Thursday 7 August 2008


mini chocolate cake: big on flavour and fun; but small in scale, effort and fuss
Did'ja ever have a hankering for chocolate cake but didn't want to make the whole recipe 'cause you know you'd end up having to eat the whole dang thing all by yourself?

ya ya ya. I know. Ordinarily, having to eat a whole friggin' cake would be great in most circumstances, but this is reality. I don't want to be buying bigger pants and I don't want to be wearing spandex Lululemon yoga pants forever.

don't dicker with any piping tips. just slather on the buttercream and hide the bumps with sprinkles!
I've had my Small-Batch Baking book for a while now. I had purchased it for $11.59 at Costco a few years ago. I have made quite a few of the recipes...some with good success and a few flops. In general, I find the cakes to be on the dense side because the ingredients are so miniscule you can't take a standing electric mixer to it. Pretty much all the recipes require you to do all the mixing by hand, which isn't so bad a proposition because the work isn't heavy.

Of the recipes I've tried so far, some of the cake recipes yielded a really dense (almost biscuit-like) crumb and others are like their full-scale counterparts. I really liked the flavour in the coconut cake recipe, but it was so dense it was indeed like eating a biscuit. My favourite recipe thus far is the Chocolate Cake recipe. The frosting I tried was not a resounding success. I found the Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting too sour and rich. It had a fudgy texture though. So, I used my tried and true buttercream frosting and made sure it was pink because it was Bebe who requested the cake.
I know. She just had a huge birthday Castle Cake recently, but this girl's all about the frosting and the decorations. I knew if I made a mini cake, and decorated it with her favourite sprinkles, she'd be happy as a clam and we'd save mommy from having to bust out of her britches. That, and though it looks like I bake a lot, my kids and hubby don't really eat much of any of it. Stomach doesn't touch the stuff and only Bebe has a small kiddie-sized chunk of any sweets I make. Guess who ends up eating it all if I don't think fast and pass it along to family & friends?

For this cake, a stellar opposite of the Ariel Underwater Castle Cake, I did not expend energy finessing the buttercream; nor did I attempt to cover it in ganache (unappreciated in the under-13 set). All I did was go for what I know: sprinkles are the key to kiddie happiness.

This much I've figured out in the 5 years I've been a mom! Pretty impressive, huh? Kids don't care about the density of the crumb, the thinness and evenness of the layers, or even flavour. It's all about the decorations. In fact, if you're observant at a kiddie party, you'll notice this huge buildup to the singing of the birthday song, the blowing of the candle and the fighting over the cake-topper. The birthday kid getting the cake-topper is the climax, I believe. Then, after the first slice has been served, the kids vamoose and go play. Sometimes a few kids will lick the frosting off the cake, but in general most of the cake is left to sit idly on the paper Disney plates as the moms and dads wearily scrape the mangled cake slices into their own mouths.

I highly recommend doing the Small Batch Baking technique if you feel like having some homemade cake but don't feel like whipping out the KitchenAid. Ordinarily, I like to scale down recipes from recipes I already know I like. Halving is easy, but this particular cake is built for 2 single servings only. That's two mini cakes. The cookbook is great because you don't have to muss with figuring out and writing down the new measurements somewhere. If you really wanted to, you could kick it up and decorate the heck out of these little cakes and make 'em look like their bigger brothers with icing tips, fondant, ganache and fancy sugar work. But today, that would defeat the purpose. The whole cake took me half of Bib's nap-time to make from beginning to end. That's immediate gratification.
I served Bebe a quarter of one cake and she was satisfied and grinning from ear to ear.
it's bigger than a cupcake but smaller than a regular cake--and able to leap tall kiddie appetites in a single bound!
Mini Chocolate Cake
adapted from "Chocolate Birthday Cake" from Debby Maugans Nakos' Small-Batch Baking
[cakebrain's note: I used 2 mini cake tins for this but D.M.N. suggests using cleaned 14 or 14.5 oz cans if you don't have them]
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 T buttermilk
  • Yolk of 1 large egg [I used the whole egg]
  • 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 t baking soda
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  1. Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Grease the insides of the cans and lightly dust them with flour, tapping out the excess [I sprayed mine with Pam and lined the bottom with parchment] Place the cans on a baking sheet for easier handling, and set aside.
  3. Combine the buttermilk, egg yolk [I used the whole egg, what the heck!] and vanilla in a small bowl, and whisk to mix. Gradually pour the melted butter into the buttermilk mixture, whisking constantly
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl, and then whisk to blend well. Add the sugar and whisk to combine. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared cans, dividing it evenly between them. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the cans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of each can and invert them to release the cakes. Turn the cakes upright and let them cool completely on the rack.
  7. To frost the cakes, cut each cake in half horizontally. Spread a layer of frosting about 1/2 inch thick on the cut side of one cake half, then stack the other half on top of it. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake and frosting. Decorate as desired.


