I haven’t made this Easy Chocolate Yogurt Layer Cake in decades. But recently I offered to bake for a good friend’s birthday and she requested chocolate cake. Like many of you, in these days of quarantine cooking, I had to make do with the ingredients at hand. Thumbing through my treasured recipe notebook, I came upon this recipe. Immediately, I knew it would be perfect, and not just because I happened to have all the ingredients.
The birthday plan was one I hope we don’t have to get used to. Instead of creating one lovely, high cake with two layers, I separated them. One layer went to the friend celebrating her birthday and her husband. I split the other one between the rest of us, five in all, who joined in a virtual birthday celebration.
My beloved drove the various portions to those who would partake. Another friend left a bottle of Prosecco at each house. At the appointed hour, we convened a FaceTime celebration, complete with candles, toasts, and singing. And, of course, cake. We enjoyed each other’s company. Although we would have preferred to be physically together, our virtual party was the best we could do under the circumstances.
The looseleaf that holds this recipe is a relic of a bygone era. I started it just before leaving for college and continued adding recipes until just after graduating from law school. I carefully wrote each recipe in colored pen – sometimes two colors when I got fancy – on lined paper. With alphabetical dividers, the looseleaf hearkens back to a time when we wrote things down, instead of printing them out. The recipes include several of my favorites – the Passover rolls my grandma made when I was growing up, the poppy seed “stupid cake” my kids always request, and the stuffed cabbage that always makes me think of my mom’s kitchen. And this one, resurrected from oblivion.
The original name was “Garcia’s Boston Subway Chocolate Yogurt Cake,” not Easy Chocolate Yogurt Layer Cake. It came from a friend named Cathy Garcia, whom we lost touch with years ago. The original name mystifies me. (I have no idea what the references to Boston or Subway meant. Besides, in Boston, it’s called the “T,” not the subway.) No matter. The recipe is simple and the result rewarding. The cake is moist and quite chocolatey, yet it is not overly sweet.
You start by creaming together the butter and sugars.
Next, put in yogurt, chocolate, eggs and vanilla.
and then dry ingredients.
The final “ingredient” is unusual – boiling water. (The water loosens the mixture.)
If you obsess over exact measures, feel free to weigh the batter in two pans. I’ll admit that I sometimes do that. But other times, I just eyeball it.
Baked in two nine-inch pans, the layers will come away from the edges after baking. And yes, there are holes in the middle where I tested them for doneness. Cool them in the pans for about 10 minutes.
After that, flip them out of the pan to continue cooling.
In an ideal world I would fill and frost the cake with chocolate ganache or buttercream. Or maybe add raspberries and whipped cream in the middle, frosting it with chocolate glaze? However, I had none of the right ingredients for those options. Instead, I attempted frosting that proved less-than-ideal. (The villain was the chocolate chips – they didn’t melt and mix properly.) Oh well.
I threw colored sprinkles on top to hide that fact, put on a semi-ridiculous looking decoration of orange peel and went on my merry way.
The moral of the story – sometimes one has to ignore the “small stuff.” It is so much better to be grateful for what we have (ingredients for a cake, even if they aren’t perfect) and can do (hold a party, even virtually) than to focus on what we don’t have or can’t do.
Hope your days are filled with people and things you can be grateful for, even while we all wish for the chance to be closer to those we love and a few more ingredients for our culinary adventures.
Easy Chocolate Yogurt Cake
A simple and moist cake featuring yogurt and unsweetened chocolate
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar 198 grams
- 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably low fat or regular, but nonfat also works. See note.
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/177 degrees C. Grease and flour two nine-inch cake pans, or grease their sides and put circles of parchment on the bottom.
Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugars together in a stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer for about 5 minutes.
Beat the eggs, yogurt, chocolate and vanilla into the butter and sugar mixture.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones on low speed, mixing only until no specks of flour are visible. Add one cup of boiling water and fold or slowly mix it into the batter.
Spoon the batter equally into the two pans and level it out. Bake in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes and let them cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Fill and frost as desire.
I used regular yogurt, not Greek-style. If you use Greek-style, add 1-2 tablespoons more water so the batter is not too thick.