Chocolate Briefcase Cake Recipe
Sinkology is proud to present Emily Schuermann, our food-loving guest blogger who runs Food for a Year. Emily is here to share some recipes she has created exclusively for the Sinkology blog that reflect her view of a copper sink: simple, timeless, affordable and beautifully rustic.
Chocolate cake, it’s always a crowd pleaser — right? Whether it comes in layers, a cup, a bowl or a sheet pan – I haven’t met a chocolate cake I didn’t love. ((Well, except when “they” sneak in cinnamon — that’s not my fave)). But of all the chocolate cakes in the world, my very most favorite is the “Lunch Lady Cake”.
The Lunch Lady Cake is a very moist, fudge-like cake that’s mixed together in a single pot on the stove-top. It is always baked in a rimmed sheet pan and you would most likely recognize it from those school cafeteria days of old. ((If you were lucky enough to have lunch ladies that actually cooked and baked at your school.))
There are many recipe variations of this much loved Lunch Lady cake floating around, but let me tell you why my version is supreme. First of all, there is no cinnamon to be found. I don’t know about you, but I find the addition of cinnamon to a chocolate cake is surprising. And by “surprising”, I am not referring to the surprise twenty dollar bill you found in last year’s coat pocket. It’s more like the “surprise” birthday party when you are caught in only a swim suit because you fell for the “play date/afternoon of swimming” invitation – while all of your friends and family look like they are headed to church. Eek. Moving on.
The addition of sour cream and salt are key. Sour cream adds to the moist, dense nature of the cake. I have accidentally left it out a few times and the subsequent dry, rubbery texture is a real disappointment. I always use salted butter in my baking, mainly because I always have it on hand. But the addition of a bit of kosher salt really helps to fully develop that deep, fudgy chocolate flavor.
This cake is just so easy – both to make and to clean up. It is mixed and in the oven in under 15 minutes, it only uses one pot AND the icing can be made while the cake is baking. How is that for EASY?! Those may seem like small perks, but as a food blogger and mom of 4, I usually find myself with a ((gorgeous copper farmhouse)) sink FULL of dirty dishes at the end of the day.
This Briefcase cake is a spin-off from the Lunch Lady cake, thanks to one key substitution for the water :: Briefcase Brown Ale made by COOP Ale Works. This Briefcase Brown is described as a “rich, malty ale with notes of chocolate, caramel and light roast”. As I read that summary, I knew I had to try it in my favorite chocolate cake recipe.
Let me tell you – this ale addition resulted in a killer chocolate cake. Moist with a deep fudgy-cholocate flavor with attitude. If you have ever tasted a warm slice of cheesy beer bread, then you know exactly how beer can make baked things taste beautiful. The sweet ale flavor is immediately noticeable – in a really good “chocolate cake meets Briefcase Brown, love-at-first-sight” sort of way.
The cake starts out by bringing the ale, butter and a pinch of salt to a boil and then adding the sugar – stirring until it’s dissolved. Next in quick succession, add the vanilla & sour cream as well as the beaten eggs & flour mixture. Now is the time to share the first of my 2 baking tips for making an easy AND perfect cake:
Use the butter wrappers to grease your cake pan, making sure to cover all of the sides, corners and bottom before lining with parchment. This will give you just the right amount of non-stick coating and is a great way to make use of something that was headed to the trash.
While the cake is baking, use the same pot that was used for the cake to make the frosting. I know this doesn’t make the prettiest photo – but this “real life” picture shows just how easy this recipe is.
Now for my second tip: once the cake has come out of the oven and the stovetop fudge buttercream is finished, pour the frosting through a small mesh strainer as you pour it over the cake.
This will catch any of those bits of cocoa powder and powdered sugar that didn’t dissolve into the frosting and result in a gorgeous, smooth, chocolate frosting.
Isn’t it beautiful? That warm stovetop frosting shines like a mirror.
A dollop of chocolate chip whipped cream, a glass of cold milk and a quiet moment is the perfect accessory to this perfect lunch lady cake with a twist.
- 1½ c Briefcase Brown Ale ((or a similar beer))
- 1½ c butter ((3 sticks))
- a pinch of kosher salt
- ½ c cocoa powder
- 3 c sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- ¾ c sour cream
- 2 t vanilla extract
- 3 c flour
- 1½ t kosher salt
- 1½ t baking soda
- ¾ c butter
- ½ c milk
- 6 c confectioners sugar
- ½ c cocoa powder
- 1½ t vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375°. In a large saucepan, bring butter, beer, a pinch of salt & cocoa powder to a boil. Combine flour, salt & baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Remove the butter & beer from the heat, add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Next, stir in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Last, the flour mixture and beaten eggs in thirds, stirring quickly so the egg doesn't scramble. Repeat this process until all of the flour and beaten eggs have been incorporated in the warm liquid and the batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into a greased, parchment-lined 17"x12" x2" cake pan or half sheet baking pan . Place in a preheated oven for 24-26 minutes until golden brown and the toothpick tests clean.
- Meanwhile, begin making the icing by combining the butter, milk, cocoa powder and a pinch of kosher salt in the same saucepan ((used to make the cake)) & bring to a boil. Remove from heat & stir in confectioners sugar and vanilla, continuing to stir until smooth.
- After the cake has cooled for 3-5 minutes, pour the warm icing through a mesh sifter, over the cake. ((The sifter will catch any clumps that may be in the icing)).
- If the icing has become too thick to pour, return it to the heat, stirring continuously for 30 seconds.
- Allow the icing to harden slightly before serving.
- Serves 24
- For the whipped cream, simply place 1 c of cold heavy whipping cream, 2 T confectioners sugar and 2 T chocolate shavings into a medium mixing bowl. Either using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip the cream on high for approximately 1 minute, or until soft peaks form.
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