Saturday, April 12, 2008

Simple Chocolate Sheet Cake

Melting the chocolate and butter in the microwave is quick and neat, but it can also be done in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan containing 2 inches of simmering water. We prefer Dutch-processed cocoa for the deeper chocolate flavor it gives the cake. The baked and cooled cake can simply be served with lightly sweetened whipped cream or topped with any frosting you like.

3/4 cup cocoa powder , preferably Dutch-processed
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate , chopped
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), plus extra for baking pan
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of 9 by 13-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter.

2. Sift together cocoa, flour, and salt in medium bowl; set aside. Heat chocolate and butter in microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap 2 minutes at 50 percent power; stir until smooth. (If not fully melted, heat 1 minute longer at 50 percent power.) Whisk together eggs, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl.

3. Whisk chocolate into egg mixture until combined. Combine buttermilk and baking soda; whisk into chocolate mixture, then whisk in dry ingredients until batter is smooth and glossy. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until firm in center when lightly pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack until room temperature, at least 1 hour; serve, or ice with frosting, if desired.

To Make Ahead
After the cake(s) has cooled, it can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 1 day. Or, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, the cake(s) can be frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost at room temperature before unwrapping and frosting.

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