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Quick Cocoa Cake

There are plenty of food trends that I just can't get on board with. This is why you may never see me post a recipe for cupcakes on this site. It's not that a cupcake can't taste good. It's a matter of principle. I just don't want to perpetuate a really overdone, tired trend.

But then there are trends that are actually good. For instance, the shift towards "naked" cakes. As a kid, all I cared about was icing, so the more the merrier. But these days, it really matters to me that the cake itself tastes good. So often, icing is used to cover up the sin of a dry cake (wedding cakes, I'm looking at you). But you can't pull the buttercream over my eyes.

The naked cake presentation doesn't merely promote cakes that actually taste good. It also dials down the frosting from gut-bomb level to nice after-dinner treat level and makes for a charming and beautiful presentation. After all, you spent all that time making a lovely, delicious cake--why hide it under frosting thick as a down comforter?

This cake marries a vintage one-bowl cake recipe from JOY with a simple sour cream and whipped cream topping and fresh fruit. For the topping, you can use mascarpone or crème fraîche instead of the sour cream. The addition of gelatin merely stabilizes the whipped cream to keep it firmer longer, but if you plan on assembling this cake shortly before serving, you can leave the gelatin out.

Use any fresh, in-season fruit that pairs well with chocolate. We used red currants for their tartness and striking color, but any kind of berry will work. 

Other articles you might enjoy: Buttermilk Layer Cake With Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting and Coconut, Flourless Chocolate Decadence, Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Quick Cocoa Cake
Makes one 8-inch, two-layer cake (serves 10 to 12)

Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour two 8 × 2-inch round cake pans or line the bottoms with wax or parchment paper.

Whisk together in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment:
           1 1/2 cups cake flour or 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
           1 cup sugar
           1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
           1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
           1/2 teaspoon salt
Add and mix for 1 minute at medium speed:
           2 large eggs
           1/2 cup milk
           1 teaspoon vanilla 
Beat in:
            1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
for 1 minute at low speed. Scrape the bowl. Beat for 30 seconds at medium-high speed.
Scrape the batter into the pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes. Cool layers in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides with a knife, unmold, and cool right side up on the rack.

When the cake has cooled completely, prepare the topping. Combine in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment:
           2 cups heavy cream
           1 cup full-fat sour cream
           1/4 cup sugar
The best way to measure the sour cream is to simply measure the cream first, then add enough sour cream to the measuring cup so that the level of the liquid is 3 cups.
Pour into a small, heatproof cup or bowl:
           1 tablespoon water
Sprinkle with:
           1/2 teaspoon gelatin
Let the gelatin soften for 5 minutes. Place the cup in a pan of simmering water until the gelatin is melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Whip the heavy cream and sour cream until starting to thicken. With the mixer running, add the melted gelatin in a thin stream. Continue to beat to stiff peaks.
Spread a little less than half the whipped cream on the bottom cake layer. Top with the second cake layer, and spread the rest of the whipped cream on top. Garnish heavily with:
           Fresh berries

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           1/2 cup warm (105°F to 115°F) whole milk
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