Tag Archives: chocolate cake

Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever with Speculoos Frosting

Do you feel absolutely compelled to make a baked good for every special occasion? Every birthday and baby shower and going away party? Does the feeling nag at you while you’re supposed to be working or studying, or paying attention to traffic? But where to find the time to shop for groceries, and let various crusts chill and custards set and chocolate melt? I suffer from this.

Every home baker/foodie/chef/food enthusiast needs an easy chocolate cake recipe, because you never know when you are going to check Facebook and see that you have three friends with birthdays next week.  While I’m a fan of cake mixes, those ubiquitous red cardboard boxes are a rare sighting here in Morocco, found only on the shelves of pricey foreign supermarkets, right between the soy sauce and almond milk. And besides, using a mix can sometimes feel like a failure, admit it. You want to present the birthday boy/girl, graduate, mom-to-be with a tray of cookies, or a lovely cake and say, I made it. From scratch.


This is the easiest chocolate cake ever, and I can assure you that you will have all the ingredients in your pantry. The glaze calls for speculoos spread, but you could easily sub in peanut butter or another nut butter for equally spectacular results. This cake is moist and chocolatey without being dense, and strangely addictive- it’s easy to eat two pieces (or three or four).

The glaze is rich, sweet, and spicy so use the whole batch if you want to go really decadent (as I did) or just drizzle on half if you want to exercise some restraint.

So breathe deeply and take on that string of social occasions confidently.


Adapted from southernfood.com


  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee powder (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Make 3 wells in the dry ingredients. Pour vanilla into one well, vinegar into another, and oil into the last.
  3. Pour cold water over everything and mix until there are no more dry streaks. Stir in espresso powder if using.
  4. Pour into an 8X8 square cake pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until center is set and tester comes out with just one or two crumbs (baking time may vary).
  5. Allow to cool on a rack.

Speculoos Glaze

courtesy of The First Mess


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup speculoos spread (or “cookie butter if your shopping at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup*
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 3-5 tablespoons milk (milk substitute will be fine)
  1. Mix sugar and speculoos spread until a thick paste forms.
  2. Mix in maple syrup and vanilla.
  3. Whisk in 3 tablespoons milk with a fork. If too thick, add another tablespoon. Glaze should be thick but pourable.
  4. If you want a thick layer of sweet glaze, pour onto the cooled cake and spread quickly with a spatula. Or drizzle half of the glaze onto the cake. And eat the rest with a spoon.

* I didn’t have maple syrup, but used maple extract with great success. I had to add more milk to make up for less moisture though.





Chocolate Layer Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting and Toasted Pecans

I think there is something distinctly special about a layer cake. Layer cakes can’t be whipped together in an hour, or mixed in one bowl, or toted easily to the park for an impromptu picnic. They take time and a little planning, and they are usually made for a special event- weddings, birthdays, anniversaries. Layer cakes are not cut into pieces and laid on a plate. They arrive, with precarious height, do-not-touch peaks of icing, and in this case, rivulets of salted caramel.

Two layers of moist chocolate cake made with coffee and buttermilk are encased in a salted caramel frosting  and filled with chopped toasted pecans and caramel. And of course, drizzled with more caramel and decorated with toasted pecan halves. I have to give due credit to my coworker and friend Beatrice for inspiring this one: she suggested I make a turtle cake. It’s got the slight crunch and caramel-y decadence of the candy with the lavish proportions of a cake meant for celebration.

Chocolate Cake

(courtesy of Ina Garten)


  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter (or use cooking spray) to grease two 8-inch round pans*. Line with parchment paper (to do this, fold sheet of parchment in half, and then in half again. Using the bottom of the pan as a guide, trace and cut the square into a quarter-circle- when you unfold, you should have a circle the size of the pan). Grease the parchment and sides of pan again.
  2. Beat together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt with an electric mixer at low speed. Whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Slowly beat the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, and then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, and then- very carefully- invert the cakes onto a rack to cool and peel off the parchment (if you want to be extra careful, run a knife around the edge of the pans before inverting). Keep oven on if you plan on toasting the pecans.
* you may choose to use one or both of the layers; I used one.
Salted Caramel Frosting + Pecan topping
(frosting courtesy of bakedbree.com)
  • 2 sticks room temperature butter
  • 1 brick (8 oz) room temperature cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup salted caramel + 3 tablespoons (I bought a jar at Trader Joe’s- you could also make your own)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves 
  1. Turn oven down to 250 degrees. Spread pecans evenly over a baking sheet lined with foil. When oven is heated, toast pecans for 5-8 minutes, turning once or twice during baking. Be careful- these will burn easily. When pecans are finished, remove from the oven, allow to cool, and set aside 8 pecan halves. Chop the remainder into fine pieces.
  2. In the meanwhile, cream together butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.
  3. Pour in the salted caramel and beat until combined.
  4. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Add milk as needed, as I found the frosting to be very stiff. Beat for a few minutes- the more air, the better!
  1. Set aside one cake layer to freeze or use later (or alternatively you could use both cake layers to make an extra tall cake- I prefer mine on the more petite side- in any case, you will have enough frosting for both layers).
  2. Place the other layer on a cake round or plate, so that the flat bottom of the cake is facing up. Using a serrated knife, slice the layer in half (insert the knife in about 1 inch; using your hand to turn the cake, saw around the edge of the cake several times, inserting knife in further an inch at a time). Remove the top layer carefully and set aside.
  3. Using a small offset spatula, or small rubber spatula, dollop a generous amount of frosting on the top and spread the frosting outward in small circular motions. Continue adding more frosting until layer is covered. Using a spoon, drizzle 2 tablespoons of salted caramel (or more if you wish!) evenly over the frosting. Sprinkle chopped pecans evenly over the top. Place second layer over the top.
  4. Now for the “crumb coating”. Use a small spatula to spread frosting in a very thin layer over entire cake. This layer should catch any crumbs that would mar the final coating of frosting. Wait 20 minutes to 1 hour before spreading on the remainder of the frosting over the sides and top of the cake (if you only used 1 layer like I did, you should have plenty of leftover frosting. Sandwich cookies anyone?)
  5. Place 8 toasted pecans halves evenly around the perimeter of the cake. Using a fork and a little bit of caramel at a time, very carefully and slowly drizzle caramel across the top of the cake.