When I was just a few years old, my mom sent around a notebook to our extended family, asking for each family to contribute a favorite recipe, calling it “A Cookbook for Kinsey Drake.” It’s now caked with flour and is easily my favorite cookbook. The recipes vary greatly, the most detailed being my grandfather’s well diagrammed method for making a Monte Cristo sandwich.
Some of the entries reflect the area the recipes are from, like my great-grandmother’s Kumquat Marmalade, which she made in huge batches when her kumquat trees were in season down in Southern California. I’ve tasted lots of her marmalade, but only made it once at home, with the help of my mom.
(I hope my handwriting is this good when I’m 96 years old.)
The most used recipe is without a doubt the Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting. It’s originally from my grandmother, but my mom wrote it in the cookbook. In the introduction, she writes:
This cake is yummy, moist, and easy to make. You made it on your second and third birthday. The biggest and most important part of the birthday for you was making and eating
the cake. On your third birthday, you made a butterfly cake and you were so proud—you told people week before and after your birthday about it.
Fourteen years later, I still think of the birthday cake being the most important part of anyone’s birthday. I make this cake at least a half-dozen times every year and I think you should, too.
The cake has become so popular that we now refer to it as our neighborhood cake. It hit its peak when we had Italian neighbors with two sons that couldn’t eat eggs or dairy. This cake has neither, so we ate it at every local birthday party for many years. Now that they live in Austria, I wonder if they make it for themselves.
Most of the time I just frost it with the traditional chocolate buttercream, but this time I decided to get a little creative with the filling. Spread in between the layers of cake is a chocolate chip cookie dough filling. I got the idea from a long-time family friend, Barb. Barb is, and always has been, madly in love with cookie dough. Every time our families get together, we find a way to sneak in some cookie dough. According to our parents, before all of us kids came around—meaning, they had time to spend on things like cookie dough, all of her birthday parties had cookie dough themed desserts. I knew that at some point, I would have to recreate the cookie dough filled cake.
I don’t think I’m ever going back to a normal layer cake after trying this filling.
Once you get the hang of frosting cakes, the whole thing comes together pretty quickly. A few tips that make it go more smoothly are using an offset spatula dipped in hot water to frost the cake, and always lining the edges of the serving platter with strips of parchment. This way, you can pull out the parchment strips from under the edges of the cake, and the serving platter remains neat and clean on the edges.
I like to pipe a border of frosting around the top and bottom of the cake to give it a nice finish, but you can add sprinkles, candy, or write messages on the top. Don’t worry too much about what the final product looks like, I guarantee that no matter what, it will be delicious.
Chocolate Layer Cake with Cookie Dough Filling
Makes 1 9-inch layer cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white vinegar
¾ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups water
- Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans and preheat the oven to 350F. Set the oven rack to the middle position.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Using the whisk, make three wells in the mixture.
- In each one of the wells, put one of the three following ingredients: vinegar, oil, and vanilla. Whisk well to combine. This will be sticky and thick, and large amounts of the flour will not be incorporated.
- Add the water and beat vigorously to combine. At first, it will look hopeless, but keep whisking until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour half of the batter into each of the prepared cake pans. Bake side by side on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and when lightly tapped in the center with a finger, the cake will bounce back without leaving a deep indentation.
- Let pans cool on the rack for at least 3 hours before frosting. Cake will keep for 1 day covered with plastic wrap and unfrosted.
Note: This cake works well as a sheet cake, too. Grease and flour a 13′ x 9′ pan instead of the two 9 inch pans and bake for 40-50 minutes. Frost it directly in the pan or dust it with powdered sugar.
Cookie Dough Filling
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chocolate chips, chopped
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar for 1 minute.
- Add the vanilla and milk and whisk well to combine.
- Stir in the flour and salt, making sure no flour pockets remain.
- Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside until ready to frost the cake. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, let it come to room temperature before using.
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt until well combined.
- Add the butter, milk, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well combined. Scrape down the bowl, increase the speed to medium high, and whip for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy. Frosting can be made up to one day in advance and refrigerated—bring to room temperature before using to frost the cake.
Frosting the Cake
- On a cake stand, large plate, or piece of cardboard, arrange strips of parchment in a 9 inch circle. Remove one of the cakes from its pan and lay it on top of the parchment strips. This will allow the finished cake to have a clean base, free of frosting smears.
- Spread the cookie dough filling in an even layer over the top of the first cake, making sure it reaches the edges.
- Remove the second cake from the pan and place it on top of the cookie dough filling, making sure it is centered.
- Spread frosting over the top and sides of the cake, using an offset spatula dipped in hot water to keep crumbs from breaking off. If you would like, use a pastry bag to pipe a border on the top and bottom of the cake. To serve, gently remove the parchment strips, and watch it disappear!