Aug 23, 2010

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

Two layers of rich, moist chocolate cake surrounded by smooth, decadent chocolate-sour cream frosting is garnished with chocolate shavings and walnut pieces.

I'll start off by saying that I can't take credit for this chocolaty masterpiece. My mom made this for my birthday, which was last Friday (Aug. 20). For some time now, it has been a running joke in my family that I was always worried my birthday would be forgotten. Several circumstances gave rise to this.

The particular day I was born occurs during one of the biggest transitional periods of the year, especially for kids. School begins and my birthday always occurred right at the start or right before, and no teacher was ever prepared for it. While all the other kids in the class got birthday treats from the teacher and some special attention on their day, I never did. This may sound totally narcissistic, but to a seven-year-old, watching every other kid get acknowledged year after year and never getting your turn, is, well..."not fair."

My family also consistently reminds me of action I took in high school to correct another birthday injustice, which looking back I have to laugh at too. During my high school days, the church youth group I belonged to celebrated birthdays each month by giving kids a personal-sized cake. It was just a nice thing a lady in our church did at the beginning of each month, but for several years in a row, she took the months of August and July off. Sick and tired of having my birthday ignored [
and because I wanted my cake] I wrote a letter to our youth pastor asking why August (and July birthdays) never got cakes. Well, to shorten this story, I got my cake (as did all the other August birthdays), but not before having to do a series of embarrassing things [think lame restaurant birthday antics].

In all seriousness, while I think it's important to acknowledge people on their birthdays - no matter what age - this was a point of sensitivity for me, which I can now say was a little ridiculous. I've always been a very balanced and good-natured person...just so long as you don't forget my birthday. In truth, while teachers and youth groups may not have given me many birthday wishes, I always had friends who did and parents who made sure I knew they were glad to have me around. [
After 26 years, this is still the case.]

When I announced last Friday that I would be coming to visit the following day, my mom asked if I wanted to have cake. I said, if you got the time, a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting would be great. When I showed up, this was waiting for me.

I knew she was making a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake [which I hadn't had in years], but I was not expecting something that seemed lifted right off the front cover of a premiere food magazine. I was glad I brought my new camera, and had a little photo session with the cake before digging into it.

If you haven't had a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake, the addition of sour cream to the cake makes it dense and moist, while complimenting the chocolate. Adding it to the frosting gives it a lighter feel than a typical buttercream and does wonders for the flavor as well. The cake is indeed rich, decadent, chocolaty, and satisfying.

I realized today turning 26 now puts me in a new bracket for many of those drop-down tabs you come across when filling out profiles and information on the internet. Still, this birthday was one to remember. A host of friends joined me for dinner and a movie Friday night. Saturday I traveled to Dallas with J. and S. to see the Bodies Exhibition, which was such a fascinating experience. [
I marvel at how intricately our body is crafted, but the exhibit gives new meaning to the phrase "beauty is only skin deep." No one is attractive on the inside.] The three of us then made our way to my parent's house where we enjoyed great company and this delicious cake.

Consider this cake for your next special occasion...or maybe just for that week when Friday can't come soon enough.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 3/4 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. baking
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Measure all ingredients into a large bowl and beat for 1/2 minute at low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Then beat for 3 minutes at highest speed.
  3. Pour into greased and floured cake pans: 2 9-inch pans or 3 8-inch pans.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water (or microwave or very low heat over burner) melt butter and chocolate Remove from heat and cool.
  2. Pour melted chocolate in mixing bowl and mix sour cream and vanilla. Add powdered sugar a small amount at a time mixing well each time to avoid lumps in the frosting.
Before assembling the cake, be sure to let both cake layers cool completely. [Nothing is more annoying than pulling up cake crumbs when frosting, it throws the whole look.] To assemble the cake, frost the top of one cake layer and place the second layer on top of the first. Then frost the top and edges as desired. As always, how you decorate cake is up to you. Here, my mom topped the cake with chocolate shavings and lined the bottom edge with walnut pieces. To make the chocolate shavings: Pour melted chocolate chips in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Chill in the freezer and remove chocolate slab from pan when solid. Let the slab soften a bit to room temperature, then run it across a cheese grater. [I have a feeling that using a chocolate bar is also acceptable, if you feel like cutting a few corners.] If you really want to get creative, top with both white chocolate and chocolate shavings.


  1. Happy belated birthday! I can just imagine how disappointing it must have been for you to have your birthday ignored, especially as a kid! The cake looks delicious; my sister recently requested a layer cake, so I'm considering making this one.

  2. @Adriana @ Bittersweet Baker Adriana, thanks for the birthday wishes. For the chocolate myself, this cake is about as good as it gets. Your sister should love it.