Manggy said...

Ah, you see, when I was a kid, I was all 'bout the cake itself-- my favorite by far was chocolate chiffon (hey, it's mass-produced bakery fare) covered in marshmallow frosting (swiss meringue, though obviously I didn't know that as a kid). It's far easier for us to get a 15cm (6") pan than a 14-oz can, haha :) I think I should start working on smaller cakes. Churning out 8-inchers can't possibly be good for my body! :)

Clumbsy Cookie said...

This is a great and cute idea! Small batch is very bikini-friendly! Plus, everything small looks adorable!

Kassandra said...

This cake is adorable! :o) I love your blog. the first time I visited it, was right after you posted the finished product of the castle cake. My mom actually made that same cake in light purple for my niece's 2nd birthday. It was sooo cute. :o)

anyways, on July 14 you posted about Mini Vanilla Bean Cranberry English scones, but didn't have time to post the recipe. Could you PLEASE post it? Those look AMAZING, and I'm dying to make them!!! :o) Anyways, if you could post the recipe, that would be GREAT. Thanks!!! :o)

Ingrid_3Bs said...

Is the mini cake pan a 4" or 6"? Do you think one 6" or 7" would work? I do have two 4" springform you think they would leak?
Thanks! I have that same cookbook and as with anything "new" have been afraid to venture a try with any of the recipes.

Ingrid :-)

Cakebrain said...

Isn't the castle cake a show-stopper? I cannot possibly refuse such a nice person as you so I'll get on it and post that Scone recipe for you tonight! thanks for visiting! and I look forward to seeing you post your results!

The cake pans I used weren't springform (though I do have those too). The ones I used were actually nonstick 4" pans that I suspect could easily be used as pot pie tins too. They were slighly sloped on the sides but I didn't care. They were the right size. I imagine the springform pans would work. I've made cakes in springform pans; however you have to make sure you set them on a lined baking sheet or you may have a mess. I haven't had too many leaks using springform for cakes, but I suppose you also have to check the tightness of the fit, don't you?
I think a 6" or a 7" would work too. You may just have one cake instead of two. Just adjust the baking time accordingly.

Recetas al instante said...

what a delicious cake I love chocolate cake.

Kajal@aapplemint said...

Mini cakes are the smartest things to do, sometimes a make a few extra and chuck them in the freezer for emergencies. You cake looks very moist, and surly very pretty, the perfect combination to make them irresistible.

Ingrid_3Bs said...

Thanks for the info. I asked about the leakage because like a dummy I put Flan batter (very thin)in a springform pan and had a mess.

Anonymous said...

What an adorable cake - love those tiny sprinkles :)

cakewardrobe said...

Do I still count as a kid then? I usually go for the more colorful things! If I see sprinkles, that's it for me! I noticed that after I drank Jamba Juice for 2 weeks straight, that my stomach was literally growing before my eyes. This cake is perfect for my semi-diet! Wait, I don't do diets!

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

Hi but the cake came out nicely, isnt it ! looks very good to me .

Snooky doodle said...

I always make smaller cakes otherwise there are alot of leftovers. This cakes looks good. :-)

betty geek said...

Way too cute! Love it. :D

Erin said...

I used 2 1-cup widemouth canning jars. The bake time was a little longer because they're glass, but the cakes turned out beautifully. I let them cool on a wire rack for about 45 min, and they popped right out.

