About 10 years ago, I scoured the internet for a chocolate cake recipe for my daughter's first birthday. I had two requirements: (1) it had to be easy (read: no layering of cakes, a bundt pan would do nicely, thankyouverymuch), and (2) it had to be made from scratch. As I searched, I kept coming back to one particular recipe that used a boxed cake mix as a base, but then added a bunch of ingredients to enhance it. Naturally, this violated my second requirement, but the comments below the recipe were astounding: people raved about this cake. Folks said that it was the best cake they'd ever eaten. They said that it was impossible to just have one slice. I vaguely remember one woman insisting that she got into a fight with her mother, for trying to pass off the family heirloom chocolate cake recipe that she'd been making her whole life as edible. I was intrigued, so I bought the ingredients and made the cake.
It was, hands down, the very best chocolate cake I've ever had.
I played with the ingredients a little, and then shared my version on my site. Then, in 2008, I shared it again (also slightly tweaked some more), and both times I had commenters who would express dismay that I would start with a box cake mix instead of making it from scratch, only to turn around and try it for themselves, and express regret for ever doubting me. This, my friends, is a great cake. It became my throw-down recipe anytime I wanted to impress people with my cake-baking prowess. And I tell you this as someone who otherwise absolutely cooks from scratch any time I find myself in the kitchen.
Unfortunately, however, in recent years, both Alex and Marcus have developed a sensitivity to gluten -- Marcus markedly so. And so for the last few birthdays, I've abandoned this recipe in favour of a little bakery near our house that makes fantastic gluten-free cupcakes. They're delicious, but I've always been a little sad about this: I grew up with my mother making my sister, father and me cakes for our birthdays. The smell of a baking cake was part of our yearly celebration. It seemed wrong that Alex was growing up without that fragrance.
So when, a couple of days ago, I noticed a gluten-free box cake mix at my grocery store, I knew I had to experiment with my old recipe. The volume on the box was different from the volume the recipe required, but I decided to take it home and give it a whirl anyway. I warned Alex ahead of time: "I cannot guarantee that this is going to turn out," I said. "So if it works, great, you'll have a birthday cake, but if it doesn't, you're going to just have to let the cupcakes we had at your birthday slumber party count as your cake this year. Deal?" Luckily, I have an easy-going kid, so she agreed, and she helped me make the cake.
Lordy-Lordy people: this cake is as great as the original, straight-up. This cake is so good, I wouldn't even bother telling folks it's gluten-free (except, of course, if you have someone in your party who is off gluten, and then, by God, gleefully tell them). It's moist, and got great tooth, and ... I mean.
This cake is back on my roster, baby. And it's definitely going to be my go-to for events where I need to bring a dessert, and I've no clue if anyone in attendance is gluten-free or not. It's that good.
gluten-free chocolate chocolate-chip cake
1 15-oz package gluten-free chocolate cake mix (I used this one. I couldn't find an 18.25-oz package like my original recipe suggested, but this works just as well)
1 3.9-oz package instant chocolate pudding mix (I used this. HOWEVER: while Jell-O pudding doesn't actually say "gluten free" on the package, it doesn't list wheat as its ingredients, and many gluten-free websites share recipes using it; that said, if you suffer from celiac, you might want to be sure to get a package marked gluten-free)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like the Ghirardelli ones)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celcius). Grease and (gluten-free) flour a bundt pan.
2. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil, eggs, hot water, sour cream and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into bundt pan.
3. Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool for 20 minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely.
And then, this time, I played with the glaze. The original recipe called for "light corn syrup," and while that's certainly not "high fructose corn syrup," I wanted something a bit more wholesome (yes, yes, I know that box cake mix and Jell-O pudding isn't the most wholesome of things, but work with me, here). The substitution of honey makes it awesome -- giving it a richer flavour -- and honestly, I would use the following for the glaze instead of the original, even if you're making the gluten-full cake. It's really a lot better.
dark chocolate glaze
4 oz semi-sweet dark chocolate (again, I like Ghirardelli's, and this time, I just melted the rest of the chocolate chips left over from the cake, above)
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
In small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter, and then slowly add the chocolate pieces. Stir constantly until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in milk, syrup and vanilla. When glaze is cool, pour onto cake. Let glaze run down sides. Chill about 10 minutes to set glaze.
Enjoy, friends. Because my heavens, this cake is the business.