less sweet cake-type product, but I wouldn’t say they are what you expect when you think “cupcake”. In conclusion, I’m still on the fence regarding whether or not cupcakes need frosting to be considered cupcakes and I’m not sold on this recipe.

I’ll repeat, however, that I’m still intrigued by the idea of chocolate chip cupcakes. If you could pull off a hybrid cookie-cupcake, imagine the possibilities.

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from Cupcakes, by Susanna Tee)

Yields 8 cupcakes

Ingredients:

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (scant) cake flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

½ to ¾ cup chocolate chips or chopped semisweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. I had to do two batches, since my pan only accommodates 6 muffin-size cakes.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Mixture will separate but not to worry! It will come together with the addition of dry ingredients. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

3. Add flour, baking soda, and salt to butter mixture. Stir until just combined, and then stir in chocolate chips.

4. Fill cupcake papers ¾ full, using either “guess-timation” or a ¼ cup ice cream scoop with release mechanism.

5. Bake cupcakes in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Tops will brown considerably, as a warning.

6. Let cupcakes cool in pan just a few minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.

These cupcakes are best eaten while still warm and/or on the same day, but if you must, store them in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

The truth is I never understood how people could eat cakey brownies. I never saw the appeal; why wouldn’t you just eat chocolate cake? Brownies should be gooey, fudgy, and rich to the core by definition. Because of my strong belief in the fudgy brownie, my brownies all turn out relatively the same regardless of recipe. This was fine for me until I had one of those moments when I remembered I’m not only person in the world (I know, crazy) and maybe, just maybe, my strong opinions are only strong because I don’t venture outside of them often enough. My little epiphany led to my choosing a brownie recipe representing a balance of cakey and fudgy goodness instead of a recipe that is, well, just like every one I’ve used.

At first I was intimidated by this recipe for classic brownies because the good people at America’s Test Kitchen warn you to carefully test for doneness otherwise it would completely compromise your batch of brownies. If you over bake them, they will be dry. If you under bake them, they will be gummy. Ah! The paranoia! Totally unnecessary, though! Surprisingly, or not, the brownies turned out just fine after one test after minimum baking time and a two or three minutes after. And surprisingly or not at all, I loved them! The fact that they weren’t super rich made them easy to eat and enjoy without feeling overwhelmed. It’s really important, like with most brownies, that you let them sit for the entire two hours after baking before you cut them, and the brownies are awesome the next day.

Why this recipe on Variety Flour Thursday? The secret ingredient is cake flour, which lends a fine crumb and light crust to the finished brownies.

Why yes, the upper right corner is missing. Who ate that?!

Classic Brownies

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2000-2010)

Yields one 13 by 9 inch pan of brownies, about 24 squares

 

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup cake flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 oz, or 1 cup, unsweetened chocolate, chopped

12 tablespoons, or 1 ½ cups, unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pats

2 ¼ cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Optional: 1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

 

Method:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 13 by 9 inch pan with two pieces of foil and spray with vegetable oil, or coat generously with butter.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. In a double boiler (or makeshift double boiler, a heatproof bowl over simmering water), melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat. If heatproof bowl or top of double boiler isn’t big enough to contain all ingredients for batter, pour melted chocolate-butter mixture in a bowl large enough to fit everything.

4. Gradually whisk in sugar until thoroughly combined.

5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.

6. In three parts, add flour mixture, folding gently with a rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth.

7. Transfer batter evenly to prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. If using, sprinkle chopped nuts over batter.

8. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. America’s Test Kitchen warns you to take testing seriously with these brownies; under baked and the brownies are gummy, over baked and the brownies are entirely too dry.

9. Cool brownies in pan, on a wire rack, for at least 2 hours at room temperature. Loosen edges with a paring knife before attempting to remove brownies from pan. If using foil, lift brownies out by foil overhang. If you forgo the foil, cut brownies in pan and remove them one by one.

Store brownies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days, or freeze up to a month.