“The first time I made a chocolate cake on a weeknight, it was a disaster,” writes Michelle Lopez, the voice behind the Instagram account and baking blog Hummingbird High. She wanted to bake for a co-workers baby shower the next day but, hours after beginning the project, “I found myself in the kitchen, covered in flour and cocoa powder and staring at two sunken layer cakes.”
It was moments like these that inspired Lopez’s newest project, her cookbook Weeknight Baking: Recipes to Fit Your Schedule. The book is full of do-able baking projects, including a solution to her original conundrum: a chocolate cake that’s fit for a special celebration but also totally do-able for a Wednesday night.
To make this cake work for your weeknight, Lopez recommends dividing the work over two days: first, make the cake and store it on the counter overnight. On the second day, make the frosting, decorate, and serve the cake.
Note that this recipe can be made as a sheet cake, layer cake, and/or cupcakes. The bake time will vary depending on which format you choose.
Hummingbird High’s Weekday Chocolate Cake
makes one 9 x 13-inch cake
prep time: 10 minutes
work time: 10 minutes
bake time: 35 minutes
For the Cake:
- 2 cups (8 ounces) cake flour
- 2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3⁄4 cup (2.25 ounces) natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
- 1⁄2 cup (4 ounces) canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (8 ounces) boiling hot coffee
For the Frosting:
- 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature 31⁄2 cups (14 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1⁄2 cup (1.5 ounces) natural unsweetened or Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
- 1⁄4 cup (2 ounces) whole milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. First, make the cake: position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare your cake pan of choice: If making a sheet cake or layer cake, generously spray the sheet pan or cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper (cut to fit, if using round pans). Spray the parchment, too. If making cupcakes, line two muffin tins with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined. Slowly pour in the coffee. The batter will be fairly runny; use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Use the rubber spatula to finish mixing until smooth and well combined, 2 to 3 minutes more.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). If making a sheet cake, bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If making a layer cake, note that this recipe makes around 44 ounces of batter; pour 22 ounces into each cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If making cupcakes, pour the batter into a large liquid measuring cup and use it to fill each paper liner two-thirds of the way; bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When done, the top of the cake should bounce back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan(s) on a wire rack before frosting.
5. Next, make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low until soft and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, then beat on medium-high until the frosting is creamy and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Use immediately or follow the storage instructions on page 97. The frosting will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 1 year.