In recent times I have discovered two things that I truly enjoy; Chocolate and The Peanuts Gang. Hence the chocolate cake and the Charles Schulz quote this week. I have been experimenting with new and 'fresh' ingredients for the blog and an effect has been zero classic desserts. Before my blogging days, I usually made Jake and I a classic chocolate layered cake with chocolate buttercream. Simple and decadent. My desserts nowadays have become quite elaborate and to be honest, I wanted a simple dessert this week.
However, even a chocolate layered cake was too elaborate. I did not want to grease and line two round cake pans, level the tops off, fill the middle, and then frost the whole thing. The process included about five steps that I was not willing to do. Then it came to me; a sheet cake.
All you had to do was grease a sheet pan, dump the cake batter into it, bake, cool, and frost. You don't have to remove the cake from the pan to frost it. Even better, you can cut the cake slices while the cake is in the pan and serve straight from that. This truly is cake made easier.
The truth is, everyone wants cake but they don't want to spend the time actually making one. you need quite a bit of equipment and it takes a long time to do it right. Enter in, the sheet cake. This week I created a simple chocolate sheet cake that is decadent, moist, and oh-so chocolatey. It uses all of the common baking ingredients that one most likely already has in their pantry. Flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda + powder, salt, milk, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla. The only ingredient that some people might not have is espresso powder but it is very inexpensive and you can find it at any grocery store.
I always add espresso powder into my chocolate cake batters and that is because the espresso compliments the chocolate perfectly. You won't be able to taste the espresso because it is overpowered by the cocoa powder, but it really does add depth of flavor. I don't recommend substituting it or opting to use it completely, trust me on this one!
I chose to use organic coconut oil in this recipe because recently I bought a bottle of 'vegetable' oil and didn't notice until much later that it was 100% soybean oil. I don't know much about soy but I have heard health professionals say that soy can be harmful to your body, particularly women, so I try to never use it. It's hard to avoid because A TON of products contain soy lecithin as a emulsifier as well as various other form of soy. I didn't want to use it so I opted for organic coconut oil and it works beautifully and keeps the cake extremely moist!
I also recommend using Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder. Dutch cocoa powder is basically cocoa powder that has been neutralized, making the acidity level 7 (natural cocoa powder has a pH level around 5 or 6). Natural cocoa powders have almost a citrusy taste which isn't bad but I like that the Dutch cocoa gives you more of an intense 'dark' chocolate flavor. Dutch cocoa also reacts differently than natural cocoa since it's pH level is higher. For this reason, you shouldn't substitute it for natural cocoa or else your cake might not rise properly. It's about the same price as natural and you can get it at any grocery store. Costco also sells a huge bag of it for less than $7!
Now on to the Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream. SMBC is my absolute favorite kind of frosting. I used to only make American Buttercreams (butter + powdered sugar + milk) but I found that it's sweetness was too overpowering. I still love it and use it on cakes here and there but ever since I made my first batch of Swiss Buttercream I have been hooked on it. Despite what you may have heard, it is extremely easy to make. It requires a small amount of ingredients; egg whites, sugar, butter, salt, and in this recipe, espresso powder.
You simply cook the egg whites and sugar over a double-boiler, transfer to a stand mixer and whip into a meringue, add the butter, and voila, Swiss Buttercream! It's very easy and the sweetness is much more mellow than American Buttercream. If you have never made it before you simply must! It truly is the best frosting in my opinion.
Side note: If you don't want to make an espresso buttercream, you can omit the espresso an either add vanilla to make it a vanilla Swiss buttercream or add 1/4 cup cocoa powder and make it chocolate Swiss buttercream.
I love this cake because it is so easy to make + decorate + serve. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Thanks everyone for visiting A Common Kitchen this week!
Chocolate Sheet Cake with Espresso Buttercream
Serves 12-15, depending on how big you cut the slices
For the Cake:
1 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
3 Large Eggs
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Boiling Water
2 1⁄4 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 1⁄4 Cups White Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Espresso Powder
For the Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 Ounces Egg Whites, from 3-4 large eggs (*See Note)
1 Cup White Granulated Sugar
24 Tablespoons ( 1 1/2 Cups) Butter, room temperature
Pinch of Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoons warm water
1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Espresso Powder
Make the Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° f and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. I use baking spray and then dust with flour to ensure the cake will release.
2. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add in the milk, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on medium-low speed until combined. The coconut oil may harden slightly but it will melt once the boiling water is added.
3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and place a fine mesh sieve over the top. Sift in the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt. Return the bowl to the mixer and mix on low speed until combined, 20-30 seconds.
4. With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly drizzle in the boiling water. Once all of the water is added, increase the speed to medium and mix until combined, 30 seconds. This batter will look very runny but don't worry, it's supposed to!
5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and immediately place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and place the cake (still in the pan) onto a cooling rack and let cool completely while you make the frosting.
Make the Espresso Buttercream:
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the hot water and espresso powder. Let cool completely.
2. Create a double boiler by filling a medium sized saucepan with 2 inches of water. Next, place slightly larger heat proof bowl over the top of the saucepan. You don't want the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or else it will burn your egg mixture.
3. Add the eggs whites and sugar to the heat proof bowl and stir until combined. Bring the water to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring the eggs constantly, until the reach a temperature of 160°f, this will take 8-10 minutes. Once the eggs reach 160°f, transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
4. Whip the egg and sugar mixture on high speed for 8-10 minutes or until the meringue forms stiff peaks and is completely cooled to the touch. The bowl of the stand mixer should no longer be warm at all. If it is still warm after 8-10 minutes, keep whisking on high until it's not.
5. Switch to the paddle attachment and with the mixer on low speed, start adding the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Increase the speed to medium high in between each addition of butter and mix for 10 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and add the next addition of butter. Once all of the butter is added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.
6. Stop the mixer and add in the espresso and salt. Mix on medium speed until fully combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn the speed to medium-high and mix for 20 more seconds.
Decorate the Cake:
With the cake still in the pan, spoon out all of the espresso buttercream on top of it. Using a small offset spatula (or a large spoon), start spreading the frosting evenly over the cake. You can create whatever designs you would like in the frosting but I just keep swirling it in half-circle shapes to get a 'rustic' look.
I usually don't top this cake with anything but you could definitely top it with rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips, chocolate covered espresso beans, dust it with cocoa powder, or anything else you would like!
*Note: I HIGHLY suggest buying a kitchen scale to weigh out your egg whites. Each egg is different in volume so you can't get an accurate measurement for eggs unless you use a scale. I purchased this one from Amazon and it's less than $10 and works great. If you can't get a kitchen scale, it's very close to 1/2 cup of egg whites.
*Disclosure: This post does contain Amazon Affiliate Links. If you click the link and purchase an item I will get a small commission.