This little cake is the cutest and most perfect Valentine’s treat for you and your special someone. It would also be the perfect birthday cake for a small party or as part of a dessert buffet.
Cupcakes are delicious and easy and not as much trouble as a layer cake. And you can probably get wonderful cupcakes at a number of bakeries near you since they are still pretty popular and trendy. I have some favorites here in Houston that I visit whenever I’m in the neighborhood, Celebrity being my cupcake bakery of choice. Try the s’mores on Wednesday or Sunday. It’ll change your life. Buying a cupcake for yourself is much more acceptable than buying an entire cake for yourself.
But when you’re wanting something a little extra special a layer cake fits the bill much better than even the most fancy cupcake. Making an 8 or 9-inch cake is probably not something you want to do when you’re making dessert for two because then you’re stuck eating what’s left for a week or, God forbid, throwing it away. Tragedy! This darling 4-inch cake is the perfect size for two, and could really feed 4 or even 6 light eaters.
The cake recipe is from Baked Explorations and is a simple one that comes together easily and bakes up nicely. I was able to get 2 4-inch cakes and a dozen cupcakes out of the batter. I did have an issue with the cupcakes baking and spreading out instead of up, and sticking a little to the pan. So be careful when filling, 2/3 is just fine, and if they do spread onto the pan just use some care when removing them, otherwise the tops will separate from the bottoms. The final cake is a nice balance of substantial yet moist, has a nice chocolate flavor and isn’t too sweet. The coffee in the batter isn’t detectable, it just enhances the chocolate flavor. I used 2 4-inch springform pans that I bought at Hobby Lobby when I made a smash cake for Betsy back in September. At the time I wasn’t sure how much use I’d get out of them or how they’d hold up, but now I’m sure they were a good purchase.
The frosting is from Tasty Kitchen, Pioneer Woman’s recipe sharing site. Can you tell I’m kind of obsessed with her? I can honestly say I haven’t made anything she’s endorsed that I haven’t loved and wanted to make again and tell everyone about. This frosting is a little weird, cooking together flour and milk as the base, but if Ree says it’s good I go for it. And it is very good. It takes some patience (and a stand mixer) but is really nice and smooth, velvety even. It’s lovely, buttery, and not so sugary sweet. The amount the recipe made iced the cake and a dozen cupcakes just about perfectly. I also love the contrast of deep dark chocolate cake to pure white frosting. Opt for a chocolate frosting if you just can’t imagine chocolate cake with anything but chocolate frosting.
I cut my two 4-inch cakes in half to create a four layer cake. I filled the first and third layer with a little raspberry preserves, but you can leave it out completely, or use cherry or strawberry. In order to fill the layer without it oozing out the sides, create a dam of icing around the perimeter of the cake layer and fill the inside with the preserves. The best tool for this is a pastry bag with a large round tip, but a plastic bag with a small corner cut off would work as well.
For the toppers I found some sticky felt hearts at a craft store and simply stuck two together with a toothpick between them. You could also cut hearts from craft paper and decorate them, or make glittered hearts for a fancy sparkling topper. You could leave the cake plain, white, simple and clean. Or top with a few raspberries, cherries or strawberries.
I added a little bowl of Valentine’s colored M&Ms to the table to photograph this cake to add some color. That is what initially drew this little taste tester to the table. But he ended up really enjoying the cake. I couldn’t help but put this picture in since his stripes just so happen to coordinate with the cake. I have a blog for the kids, so I told myself I’d make this just a food blog, but so far they’ve managed to sneak their way into 3 posts. So I’ve changed my tune and you’ll likely see more of the tiny taste testers in the future. Enjoy!
Mini Devil’s Food Layer Cake with White Frosting and Raspberry Filling
Makes 2 8-inch cakes or 2 4-inch cakes and 1 dozen cupcakes
Devil’s Food Cake
- 1 ounce of good chocolate (60 to 72% cacoa)
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup hot coffee
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons raspberry preserves
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Grease 2 4-inch cake pans (or 2 8-inch cake pans and line them with parchment) and then dust with cocoa powder. Line one muffin tin with cupcake liners, if using. Set aside.
- Break up chocolate and place it and the cocoa powder in a heat proof bowl. Pour hot coffee over and whisk to melt chocolate until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the milk and set aside.
- In a small bowl whisk flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer combine butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time and beat until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add in vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds.
- With the mixer on low, add the flour and chocolate mixture, alternating between the two, starting and ending with flour in a total of 5 additions (flour, chocolate, flour, chocolate, flour). Beating just to combine between additions. Fold together with a spatula to make sure it’s evenly mixed.
- Divide the batter between the pans, filling 4-inch pans about 2/3 full, cupcakes 2/3 full and simply divide the batter equally for 8-inch pans.
- Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, 4-inch cakes for 25-30 minutes, and 8-inch cakes for 35-40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean when they’re done.
- Let cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove and let cool completely on wire racks.
For the Frosting
- Combine flour and milk in a small saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture becomes thick, like brownie batter. This happens quickly once it starts to thicken and if you don’t whisk it, then it will be lumpy with bits of cooked flour and you’ll have to start over.
- Remove from the heat, continuing to stir/whisk for a minute. Stir in the vanilla, then let it cool completely to room temperature. If it is still warm when you continue with the recipe it won’t come out right. (At least that’s what the original directions say, I haven’t tested it and probably won’t with such a warning!)
- In a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar and cream until light and fluffy and the graininess of the sugar has decreased or is completely gone. Mine never got totally non-grainy, but beat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the completely cooled flour mixture to the butter and sugar and beat on medium-high until it is light and fluffy. If it looks separated, continue to beat it until it resembles whipped cream. This took around 8 minutes.
Assemble the cake
- Slice both cake layers in half, getting them as even and as straight as possible. A serrated knife is good for this.
- Plop a little frosting in the center of the cake plate and lay the first layer down. This keeps it from moving around while frosting. Tear a few strips of wax or parchment paper and slide them just barely underneath the cake. This keeps the cake plate clean while you frost. Just slide them out after you finish.
- Prepare a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with about 1/2 cup of frosting. Spread a little layer of frosting on the cake layer, then pipe a circle around the edge of the layer. Spread a thin layer, about 1 tablespoon, of raspberry preserves inside of the circle, then top with the next layer and press down slightly.
- Spread a nice layer of frosting on the layer, then top with the next layer.
- Repeat the raspberry filling layer, then finish with the last layer.
- Frost the cake with a thin coat of frosting, being careful not to contaminate the bog bowl of frosting with any chocolate bits. Set in the fridge for an hour. This is a crumb coat. Frost with another coat, thicker this time, this is the final coat. Decorate as desired.