This quick and easy chocolate cake is the ultimate weeknight dessert—the batter is made and baked right in a cast iron skillet, no whipping, creaming, or beating involved. Even so, the cake itself is as fluffy and light as they come, with the bold flavor of both Dutch cocoa powder and dark chocolate. Finish it off with a creamy milk chocolate ganache (prepared in advance with the same skillet), or whip up a simple peanut butter or cream cheese frosting instead.
Why It Works
- Thanks to its low density, this cake batter requires no manual aeration.
- Acidic ingredients like coffee and brown sugar activate the baking soda, allowing the cake to rise.
- A 10-inch cast iron skillet is the perfect size to make, and bake, a fudgy cake to feed a crowd.
- Yield:Makes one 10-inch cake, or twelve 2-inch wedges
- Active time: 15 minutes
- Total time:3 hours
- For the Frosting:
- 6 ounces finely chopped milk chocolate, between 25-48% cacao; more information here (about 1 cup, heaping; 170g)
- 8 ounces heavy cream (about 1 cup; 225g)
- Salt, to taste
- For the Cake:
- 6 ounces unsalted butter (about 12 tablespoons; 170g)
- 6 ounces black coffee, or hot tea such as Assam (about 3/4 cup; 170g)
- 1 1/2 ounces Dutch cocoa, such as Cacao Barry Extra Brute (about 1/2 cup, spooned; 45g), see note
- 3 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate, roughly 72%; more information here (about 1/2 cup, heaping; 85g)
- 8 ounces light brown sugar (about 1 cup, packed; 225g)
- 1/4 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 1/2 teaspoons; 7g)
- 3/4 teaspoon (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 4 large eggs, straight from the fridge (about 7 ounces; 200g)
- 4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal (about 1 cup, spooned; 125g)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
For the Frosting: Add milk chocolate to mixing bowl. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. When bubbling hard around the edges, pour over milk chocolate in the bowl. Whisk by hand until smooth, stir in salt to taste, and set aside until no longer steaming, about 15 minutes, then cover and refrigerate until needed.
For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Combine butter and coffee or tea in the same 10-inch cast iron skillet as before (no need to wash or rinse). Warm over low heat until the butter has melted, then remove from heat. Mix in cocoa and dark chocolate, followed by brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Working gently to avoid splashes, whisk in the eggs, followed by the flour and baking soda. Continue whisking until smooth and well combined.
Place skillet in the oven and bake until the cake is firm, though your finger will still leave an impression in the puffy crust, about 30 minutes; timing will vary depending on the skillet's gauge (a toothpick inserted into the center should come away with a few crumbs still attached). Cool cake in skillet until no trace of warmth remains, about 90 minutes.
To finish: Vigorously stir the milk chocolate ganache with a flexible spatula until it begins to thicken into a yogurt-like consistency that's a little looser than a buttercream. Scrape over the cooled cake and sculpt into swoops and swirls with a small spoon or offset spatula. Enjoy immediately, or leave at room temperature until ready to serve, up to 24 hours at cool room temperature. After cutting, wrap leftover slices individually and store at cool room temperature up to 2 days more.