Thanks for posting the recipe - I lent out my book, and I want to try using the cake for whoopie pies!

Erin said...

...and omg, they turned out so well! I scooped out about 1 1/2 Tbl onto parchment and they baked for ~10 minutes.

Still looking for a good white filling recipe, if you know any.

Lea Cheverie said...

Hi Cakebrain! From one Vancouver gal to another let me tell you I LOVE your blog. I made your cake recipe, substituted coffee creamer for buttermilk and grapeseed oil for butter since i had none and VOILA and I know it sounds odd, but ya gotta work with whatcha got, especially when you're already in you're pj's and dont feel like going to safeway.......anyways, the most surprisingly delishhhh cake came out. And to top it off i LOVED the music that was on your playlist, it inspired me to download some more ella fitzgerald.
Lea from Vancouver

Cakebrain said...

Hey! thanks for your kind words! I love it when fellow Vancouverites read my blog. They can relate! I am so happy you loved your adaptations for the recipe. It's what it's all about, isn't it?

azngrrl56 said...

I'm about to make this cake, but question: do you think milk could be a substitute for the buttermilk?? I don't quite have milk on hand right now, so do you know any good buttermilk substitutes?

Cakebrain said...

sorry for the late reply, but I was in Disneyland the whole week!
Yes, you can substitute milk, but I would add a bit (teaspoon?) of lemon juice or vinegar to the milk and let it sit a bit to sour beforehand.

sheila @ Elements said...

Awesome recipe! I've made a mini cake once with this recipe and then the other day I made some chocolate cranberry mini cupcakes. They turned out great! Thanks!! :)

Cakebrain said...

so glad the recipe worked for you too! happy baking!

Anonymous said...

This was great I made this the other using these mini pans i have. I found the pan at dollar store its labeled mini bundt but it look like a bundt pan. But this is not the point. these were the perfect little dessert not much but chocolate

Unknown said...

I am making this for a friend and he likes chocolate frosting, what would you suggest? can I just add cocoa to the buttercream frosting ?

Cakebrain said...

I would probably use melted dark chocolate so it won't be so grainy.

Erin said...

Made these today - one batch exactly make 12 mini cupcakes! Bake for 18 mins.

Ang said...

Just found your blog yesterday. Made this cake today and it was wonderful! I used coffee creamer in place of buttermilk and baked it in one 4 inch Fat Daddio cake pan. I've been in search of a small batch baking book, so I'll have to get the one you have. Do you know if it has a recipe for a white or yellow cake? :)

Cakebrain said...

Yes, there are varous white/yellow cakes and my favourite is the coconut cake!

Anonymous said...

What does the t stand for and which size of flower do we use for the cake cuz you gave us 1/4and then 2?

Cakebrain said...

There are NO FLOWERS in this recipe. Please read carefully. However, you can decorate the finished cake with any flower size you wish!


1/4 cup plus 2T all purpose flour = measure 1/4 cup ALL PURPOSE FLOUR AND THEN ADD TO THAT MEASUREMENT ANOTHER TWO TABLESPOONS of all purpose FLOUR.

Anonymous said...

These were so good, I was so surprised. Absolutely perfect when you just want a little cake for yourself. I made them into 3 medium cupcakes.

Lib M. said...

I just made the small batch chocolate chip cookies (and ordered the book), and I will probably try this next! I have a few small pyrex and stoneware pans that I use for making 1/2 of a recipe for an 8x8 pan of brownies or blondies. I bet it would be perfect for a tiny sheet cake! Thanks for the fun tiny baking recipes!

Cakebrain said...

Lib M,
I love both my books but haven't baked in so long. Will be baking again once school's out!
Many readers have said how much they like the small batch cookies and this cake. I have made them gluten free no problem and now I'm working on making them paleo!
I think it's a good thing to experiment and make do with your own pans. Have fun!

Shikha said...

Thank you for coming up in the results for a google search of "mini chocolate cake" I just made this cake today, and it's perfect. I modified slightly and added orange juice & orange zest, to add a little something extra. Hit the spot. Perfect for a celebration for two!

Unknown said...

I made this the other night and turned out delicious. I'm making it again with out the coco powder and a little xtra vanilla extract.


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