Polka Dot Holiday Chocolate Log Cake
Our Christmas food tradition counts on chocolate cake more than anything else, in part because December 25th was my chocolate-loving grandma’s birthday, and cake had to be on the table. (You shouldn’t miss the recipe for my mom’s chocolate cake, one of the first recipes I posted here.)
But just because you love one chocolate cake doesn’t mean you can’t love another. Especially another classic, like this one. Yet until this year, this cake, though classic, wasn’t mine yet.
It’s Hershey’s. And it’s the one on the back of the cocoa powder can.
In 1894, Hershey began selling powdered cocoa, which is the extract of roasted cocoa beans that remains after cocoa butter has been removed and the resulting chocolate liquor has evaporated, leaving powder. Because rich cocoa butter isn’t here, powdered cocoa, aka cocoa powder, is low in fat. It’s also free of sugar. And, since there’s no expensive dairy and sweetener, cocoa powder is an affordable essential in chocolate-ing out our baked goods.
In the 1980s, the cake first appeared on the back of the can. I’d heard a lot about this back-of-the-box cake – also known as the Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake – and I’d even gotten to try a gluten-free version on my visit to Hershey this summer. Why so iconic? Well, “it was part of a 1982 national ad campaign called ‘Hershey’s Easy Does It,'” explains Linda Stahl of HERSHEY’S Kitchens, “and has since been used in many additional cookbooks and food releases. The recipe is currently on the cocoa can and has been for as long as I can remember.” It’s also known as Deep Dark Chocolate Cake, according to Stahl.
In other words, there’s a long tradition already, and for today’s version, I incorporated even more traditions–my own. Now we’ve got a cake here that’s old yet new.
Here’s what I did: halved the cake amount but kept the frosting recipe whole. Then, instead of baking round cakes, I used square pans to create four rectangular layers, which, piled one on top of another with all that icing, shaped the cake into a log like my family’s favorite cake at Thanksgiving, a frozen chocolate and coffee mousse. I decorated the entire exterior, top and sides, with upside-down chocolate chips, one of my mom’s tried-and-true simple techniques, mixing in a few white chocolate rounds for polka-dotted punctuation.
There’s a lot more to Hershey’s history than cocoa powder and cake, so if you’d like to see more about Hershey’s history, and how the company has brought chocolate-making and ingredient-sourcing into the transparent twentieth century, you can check out this video.
This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!
For the cake
Butter, for the pans
1 cup sugar
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons HERSHEY’S Cocoa
2 teaspoons instant espresso
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
For the frosting
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups HERSHEY’S Cocoa
2 teaspoons instant espresso
3 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
About 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
About 1 cup chocolate chips
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and crank up the heat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch square baking pans. Line with parchment and butter them again.
With a wooden spoon, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Add the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla, and, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the ingredients on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the boiling water. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cakes for 20 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cakes are pulling away from the sides of the pans. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and let them cool completely.
Make the frosting: In a bowl, stir together the butter, cocoa, and espresso powder. While beating with an electric mixer, alternate adding the confectioners sugar and the milk, beating well after each addition. Continue to add the ingredients alternately and beat until you achieve a thick but spreadable consistency.
When cool, cut each cake in half so you have four total rectangles. Place a cake layer on a long, thin serving platter and spread a layer of frosting over the top. Place the second layer on top of the first and finish by frosting the sides and the top of the cake. Decorate top and sides with upside-down dark and white chocolate chips. You can include other candy or chocolate pieces of various sizes if you like!